First Hill Streetcar Alignments
First Hill Streetcar Alignments

(full size image here, pdf here)

With SDOT kicking off its public outreach effort on the First Hill streetcar line next week, I wanted to outline why we believe that the 12th Ave couplet is a bad idea. The 12th Ave alignment has four major flaws, all of which indicate that the Broadway or Boren alignments (or some variation of these two) is the best option. I have heard many impassioned arguments for the 12th Ave alignment from people that have the same core beliefs as myself but the facts simply make too strong of a case.

Reduced Area with Quality Service

The first and most fundamental problem with the 12th Ave alignment is the couplet. While the couplet increases total coverage of the streetcar, it dramatically reduces the quality of that coverage. By separating the northbound and southbound travel by 3 blocks, the area that is close to both a northbound and southbound station is reduced significantly. To prove my point I spent the day working on ArcGIS to give you the graphics above. Rather than using a 5 minute euclidean circular walking buffer, I used a technique that shows the actual “walk shed” experienced in real life (i.e you can’t walk straight through a building, you have to walk around both sides). This creates a walking shed based on Manhattan distance (this could be a whole other post).

As you can see, I mapped the walking shed of each alternative for 3, 5 and 7 minutes. These are the areas where users have access to both directions. Looking closely at the 12th Ave couplet, you can see how the coverage of the three middle stations is much smaller and of lower quality compared to both of the other alternatives. As I said before, this is an fundamental and intractable flaw of the idea that can’t be overcome.

More after the jump

Development Potential

One of the most commonly cited reasons for the 12th Ave couplet is that it will support new TOD. I agree it would, but this argument is actually much more valid for the Boren alignment. 12th Ave has relatively modest height limits of 40′-60′ feet or less compared to First Hill’s 160′-240′ feet height limit, as well as the major institution overlays for the hospitals. Not to be outdone, the Yesler Terrace redevelopment plans by Seattle Housing Authority could adding up to 5,000 housing units and 1.2 million sq feet of offices space on the existing site. Simply put, the development potential along a Broadway or Boren alignment is an order of magnitude higher than along 12th Ave.

Existing Demand

Hospitals, universities, senior housing and low income housing are just about the most transit friend land uses possible. The 12th Ave alignment provides worse service for almost all of these except for Seattle University, which under both the 12th Ave alignment and the Broadway alignment would have similar service quality.

Loss of First Hill Station

Finally, lets not also forget the reason, the only reason, there is money to build this streetcar. Due to the complexity, risk, and cost of building a First Hill station, Sound Transit dropped that station but promised the community to link it better to the Capitol Hill and ID stations. This is how the First Hill streetcar was born. If the streetcar was built only along 12th Ave as proposed in the middle graphic here few could claim that this streetcar in any way serves First Hill. Also as someone who deeply values planning, violating the agreement that Sound Transit made with the First Hill community is foolhardy.

Trips to First Hill from Sounder and Link would be overwhelmingly from International District, in the northbound direction – far from the hospitals. Not only does the 12th Ave couplet completely miss these transit users that demanded its funding in the first place, it provides poor quality of service to all the users in the corridor.

250 Replies to “12th Ave Streetcar, a Bad Idea”

  1. Obviously, agreed. There’s a very strong case against splitting up north and southbound stops. In the case of Portland downtown, it’s okay because they’re on either side of very short blocks (there’s generally not a street crossing required to get from one to the other), but here it would seriously reduce the line’s utility.

  2. I agree with you on all points, especially the last one. Even if 12th avenue were the best choice all other things being equal (which it isn’t), in this case all other things are NOT equal. ST needs to serve the community that was promised and then didn’t get a Link station with this streetcar. We want our agency to keep their promises so there isn’t ammo against it when we go to vote on ST3.

    1. I am absolutely in agreement — although I would personally be better served by the 12th Ave alignment, it (& the couplet) have never made any sense to me as good transit projects.

      Can someone more technically savy who understands these things please get this posted to the Capitol Hill neighborhood blog? That blog is widely read in the area, and has been beating the drums big time for the 12th Ave alignment.

      1. I think you’re thinking more about Central District News, who is all over the 12th Avenue idea. The blog’s owner wrote an opinion piece about why it would be best.

        I’ll admit until I saw this “walk score” comparison today, I was on board with the idea as well. Of course, I’m also a central area resident.

    1. Maybe but not for a while. It took me a few hours to make those and in the process I didn’t do what I should have been doing. I used the 12th Ave alignment as show in Capitol Hill Seattle.

      1. Adam, Thanks for doing this great mapping! And for laying out the arguments so clearly. I understand that it will take you some time, if ever, to put the route overlays on your map, but for convenience sake could you put a link to something somewhere that shows these three routes as proposed? The one link you included seems to have the 12th Ave/Bway couplet and the Bway route, but not the Boren.

        And I strongly agree with you and other commenters that fulfilling the longstanding promise to get efficient transit to the First Hill community should be a high priority for ST. 12th Ave may have good arguments for better transit, but not for stealing the streetcar from First Hill.

  3. I agree there shouldn’t be a couplet, and think it should be on Broadway, but think that in exchange, 12th ave should get the 49 or the 60 trolley bus. The 60 makes the most sense to me because right now it is a pretty tortuous route through First Hill. It could travel North/South on 12th between Mercer and Pacific Medical Center.

    1. That would be a nice alternative C Burger. Probably the Route 9 would be the most logical. I can’t remember though… is the 9 still a trolley route or was it converted to a diesel route?

