The SLUT Goes to College

This morning, we received great news from the Mayor’s office – not only does his proposed budget close the $20 million hole the city budget has today, it also manages to accelerate street repair funding, and takes the next steps in implementing the high capacity transit corridors in the Transit Master Plan. He has a great guest post up on the Slog that you should read, because he’s right on. The best thing to do to build more transit in Seattle is to start doing alternatives analysis in every corridor.

The funding in the Mayor’s budget is as follows:

· $2 million for Downtown to the U-District via Eastlake. This was actually part of the original Bogue subway plan the city had in 1911 – more than a hundred years ago – and it was one of the highest use streetcar corridors in the city. Almost every inch of the corridor is multifamily zoned, and what isn’t is changing into multifamily fast.

· $1 million to plan real BRT in the Madison corridor. The mayor’s office told me this morning that this means off-board payment, and would be a higher standard than RapidRide.

· $500,000 to develop alternatives for the best pedestrian, bike, and transit crossing of the ship canal, near Fremont. Much like Portland’s new bridge, this would get transit out of traffic and be one of the largest components of a Downtown-Fremont-Ballard streetcar.

· 2.5 million to be spent on whatever corridor is ready for design and engineering soonest – Ballard, U-district, the downtown connector or Madison.

This funding is in addition to the downtown connector and Ballard funding that’s already been secured.

This is exactly what we need to be doing. This funding will identify the possible alternatives so that transit supporters have specifics to fight for and data to back it up. The next move for us will be to ensure the City Council signs off.

Comments

  1. Gordon Werner says

    any BRT on Madison will fail unless they remove all of the parking especially between 12th ave and 9th ave

    • Gordon Werner says

      oh yea … it better be ETB BRT because Diesel Buses on Madison is a big bucket of Fail since the route is uphill both ways

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        I agree, and I’m pretty sure the study will find both of those things, giving the city the cover to actually implement them. :)

      • Mike Orr says

        The TMP suggests trolleybuses for Madison BRT. Specifically, the capacity estimates are expressed in trolleybus terms, with no diesel bus terms mentioned. Briefing book, page 33, (page 3-9 in the internal numbering). While this is not binding, it’s the same city staff so it shows the direction they’re heading. Also, page 29, taking about the BRT proposals in general, says, “BRT may be implemented using diesel or electric trolley buses.”

      • Jason Mitchell says

        Not quite the same city staff, Mike, but yeah no reason to assume new folks will think differently.

      • Cheesewheels says

        Some of the newer hybrids can operate on pure electric power for starts and for a decent ways, but I agree an ETB would be better.

    • zefwagner says

      My only concern with Madison BRT is that it just kind of peters out at 23rd…no major institutions or employers, not a neighborhood center, no real anchor. It’s just not a good place to end a line if you want any kind of bi-directional demand. Unfortunately, where else do you go? The only thing I can think of is to send it north on 23rd to the U District station.

      • zefwagner says

        OK, I see that the mayor’s proposal is to study BRT all the way to Madison Park. This is better, but should come with major upzoning to that neighborhood.

      • JohnS says

        BRT won’t go as far as Madison Park.

        1. east of Madison Valley there is no one who wants it.
        2. MadPark does NOT want trolley wire.
        3. Growth is west of 23rd.

        loop back at 23rd or MLK and serve the folks who want and will use it. Demand is already there.

      • J. Reddoch says

        I don’t think Metro would have problem with that. Rapid Ride D kind of peters out behind a QFC.

      • David L says

        The area around 23rd and Madison is turning into a minor neighborhood center, and the demand west of 23rd is vastly higher than the demand east of 23rd.

        Things are very different there now than they were in the days of Deano’s…

      • Mike Orr says

        There’s no problem with overserving east Madison when you’re trying to correct a chronic underserving of the entire city for decades. Build it and they will come. Or if they don’t, Madison east of 23rd is only a mile so so what? If the main route doesn’t go to Madison Park, then you have two problems:
        – Will Madison Park be served by a silly redundant one-seat ride to downtown?
        – Otherwise, will it require a transfer at 23rd? That’s extremely unlikely, given the growth in Madison Valley and the affluence there.
        – The simplicity principle argues for a single end-to-end trunk route. If we want to have a simple system like Portland’s, we have to have routes like an all-Madison one. If people have to figure out which buses go to which parts of Madison, it destroys the simplicity.

        I’m undecided about rerouting the 11, because the simplicity of an all-Madison route collides with heavy trip patterns between east Madison and Pike-Pine. Either way has pluses and minuses. But something must be done about the 11/12 situation, where the 12 covers only part of the heavy service area, and the 11 and 12 schizophrenically cover different parts of Madison. Perhaps the 11 can be straightened in conjunction with more service on the 8, so Madisonites can get at least close to western Pike-Pine even if not directly onto it.

