Center City Connector Open House

Center City Connector Open House

Mayor McGinn speaks at the Center City Connector Open House

SDOT held the first open house for the Central City Connector Corridor Study on Wednesday night at City Hall. Three more open houses will be held as planning progresses over the past year.  Mayor McGinn was first to take the stage, followed by Richard Conlin and finally project manager Tony Mazzella. McGinn spoke about the process of updating the Transit Master Plan and the need for many different revenue sources, including potentially ST3. Conlin billed himself as a streetcar “skeptic” who was converted by having seen the Portland Streetcar and then the Seattle line in operation.

Here’s the proposed purpose, according to SDOT:

To serve the growing demand for Center City circulation trips with a mode and street alignment that is:
• Highly legible and easy to use for a variety of trip purposes
• Provides continuity of travel between the downtown commercial core and adjacent Center City neighborhoods that are or will be served by the South Lake Union Streetcar and the First Hill Streetcar

When the TMP was first announced in 2011, Martin did a thorough analysis of  the CC1 (1st Avenue) and CC2 (4th/5th Avenues).  STB commenter and occasional contributor Mike Orr was at last night’s meeting and wrote in with the following comments:

The feedback on the group-brainstorm sheets showed about half the people prefer 1st Avenue to Seattle Center. The rest were about even on 4th/5th or 1st-to-Westlake. A few people preferred bus or trolleybus over rail to save money. A few said to put all resources into a 3rd Avenue transit mall. And a few said to revive the vintage waterfront streetcar.

The question of alignment is obviously going to be an important one, but before we get there I think it’s important to step back and make sure we’ve got the right goals in mind. One potential outcome of the connector, if built, would be to knit together downtown with its adjacent residential neighborhoods, and make the area bounded roughly by Mercer Ave, Broadway, and Jackson St. feel like a single neighborhood – in which one can bounce around freely and frequently.

Alternatively, if this is to be the first leg of an eventual line to Ballard, that’s a different project with very different needs than a downtown circulator.  The relative importance of measures like frequency, reliability and travel time benefits depends in large part on what happens to the streetcar system outside of downtown. We’ll look forward to seeing more clarity in this regard with the release of the purpose and needs statement in the next few weeks, and over the year as the plan evolves.

Mike Orr contributed to this report

Comments

  1. lazarus says

    I agree: trying to set the alignment without first understanding what our goals are and what our end vision is would be highly futile.

    Ask yourself this question: What is our eventual vision for SC’s in Seattle?

    If it is only to build just one more line, then maybe you would build the 1st Ave line next, connect the tourist destinations, stop SC construction, and call it good.

    But if your eventual vision is a system of SC’s connecting various points of interest and transit hubs, then maybe you would build the 4th/5th connector next and maybe build a Seattle Center to Sodo via 1st Ave line at a later date.

    I think in general we have a lack of vision and political leadership in regards to SC’s. Our leadership has been taking too much of a piecemeal approach and not presenting a concise vision of what we eventually want to have.

    What is really needed is an understanding of what SC’s are (not LR, not necessarily “rapid” or “high-capacity” and not a solution to all the world’s problems). And, if the goal is a SC system and not just a couple lines, then what we need is a continuous source of funding that always allows us to be building a new line while planning the next.

    So far everything is piecemeal, but if you build a system in a piecemeal fashion you won’t end up with a very good system.

    • RossB says

      I agree. I wonder what the point of streetcars are (in general, but especially in Seattle). I assumed that streetcars:

      1) Are cheaper to operate if they are close to capacity.
      2) Provide easier boarding and departing.
      3) Are fun for tourists.
      4) Have easy to remember routes.

      Other than that, I can’t think of any advantages. Even the last two are silly. You could paint a line down the street, add some color to the bus and probably achieve those last two goals (“Let’s take the purple line!”).

