As you heard earlier this morning, Greg Nickels (the Mayor of Seattle) came to our blog’s meet-up last night. After delivering a speech detailing is 21+ year history of trying to bring rail transit to the region, the Mayor asked the audience for some questions. Here are the more interesting facts we found out:

  • Nickels said he wasn’t “convinced” about a 12th avenue streetcar rather than one that runs along Broadway. He implied that it wouldn’t serve the same area that the original First Hill stop promised in Sound Move would have. But he said there is time to look at 12th, and that the city should.
  • The First Hill Streetcar may not pursue federal funds because it can delay a project for years and the city is attempting to open the line ahead of the planned 2016 date.
  • But the 1st Ave (ID, Belltown, Lower Queen Anne) Streetcar will pursue federal funds and will be started during his next term if re-elected. This line will link the First Hill Streetcar and the South Lake Union Streetcar.

More after the jump!

  • The Waterfront Streetcar is unlikely to come back and instead the above 1st Ave streetcar will serve that corridor. Nickels said the Waterfront line wasn’t for commuters and citizens as much as tourists, and that the historic streetcars have issues stopping on even some of the moderate hills around Pioneer Square.
  • While a West Seattle extension of light rail is something the Mayor would like to see and is an obvious route to build, he said it’s quite a ways off given that we haven’t completed the spine yet. Patience, transit enthusiasts!
  • Nickels predicts the next Sound Transit election will be in 2016. ST3’s revenue source could be a sales tax extension (not an increase) plus revenues from a cap-and-trade program.
  • The Mayor re-iterated that Bellevue will have to fund its own light rail tunnel, and right now the ST Board and the city are working to identify a revenue source.
  • Nickels opposes the 40/40/20 rule that Metro applies to new service hours. That rule puts 20% of new service hours toward Seattle and Shoreline and 40% to the Eastside and 40% to South King County. It also stipulates that new service between the suburbs and the city will count 50% against Seattle.
  • Finally, the Mayor thanked the blog and its readers for our support of the ST2 plan last year and our legislative outreach in this past session.

It was great to have the Mayor be our guest last night and we appreciate his deep commitment to transit issues.

88 Replies to “What the Mayor Told Us Last Night”

  1. The Waterfront Streetcar is a goner. It would need to be removed by 2016 after the SR 99 tunnel opens and WSDOT begins to take the viaduct down. The entire street is going to be reconfigured.

  2. I’m really pissed that I missed the meetup … damn work.

    They really should consider moving the Waterfront Streetcar line to run along Alki point in West Seattle … that would be the perfect run for the old Melbourne cars …

    1. You know, it kind of would. I think there’s still a question of what it could connect to, though. Maybe a West Seattle line could have a stop before climbing the hill.

  3. I don’t think he really understood what I was fully asking.

    My question for those that may have not heard it fully cause I’m a quiet speaker; What would be the chance of the Waterfront Streetcar returning if it only ran between Pike Street and the new Cruise Ship Terminal.

    My idea would be use the wire, poles, rail and ties from Pike Street to Washington Street, which is still very good rail and concrete ties could be used for an extension to Terminal 91. That would keep the costs minimal excluding of course the need for a maintenance facility.

    I wouldn’t be too surprised if volunteers would be willing to run the system during the Spring and Summer months and special events.

    1. Nickels said the Waterfront line wasn’t for commuters and citizens as much as tourists, and that the historic streetcars have issues

      I agree that it’s a tourist ride more than transit but it can be a very important part of redeveloping the water front. Perhaps it should be the Port of Seattle looking into it instead of Metro. I don’t agree that it’s not for citizens; “tourists” can come from as far away as Bellevue ;-)

      The idea to extend it Terminal 91 is a good one. I also think eeepc has an idea worth looking at in running the line along Alki. Old equipment needs to be kept in use or it becomes unuseable.

      Is there any place south of downtown or over at Alki where the Maintenance Facility can be more of a transportation musuem than just a behind the scenes shed? Someone had suggested Union Station which would be pretty cool and they’re going to be seeing a big loss in leased space when Amazon moves to SLU.

  4. Disappointing about the Waterfront Streetcar, as if we should be building transit only for commuters? What is the Monorail if it’s not good for tourism? Doesn’t mean we’ll tear it down (and we shouldn’t).

    Wasn’t the Waterfront Streetcar named one of the 10 best streetcar routes in the world by National Geographic?

    1. Seriously. And as a local, I loved to ride it — and my spouse used it to commute, too! His workplace is near one end of the route. I do not find “The Waterfront Streetcar is unlikely to come back” to be acceptable. Even as a tourist line, bring it back.

      1. Heck, I just realized that if they brought it back to its existing route, and extended the hours a bit, I’d be able to commute on it too. (Unfortunately I get out of work after streetcar hours.) It would very nearly connect with Link in the ID, and I could just take the train home, since I live near a station. Sigh.