      • David L says

        Mike, the trolley wire is the real problem. Madison (and Marion) between 1st and Boren really, really want to be served by trolleys. They are the sort of street that eats both diesel fuel and automatic transmissions in prodigious quantity. But far Madison Parkers will fight to the death against trolley wire in their precious neighborhood. Too bad for them…

        …because the obvious solution is to stop Madison BRT at 23rd (with one bus every half hour diverting up 19th to Interlaken Park) and keep the existing 11 the way it is. While the 11 connects Pike/Pine to Madison, it’s also vastly slower than a Madison Park-Madison BRT route would be. Pine Street is a graveyard for bus speed.

      • Mike Orr says

        Let’s ask Madison Park first before assuming they won’t accept trolley wires. It’s not the 1960s anymore, and people are gradually getting more attuned to clean energy and non-oil dependency, plus trolleybuses would be quiet. An alternative might be to cut bus service east of MLK rather than run a pathetic milk run to downtown next to BRT, and Madison Park may find they prefer trolleybuses over no buses. That admittedly is unlikely because Metro bends over backwards to avoid cutting any tail entirely, but it happened to Mt Baker. The 11 has really been the odd man out, a close-in route that has never been electrified.

      • David L says

        By all means, ask…

        …it’s just that knowing a few Madison Park residents, I think I know the answer. They are very, very picky about what they see as aesthetic issues in their neighborhood. My feeling is that trolley wire would cause them to go absolutely ape, even if it were attached to a doubling in frequency of their bus service.

        Metro won’t cut the 11 tail off in full or part; there are too many riders, and a lot of them come from the higher-density housing at the very end of the line. (This contrasts with the 14 tail which has very few riders, a tricky U-turn, and still manages to stay around.)

      • Mike Orr says

        Metro and Seattle also have to consider other factors besides just what Madison Park residents want. And if the neighborhood is involved in the decision making, in a, “How can we make the whole project work for you, even if you’re not excited about trolley wires,” it can lead to something.

    • Gordon Werner says

      and please how do you come about that idea? if anything it shows that Link works and we need more.

    • asdf says

      The purpose of extending the slut to UW is not to take people to the UW all the way for downtown – that’s what Link is for. It’s purpose is to connect both downtown and the U-district to Eastlake, a replacement for the #70 bus.

      That being said, I am very concerned about the impact this is going to have on bikes. Riding a bike on streetcar tracks is extremely dangerous and unless we’re prepared to give up virtually all on-street parking on Eastlake (which I don’t believe for a minute is actually going to happen), the train will take up the only travel lane, which means you effectively kick all bikes off Eastlake entirely.

      As Eastlake is currently the primary bike route between the U-district and downtown, we have to have some sort of adjacent alternative.

      • Stephen F says

        I ride over tracks all the time, this is a problem for complacent bicyclists. That said, provision for bikes should be made. But, if it comes down to bikes and the rail, the rail has my vote.

      • says

        Put that rubber stuff in the rail channel. The weight of the train squishes it down but it’s dense enough to spring right back up. The weight of the truck likely exceeds that of even the most obese rider.

      • Bikey Wimp says

        Thank god there are no rivers to cross in downtown Seattle. Heck, I would hate to see the bicyclists get swept away riding their bikes into the river. And streetcar tracks are even worse. LOL

      • Greg says

        An easy way to ask if this is a problem is to ask the question is it okay to walk over to a random person on a bike and give them a push to see if they fall over? After all if they’re a capable bike rider they should be able to stay up, right? I mean I could and I’m the center of the universe. (There’s a word for this sort of attitude… :-)

        Back to reality. It’s clear that lots of people crash on streetcar tracks in the NW (the 67% number seems high even given the amount of rail in PDX, but I’ve seen several crashes in Seattle and I avoid SLU like the plague when I’m on a bike):

        http://bikeportland.org/2010/06/01/in-seattle-bike-crashes-on-streetcar-tracks-lead-to-lawsuit-34271

        and it’s clear that good design can mitigate the issue:

        http://www.theurbancountry.com/2012/08/streetcar-tracks-bicycles.html

        so the question is it is worth building a bike-friendly city or not? If your answer is yes, then you can’t go making critical routes no go zones for everyone besides expert cyclists. If your answer is no then try a bit of honesty and just come out and say so…

      • d.p. says

        Sometimes I feel like the Spandex contingency and the Autos Über Alles contingency and the Slow Rail That Doesn’t Work contingency are fighting for the title of Seattle’s Dumbest Partisan Faction.