      But I’ve had the first two items questioned. If these two aren’t really accurate (or are only marginally true) then I wonder why we are building these. If these two are accurate, then I think it makes sense for downtown. I would go a step further and have the buses connect to a streetcar as well as the bus tunnel and then turn around (thus making the bus run more frequently). That only makes sense if the first two are really true and if they run the streetcars very, very frequently (so that the transfer from bus to streetcar is trivial and fast).

      They might also make sense along much of the 44 route (assuming the route isn’t too steep). Certainly on each side (Ballard on one end and the U-District to Wallingford on the other). I could see it making sense for the area between South Lake Union to Ballard as well (via Fremont). That area is filling in quite a bit (just about everywhere along that line).

      Perhaps the big benefit is just marketing. That is why the South Lake Union Streetcar was built in the first place. None of the city leaders wanted it, because they didn’t think it was a great value. But South Lake Union investors (lead by Paul Allen) figured it would make the area more interesting. It is hard to say if they were right. I don’t think it has contributed to a much easier commute, but maybe it has made it look more appealing. I could easily see the same thing happening for other parts of the city.

      • Eric says

        I like the idea of having all north/south buses turn around at the edge of downtown. Buses currently get stuck in traffic downtown all the time. Get the streetcar running every 2-3 minutes all day, force a transfer, and turn the bus around.

        In fact, if they don’t do this, the connector streetcar would basically duplicate many of the dozens of bus routes that already run north-south through downtown. What’s the point of building a new streetcar if it doesn’t let you re-allocate bus service elsewhere?

  2. Benjamin C says

    It seems to me that SC planning has been, so far, based on special interests. If we continue in this manner the SC network might not integrate very well.

    We should focus on corridors that will have the highest ridership and benefit to the transportation system as a whole. Development and tourist considerations should come after.

  3. Mike Orr says

    “I think in general we have a lack of vision and political leadership in regards to SC’s.”

    Yes. The streetcars are not going where the greatest transit needs are. Frank makes an excellent point that the goal of downtown and downtown-adjacent circulation is not necessarily compatible with extending the first two streetcars, and we may need to address both issues separately. If so, now is the time to tell the city what downtown needs north-south.

    So the question is, what do residents and tourists going north-south downtown and to/from Uptown and SLU most need? Is it one of these streetcar routes? Is it an improved transit mall on 3rd (whatever that means)? We already have frequent trolleybuses and apparently that’s not enough because downtown circulation is still seen as a “problem”.

    If we’re extending streetcars, I favor extending the First Hill Streetcar to Seattle Center. That would extend a frequent one-seat ride over a wider area rather than competing (badly) with the DSTT and 3rd-to-Broadway buses (as a 4th/5th alignment would). It would dampen the criticism of “Why go down to Jackson just to go east ten blocks?” because the people who choose it would be going further to 1st/2nd/waterfront, so it would look less like a narrow redundant “U” shape. It would connect the most important tourist attractions. First Avenue is arguably more ready than the other avenues for a Complete Streets makeover, and that would be an additional tourist attraction.

    The east-west connection tracks (e.g., Pine) could be added at the end if there’s money left, or included in the later Westlake or Eastlake expansions. Ben didn’t like this idea. He said we must connect the SLU track now because of the ridership it would generate that would otherwise be lost. In that case, how about a 1st Avenue/FHS line, and an SLU line overlapping it between Pike Place Market and International District Station. That would incidentally give double frequency in the densest segment. And give SLU businesses a reason to contribute to it for their employees coming from Sounder. (How’s that new 62 route working out for ya, by the way?)

    • Mark Y says

      Your idea at the end is exactly what I put in my comments last night. So there’s two votes at least.

    • Ben Schiendelman says

      The big reason I don’t want to build another line that doesn’t connect with SLU is that SLU is the whipping boy for streetcars – we’ll get more money for streetcars in the future if we make sure SLU is connected to our tourist hubs.

      • d.p. says

        SLU is the whipping boy for streetcars because it’s barely faster than walking, when wait time is considered.

        Building more middling segments with middling frequencies and any number of zig-zags and long light cycles will do nothing to “rehabilitate” them.