  5. I’m ready for 2016!

    Mayor Nickels: What’s the likelihood of having the 1st Avenue Streetcar lane be “transit only, except business and resident access” from 6-9 and 3-7 weekedays, and all day on game days? It would be easy to enforce and would give businesses and residents a direct car link to a busy road AND a rapid streetcar route.

  6. it’s a shame that the Waterfront Streetcar, which greatly helped to humanize the waterfront and make it more accessible in spite of the roaring wall of the viaduct, was so quickly & easily relegated to the trash heap just because the City didn’t want to make the Seattle Art Museum replace the streetcar barn. Poor George Benson must still be spinning in his grave.

    1. rich people (the Sculpture Park’s desired audience) don’t use transit.

    2. My impression is that the city was very worried about the safety of those streetcars since they can’t stop very effectively on slopes.

      Another thing that’ll humanize the waterfront is actual human beings who will be able to use it in droves once the Viaduct goes down! :)

      1. Yeah like San Fransisco worries about safety with those cable cars. What a load of hooey.

        Those cars belong running somewhere, Alki would be ok, but they should run along where the tourists are and where the locals could use them. I thought a run down to the Air Museum would be ideal. It’s pretty flat, and the road is wide enough to put the cars down the middle of. North, yep, pier 91 and the cruise ship terminal would be ideal…. and ok, a stop for that sculpture park.

      2. The streetcar was one of the things that brought people to the waterfront. It was charming and fun. All the post-viaduct illustrations I’ve seen of the area are pretty sterile. The streetcar is an asset to that area. Removing it is short-sighted.

  7. George and Evelyn Benson were friends of mine, and it was because of George’s hard work and dedication that the Waterfront Streetcar line came into being. Both are now deceased and not here to rally the public, again, to keep their brainchild in service to the people. As a semi-regular rider on that line, I saw both tourists and locals. For getting up and down the waterfront, to restaurants and meeting places, it couldn’t be beaten.

    When it was taken out of service several years ago, we were assurred that it would return when another car barn location was secured. Then that ran into trouble and the return day was moved out. Then the Viaduct project came along and we saw many drawings showing the streetcar line in a new location, some of them showing two tracks instead of just one, permitted by all the new space the viaduct removal would provide.

    Then the big-bore tunnel project came along. It didn’t crowd out the tunnel; quite the contrary, it allows maximum space on the waterfront to rebuild the trolley line. Rather it just disappeard one day, when it was decided that the First Avenue line should be built. I have no quarrel with the First Avenue route, but it serves an entirely different market than the Waterfront line; in no way does it “replace” the WF line. Apparently the funds that would’ve been used to build the new car barn and rebuild the WF tracks after Viaduct removal, apparently those funds have been diverted to the new First Avenue line. At least that’s all that I can figure out.

    Public discussion of this fund diversion: None. Public hearings held to discuss the diversion: None.

    Anybody on this list want to join a rally to restore the WF streetcar line? If they can destroy one rail line like this, are any rail lines really safe? It would take a lot of work, but it would allow George to stop turning in his grave.

      1. It’s true it’s not the same, in fact it’s much better. It actually goes to the Pike Place Market, the biggest tourist draw in our region, and the Seattle center, the thing the city’s most famous for (space needle). And it’s two blocks from the waterfront.

        Not just that, it can be used by normal non-tourist residents as well,

      2. I’m with Andrew. The First Avenue corridor fairly pulses with city life, cultural institutions and tourist crowds. A streetcar here would have great ridership potential, day and night, and strengthen the identity of one of the most vibrant corridors of town. SAM, the Market, Belltown, the Olympic Sculpture Park. Not so long ago this was Skid Row.

        litlnemo, the waterfront streetcar was no doubt charming, but it couldn’t draw me to the waterfront by itself. I always came for specific destinations like the Aquarium, the curiosity shop, Ivars, the ferry, and now-a-days the sculpture park. For me the waterfront streetcar was nice to have but not essential to the experience. Whereas along First Avenue a streetcar would heighten the experience.

      3. FWIW, I often went to the waterfront just for the experience of being there, seeing the people and the activity and the streetcar, not for a specific destination. And the streetcar made it a much more fun place than it would be otherwise.

        One thing I was thinking last night is that in the northern stretch, 1st Avenue and the waterfront are separated by a pretty steep grade. So the 1st Ave streetcar isn’t a great replacement in that area — there are some accessibility issues for some people. Further south in Pioneer Square it’s not too bad, though.

    1. Definitely. We need both the Waterfront Streetcar and the 1st Ave Streetcar. No one is going to ride the 1st Ave Streetcar to the Ferry Terminal or anything else along the waterfront. And just because it is mostly used by tourists doesn’t mean it’s bad; so’s the convention center and we’re always pouring money into that. We need to make sure that, after the viaduct is torn down, at least they leave space for the waterfront streetcar along the street reconstruction.

    2. I support 100% any effort to bring back the Waterfront Streetcar. Here’s my opinion: If Seattle’s trying to bring streetcars into the picture, why not start by providing service on the streetcar system we already have!?