        Who’s winning today?

      • says

        @d.p.: 470,000 streets but the place you’re going is on one. 470,000 streets but often a limited number of reasonable routes where you’re going.

        There’s usually a route around the streetcar if you’re going through, but there’s no question that building the streetcar took a good bike route and made it practically off-limits. Maybe them’s just the breaks sometimes, but I don’t think cyclists are wrong to fight it.

      • Mark Dublin says

        I honestly think that anywhere in Europe, the idea that bicycles and street rail tracks are incompatible would meet with earnest and heartfelt offers to show the complainer a lifetime of tricks and techniques.

        It’s about like the belief of certain Waterfront planners that streetcars and pedestrians can’t safely share the same areas: a belief rooted in seventy years’ lack of experience.

        For pedestrians and bicyclists, it’s rubber-tired machines that don’t mix well.

        Mark Dublin

  2. Gordon Werner says

    Bringing the SLUT to UW … it really should loop around the Brooklyn (or is it U District) station via Campus Parkway … that way the 49 could eventually be turned into a streetcar as well utilizing the FHS track on Broadway

      • Daniel says

        Yeah, it was a streetcar. Many of the old railroad ties were buried under Broadway, and the contractors have been digging them up for weeks now.

    • Mike Orr says

      The TMP envisions it going to U-District station, or possibly further to Roosevelt or Northgate. Perhaps that would be done in multiple phases. This raises the possibility of truncating the 48 at 65th, or a 41/71 route, or a 48-to-Magnuson-Park route. The streetcar could also replace the 66 and 67, and allow the 72 and 73 to be replaced by shuttles to Northgate.

      It can’t replace the 49 because some service is required on 10th Ave E. But I’ve elsewhere advocated for replacing the 49 with a north-south route.

      • Brent says

        With or without a streetcar shadowing Link to Northgate, I’d like to see the 48 become an east-west trunk that continues east on 65th to Sand Point once the station is open.

  3. Stephen says

    Out of all of the areas to invest why slu to udistrict? Not that I don’t believe there is some ridership potential in eastlake, but at the end of the day there will be a subway train from udistrict to downtown every 3 minutes. Why would anyone besides people getting off in eastlake take a streetcar when it will undoubtedly be faster to take the subway and walk to your final destination. (Given that walking is already time competitive with the slut).

    I would much rahter see our money investigating rail where there currently is none, rather than duplicating existing serivce to serve a single neighborhood.

    • says

      Look at the ridership data of the 70. Yes, it’s often faster to take a 71-74 downtown but the 70’s not on the chopping block either.

      • Jeremy says

        And the 70 can be slower than walking over certain Eastlake segments, especially during the evening pollute, when the cars can double up from the University Bridge all the way back to Shelby or even Hamlin, and the 70 schedule… well, I’ve seen Daleks fall through time faster. You can walk past two or three 70s jammed up in the traffic. Without a dedicated lane (motorists will foam at the mouth) or congestion pricing on say crossing the University Bridge (bug-eyed foaming!), any new shiny will just stew in traffic during “rush” hours.

        (Bicyclists and walkers beware, there’s a veneer of glass and other debris that somehow piles up on the Eastlake sidewalk under I-5.)

      • Stephen says

        What is this endpoint fallacy you speak of?

        The reason we are investing in rail is to create a network that connects our urban villages. There is already a rail connection between UDistrict and Downtown, and a 1 transfer connection between UDistrict and SLU. Once we have completed this we can start infilling our network to provide a better ridership experience for transit riders (which is what this is all about… riding a streetcar is more pleasant than a bus)

        I am not saying that the 70 has no ridership. However, my point is that the ridership on the 70 alone simply does not justify an investment of rail that does not improve the overall connectivity of the network, and that’s what we’re talking about given that the Udistrict-downtown connection is already satisfied w/ subway.

        Look at the real ridership numbers:

        http://seattletransitblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/spr_2009_ridership.jpg

        There are ~40 metro routes that have higher ridership than the 70. Just looking at that graph, if our goal was to upgrade the riding experience of the most # of riders than the 48 or the 7 should be converted to rail. The 48 might have topographical issues, but the route of the 7 is relatively flat. So why are we not clamoring for the 7 to be upgraded to a streetcar?

      • says

        From the Mayor’s post on Slog: “the Eastlake rail line would carry up to 25,000 per day, 10,700 of which would be new”. That’s just a thousand shy of the Ballard line, and more than the highest Metro route. However I’m not sure if he means capacity or projected ridership.

      • David L says

        Stephen, watch out for misleading absolute ridership data. The 70 has two strikes against it with respect to such data: 1) it’s short, and 2) a significant fraction of ridership in the corridor is handled by other routes (the 66 and the 71/72/73 locals).

