A reminder that the first of a series of meetings designed to get public comment on Seattle’s potential streetcar expansion is being held later today at city hall. Here are some words from the P-I:

City officials are holding several public meetings over the next three weeks to discuss plans to lay tracks that would connect a dozen neighborhoods to downtown.

The first meeting, on Wednesday, will focus on the Central Line, which would run mainly along First Avenue from Seattle Center to King Street Station.

Streetcars on that line would stop every six minutes at the Olympic Sculpture Park, Pike Place Market and Washington State Ferries.

“There will always be a streetcar coming,” said Ethan Melone, project manager for the Seattle Department of Transportation.

There is a sense of urgency. Transportation officials hope to start construction by late 2010 and have the route running by early 2012 when the Alaskan Way Viaduct is expected to be torn down.

As proposed, the Central Line would cost about $205 million to build. About $95 million of that could come from a local improvement district that would be formed along the route, similar to the district set up in South Lake Union. Property owners would have to agree to pay a share of the cost.

Given that I work in the building closest to the Olympic Sculpture Park, I say bring it on! More practically though, the city does seem incredibly optimistic about the revenue from advertising as well as the savings banked from Metro service hours. I feel like this could open any of the new streetcar routes to some fair criticism, and I would like to see more conservative numbers from the Seattle DOT as the plans move forward.

Is anyone here going to go to one of the public meetings? Which line, if any, should Seattle build first?

22 Replies to “First Streetcar Meeting: Today at 4pm”

  1. I’m going to try and be there today, but in case I can’t can someone bring up these points?

    1. Have the planners been on 1st ave downtown at rush hour? Unless they’re thinking of streetcar-only lanes (can be done with removing parking), this it a terrible route.

    2. Why go almost all the way to Queen Anne hill without going up? This is a wonderful opportunity to bring back the old Counterbalance system (and the tourist interest that it would bring). This will add a bit to cost, but it’s a very simple system and would give you very quick access to a dense neighborhood.

  2. While I think a streetcar system would do well for Seattle, I agree with Matt the Engineer’s sentiment; for it to be a sucessful public transit system as opposed to a tourist draw only, it really needs dedicated lanes and hopefully somewhat coordinate signal movements. Ideally, it would be great if it were like the F line historic trolley along the embarcadero in SF.

    Ironically enough, the Viaduct escapade is remarkably similar to the Embarcadero’s past. Lets hope that the powers that be redevelop Seattle’s waterfront with similar tact and foresight.

  3. To add a counterbalance system would jack the price up almost $10 million bones. I’m content with it going the long way around Queen Anne.

    The most interesting thing I would love to know is – Will Metro take the bus wires down on 1st Avenue? Only coach returns and testing movements are used on that route..it’s a lot of fun when they have been used in a long time. Man do the sparks fly!


    I would be on-board for a Streetcar on First Avenue but there are some major things that would need to happen first and foremost.

    Streetcars get signal priority. If there is one approaching an intersection, the light should be in the process of changing or already Green for the vehicle to go through.

    Streetcars should be at the END of the street and buses at the BEGINNING of the street. This will allow 3 buses and a streetcar with no blocking issues.

    First Avenue is effectively 4 to 6 lanes wide. The Streetcar should always have the curb side running like the SLUS but more warning signs (more light-rail type signs that notify drivers of approaching trains..Portland Streetcar uses this heavily)

    If they do decide to go with the First Avenue Streetcar, the Inekon Trams will NOT be big enough. The City of Seattle will need to look at bigger Streetcars, like the Siemens Combino, Inekon Pento would be best.. The Trios just wouldn’t cut it.

    If the route is going to King Street Station, in all reality, extend it the extra mile by building a single track spur in the middle of Occidental Avenue to Safeco Field with a stop in front of Qwest Field and at the intersection of Royal Brougham and Occidental. Stopping right in front of the Stadiums would be a MAJOR brownie point for killing off the Waterfront Streetcar (which still should be restored but I won’t get into that)

    A new phase could be built to head up into Queen Anne and eventually, SPU.

    I am really hoping they will build the First Ave and U Dub Streetcar at the same time…

    1. The streetcars will be single-cab streetcars and retrofitted to use the overhead wires like the buses. A loop will be created at the north end.

      I agree on the need for larger streetcars, though, I think they’re seriously underestimating potential ridership here.

      1. Retrofitting to use the bus wires sounds bad. One of the nice points of the SLUT vs. trolley buses is that the SLUT never comes off the wires.