  8. A friend in attendance last night mentioned an STB meet-up is the only room in the city that mentioning the abolition of 20/40/40 could get a round of applause.

  9. I’d say decouple the waterfront streetcar from all other projects and promote it for its tourism/circulator value rather cutting into the transportation budget. The waterfront is low priority for residents’ transportation, and the waterfront streetcar is slower than a trolley bus. It was often more efficient to walk straight down from the Market or Belltown rather than going all the way to Main Street and back.

    Extending it to Alki with a maintenance base in between is a good idea. Alki is pretty isolated now. The 56 provides skeleton service (with no view!), the 37 never seems to be running when I want to use it, and the water taxi stops a mile from the beach. A streetcar from Alki to Harbor Avenue to Alaskan Way would be killer. Maybe we could tell Paul Allen we’ll stop badmouthing the SLUT if he funds something more useful like this.

    1. I used to drive around at ground level out by Harbor Island, and I gotta think a streetcar going from Alki to the central waterfront would be the longest trip ever.

      A streetcar from the water taxi to the lighthouse at Alki, though, would be a whole different matter. How great would that be, to take a ferry to West Seattle, a streetcar to the beach, and an ice cream cone on a hot summer day! I’m guessing that could get real popular real fast.

  10. I personally wouldn’t mind a volunteer/museum layout, kinda like what happens in Portland. The Willamette Shore Trolley runs a tourist line from South Waterfront to Downtown Lake Oswego (a future modern streetcar route, mind you) and is pretty much 98% volunteer based, not for profit group..

    Something like that could easily be applied to the WF route. The biggest expensive will be getting the lease space from Broad Street to the cruise ship terminal and the maintenance facility.

    When I rode the line, there was several people whom rode the trolley to catch the ferry (Seattle PI)

    It is a real shame not to continue this route with all of the needed equipment, parts, track, catenery, is all there and ready to go.


    1. One thing I notice (older guy here) is not much connection between STB and the northwest rail community.

      I don’t mention it much because some people seem to go totally nutso about the thought of “playing with trains” or “choo-choo trains” etc etc.

      Fact remains, there are a lot of people around here who love trains, love trolleys, are fascinated with the “romance of the rails”, and preserve old rail equipment, build models, do historical research, take fan trips on little used rail segments, and, yes, support Amtrak and contribute to a lobbyist in Olympia.

      It wouldn’t hurt to tap into a little of this knowledge base. You can do it without wearing a funny engineers hat! Go out by the roundhouse at Interbay. Spend an hour or two watching the trains. Go to the Government Locks and wait until you’ve see a train go by. Then drive around a little north of the waterway and find out where the train came from. This will give you a whole new look at some of the ideas we’ve seen here for running light-rail over the BNSF bridge at Salmon Bay- and a new appreciation for what happens southbound out of the Interbay yard.

      Anyway- we are not alone!

      Oh- and if you’ve never paid extra for a cab-ride in a steam loco at Snoqualmie- believe it, it’s worth the fare.

  11. I wasn’t there to hear the mayor’s talk last night, but based on his past statements, it seems to me that much of his opposition to bringing back the Waterfront Streetcar has to do with his support for the 1st Ave line. He realizes the existence of the Waterfront Streetcar would be used by some as an excuse to oppose a 1st Ave line, and so therefore he has to oppose any return of the Waterfront Streetcar. I doubt he will ever be willing to move on this until at least the 1st Ave line begins construction.

    I’m not one of the many rabid anti-Nickels people, and I like the idea of the 1st Ave Streetcar, but his disingenuousness on this is really upsetting. Just a couple of weeks ago, this articlereferenced the mayor saying the old streetcars could be used on the First Ave Line for special occassions, but now he says that the cars can’t even handle the steepness of Pioneer Square? And was there any history of the streetcars having trouble stopping? (I don’t recall any, but correct me if I’m wrong). When the streetcar was being shut down, the mayor and the city council vowed to get it going again. The mayor claimed he was going to save the streetcar ”for generations to come.” Now no one wants anything to do with it. This article from 2005 said it best: ”No one wants to be villain in deciding streetcar’s fate.” They all managed to push plans and promises long enough to let the streetcar fade from collective memory, ensuring they wouldn’t be considered the villain.

    1. I don’t think you’ve got it right.

      1) All the existing waterfront streetcar equipment on Alaskan Way would have to be torn up for Viaduct tear-down and seawall replacement. It’s not something that can just be “brought back”. It has to go one way or another. Why waste the money putting it in now just to tear it out again?

      2) One large cost of building the waterfront streetcar line would be the maintanence barn, which could be shared with the First Hill Streetcar if you used new skoda cars but not with the Melbourne cars the Waterfront streetcars used.

      3) The First Hill streetcar could qualify for federal grants because of high ridership. The waterfront streetcar never had much ridership, so it would not qualify for a grant. the city would have to come up with all of that money out of pocket, and it’s not chump change. Last week Portland got $75 mn for their streetcar, and downtown Seattle would only have higher ridership.