      • lazarus says

        Actually, it is doing very well with ridership above projections.

        And thinking of SC’s as tourist lines is dumb — they need to be designed to serve the citizens of Seattle first and foremost.

      • d.p. says

        Projections didn’t take Amazon’s relocation and mass-expansion into account.

        Rush-hour traffic on the side streets has so exploded in the last five years that half a dozen new traffic lights have been installed and Amazon buildings have cops controlling garage exits. But SLUT ridership, at least at peak, is SLIGHTLY above projections.

        Big whopping deal.

      • aw says

        The utility of the SLU streetcar would be improved greatly if:

        1) The 4th/5th connector line was built
        2) The ‘easy’ part of the streetcar to Fremont was built alongside Westlake in reserved ROW
        3) A modest extension of the existing line along Fairmont was done to Eastlake or a little ways down Eastlake.
        4) The two branches combined through SLU and the central city for better frequency.

        There’s the added benefit that the two car barns have a track between them.

      • Mike Orr says

        I thought whipping boy was a negative term.

        I also put in my feedback that it must be faster than the SLU streetcar currently is. That means signal priority and transit lanes or at least BAT lanes. The SLUT is missing every single stoplight, so it’s being delayed every block.

      • d.p. says

        Can’t give it priority crossing 5th, as the intersection is too complicated. Can’t give it priority crossing 3rd, as that makes the bus spine even worse than it already is. Can’t give it priority crossing Columbia, because that screws with RapidRide. Can’t give it a lane through Pioneer Square, because the lane does not exist.

        And so on, and so on.

        What all the people salivating at the chance to recreate the Prague or East Berlin or other European legacy tram networks here fail to realize is that — in addition to those networks playing connective second fiddle to developed multi-line metro systems that do the real heavy lifting in all directions and over any significant distances (in all but the tiniest cities) — is that those networks have very few exceptions to exclusive right-of-way. Especially where it matters.

        Thorough lane separation is not even on the table here.

        Slow. Infrequent. Wasteful. Stupid.

      • Matthew Johnson says

        Ben, I have to disagree.

        A few years ago that argument could have been made, but now that the SLUT is beating projections (and actually has an INCREASING year over year growth rate) and has the private sector throwing money at the city to buy more service (or in Amazon’s case GIVING the city a new train so they can run it more) I don’t think the SLUT needs any help. It’s done it’s job and more. With the upzone and extra train coming the SLUT will only increase it’s rate of growth (not forever of course, but short to mid term).

        When it comes to streetcars, while having lines connect can be a plus and help with costs (shared storage and maintenance facilities, piggybacking off already constructed line segments, etc) it’s not a requirement. Streetcars are good for 5 things, 3 transit related and 2 people/rider related:
        Moving people within a neighborhood.
        Move people from a neighborhood to an adjacent neighborhood.
        Connect a neighborhood to HCT.
        Spur Development.
        Attract choice riders.

        None of those require a large connected network.

      • Matthew Johnson says

        “SLU is the whipping boy for streetcars because it’s barely faster than walking, when wait time is considered.”

        And yet… and yet people love it and can’t get enough of it. *shrug*

        Literally, they can’t get enough. Businesses in the area have pretty much maxed out the amount of extra service they can buy and Amazon is going to have to buy an extra train.

        Some failure.

      • Bernie says

        The idea that the private sector is “throwing money at it” is a little displaced. Rich developers are throwing in part of the cost in hopes of greasing the skids with city officials that have influence over decisions that make that investment look like chump change. Vulcan paid for half of the SLUT. Glass half full or half empty? As far as connecting SLU to the rest of the “network”; how stupid would it look if the proposed Tacoma Link connections didn’t connect to the existing line? I guess the snowstorm in Seattle made that impossible.

      • Mike Orr says

        “And thinking of SC’s as tourist lines is dumb — they need to be designed to serve the citizens of Seattle first and foremost.”