        What should tell you something about the 70’s potential for successful streetcar conversion is that the buses run every 10-15 minutes and are packed.

        That said, I’d still rather see this money go toward Madison BRT and the Fremont/Ballard corridor.

      • Aleks says

        The fallacy is assuming that the primary purpose of a rail line between two points is to transport riders from one point to the other.

        In fact, most users of local services are traveling between intermediate destinations. For example, extending the SLU streetcar to U-District will serve riders in Eastlake and North Capitol Hill, neighborhoods that are not served at all by Link. It will also be useful for trips between the U-District and South Lake Union (especially the northern end).

        Similarly, the First Hill Streetcar will be much more useful for trips along Broadway, and from First Hill to Little Saigon, than for trips between Capitol Hill and the ID (for which riders will just use Link).

        Express service like Link has gaps, and streetcars are a fantastic way to fill in those gaps.

        Also, it’s important to understand the local politics at play. For Seattle, building a streetcar isn’t just about providing a better experience for riders; it’s about wresting control of an important corridor away from Metro. Consider this: the N-S segment of the First Hill Streetcar route is currently served only by the half-hourly 9, despite heavy demand. There are a lot of solid reasons to replace the 9/49/60 with a single N-S bus — the so-called Corridor 3 — but Metro has neither the will nor the power to do this. Seattle can’t run its own buses, but it can run streetcars.

      • asdf says

        I’ve ridden the #70 bus a few times and ridership while it isn’t empty, it’s usually not anywhere near packed either.

        What’s packed is the 71/72/73 local, but almost everyone on that bus is going all the way from downtown to the U-district and the only reason they are going through Eastlake at all is because under the current transit system, they have to (well, unless they’ve discovered the secret of the 66/510/511/512 alternatives). Come 2016, nearly all of the thru-riders will switch to Link instead.

        Still though, extending the slut to the U-district does have some potential. I especially like the fact that it makes use of the train tracks we already have, extending a near-useless line into a possibly-useful line.

      • d.p. says

        Sorry, Aleks, but Stephen is on the money on this one.

        Eastlake proper is not a heavy or multi-faceted demand generator, and this streetcar provides essentially no auxiliary connective utility for the 595,000 Seattleites who never go to Eastlake for any reason.

        And thanks to its slow tour of SLU, this streetcar wouldn’t even be useful for North Capitol Hill (in the way that, say, a frequent version of the semi-express 66 could be).

      • zefwagner says

        This only makes sense as a streetcar corridor if the streetcar has dedicated right-of-way. Otherwise it will be no better (perhaps worse, given obstructions) than the bus service it is replacing. Same goes for all the other streetcar lines under discussion. Portland and Seattle have both experienced how pointless streetcars can be without dedicated lanes.

      • zefwagner says

        Just saw d.p.’s comment, and I totally agree! All this talk of “endpoint fallacy” obscures the main point, which is that if Eastlake is not a destination on its own (and it isn’t), then a streetcar line there is purely a benefit to the people who live there. Are they willing to pay for it? I don’t think so. The reason a SLU-Ballard line makes more sense is that there are destinations all along it! Westlake has employment and lake activities, then we have Fremont, then the Fremont-Leary employment area, then Ballard. So even if we had a subway to Ballard, lots of people would have reason to ride it. Not true for Eastlake by a long shot.

      • d.p. says

        The reason a SLU-Ballard line makes more sense…

        If the choice were between this streetcar and nothing, I would support the streetcar.

        Even though we all know it will never be fast through SLU, it will never get its own drawbridge, and it will get stuck forever in Fremont.

        But that shouldn’t be the choice.

        The correct choice is between this streetcar and a well-designed subway.

        That’s why I oppose any attempt to spin the streetcar as inevitable.

        That’s why I’m critical of any gold-plated subway proposal that sets up a false dichotomy between exorbitant and substandard, which (inadvertently) pushes the conversation back toward the streetcar.

        That’s why a subway plan that people can support without fearing the cost is an imperative!

        So even if we had a subway to Ballard, lots of people would have reason to ride [the streetcar].

        The “both” plan is never going to happen, I’m sorry to say. Counting on both guarantees only the lesser, or neither.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        Man, you guys really tend to rabbit hole when we have these discussions.

        The U-district is dramatically increasing to the west. Those SLU destinations that are growing, and fast, will employ another couple tens of thousands of people. A lot of the residential demand will hit Eastlake, where there are single family homes for many blocks, and we’ll see development there as well. An Eastlake streetcar will offer a highly competitive one seat ride from the west edge of the U-district and Eastlake to SLU.