      It’s not going away because of malice, evene a very streetcar friendly leader in the country (Nickels is streetcar friendly) could not have preserved it.

      1. Andrew, that is very far and incorrect. If that is the case that the seawall extends all the way to the Waterfront Streetcar tracks between Pike and Broad Street, that would be that every building, railroad track, including BNSF’s would need to be removed and that is simply not the case.

        Yes, the right of way between Pike Street and Washington Street will need to be ripped up, that is a given because of the proximity to the Viaduct. That is why you would reuse the rail, ties, poles, and wire on the North end of the route.

        If the City was serious about a streetcar network, they would stop building these tiny maintenance facilities and build one main, central location. To have a maintenance facility for First Hill, South Lake Union, and any other future route, makes no sense. As it is, there is room for another 2 additional Streetcars at the SLU facility and then your out of room. They are proposing a similar sized building for the First Hill line, so having the Waterfront Streetcars there (all 6 of them) is out of the question.

        The Waterfront Streetcar saw more ridership than the 545 during its Summer peak and its Winter peak service was equal to the Route 7. Please explain to me where the low ridership is at? The current free bus has yet to EVER fill up a 40 foot Gillig…

        And finally, I know Nickels isn’t against the WF line but he favors the First Ave line and for good reason. Yes, it would have higher ridership but your also serving a different group. The WF streetcar had its own ROW with crossings, the First Ave line, unless it gets some type of BAT, will normally be on its knees during any stadium game.

        And if it says anything else, the Old Spaghetti Factory’s patronage went down 45% after the Streetcar was taken out of service. It has only recovered 15% of that. I would not at all be surprised if those numbers were around the same for all of the businesses on the Waterfront.

      2. You can look here and see where the seawall is and where the tracks are.

        There definitely are tracks North of the seawall that don’t need to be ripped out, but you still need to replace the tracks in the middle.

        Waterfront streetcar gots more riders than 545 is interesting, but 545 doesn’t need federal funding to get built. Streetcar does. Nothing to do with eachother.

        I think when money starts to come together there will be one or two bigger maintanence bases.

      3. I understand that there are problems associated with the Viaduct replacement, but the mayor isn’t just saying it can’t be brought back right now, he’s saying it will never be brought back. I would be satisfied if the leaders A)Committed to bringing it back at the completion of the Viaduct replacement, and B)Made concrete plans for how to do this as soon as possible.

        To your points:
        1)If the viaduct is going to be torn down as originally planned in 2012, then I agree that it can’t be brought back before, but there has been much talk of the pushing back the Viaduct deconstruction until the tunnel is completed, which at in the best case scenario is 2016, quite possibly later. If this is the case, why not run the streetcar for a few years (after the barn is replaced), shutting it down just for a year or two, instead of waiting another 10+ years. There is no need to build anything that would be torn out, just the maintenance barn. The concrete covering up some tracks was made to be removable.

        2)Why can’t you build a maintenance barn that could also accommodate the Melbourne cars?

        3)We don’t need Federal funding for the Waterfront Streetcar, the cost would be low because the maintenance barn could be combined with the First Hill/First Ave barn, and the post-Viaduct tracks could be put in when the street is redone anyway. If the Waterfront line is being shelved in order to drive up chances of Federal funding for the First Ave line, then I guess that is crafty on the mayor’s part.

        I understand that the mayor is very streetcar friendly, I like that about him, but he has simply dropped the ball in regards to the Waterfront Streetcar and he has been disingenuous about it.

        Ok, I’m done talking about this for now. It’s really not the most important issue. I’m sure it will come back someday, when the Waterfront is freed of the Viaduct. I just hope it’s not 20+ years. Anyway, let’s build light-rail to Ballard!

      4. 1) Demolition/Seawall replacement is going to take a long time, not just a year or too, and during that time all the tracks have to be pulled out. Also, who has money for a maintanence barn right now? No one.

        2) It’d have to be bigger because the melbourne cars are different. Costs go up.

        3) The fact is you do need federal funding for the waterfront streetcar, because the majority of the track simply will not be there in five years (torn out for viaduct demolishion and seawall replacement). You have to lay new track and build a new barn. No one has the money. Everyone’s cutting everything. The choices aren’t Waterfront streetcar or First Ave streetcar, it’s First Ave street with federal funding or nothing.

      5. 1) Nothing is stopping a grant (not federal funding) from being procured and building a maintenance facility. The tourist railroad industry relies on these grants. BNSF will NOT allow any disruption of their mainline for Seawall replacement. The WF tracks shares ROW from Vine Street to Broad Street.

        2) Why does it need to be bigger? There is nothing wrong with the Melbourne cars, they have the same sitting capacity as the Skoda/Inekon cars. The only advantage with the modern cars is more standing room. That is all and only by 10 people, if that.