        Yes. My thinking is that the 1st Avenue line would be great for tourists, useful for residents, and good for residents going to a tourist attraction. There’s an added benefit though, that tourists would go home saying Seattle transit doesn’t suck and it’s not as maddeningly complicated as it used to be. The fact that it connects directly to airport Link and Amtrak is part of that. Unfortunately it would miss most of the hotels which are around 4th/5th, but if they can take a streetcar they can walk five blocks to it in the morning, or use the DSTT if they don’t want to even do that.

      • Mike Orr says

        The “connected network” part is about how far you can go on rail without having to switch to a bus. In some cities you can do almost everything on subways or streetcars and rarely have to take a bus unless you’re living in certain less-dense neighborhoods. Some people evaluate cities based on this.

      • d.p. says

        Yes. Precisely 1,250 round-trippers per day — a comically tiny percentage of trips made to and from SLU — “can’t get enough”.

        *shrug*

        But real estate players do love putting pictures of it on shiny promotional materials! (Although that sort of Seattlite never actually uses public transit his or herself.)

      • d.p. says

        In some cities you can do almost everything on subways or streetcars

        Yes. But it’s the convenience of doing so that makes it the obvious choice.

        Not just the comfort. Not just the glamorous-urban-chic feeling of being on trains the whole way. But the fact that using the demand-consolidated rail corridors makes your waits short and using dedicated infrastructure makes your trip fast.

        When your train hits a bottleneck and c r a w l s in one of those cities, you really feel it, because it’s the palpable exception. Here, we want to make it the rule.

        Nobody will care “how far you can go” when you’re stopped more than moving on the way there.

    • Al S. says

      Yes! I concur too. Let’s connect Belltown and Seattle Center better first. I’d also add that the proposed two line segment would maximize ferry rider connectivity (as well as Sounder connectivity).

    • Mike Orr says

      Thinking more about this, some people said we need to look more at the network as a whole rather than building piecemeal streetcars. But we do have a network view, the Transit Master Plan. Did it succeed in describing where the transit needs are? Most people who’ve studied it say yes.

      So what did it say about downtown? It couldn’t decide between a 1st Avenue line or a 4th/5th Avenue line, so it suggested studying both. But you can look at it another way. It shows there’s transit need on both 1st and 5th; otherwise one of them would have been deleted before the final report. And we know from experience that people wish there were frequent transit on both 1st and 5th. On 1st, to get back and forth between the “tourist attractions”. On 4th/5th, to get from Westlake station to the library. Because of the steep hill in lower downtown, 1st, 3rd, and 5th are more separate transit markets than they would be in most cities. In this context, I’m not arguing for streetcars on 1st and 5th; I’m simply arguing for some kind of frequent transit on both of them.

      We can draw further conclusions about the TMP and Center City streetcars. The TMP, as I’ve said, does a good job of describing where the transit network should be. But it’s not advocating for the SLUT route and the FHS route. It’s simply incorporating the existing streetcar routes as best it can, because what else are you going to do, dismantle them? Not have good connections from them? So I’d say the zigzaggy U shapes are an attempt to balance the two: to put the north-south transit where it needs to be (1st and 5th), while also leveraging the legacy streetcar routes. If you look at the other TMP corridors that have been proposed for streetcars, they don’t have nearly the problems that the first two lines have. That shows things are getting better, and it’s not all based on special interests as Benjamin C fears. The first line was a special interest. The second line was a dumb concession to First Hill for not getting a Link station. But the other lines are not like that. The only reason it looks messy downtown is because we’re trying to connect to the two original lines, which we’ve already said are less than they should have been.

      • d.p. says

        The TMP is a political document, Mike, written by people hired to put streetcars places. They did what they were hired to do, then tortured the numbers into making their case.

        There is nothing more to glean from it than that.

  4. Matt the Engineer says

    Any chance the streetcars could use the Link rails? (I assume power would be the big issue, but don’t remember the voltages involved) I’m trying to guess the best place for streetcar parking, and maybe connecting south of the ID would give us access to the big beautiful Link base for parking and maintenance. A second option would be extending past the stadiums to cheap land near Starbucks to build parking.

