“Driving the train doesn’t set its course. The real job is laying the track.”
ED CATMULL / PRESIDENT OF PIXAR
In 2017, Tacoma Rail continued to meet its primary goal of providing efficient, cost-effective rail service to the Port of Tacoma and Tacoma’s three divisions: Tidelands (industrial), Capital (Lakeview) and Mountain (Frederickson).
For the first time in the division’s history, Tacoma Rail began building daily 10,000-foot intermodal trains. This historic first, which began in November, came through an agreement with Union Pacific to assemble trains of this size. The new service successfully ran through the final two months of the year.
Fewer intermodal platforms combined with a small increase in commercial railcars led to a reduction of Tacoma Rail’s line haul count by almost 40,000 units in 2017 over 2016. This led to a corresponding decrease in line haul revenue of approximately $1.8 million.
While the Northwest Seaport Alliance saw a one-percent increase in its international intermodal container business, ocean shipping lines continued the consolidation of their routes and realigned their vessel-sharing agreements. This new shipping alliance started calling into the Port of Seattle in May of 2017, which lead to a decrease in Tacoma Rail’s intermodal total volumes of 21% relative to the previous year.
Tacoma Rail’s Capital Division provides service to customers in South Tacoma and Lakewood through a freight franchise on the rail line owned by Sound Transit. In 2017, total traffic on the Capital Division saw a slight decline from 773 carloads in 2016, to 705 carloads 2017, a decrease of 9%.
Safety continues to be at the forefront of Tacoma Rail’s focus, and the Capital Division will likely see a continued increase in future expenses as Positive Train Control becomes functional.
Tacoma Rail continues to run the Mountain Division on behalf of the City of Tacoma. Within this division, carloads handled in 2017 grew from 1,368 in 2016 to 1,482. The increase was led by Hardie Building Products and Pacific Steel & Recycling. Each of these customers experienced more than 35% growth in line-haul traffic.
The Mountain Division also expects an increase in future expenses as Positive Train Control becomes functional. This year also brought a new tariff, issued to mitigate the expense and change the Mountain Division’s relationship with the BNSF from a Handling Carrier to a Switching Carrier, which will begin in 2018.
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