        3) You absolutely do not need federal funding for the Waterfront Streetcar but the infrastructure is already there and in place. The track from Pike Street to Washington Street will not be cut up. If anything were to happen in that regards, they would sell it first to a railroad. Any and all railroad material is re-usable to a degree. The concrete ties and rail were only installed in the late 90’s… they won’t have any issue at all reusing it. As it was, the rail there was already used, put the rail into the warehouse that is currently storing the WF equipment and you’ll have everything needed when the Seawall is completed.

        These are the same excuses that everyone else tries to play. You do not need new rail or ties.. the only thing that is needed is a new maintenance facility. If the City of Seattle puts out an offer for a volunteer group to come around and operate the streetcars, I bet you there will be a line of interested groups who would be more than willing to step up.

        It is a shame though that anything such as that would happen when MUNI, Philly and several other transit agencies have no problem operating their vintage equipment.

      6. 1) WF won’t get a big enough grant, its ridership is too low.

        2) You need a bigger maintanence facility because the cars are different. You can’t work on Link cars and Sounder cars in the same maintanence facility either.

        3) You do need federal funding, all that stuff is going away. Who’s going to replace it?

      7. They could easily build a maintenance barn on one of the piers the city owns. There’s a vacant one next to the aquarium. Then all you would need is a Y track connecting it to the waterfront line. You could even turn it into a streetcar museum and charge admission. I’m sure if there was enough community support a non-profit could be formed to raise enough money to build the barn and operate the cars, it’s been done elsewhere.

      8. Also, who has money for a maintanence barn right now? No one.

        Well, right now no one has the money but once the credit crunch eases; Port of Seattle, the cruise lines and waterfront businesses. The cars are already bought, the electrical subsystem is in place. Much of the track can continue to be used (or reused). The sticking point is release of the requirement that drivers and maintenance personnel be Metro union employees. Setting this up as being separate from transit and not competitive with Metro is an essential first step. Yes Mr. Mayor, the Waterfront Streetcar is not transit.

      9. Andrew,

        A bit of a lesson for you. First of all, grants can cover all sorts of things and have a wide range of what they can and can’t fund. Ridership does not play a role in grants at all as they normally come from a private source rather than a public source, even still, the likelihood of ridership being part of that goal would not be a part of it. The Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad for example, has less ridership than the last year of the WF Streetcar. However, we have secured several grants for various projects, including restoring a 1924 steam locomotive currently in progress. We have also secured grants for buildings, cars, etc.

        Do you not remember the size of the WF facility? It was smaller than the SLU facility. One side held 3 streetcars, the other held 2 which was where the primarily maintenance was done at.

        Again, you don’t need federal funding. That is what volunteer work is for. I’ve put in enough blood, sweat and tears at Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad to know that volunteering, while not easy, goes a very long way and proves you don’t need to rely on an outside source to bring in money.

        I could understand the federal funding if you wanted a full, brand new line, new vehicles, etc but you keep missing the point about one thing. I’m not asking or desiring the line to return from Pike Street to Washington Street. I’m talking about Pike Street to Terminal 91, where NONE of the right of way is going to be touched. All of that rail, ties, catenery between Pike and Washington can be re-used.


        I love the idea of the museum and something I would totally gun for. It would most certainly be a great attraction on the Waterfront.

      10. I think you’re talking about different grants than I am. I’m talking about federal small starts, the sort of grant that Portland streetcar received last week. Those grants are awarded partly on ridership.

        A maintenance barn in downtown Seattle will cost you into the eight figures no matter how small it is. Downtown Seattle is expensive. I don’t know who’s giving out public transit grants that large other than the Feds.

        It’s not as simple as just “there’s a will there’s a way”. Sadly, the feds decided to put their sculpture park where the trolley was. Some new land would need to be found to build a barn and that’s going to cost a pretty penny.

      11. I think we could pull this off if we put our collective minds to it and got some outside interest. Maybe the Issaquah Trolley people would be interested or people at MOHAI. I’m sure the waterfront business owners and the Port would help out. The waterfront will really be booming when the dinosaur comes down and it would be nice to see the vintage trolley cars be a part of it.

      12. I should repeat the Melbourne line has trouble stopping. Given that the Mayor has said that in public, we cannot expect those cars to be ran freely on a Waterfront line or otherwise. There is too much lawsuit exposure.

      13. We just have to make sure that the street reconstruction includes streetcar tracks. That shouldn’t cost too much more money since they are rebuilding the street anyways, and they don’t even need to put in the overhead wire yet. This way at least it could be possible to restore service in the future. We could even try to raise money for that.

      14. Enough with the barn already. The barn they had was a big prefabbed steel building. The wires and the tracks need to be built to specs, the barn just needs to be ‘big enough’. Of course it is expensive to build a barn in downtown Seattle, but that has nothing to do with the cost of the building itself. When you’re finished with it, you knock it down, put it on a truck, and take it somewhere else.