    • Matt L (aka Angry Transit Nerd) says

      That big grassy patch next to the SLU barn is specifically to allow expansion of the facility to accommodate more cars.

      And there was talk of rebuilding the Charles Street facility with a two-level building to increase capacity there.

      In addition to the 750V/1500V difference, I’m pretty sure the streetcars don’t have ATP systems. Plus each Link car is about 20,000 kg heavier than a streetcar. I don’t think Sound Transit would go for this idea.

      • Ryan on Summit says

        There have been reports, like the one on Fairview Ave in the Times, that SDOT is going to sell that portion of the Cascade carbarn property.

      • Wells says

        Portland Streetcar & MAX LRT are the same voltage. The Milwaukie MAX bridge over the Willamette River completed in 2015 will run streetcars to connect the Central City Loop. Streetcars have run on the Blue Line since 1992 and more recently the Transit Mall MAX line. Seattle’s SLUT is a disappointment. An extension is necessary. The simplest is 1-mile to a 1st Ave terminus or turnaround at Pike Place Market and triple ridership overnight.

        A Trolleybus Circulator on 1st Ave between Jackson and Queen Anne is more ideal than streetcar as stops are on the sidewalk rather than stations in the middle of the street. The key to transit patronage on this and other downtown corridors is service frequency. Trolleybus fills that need on most downtown Seattle transit corridors better. The Waterfront Streetcar is the most logical connection to the First Hill line but Seattle’s idiot planners are once again being led down the garden path clueless.

      • Mike Orr says

        So what goes into choosing a voltage, and why are all these agencies choosing different voltages even for similar equipment?

      • Jason Rogers says

        Sound Transit opted for 1500V mostly because it let them build fewer substations, saving them a bunch of money.

        The higher voltage allows for greater distances between substations due to the lower current (amps) required. High voltage direct current (DC) power has fairly high losses over distance, so reducing the current (by upping the voltage) helps. A higher voltage system also scales up to having more LRVs in simultaneous operation better (due to the same principle above).

        600V and 750V are the two most widely used for mass transit in this country. This is for both historical reasons (1500V requires heavier-duty equipment which was cost-prohibitive in the past) and for safety reasons (third rail power here is mostly limited to 750V; BART is an exception at 1000V).

  5. Mickymse says

    “Conlin billed himself as a streetcar ‘skeptic’ who was converted by having seen the Portland Streetcar and then the Seattle line in operation.”

    Yes, because billing himself as someone running for re-election who wants you to forget that he helped kill the Monorail Project — which would have met this need — and promised to come back with funding and support for a replacement that led to… nothing but Rapid Line C/D wouldn’t sound too good, would it?

    • d.p. says

      Oh, you mean the Portland Streetcar that I haven’t bothered to use the last five times I was walking directly along its path, because it’s so ridiculously goddamned slow and infrequent?

      That streetcar could only convert the dumbest dipshit on the planet.

      Or someone so accustomed to driving everywhere that he knows he will never actually need to use it.

      Conlin represents both.

      • Bernie says

        d.p. You obviously have no sense of panache. If you can’t paddle your sea kayak directly to the destination then you need a SC to “bridge the gap”.

      • Brad says

        I have to agree with d.p. As much as I love the idea of the Portland Streetcar, everytime I ride it, it crawls. Last time I went there I picked a hotel based on being on the streetcar route. I was amazed at how slow and empty it was. I would have walked back to the train station but it was raining, so we took it again. (Also, very slow).

        As a person who’s been metro dependent for 15 years in Seattle, I have to say that buses would have been an improvement, and I like trains.

      • Mike Orr says

        Yet a lot of Portlanders love it and say it was one of the best things to happen to the city.

      • d.p. says

        Portland = overgrown po’dunk. Practicality does not run in their veins there. People barely have jobs and all they seen to do is brunch 24/7, so there really is never a rush.

