As reported on The Transport Politic, Portland’s new Eastside streetcar extension will receive $75 million from the feds. Since the project is expected to cost $127 million, the Obama administration’s contribution will pay for more than half of the project. Good news for Portland!

Back in Seattle, while we were just talking about the First Hill streetcar this morning (also able to receive Small Start funding), but ever since the Viaduct tunnel decision came down there hasn’t been much discussion about the 1st Ave/Central streetcar line. City leaders agree that now’s the time to invest in our infrastructure, but where’s the progress along 1st Ave?

25 Replies to “Portland Streetcar Expansion Gets Large Federal Grant”

      1. Ben

        Isn’t Sound Transit funding this and didn’t the City approve of the First Hill Streetcar sooner rather than later?


  1. It would be nice to see them build the 1st Avenue, Jackson, First Hill alignment all at the same time. It seems like they could save some money this way.

  2. I does Portland manage to get so much money for these things? $75mn for a streetcar? We’d have streetcars up and down Seattle if we could get the Feds to pay 60%.

    1. Beacause, while Seattle has dithered and “processed”, Portland have doing sensible transit stuff for almost a quarter of a century!

  3. True. I’m just saying that if the city is serious about building the 1st Ave. line it would make sense to do it concurrently with the Jackson/First Hill line.

    1. I don’t think we should build the 1st Ave SC. I feel it would just represent more kneejerk transit planning by Seattle.

      1) Think of it, we already have built the 1.x mile SLU streetcar and we have already funded the First Hill SC which doesn’t connect to it. What’s the point in rushing to build yet another SC that doesn’t connect to either of the first two? A better option would be to connect the first two SC segments with a SC couplet on 4th and 5th. This would maximize the effectiveness of our current investment.

      2) If you believe anything that came out of the Schell administration and the Seattle Monorail Project (and I’d take that with a grain of salt given how incompetent they both were), then the N-S “Green Line” corridor would generate enough ridership to support true LR. Building SC instead would not satisfy this need and would effectively be a waste of money. If the corridor really does generate that much ridership, then we really should step up to the plate and build something that satisfies that level of need.

      3) Has anyone noticed that we are about to build a deep bored tunnel to replace the viaduct? One of the major advantages of the DBT is that the viaduct can remain in place and in service during construction. Or, thinking of it from a transit POV, given a new maintenance base, the WFSC could remain in service that entire time. I.e., If we build the DBT there is no reason (other than the maintenance base) to shutter the WFSC. Yes, it’s not a full SC like a 1st Ave one would be, but it was used, was profitable, and would be an awful lot cheaper to get running than building yet another new SC line on 1st Ave.

      1. 1) The 1st Ave SC will connect to the 1st Hill SC, since both will run down Jackson.

        2) That’s probably true.

        3) The WFSC is probably dead for all time.

      2. 1)The 1st Ave Line is in fact supposed to connect to both. It would share some track with the First Hill Line, and extending SLU Line down to 1st is part of the streetcar plan. FWIW, it would also intersect with the Waterfront Streetcar if it ever returned.

        That said, I don’t think the connections are really that big of a deal anyway. What is important is that the streetcars connect to the Light Rail stations and other transit hubs, not each other. Most people aren’t going to go really far on the streetcars anyway, especially if it involves transfering. The network is simply not extensive enough to provide efficient travel across the city. People will use the lines to go between two or three neighborhoods at a time.

        2)A 1st Ave Streetcar line would be an important feeder for a Downtown-Ballard subway line. Link lines and streetcar lines can have complimentary purposes. Link can’t go everywhere and stop everywhere, it needs to maintain a certain degree of speed. But the streetcars can stop much more frequently and go many more places. Streetcars will draw in a lot of people to Link who need to go to those places but are turned off by a Rail-Bus transfer necessity.

        Of course, there is the danger that a 1st Ave line and a Ballard line would satisfy planners enough to delay a necessary Downtown/Uptown/Ballard Link line, but the planners should be smarter than this, and we don’t know when/if such a line would happen anyway. We shouldn’t sink a transportation improvement (almost) available now on that thought. When that Link extension finally is built, we will be very glad we (hopefully) built the streetcar lines to compliment it.

        3)As I’ve argued many times before, 1st Ave and the Waterfront are not the same thing, the lines are not redundant. I totally agree that the Waterfront Line should be brought back as soon as possible (or at least some plans on bringing it back should be formulated), but this shouldn’t effect the 1st Ave plans.