        As for the fact that Sounder and LINK can’t share a maintenance barn, well, Sounder rolling stock is heavy commuter stock, probably about 80 feet long, and the types of maintenance done on it are probably entirely different from the maintenance on light-rail vehicles that are probably adjusted on a daily basis. The difference in the maintenance schedules alone probably mean ‘no sharing’, even before you get to the differences in the rolling stock.

    2. “the mayor saying the old streetcars could be used on the First Ave Line for special occassions”

      The Mayor repeated that last night, but I didn’t include the detail. He said it would be used for special occasions but wasn’t safe to use regularly.

    3. I think RK has really nailed it here. Nickels can’t carry the load of two streetcars for downtown and the waterfront. Just picture the s**tstorm.

      However, I think Nickels was extraordinarily frank in his reply. The two-step was right out in the open, and a lot of politicians would have just shined you on about how they really wanted to bring the Waterfront Streetcar back and blah blah blah.

      You’ll thank him for it later.

      1. Yes, I agree, it doesn’t make sense to invest both a waterfront and a 1st ave streetcar in the same moment. A 1st ave car is simply more important, though more expensive. We will get federal funding for it and it’ll link very dense and vital neighborhoods to light rail in a way that the waterfront car won’t.

        I think the waterfront car is cool, and I’d love to see it return, but it simply isn’t a fight I want to have. If someone can get a volunteer org set up and have serious momentum, then maybe you’ll see movement — but the vague talkings of one don’t really necessitate serious investment.

      2. It’s not necessarily the “I will restore it” we’re looking for, it’s the “it might be possible to restore it in the future” that I would like to hear. It would be nice if anyone could at least support that. It seems like everyone’s just completely abandoned it.

      3. I canceled my SAM membership over the waterfront streetcar, but I see his point – if we get first avenue built, it’ll serve a lot more people.

        Unlike Nickels, however, I think in ten years, we’ll be looking at rebuilding the waterfront line. We just have to get Fremont, Eastlake, and 1st/Jackson funded, and I think people will start asking for it back – or someone can start reminding people so they do!

  12. Mayor Nickels did a classic political two-step on the Waterfront Trolley, and it’s somewhat to his credit that he told you the Trolley wouldn’t be back. That’s not cast in stone, he’s just calling it the way he sees it, and a public campaign might make him a Trolley supporter again.

    The ‘two-step’ happens when Brian asks about the tourist Trolley, and Mayor Nickels responds with an answer about the commuter streetcar. The ‘tell’ comes when he tells you the Trolley won’t be back. Translation- no visible means of support.

    Frankly, this is effing absurd. In addition to the cruise ships and the existing waterfront and the rebuilding hillclimb to the Market, any post-Viaduct scenario for the WF will include parks and development. IOW, streetcar territory- places you want people without their cars.

    And that’s even before we consider Interbay- an area so vibrant the city actually has to pass laws to prevent runaway development. Not to mention the existing development along Elliot Ave- all perfectly flat and level as a pool table right on out to the Ballard Bridge. Something rotten in the state of Denmark.

    Seattle did this before, back in the 50s. The Regrade was zoned for ‘light manufacturing’, all part of a complex urban destruction scheme in which the center of town would become a grimy industrial slum connected to glistening suburbs by freeways. Rents would be kept low for failing businesses by prohibiting development, and taxes kept low by not making improvements. By the mid-70s urban reformers had begun to rewrite the zoning code and try to untangle the webs of graft and corruption that developed under that scheme.

    What needs to happen is to play hard-ball on the Waterfront Streetcar issue. The Mayor, City Council, Port of Seattle, and to some extent King County, need to be impressed that this issue will come up again and again.

    If we can’t do that, you might as well just truck those streetcars out to Snoqualmie and run them in the rail museum there. Half-measures will not overcome the hidden forces that don’t particularly want the Waterfront Streetcar to come back.

    1. I just want to point out that Interbay has some issues – Whole Foods didn’t want to be there as construction has petered out. There’s a lot of space there that didn’t get filled in.

      1. Interbay isn’t filled in… yet. Wait until the economy comes back. I’m thinking that’s going to be a light rail stop on the way to Ballard.

  13. Everyone’s talking about the waterfront streetcar, but the interesting bit of news to me is the proposed 2016 date for ST3, and the likelihood that revenue will come from extending existing sales taxes and a cap-and-trade program.

    My thoughts:

    * I’m glad that Sound Transit’s board is already thinking about alternatives to sales taxes, and tying transit revenue to limits on greenhouse emissions is a great approach.
    * I’m disappointed that he’s still thinking of sales taxes as part of the revenue at all, though it’s promising that he’s talking about extending existing taxes rather than raising the rate again. I’d prefer an approach that phased out sales tax revenue entirely in favor of carbon taxes and permit fees for cap-and-trade.
    * 2016 is too far away. 8-12 years between expansion is too long. 2010 would be unrealistic but why not 2012? You get the same general election bump in transit-friendly voters, though maybe less than for an election 4 years later. So make it a quadrennial expansion and have votes in 2012 and 2016. Each package should be targeted to take 10 years for completion (+/- 2 years).