        Like the TMP shows – 25,000 people.

      • d.p. says

        That “25,000” estimate treats the existing SLUT as part of this same corridor. So the couple thousand current SLUT ridership, and the many thousand SLUT riders to come as AmazonLand expands — all of which require no new capital investment — need to be subtracted from that pretty round number.

        There’s also the ill-conceived “local Roosevelt streetcar” segment, which tries to compensate for crappy Link spacing by giving people at 55th a slow thing to wait too long for, and requires them either to backtrack to Roosevelt station or make a less-pleasant transfer in the U-District, in which case you might as well have walked the whole way. The TMP estimates a few thousand boardings and de-boardings here, most of which will be accidental and unnecessary.

        That 25,000 gets less impressive pretty quickly, doesn’t it.

        All of the other reasons to presume the future crucial importance of Eastlake crumble under the weight of scrutiny. This is a skinny isthmus, never more than 1/4 mile wide and hemmed in to east and west. It has inherently limited services, and walking access to many vital services (e.g. a grocery store) is nonexistent.

        There will be no clamor to build New Belltown here.

        The spine on Eastlake Ave E will continue to build up, but the (mere) couple dozen other blocks of low- and medium-scale housing aren’t going anywhere.

        If you ever see the kind of wholesale replacement Ben envisions over there, or if you ever see 25,000 boardings on an Eastlake streetcar (SLU and Roosevelt included), I will buy up the entire contents of a hat store and eat them all.

        Ben, your apparent presumption of limitless rail demand and limitless cash-on-hand to build it all is approaching delusion.

      • Nathanael says

        The conspiracy theory isn’t really a myth; GM, Firestone Tire, Phillips Petroleum, Mack Trucks, and Standard Oil of California (now Chevron) were actually convicted

        But as someone pointed out earlier, “National City Lines” merely gave a helping hand to the dismantling of streetcars, and was primarily a conspiracy to prevent *other bus manufacturing companies* from getting a foothold. In LA and the Bay Area they did make active hostile takeovers which probably prevented the Key System from being preserved (if any rail system would have been saved, that’s the one which would have been). However, everywhere else the primary blame has to go to something other than the conspiracy; the fact that the jury assigned nominal fines shows the public attitude towards the conspiracy (fairly blase).

        The fact is that that there were decades of policy under which streetcars had to pay for their tracks, pay license fees to the local governments, and often pay for road repairs, while buses had to pay…. nothing at all, because road costs were “somebody else’s problem”. That’s what drove the streetcars out of business and made the buses look like a better deal.

  4. says

    it was one of the highest use streetcar corridors in the city

    Where can I read about the streetcars being removed? I realized I don’t know much about streetcar history in Seattle.

    • Ben Schiendelman says

      I honestly don’t know of any online-accessible history. I have a lot of it in my head – I spent a few days several years ago digging through old books and reports in the Seattle Room in the downtown library. Basically, the streetcar corridors from the TMP were the highest ridership a century ago too.

      • Aleks says

        Tim, I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but the Wikipedia page on streetcars and General Motors explains a lot of the history. The short version is that GM bought an extensive number of streetcar systems and converted them to buses. They weren’t able to buy Seattle’s (since it was publicly owned), but GM’s actions unquestionably helped turn public sentiment towards buses and away from streetcars.

        I know it’s hard to believe now, but there was a time when streetcars were seen as old and antiquated, and buses were new and modern! :)

      • Bernie says

        The buses provided a superior ride. Remember this was shortly after pneumatic tires burst onto the scene. The streetcars were going broke and were in disrepair. Buses had the huge advantage of being able to use city streets instead of having to pay to maintain rails and OCS and in the case of private operators pay to lease the ROW. Buses were going to replace streetcars; the writing was on the wall. GM bought up transit agencies not to kill streetcars as that was going to happen regardless. They bought the agencies so that they would then be able to make GM the sole provider of the new buses. It was a tactic aimed at putting other bus makers out of business not the streetcar makers. GM would have loved to supply rail vehicles. They owned EMD from 1941 to 2005.

      • Aleks says

        That’s a great example of why accounting costs are not economic costs. :) On paper, a bus may be cheaper for the operator… but if you factor in the amortized wear on the road, then the streetcar may win.

      • zefwagner says

        Aleks, that is indeed a conspiracy theory and a myth. A division of GM bought the aging streetcar systems which could not compete with cars (remember that back then they were private, unsubsidized systems). The public wanted shiny new buses instead of creaky old streetcars. GM made a smart business decision to forgo the extremely high capital cost of modernizing these old streetcar systems and instead just bought a lot of buses. Even this was a failure, and eventually cities and counties took over the bus systems after they went into bankruptcy. My professor Sy Adler did a thorough debunking of this commonly repeated myth (which I learned from Roger Rabbit of all sources!): http://uar.sagepub.com/content/27/1/51.short

      • Lack Thereof says

        Seattle streetcar history in a nutshell:

        Most of our original streetcar lines were privately installed and operated, often built as part of a larger land development project. Farebox collections paid the operating expenses.