        Seattle should really ask itself which of it’s neighbors it wants to be like. Our Canadian sibling to the north would never choose “cute” over fast.

        Given the built environment, we could never be as quaint as Portland anyway. Let them have that.

    • lazarus says

      The monorail project killed itself with gross ineptitude. And by making wild arssed promises that they didn’t have a chance in heck of keeping. When reality set in, the voters stepped in.

      SC is a much better mode for in-city use. If Conlin understands that, then he at least has gotten one thing right.

  6. Wes says

    Dp projected ridership was 950 per day, 2011 ridership was 2,500 per day. I wouldn’t call that slightly above projections.

    • d.p. says

      Seriously? 950 boardings, or 950 individual riders? I almost can’t believe it even got built if the projection was that low.

      2,500 boardings is still pretty pathetic when you consider the number of jobs, restaurants, and bars that have moved into the area.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if Amazon has bike rooms used by more people daily than use the streetcar.

      • wes says

        either way, i read somewhere that per mile it’s the busiest transportation route in the region. i’m sure that if it went through downtown ridership would more than double. give it time, when the highways were new they weren’t very full and no one claimed they were a failure because of it.

      • d.p. says

        That a train with maximum 5 passengers on it most of the day and 40 even on a “full” rush-hour run could achieve that statistic says something totally pathetic about Seattle’s transit network in general.

      • Bernie says

        Yea, it’s an escalator and not a very economically viable one at that. Most of those boardings are going just a couple of blocks and paying zero. It does look cool though and provides lots of photo ops for investors in new buildings…

  7. d.p. says

    Listen, I’m not trying to be “anti-everything” or a “spoilsport” or anyone in particular’s personal pain in the butt.

    It’s just that, after living here car-free for well over half a decade, I am sick and tired of slow-moving transit. I am beyond over it.

    That anyone could propose additional layers of slow-moving transit and consider themselves a civic builder or transit booster or a magnanimous citizen of any sort. That they could offer small vehicles at low frequency zigging and zagging everywhere as a “solution” to any mass-mobility problems in a medium-large city betrays a level of ignorance that is simply galling.

    Every time I cross Broadway, I see the rails weaving back and forth between the mixed-traffic lanes, detouring everywhere, and stub-tracking 1000 feet from the east-west connection at John, and it’s all I can do to hold back a sob.

    Kill this stupid slow streetcar fetish. Kill it dead.

    • Kyle S. says

      A 1st Ave line with a dedicated ROW wouldn’t be any slower than the current transit options, and would fill a much-needed gap in the Belltown transit fabric. There’s a lot of condos and apartments between 3rd and the water; as a former resident, I’d’ve loved to have had a reliable way to do shopping downtown and come back with a couple large bags. It didn’t need to be super-fast because it was a relatively short distance for transit (but a long one to walk).

      • d.p. says

        1st Ave ain’t gettin’ any more exclusive ROW than Broadway did.

        Not saying exclusive ROW is physically impossible (although between Cherry and Jackson it is). Just saying it’s not going to happen because the people behind this plan barely use transit and don’t actually give two shits about speed. You’re delusional to think this will get exclusive treatment.

      • d.p. says

        And saying “slow transit doesn’t matter because it’s close”:

        – denies that getting the 2 miles from LQA to Pioneer Square in less than 18-22 unreliable minutes is something anyone should ever want/need/expect to do;
        – refutes the claim that this can become a useful transfer-based component of a multi-modal transit network;
        – admits that this is a needless vanity project for downtowners and lazy tourists, in a city with an ACTUAL critical transit shortage everywhere else!

      • Nathanael says

        Campaign for exclusive ROW. There’s no reason NOT to get it, besides political apathy and inertia. That can be overcome.

      • d.p. says

        You wouldn’t know it from all the people suddenly drooling on themselves to chase a First Avenue plan, but in fact, exclusive ROW on First is impossible, Nathanael.