    That way we’d have ST2 finishing in 2020, ST3 finishing by 2024, and ST4 by 2028. With this overlapping schedule ST3 would start by building south to connect ST2 with Tacoma, connect Overlake to downtown Redmond immediately after finishing ST2 East Link, and connect Lynnwood to Everett immediately after finishing ST2 to the north. Sub-area equity would also get at least part of the line to West Seattle in ST3. ST4 could start building a 405 line from Bothell to Renton and then through Tukwila to merge with the Seatac line while all the ST2 stuff is finishing up between 2016 and 2020. Then in the final 6-8 years ST4 would add in the extras in other subareas including West Seattle and Ballard in the city and increased commuter rail frequency elsewhere. It would be ambitious but it would get us a complete regional system in 20 years. Without staggering we could easily add 8-10 years if not more to the total time needed to complete the system.

    1. Oh, I think that by 2016 we’ll be having a little bit different of a discussion about sales taxes. Maybe we’ll have ST pay down their debt rather than use that taxing authority, as part of slowly phasing out sales tax and in income tax? :) Maybe we can get a huge carbon tax, and use that instead of many of our other taxes!

    2. What was his thinking on why it would be 2016? Any chance that will get pushed up to 2012?

      1. Because U-Link will be open (or about to open) and we’ll be under way on all three extensions.

        I’ve heard 2016 for quite a while. It’ll be the next place where Sound Transit has shown major progress.

        Now, on the other hand, if you want something in 2012, go to and ask to get involved. :)

      2. It seems like that could backfire if U-Link is significantly delayed.

        I don’t really know enough to second-guess 2016, but I sure would like to see ST3 as soon as possible. I’d even say 2010, but I know that’s not going to happen.

      3. I don’t think U-Link will be significantly delayed. We’ve got the money, and they know it needs to be finished to win.

  14. “While a West Seattle extension of light rail is something the Mayor would like to see and is an obvious route to build, he said it’s quite a ways off given that we haven’t completed the spine yet. Patience, transit enthusiasts!”

    Of course, we’d be riding the monorail today, and would be connected to the light rail the minute it opens, if Nickels had really wanted it….

    1. Except for the fact that the design of the green line had such limited capacity that it couldn’t have even replaced the bus routes between Seattle and Ballard. All the monorail supporters forget about the limitations of the design the SMP had chosen. Single track, short platforms, limited headways. They had their chance to build a viable system and they failed. End of monorail rant.

    2. Please, please, J. Stop it. No, we wouldn’t be riding anything. They couldn’t have issued those bonds, and they gimped their line just to build anything.

    3. As much as I was very much in love with the theory of the Monorail (and I still think a modern Monorail system is best and greenest), I have come to realize that the practice of that particular line is not worthy of my love. You should, too.

  15. Yes, they got desperate and the project failed. Had they kept the line fully double tracked, it would be an entirely different matter. I lost all support for it after they started talking about single tracking certain segments.

    If however somebody (not the same people) came back and said “we can build the Green Line, for a realistic amount of money, fully double tracked, not eliminating the historic Alweg Monorail, then I could get behind that, but we also now have the ground work for any LRT or even heavy rail system. Add third rail, new higher capacity vehicles and away you go. (Ok, not that simple but it is fairly close)

    As for the WF issue. I would be more than willing to start a but it would take a lot of backers and Metro releasing the WF cars to the organization once it becomes a reality. In regards to the braking system on the streetcars. They are old vehicles, nothing like the Inekon models that have multiple methods of braking. The WF cars are just simply brake shoes against steel wheels. The light-weight design of the cars makes them rather easy to slide the wheels on hills. That was the only time I have encountered that.

    I have no “beef” about the 1st Ave line. That is going to be extremely popular, especially if it stays open past 2am. Why 2am? First Avenue has a lot of night clubs and bars. The Streetcar connecting to light-rail would be major. It will fail however if it doesn’t have it’s own lanes. 1st Avenue is a nightmare anytime a game (Sounders, Mariners, Seahawks, etc) is going on.

    1. This would be a great thing if someone would create a “storefront” blog for a “Save the Waterfront Streetcar” committee and update often enough to avoid that gray dead appearance we often see around unattended blogs. I would be a bad choice to do this myself but can commit to a monthly blog post about streetcars, waterfronts, or something of that nature.

      Not sure how many of you know about the Center for Wooden Boats on Lake Union, or the park being built next to the CWB. The CWB is, if not in size, in scholarship and community building on a par with the Northwest Rail Museum at Snoqualmie. The CWB is a world-class historical resource and tourist attraction and it’s right on the South Lake Union Streetcar line. They also rent out boats, so now you can take the streetcar to the park and rent a boat for a day on the water. The big festival there on July Fourth is a good time to see the place in all its glory.

      Starting and running a historical trolley is a big job. However, the first Baby Boomers are beginning to retire, and the CWB and the NRM have people familiar with linking historical organizations to public needs and resources.

