This morning, Mayoral candidate Mike McGinn held a press conference at First Hill Park in which he called on opponent Joe Mallahan to fully support the First Hill Streetcar. He said that support for that Sound Transit 2 project was “support for transit for neighborhoods who have long expected it” and that “when voters approve something, we should build it.” The (pdf) handout is here.
McGinn wouldn’t commit to a specific First Hill Streetcar alignment, but he did say that the City should “strive to make it quick and separate it from traffic as much as is feasible.” He cited Tacoma as an example where the design made a streetcar worthwhile.
Mr. McGinn was noncommittal about other streetcar lines in the City, seemingly backing off from the opposition to the First Avenue line he told the Times about last week. “We need more mass transit. Maybe First Avenue is the next best place. Maybe somewhere else.” However, he conceded that “there is value to connecting” the First Hill and South Lake Union lines, if not necessarily via First Avenue.
He wasn’t quite willing to say that the SLUT was a mistake, but he did say that the “problem is it’s stuck in traffic because it has insufficient priority — that’s the key. It would not be my first choice.” He also said a new waterfront streetcar would be “in the mix.”
I asked him whether he viewed streetcars as a development opportunity as well as a transportation system: “Buses, streetcars, and light rail are all development tools; some are better than others.” He then shared an anecdote on how he selected his home in Greenwood partially because of nearby bus service.
To summarize, on the streetcar, we have Mallahan that’s opposed to all the City-built lines and willing to consider killing Sound Transit’s First Hill project; with McGinn, we have solid support for First Hill, some talk about a dedicated ROW, and willingness to consider more streetcars. It’s not the full-throated support we’re accustomed to out of city hall, but there is a difference.
The Mallahan campaign has not yet returned my phone call, but I’ll update here if they do. They do return the P-I’s calls, however, and spokesperson Charla Neuman told Scott Gutierrez this:
“We’re not making a campaign issue one way or the other. (McGinn’s) just playing games with it,” she said. “Generally, Joe thinks street cars are an inefficient use of transportation dollars. The only way they are effective is if they have their own right of way and don’t get struck [sic] in traffic. But if the City and Sound Transit work out an agreement before he were to get elected, we’ll move forward with it. His position in general doesn’t preclude anyone from moving forward with something that’s already been approved.”