This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.
So the council’s transportation subcommittee has approved 4 more streetcar lines, pretty much the same ones we heard about in May. I’m actually rather surprised that these things still have support in the midst of an economic downturn. Not that I don’t think it’s wise to invest in infrastructure in a downturn — I just (a) didn’t think that many council members agreed with me, and (b) wasn’t sure where the money would come from, since the city presumably can’t run a budget deficit.
But streetcars we shall have, it appears! I’m still skeptical about running them on streets as crowded as 1st Ave downtown and Broadway on Capitol Hill. One double-parked car or fender bender and you’ve effectively taken down the network for hours.
Nick Licata’s not impressed:
Councilmen Richard McIver and Nick Licata voted against the streetcar resolution Tuesday. Licata said too much is still unknown, including the impact on bus service, how construction and streetcars will be paid for and how the operations will be funded long term.
“They have no idea where they are going to get this money,” Licata said. “It’s what I refer to as misguided good intentions.”
The Ballard and University District lines don’t pencil out, he said. Ballard doesn’t have the density for a streetcar, and the University District is better served by buses.
I don’t agree with that last bit — I think Ballard and the U-District absolutely can support a streetcar — but his concerns about money are well-founded. Will Metro be asked to take over operations once the lines are built? Presumably you’d get some efficiencies of scale by building up the network a bit, especially on maintenance and driver training. But the day-to-day operating subsidies will have to be paid for by someone, and I’m not sure a LID is your answer here, absent one large, Vulcan-like property owner to push for it.