        Through Pioneer Square, First Ave South is a single lane in each direction. You cannot kick cars off the street for two reasons: firstly, because it’s the ONLY route from downtown to the Stadium District and SoDo west of the BNSF tracks (thus the traffic spikes); and secondly, because Pioneer Square teeters on the edge of sketchy after business hours and the last thing you want is a street with no eyes on it except when a single trolley passes through 4 times an hour.

        The rest of First Ave, from downtown through Belltown, has two lanes each way, but those lanes are so skinny that the buses that used to run on the street had an awful time using them: cars waiting to turn and cabs letting passengers off tended to block BOTH travel lanes, forcing buses onto the other side of the street to go around and frequently making them miss entire light cycles. I sincerely doubt you could fit the required buffer area for an exclusive streetcar lane into the available space; an isolated/protected lane is out of the question.

        Make no mistake: Every politician and streetcar fetishist discussing First Avenue is pushing for a mixed-running crapfest.

    • the358 says

      I don’t always agree with you, but I do here. Streetcar is expensive to build. If it is no faster than a bus on the same route, then it’s a waste of money. Same as Rapid Ride–if it’s no faster or more frequent than the service it is replacing, why spend all that money on stations and new buses? Because they’re “cooler”? We’re broke. We can’t afford “cool.”

      • Kyle S. says

        This blog has gone over the circumstances in which a streetcar beats a bus even if it isn’t any faster. It only pencils out for short, in-city trips. LQA-Downtown meets that threshold, IMO.

      • d.p. says

        10-minute headways at best. Downtown to 15 at night. In all studies.

        Even for LQA-Downtown slow+infrequent is indefensible.

  8. lazarus says

    Of course lost in all this discussion is that the 4th/5th couplet is actually significantly cheaper to build and has the highest economic efficiency. This was reported here on the STB back in July of 2011.

    http://seattletransitblog.com/2011/07/25/tmp-hct-analysis-ii-the-efficiency-winner/

    Yes, you’d want to do a direct head-to-head comparison of what is proposed to today, but it will be hard to beat the 4th/5th couplet for low total construction cost and overall economic efficiency.

    Why is this important? Because you could take those cost savings and spend them elsewhere to enhance the streetcar system.

    For example, you could fully/partially fund the Aloha Extension all the way to Prospect (as gawd intended). Although the study phase of this is funded, the mayor has still failed to step-up to the plate and deliver construction dollars.

    Or you could build a real turning loop for both the extended SLU line and the First Hill line. A unidirectional turning loop serving both lines and the Pioneer Square neighborhood would be great. It would be even better if it included a transfer stop on the waterfront adjacent to the existing ferry terminal.

    But a tourist line on 1st Ave? Supposedly the economics aren’t as good, but if you want to do it then at least do it right – build a line from Seattle Center through Belltown down to the new Arena south of Safeco.

    • William says

      I looked over those posts but couldn’t find why the First Avenue route is more expensive per mile. Do you know why?

      • Nathanael says

        Lazarus, couplets have inherent economic inefficiency. You might want to look into some of the criticism of couplets. Economics for them is awful because they shrink the walkshed.

    • d.p. says

      Whee!! 11,500 possible boardings a day! In the freaking epicenter of a city of hundreds if thousands!

      With 10-minute waits all day — 15 minutes after 7:00! — just to travel a few slow blocks!

      I still can’t believe that was the best study-spin money could buy. Anyone who thinks that looks “vital” probably also sent money to Nigerian princes and is still excited about their upcoming windfall from the Bank of Lagos.

      • lazarus says

        Ya, at 11,500 the SC would be carrying more people than every bus route in the entire Metro system except for the #48, and it would be doing it at lower cost. So you wouldn’t want to do anything like that, because it would be….you know….cost effective.

        You really need to stick to the data instead of making these side comments about Nigerian princes and banking.

        But I’m feeding the troll…..

      • d.p. says

        How many boardings and deboardings happen already on the transit mall two blocks away?

        How many boardings and deboardings happen already in the tunnel almost directly below?