      3. Lazarus, a Central/1st Ave streetcar would connect the dense Queen Anne and Belltown neighborhoods to light rail — how can you ignore that? On the other side, we’d bring light rail deep into the Central District at 23rd and Jackson. Certainly if you only look at the streetcar mode you aren’t gaining an incredible amount (though it would link with both SLUT and the First Hill streetcar, completely the opposite of you said), but if you look at the light rail mode it is a very effective investment.

        Certainly I don’t think we should build a 4th and 5th avenue couplet over a 1st ave streetcar. The purity of connecting two disjoint streetcar lines doesn’t outweigh the massive ridership potential and real service gains you’d get from the 1st ave line.

        As for this being a perfect light rail corridor, I agree but we are probably 20 years away from seeing that line open. A streetcar could open within the next five years if the political will developments.

      4. I hate uttering the “M” word in public. It’s like running for Governor and saying “income tax.”

        That said, the incompetency at the SMP was in the leadership not the planners. And the fundamental project problem was never with engineering, but with the funding — which led to stupid decisions.

        There’s more than one study about ridership in the former Green Line corridor, and one can still find links to them around the SDOT website. “Streetcar” is competitive with “elevated transit” in one half of it, but “elevated transit” is more desirable and brings about higher ridership in the other.

        I’d also like to remind folks that Queen Anne/Uptown already HAS a perfectly good connector to Link and buses in the Tunnel. It’s called the Seattle Center Monorail.

        How much money would it take to fix up the stations at either end so that folks coming from down South could actually have a smooth connection (and perhaps even fare integration) to switch from Link to monorail to head to Bumbershoot? Or how about encouraging people to park in the abundant parking lots around Seattle Center in order to head Downtown for the Torchlight parade or a Mariners game?

      5. One problem with the current monorail is that it’s point-to-point, i.e. it only serves to locations. Another problem is that the location it serves in Queen Anne is actually pretty far from the residential/retail core (rather than being in the middle of it like the Capitol Hill Link stop). Perhaps it would function like an express version of the streetcar (to downtown/Link)?

      6. I disagree. If you accept that someday we will build a true LR line along the Green Line corridor, then a 1st Ave streetcar would be totally unnecessary.

        Think of it. A Green Line LR line would run on 2nd Ave to facility transfers with Central Link. And such a line would certainly have a station near 2nd and Denny adjacent to the Pacific Science Center and Seattle Center in general. So what would be the point in running a slower, lower capacity, parallel SC line just one short-side block away?

        Quite honestly there wouldn’t be any reason for such a SC line.

        Don’t get me wrong, there is a role for SC’s and we ought to build them, but we certainly ought to build them wisely, and duplicating LR service while not satisfying other transit demand is not being wise.

        A wise use of SC would be to build it off-corridor and/or on routes that intersect the (hopefully) 2 N-S LR lines. Thus extending the existing SLU SC up Eastlake to connect with C Link would be wise, as would certain E-W and circulator routes.

        Per the WFSC, don’t get me wrong, I don’t view this as a big transportation asset for the region, but with the Deep Bore Tunnel now progressing, there is no reason it can’t be revived at very minimal cost. Since it basically covered its own O&M, there is no reason not to pursue such an option.

  4. The capital financing for the streetcars is heavily reliant on a local improvement district, which collects funds (a tax, essentially) from businesses and property owners along the route. This LID has to be voted on and approved by those who will be paying into it. The 1st Avenue streetcar has been vehemently opposed by the Belltown business owners, but property owners all along the route from Seattle Center to Pioneer Square will be voting on it, which might improve it’s chances.

      1. The only comments I’ve heard firsthand are that they don’t want to lose street parking and potential customers (an oft disproved fear). There will be two or three streetcar stops in Belltown; each will take out approximately 15 street spaces.

      2. Oh Seattle and your transit hangups. Nobody wants to acknowledge that you’re a big city now.

      3. Don’t underestimate Belltown opposition. They were the reason SMP proposed the Green Line monorail down 5th instead of 2nd.

    1. It’d probably run up to 23rd and Jackson, significantly shifting the electoral map.

      1. Actually, the terminus might be further east on Jackson where there was a turnaround in the past. We’ll see. Hopefully a LID will be pulled together soon.

  5. Good luck with the LID in the ID – not exactly a lot of support for it there, particularly at properties with many different owners, of which there are more than a few. Hopefully the 1st Ave/”First Hill” lines can use the same ST-funded tracks.

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