        They eventually basically went bankrupt. The city had put controls on the fare (their only revenue source), and eventually had buy them up to keep them running – I think they were all city operated as the Municipal Street Railway by the end of WWI. At that point, there had been no significant infrastructure maintenance in a long time, the rails were worn out, the cars were falling apart, and the organization was heavily in debt from the initial buyout of the lines. During the worst period operators had to take their pay from the farebox or not get it at all.

        In 39 the city got federal money to retire the streetcar debt and buy a fleet of buses. By the time WW2 started the streetcars had all been retired, and any rail that hadn’t been paved over was pulled up for a wartime scrap drive.

      • Bernie says

        often built as part of a larger land development project. Farebox collections paid the operating expenses.

        Because many were built with the intention of developing land it wasn’t a requirement that they break even at the fare box. I read a piece in a Tacoma senior newspaper a few months back about a line from DT Tacoma out to Steilacoom (think it was Steilacoom). The operator set up his own steam plant and sold both power and steam heat to Tacoma. Once the land was sold he had no further interest in running the streetcar. The steam plant continued for some time; Caveat Emptor!

      • Mike Orr says

        “The city had put controls on the fare (their only revenue source),”

        To put this into perspective, after the Depression inflation became more common than it had been before the Depression. This was due to various factors including changes to the gold standard, changes to exchange-rate schemes, the increasing role of the Fed, more emphasis on full employment rather than just monetary stability, more federal presence in the economy, etc. Nowadays people believe inflation is inevitable and 2% is desirable, and transit fares must rise to keep up with inflation. But then they believed they could keep the streetcar fare at 5c and somehow the streetcar operators would magically have enough money to pay expenses whose prices were rising. You can call that inflation denial, or the inability to perceive the consequences of keeping the fare fixed. Either way it led to streetcar bankrupcy, and the automobile enthusiasts took the opportunity to make a wholesale shift in the streetscape.

    • J. Reddoch says

      There is also a 1935 plan that discussed upgrading certain streetcar lines. One was the service along Eastlake.

  5. Anandakos says

    The place for a crossing of the ship-canal near Fremont is just east of the Aurora Bridge as a mid-height drawspan high enough to be opened only rarely. It would land on North 35th, and could have a wye there to go both east and west.

    I believe that the car should go on Dexter; it’s the center of gravity for the development between the west side of Westlake and the east side of Aurora. Any new buildings squeezed in along Westlake could have skybridges to the street between Dexter and the bluff. Most importantly, though, Dexter is still somewhat elevated as it goes under Aurora; the grade from it to the high point over the channel would be considerably easier than that from Westlake. There are no buildings between Dexter and Westlake just east of Aurora, at least not yet. So the transition from the street to the bridge would be pretty seamless.

    Yes, there’s some possible reservation along the eastside of Westlake, but it’s pretty heavily used for parking. It’s not a slam-dunk that the buildings and businesses along the waterfront are going to want agree to give it up. And clearly the existing track can’t be used. It wanders back and forth between the street and the buildings. There would be many pedestrians crossing it, so the speed would have to be kept to 30 or 35 mph.

    • zefwagner says

      Agreed, it is essential for transit reliability to have a bridge that opens rarely or not at all. The new bridge in Portland is going to be awesome–no openings, 14 feet on each side for bikes and pedestrians, and two lanes shared by 3 bus lines, streetcar, and light rail. It took a lot of political will to make a bridge that cars can’t use, but it happened, and it should be possible in Seattle too. I like the idea of a bridge west of the Fremont Bridge but still close enough to get within a few blocks of the heart of Fremont.

    • Kyle S. says

      The place for a crossing of the ship-canal near Fremont is just east of the Aurora Bridge as a mid-height drawspan high enough to be opened only rarely. It would land on North 35th, and could have a wye there to go both east and west.

      There used to be a bridge there!

      I believe that the car should go on Dexter; it’s the center of gravity for the development between the west side of Westlake and the east side of Aurora.

      Agreed ten thousand percent.

      Yes, there’s some possible reservation along the eastside of Westlake, but it’s pretty heavily used for parking.

      I doubt it. That land is all fill, and being on the water it’s being put to very good use given its location on the water. Half of it’s marina and the other half are marine industry shops. The only exception I can think of is the AGC building, which is a pedestrian disaster for the neighborhood.