        I like the idea of a streetcar network, and I’d love for it to have dedicated lanes. It’s important, though, to have high frequency if the lanes are dedicated — otherwise the lane sits there looking unused, which is terrible from a political viewpoint.

        Note, also, that Portland’s streetcar is getting 10,000 riders a day with 12-minute headways and no dedicated lanes. We might be better off adding the tracks now and dedicating the lanes later (after it’s clear ridership is there).

      2. where did you see this?

        from what I read, only the Capitol Hill line will use dual trolley poles … the 1st ave line will be normal single-wire catenary (like the slut and link)

        As for Queen Anne Hill …

        the maximum gradient for the Trio is 8% and 8,5 for the Pento. I am not sure but this would mean that the only potential route would be where the #3 and #4 buses currently run (up the Lake Union side of QA Hill).

        Provided that gradient is less than 8% (or that it could be re-graded) then that would hold well for future expansion.

        Full tech specs for the Inekon Trams may be found here

    2. $10M to extend a $180M line to a high-density area and restore the counterbalance? Sounds like a good deal to me. I’m sure the line of restaurants and businesses on top of the hill would contribute quite a bit to get this.

  4. [Steve], ridership ever build if you don’t have a dedicated lane on 1st. Trust me – my wife works on 1st and I avoid it like the plague when I pick her up. Add a Mariners game to rush hour, and you can be stuck at a standstill for a very long time.

  5. uhhh i don’t think you can put in a counter-balance for a regular streetcar. i think it would have to be cable car for the length of the route. which would be cool, but would probably be much more expensive…
    and if you had dedicated lanes, that would make it pretty much impossible for regular cars to drive on first, as there aren’t enough lanes, and with a dedicated lane, stops would have to bulb out from the curb. maybe they could make it a bus/streetcar/carpool only street?

    1. The original counterbalance assisted regular streetcars – not cable cars. The technology is as simple as a hook that attaches to the car (so yes, you need something to hook to, but that can’t be expensive), with a cable attached that goes up to a pulley and a concrete-filled rail car under the street. You hook the cable on, run up the street (underground concrete car runs down), then unhook. On the way back down hook, run down, unhook.

      I’m sure we can come up with an automatic system, but even the old hook system would work fine.

      1. Yeah, the old hook system worked fine, except for the poor fellows who had to sit in the pits all day, under the tracks, hooking and unhooking the counterbalance weights. Not jobs we could fill in this day and age.

  6. the best solution for first ave would be to make it N/S for bus / tram and N only for cars/trucks since 2nd ave already heads southbound. this way they have half the street to dedicate to transit.

    1. Hmm. I like this idea. Could the the car/truck section could be separated from the bus/tram section with a curb while still allowing deliveries for local business?

  7. I cannot find the URL but the other day I was reading a blog where someone suggested that they add onto this “central line” in such a way as to use the old Waterfront Street cars on 1st ave in addition to Trios/Pentos … such that the old 99 cars run South down first until Pike Place Market, then they run Northbound down Western until Denny where they turn East to reconnect to the 1st ave line and then head back South to the market …

    think tourist loop in old street cars … with minimal additional infrastructure (some high-end platforms at each station) … which would also provide additional service on 1st

    included in this is would be the provision to ban non-commercial vehicles from Pike Place from 1st ave to where it joins Western (at the base of Virginia)

  8. Presenters said don’t read too much into the precision with which the lines are drawn on the map. Routes are meant to indicate corridors, not streets — First Ave. line could be on Western, for example. Smart thing for them to say, but one has to wonder why the lines weren’t just drawn as corridors in the first place.

    It’s not possible to imagine single-ended cars running on two-wire overhead, like trolleybuses. No reason whatsoever to do something like this, and it would require a separate fleet just for that one line.

    1. Heavily ridden line, however, so I can see somewhat why it would be a good investment.

      1. Yes, a good investment for current streetcar technology, but there’s no case for DIFFERENT streetcar technology. Double-ended cars turn around without a loop. It’s been close to a hundred years since a system was built with two-wire trolleypole power distribution.

  9. They shouldn’t build any of these lines. All of these areas are already served by multiple bus routes, so adding street cars would be redundant. Instead, money should be spent improving existing transit modes, subsidizing worker housing, improving pedestrian and bike corridors, etc. Since they’re not grade-separated and since they’re so expensive to built, street cars are just not cost effective.

  10. I’m a big fan of a street car line connecting the university, eastlake…to the downtown. I think this would be a huge success for the city and the university.

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