      As I see the problem right now, it is simply to keep the idea of the Waterfront Streetcar alive. Exactly what form it may take in the future is unclear, although it would seem obvious that waterfront property owners should subscribe to an LID to build a streetcar in that totally linear and level place. Connecting in Pioneer Square (a historical district) with a First Avenue trolley to the Market (a historical place) and the CWB on Lake Union (living history) would seem perfectly logical for a historical trolley.

      1. I’d be glad to host a WordPress blog to organize this. However, I can’t commit to posting on it much because I’m pretty busy. If people are willing to post content regularly so it is not going to look dead, let me know.

      2. Well, if you can make the back end work, send me an authorization to post and I will write a ‘Welcome to…’ post to get started. My e-mail: tscott-at-sinclair-dot-net.

        Also, if anyone has photos, they can send them to me at the same e-mail address. You can send the largest and best resolution and I can crop and resize with a graphics program I have (jpegs and gifs but not pngs). However, I’m on a landline, so please send only one photo over 300k in any single e-mail.

      3. OK, there is a blog set up to support the Waterfront Streetcar. (Incidentally, there’s already a Facebook group for supporters, but they don’t have a blog. So perhaps we can join forces.)

        As I said, I don’t really have time to write much for the blog, since I have a thesis to finish and a neighborhood blog to write and edit already. So if anyone wants to post there, please let me know and I will make a posting account for you. Mail me at litlnemo at slumberland dot org.

        I’ll post the URL or mail it to the STB folks once we have some actual content. Right now the blog is up, but there’s no content on it yet, so no point in posting the URL for now.

        I just find it frustrating that we had an actual tourist-attracting, (some) residents-serving, money-making, character and color-providing streetcar fully functional on the waterfront, that has stopped running for what seem to be completely goddamned stupid reasons. And people just wanna give it up so easily. I want the First Ave streetcar too, but that is no reason to through the Waterfront one, um, under the train.

    2. ROW separation on First Avenue will be crucial – the Avenue will need re-configured from Mercer Street all the way to Spokane Street regardless of when and where the streetcar gets built. As a frequent rider of the 56, I’ve had days when it has taken more than a half hour to get from 1st and Pine to the on-ramp to the Viaduct on days when the Mariners play the Red Sox or that other American League team, the one from NYC (whom we don’t mention in polite company).

  16. What what? The Mayor was there last night, amongst a bunch of transit nerds, and either a) no one had the balls to grill him about the tunnel or b) that didn’t make your list of “interesting” moments? Frankly, I think that’d have been the most interesting of all.

    1. So come to our meetups. I can fight the tunnel without harassing the mayor about it.

    2. Responding to the Mayor needs a multi-angle approach. On the one hand he has been supporting rail and spearheading walkability/sustainability in a way no other mayor has done. How much of that is sincere vs political or construction-lobby-friendly is debatable, but the fact remains that he’s doing it. At the same time he’s dropping the ball on affordable housing, basic maintenance, and fiscal restraint. Methinks we should approach him as the ally he claims to be, while still putting pressure on him to address these neglected areas.

  17. The waterfront trolley won’t have support for public funding for years, possibly, but could still happen. It needs an angel (not yet identified) and lots of enthusiastic volunteers, which seem to be in good supply. When Dallas started the McKinney Avenue Trolley Association (MATA) in 1989, it was really through the impetus of one individual, who supplied a couple of vintage streetcars and got enthusiasts together to restore and operate them. The old rails were discovered when the city was resurfacing the street, and the city provided the infrastructure, but volunteers provided the cars, operation and maintenance. When the area started redeveloping (thanks to the streetcar) they started the Uptown Business Improvement District, which is a similar sort of funding as a Local Improvement District here, which in our case could be used to back the capital financing for the infrastructure. They also started getting funds from DART, and the streetcar extended a line to one light rail station and soon there will be another. It’s possible for that to happen here. If not, the motormen at MATA have told me they’d love to buy our Melbourne cars.

  18. Damn you Mimi Gardner Gates!!! Damn you and your outdoor sculpture park (is the land underneath it REALLY clean enough for children, puppies and expecting mothers to be on?) to HELL!!!!

    P.S. Sell the Melbourne cars to San Francisco. They’d be perfect for the E-Embarcadero service which has high platforms already.

  19. Mr. Mayor!

    Where, between Pier 70 and Yesler is there anything less than a 50 foot elevation difference between Alaskan Way and First Avenue?

    1. I don’t think the Mayor is reading the comments at this point. :) He does sometimes, but this is pretty far down. Why do you ask? Email us, I can try to answer there.

  20. Incidentally, regarding the whole ‘stopping’ issue, it should be possible to add track brakes.

    A track brake uses current from the overhead wire to power a magnet that tries to grasp the rail. Power on, magnet acting as brake shoe on rail, power off, no brake. It was not uncommon for streetcars to have both brake-on-wheel and brake-on-track.

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