    • Ben Schiendelman says

      As much as you don’t show up to fight for. October 4th will be the in-person budget hearing. :)

  6. Breadbaker says

    I’d love to see a high-level transit-pedestrian-bike bridge at the foot of Stone Way to Westlake. It could be seriously transformative, giving people a choice between the Fremont Bridge bottleneck for cars and a favored, bottle-neckless way for all other means of transportation. It would never happen, of course, but one can dream.

    • zefwagner says

      That would be way too much of a climb for pedestrians and cyclists, going from close to water level up to high enough for a non-opening bridge. West of Fremont Bridge makes more sense.

      • says

        The problem is that any good ped/bike bridge would need a connection to the Burke-Gilman Trail, yet that trail is pretty close to water level all the way through Fremont and Wallingford (it actually passes underneath the Fremont Bridge). The Ship Canal Trail is arguably even closer.

      • Matt the Engineer says

        It does rise up just east of Wallingford. I could imagine a bike lane on 35th or 36th that connects to the BGT after Gasworks.

    • says

      Yeah a bridge would have to have as much clearance as I-5 or Aurora if you didn’t want to have a drawspan. The only way to do it without going that high would be to tunnel under the lake, which sounds expensive. You could do it with a ferry I suppose. It’s just about a quarter mile across from the foot of Stone Way to that knuckle on Westlake, so that’d only take three minutes or so by boat. You could probably just ride around via Fremont in four or five minutes though.

      Running a ferry from Gasworks to somewhere like the foot of Roanoke St might make more sense from that standpoint. It’s the same quarter mile, but to ride around via the University Bridge is quite a ways further. That might save people enough time and distance to make it worth paying a few bucks for.

      • Matt the Engineer says

        This would be a pedestrian/bike/streetcar bridge. It’s the streetcar bit where we’d want to avoid a drawbridge that goes up constantly. Would you have a streetcar ferry? Though that would be awesome, I’m not seeing how it would operate fast enough to be worth it.

      • Eric H says

        Tunneling under the Ship Canal, however… that’s probably not nearly so deep, right?

        Still, tunnels are expensive. Could Fremont be served adequately with a streetcar along Nickerson that continues to Ballard via the Ballard Bridge?

      • says

        @Eric H: Does anyone from Fremont actually go across the bridge to catch the 17 today? Anyone other than me, that is, when I check OBA and see 26/28 arrivals bunched up?

        Remember the recent report on the Montlake Bridge, and apply the same thinking to the Fremont Bridge. If we build transit ROW everywhere but the bridge itself the bridge is still a bit of a bottleneck, but not an impossible one. The impact of occasional bridge openings is much less when you don’t have to deal with the traffic queue. Or you could run the trains elevated over the street across the bridge and the congested parts of lower Fremont (you need ramps up from street-level, but I think you could do that on Dexter starting under the Aurora Bridge, just holding off the start of the extra traffic lanes… how to drop down on Leary is maybe harder). Chicago has L trains going over bascule bridges near the Loop (on Wells and Lake), and they do get delayed when the bridges open, but it clears up reasonably well since they’re not stuck in traffic.

      • Kellen Donohue says

        Yeah, when I interned at Google I’d cross the bridge to take the 17 if OBA made it seem like a good idea. Missed it anyways due to a bridge opening once. Now that the 31/32 will go all the way to Lake City with through routing I wouldn’t do it anymore.

      • Breadbaker says

        I hope they can. The reason I suggested Stone Way is because as an arterial it provides the potential for not having traffic bottlenecks on approach routes. Essentially the opposite of the problem that the one block of Fremont between 34th and 35th provides to the buses that cross it. Even if it had to be a drawspan, if the only things that could cross it were buses, trolleys, bikes and people, there wouldn’t be backups and there would a reliable route that could make real connections among Fremont, Wallingford, Westlake and Dexter workable.

        Of course, deleting the parking along Fremont Ave. between 34th and 35th and changing the rules on when the bridge goes up so that a single pleasure boat doesn’t stop four buses with 50 people on them would do that, too, but neither seems to be happening.

      • David L says

        You’re not going to change the rules on bridge openings without (literally) an act of Congress. Silly, but true, and we just have to deal with it.

    • Matt the Engineer says

      Adding to the high vs. low bridge debate, keep in mind it’s not a binary choice. The higher you build the bridge, the less frequently it opens. Once you get above the height of a pleasure sail boat, it opens a lot less frequently than the Fremont Bridge. Sure, you’d have to build as high as Aurora to not design for opening, but anything taller than Fremont would be an improvement.