        11,000 door-threshold crossings is a PITTANCE in the middle of downtown.

      • lazarus says

        Huh? Do you really think it is meaningful to compare an aggregated total value to a route specific value?

        That is a totally nonsensical and meaningless comparison.

      • d.p. says

        When ALL THE ROUTE EVEN DOES is duplicate the existing aggregate downtown segments of other routes, then that is the ONLY valid comparison.

      • lazarus says

        If that makes some sort of sense to you, then just keep repeating it, and repeating it, and repeating it.

    • Wells says

      Transit demand on 1st Ave is no less than 5 minute frequency between Queen Anne and Jackson. Trolleybus can meet that demand better than streetcar, plus keep all transit stops on the sidewalk rather than dividing bus stops at the curb and streetcar stations in the middle of 1st Ave.

      Streetcar lines on 1st, 4th & 5th have the same problem of too much traffic going too fast, skidding on slippery lines producing accidents that stop traffic. A Waterfront Streetcar Line could be directed over a new bridge over Broad Street, north on Elliott, up 3rd Ave West, then east on Republican to a terminus at the Center. Yes, Republican is a steeper hill, but it doesn’t have much traffic. From there, this streetcar line could extend and connect to Westlake. This is the basic streetcar expansion I’ve been studying for about 3 years. Seattle Center to Waterfront is an unserved transit demand, though a bridge over the RR tracks at Broad St is high impact.

  9. Brian in Seattle says

    Two suggestions:

    I’m not really torn on the route either way as long as it does these two things.

    1. Connect the streetcar lines already in existence which means physically linking up the tracks. No more piecemeal routes which avoids the idiocy of having to build a maintenance facility every time a line is built.

    2. Abolish the requirement that streetcars have to obey the speed limit. If they have open road ahead of them , let the operators open em up. Make the slow trips faster.

  10. Jon Cracolici says

    I dont understand all the dissin on tourist destinations. I think we should build the SC to them and heres why. I live downtown, and the tourist areas are the same areas I go to all the time. Retail in DT seattle is very segregated, so basically almost everything is on 1st, 4th, 5th, or around Westlake; so thats where I go to get things and see things. These are the interesting non-office places DT, so thats where tourists go. Its not like someone is suggesting building a SC from the airport straight to the ferris wheel.

    • lazarus says

      No disdain. But if you are going to make a tourist line then make a good one – Seattle Center to the new Arena on first. The economics aren’t as good as the 4th/5th couplet, but it’s not bad, and you’d still want the couplet for the Seattleites.

      But I’d say build the couplet first (and the Aloha extension)

      • Bernie says

        Third time’s the charm? Why does it have to be a couplet rather than just running straight down 5th?

      • Bernie says

        Ah, but one way streets can be changed. As I’ve said before, 2nd & 4th being alternate directions and 3rd being a two way street makes sense. The 5th 6th mess where it changes to one way in the middle of town, not so much. The street car work would be the perfect time to improve traffic flow and timely as WSDOT is planning to eliminate one of the DT exits from I-5. Seems the 5th Ave alignment was sabotaged and the fix was in for 1st from the get go.

      • aw says

        “The route you traveled on foot is less than half as long as the route the streetcar took,” said PBOT spokesman Dan Anderson.

        Not so amazing.

      • eddiew says

        Consider the Seattle situation. Within SLU, the streetcar is short, only 1.3 miles; the headway is the walking travel time for many. When considering the connection of the First Hill line with downtown Seattle, Link, the east-west trolleybus routes, or walking would all be faster. The loopy connection provided by connecting the two streetcars is even worse than the Portland line; walkers could cut short the trip or use other modes. This emperor has no clothes. When connecting the SLU line with downtown, one already has routes 26-28, 40, or 70 or a transfer at Westlake to very frequent service in the tunnel. Why use a high cost mode for a low value connection? As another quipped on the STB, the connection would be the redundancy option; there is no where in the state with more north-south service. Sure, let’s make it simpler and more legible.

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