      • Breadbaker says

        Good point. If it only opened for the kind of commerce the Lake Washington Ship Canal was designed for, it would rarely open. And when it would open, it would open for good reason.

        @David L.: I think that’s an urban myth about needing an Act of Congress. Other cities’ drawbridges open only on set schedules or by appointment.

      • aw says

        Breadbaker, there are schedules and appointments here too. See here. IANAL, but I think this is administrative law, possibly mandated by an Act of Congress.

      • aw says

        Hmm, I don’t see where in those rules that the Montlake Bridge needs to stay open for long, continuous periods on opening day…

      • David L says

        OK, looking into it, it could be changed either through an Act of Congress or through a U.S. Coast Guard rulemaking proceeding. Either way, we can’t do anything about it locally.

        Those regs have a very strong default rule that “unless we specifically say otherwise, the bridge opens whenever any vessel signals.” All the exceptions nationwide are specifically laid out in the regs. Really kind of an astonishing situation, but there it is.

      • Matt the Engineer says

        I think the current system’s pretty fair. We don’t let most ships through during commute hours, but do let them through other times. Considering this is their only way in and out of the lakes, they’ve got to get through sometime.

        Want to open the bridge less? Make it taller than most ships.

      • Bernie says

        I think the current system’s pretty fair.

        You mean like living with the agreement you made? It’s amazing how many motorists joined with transit supporters feel a sense of entitlement to what they never owned. I guess it’s just the Old West mentality. Those damn Injuns aren’t using it as much as we want to so it’s our God given right to just take it.

      • Bernie says

        Right, and those pleasure boat owners still control passage over the Black River… yeah, right. Sorry, not like Lake Washington got bigger when the Army Corp drained it. But hey, I’m a car owner, I can drive where ever I damn well please; it’s a gawd given right in the Constitution!

      • d.p. says

        Such agreements need to be amended to reflect the changing reality of a longer, and worse, period of peak congestion.

        In the summer, the Ballard Bridge goes up every day at exactly 6:01, and stays up for-freaking-ever. Outbound traffic backs up to Whole Foods. The Nickerson overpass doesn’t move for 10 minutes; heaven help you if you’re on a bus that routes over the thing.

  7. Jeff says

    Respectfully: Can we please stop referring to it as “slut.” You guys know that’s a misogynist word, right? I don’t think a transit-forward blog should risk alienating progressive women, a huge demographic. Also: it sounds dumb.

    • Kyle S. says

      It will always be known as the SLUT, because at one point that was its name. It’s a joking reminder that sometimes Seattle has its head so far up the ass of Process that it can’t see momentously bad ideas that are staring them right in the face—like giving the streetcar an acronym of SLUT.

    • David L says

      I don’t think we run the same risk of causing offense by applying the word to a streetcar that we would by applying it to a person or class of people. A streetcar is so far removed from the targets of derogatory usage of “slut” that everyone can see it’s just a joke. Personally, I think it’s kind of mildly amusing.

    • says

      I also came to this thread to make this comment. The headline, “The SLUT Goes to College” uses a sexist image to drive home its point, on top of the general disrespect that this nickname for the streetcar has always shown.

    • says

      As a progressive woman with a sense of humor, I find it hilarious and make a point of calling it the SLUT whenever possible. I mean, come on. It’s funny!

  8. eddiew says

    http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/docs/etb_1963_map.pdf
    Seattle’s maximum transit ridership was during the electric trolleybus era. Routes 7 and 8 combined for 2.5-minute headway on Eastlake Avenue East. If SDOT is willing to provide in-lane stops on Eastlake, they could do it for ETB. transit funds are and will be scarce; the funds necessary to build streetcars could be used to provide additional service frequency or electrify other lines. if Seattle is concerned about mitigating global warming, it should not spend scarce funds converting one electric traction mode to another.

    • Jeremy says

      Yay! And back to noisy diesels it has been for the whole pave-Mercer-with-all-the-greenbacks thing. That’s the sweet smell of carcinogenic progress for you. (Oh, and there is a grocery store in Eastlake. Well, more a liquor store that sells produce as gently decaying as the old craftsman homes.)

      • Jeremy says

        Some Americans wear their transportation and dietary choices better than others; you may be blessed with genes that tolerate Standard American Fare. As a counter example, I knew a coworker who went off to Dublin, where he raved about the improved food quality, and lost a ton of weight (the copious walking involved probably helped). When he came back to America, bam! waistline expansion.

      • Mike Orr says

        I know another person from Ireland (or rather an Irish American who spent his teenage years in Ireland), and he also said that when he came back to the US he gained weight because he walked less. And he lived just south of Ravenna Park and walked to UW every day. So I asked, “You mean people normally walk half an hour or more each way every day?” And he said yes.

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