      1. That’s a pretty big understatement Mike :) Both the 9 and the 60 are “transit for the transit dependent”.

      2. Not sure what you mean by that. The 7 and 60 are clearly for the transit-dependent. I wouldn’t say the 9 is so much that though. It’s for SCCC students, hospital workers, and Broadway shoppers who don’t want the slowness of local buses.

        My comment about the frequency is because I believe there should be all-day express transit between all neighborhood centers in the city, with 15 minute frequency or better. The 9 runs half-hourly at peak time, hourly midday, stops at 5 or 6pm, and no weekend service. Having express + local routes throughout the city would transform how people use transit, just like on the NYC subway. The bulk of your trip would be on an express, and many commercial and transfer destinations would be at an express stop. You’d just take a local for the short distance from the express stop to your house, if you weren’t lucky enough to live at an express stop.

        (I’m combining “express” and “limited stop” because Metro doesn’t make a distinction, and I don’t think the distinction is necessary. Some routes would travel nonstop; others would have a few stops at major intersections, but I think that will all work itself out.)

      3. The 9 runs how often? There are plenty of “choice riders” on the 7 due to its frequent service and the fact it stops places light rail doesn’t – I think the blog has covered that issue plenty. When the 9 was de-electrified its service levels dropped significantly; routing it up 12th would be a poor substitute for any kind of regular transit service.

        There are folks who would take the 27 and route *it* up 12th instead.

        FWIW I agree with you – in fact the City has said more than once that’s the vision for connecting urban villages and the like – but I’ve yet to see much progress made toward that goal.

    2. That sounds like a very reasonable compromise.

      On the OP, good argument, but I see a pretty big hole. It is only based on logic, with no consideration of economic, political, or special interests and their arguments… ;)

    3. I really like that idea also, as the 60 is a painfully slow route as it is. One note though, the 60 is a diesel, not a trolley (goes all the way to South Park and beyond).

  4. Oh,and this is probably an impossible request, but is the program you used to make that map able to calculate area?

    1. Haha I knew someone would ask. Yes and I tried to get it but I had a hard time with overlapping shapes. I wanted to get total area coverage for the different walking distances and alignments but after trying for a while just gave up.

      These maps proves the point I’m trying to make. If SDOT wants to do an official study with that info they can hire me.

  5. Wait…you think hospitals are a transit friendly use? Have you seen the monstrosity Virginia Mason is currently developing? When I think transit friendly, I think pedestrian friendly…and massive walls, no windows, and no pedestrian permeability does not seem very pedestrian friendly.

    BTW: you make the 12th ave alignment look worse by discounting the land the freeway is on. Probably good to discount the freeway, but maybe do that with the other alignments as well?

    And lastly, no one is going to want to live on Boren or Broadway south of Pike, so you can take away the TOD argument. Just sayin’. And Yesler Terrace is as equally served by a 12th ave alignment as SU is served by a Broadway alignment.

    1. Transit friendly and pedestrian friend are different. Hospitals have large number of people coming and going as well as high employment densities. This naturally creates high travel demand to a single location which is perfect for transit.

      As for the freeway that is a mistake but has nothing to do with the 12th Ave alignment. I didn’t talk about coverage in the ID once. It is obvious you are accusing me of trying to bend facts to fit my argument. You’re wrong. If you don’t trust me I’d like to see you provide better information.

      And your last statement is just disingenuous. TOD doesn’t just mean housing it mean development next to transit, any kind of development.

      You can’t just wish away these facts. I also find it funny how your response is almost accusing me of denying you something that is owed to you.

      1. Great charts. They really demonstrate why the Boren or Broadway routes are preferable.

        Note, I like the idea of couplets, but separating them by 3 blocks is a definite loser. For couplets to work well they really should be on opposite sides of the same (preferably short) block. That way the walking distances to either direction are roughly equal, and the lack of an additional street crossing doesn’t impact ridership.

        And, yes, TOD can be either housing or general development. The Boren or Broadway routes definitely have better TOD potential, in addition to having higher current transit demand.

      2. “TOD doesn’t just mean housing it mean development next to transit, any kind of development.”

        This statement is false. TOD is an acronym for Transit Oriented Development. That distinctly does not mean anything near transit. There are volumes of literature that distinguish Transit Oriented Development from Transit Adjacent Development.

        Building a Walmart with a sea of free parking next to a light rail line would not be TOD. Building vertical suburbs with vast quantities of structured parking and a pedestrian-hostile streetscape is not TOD no matter where it is.

        You are correct that TOD does not have to involve housing, but it does have to be pedestrian friendly. It does have to be oriented to the transit. It needs to be designed and built with the expectation that transit is the primary way in which users with access the site. This is not the way the hospitals on first hill are currently built out.

        Note: I am not commenting on your general point that 12th is a bad idea. I am not arguing for 12th (in this post). Nor am I arguing that all of first hill is pedestrian hostile. I am only drawing attention to your incorrect statement that ANY development near transit is Transit Oriented Development.

      3. Tony you’re completely right. TOD and TAD are different things. I guess underlying my statement is the implicit assumption that any new development built on First Hill, and just about anywhere in Seattle will be pretty pedestrian friendly. That sure isn’t true all the time but I think in the big picture it is.

      4. Sure. You *could* see TAD going in next to SC/LR instead of TOD, but you’re highly unlikely to see that happen for purely economic reasons.

        Basically, as rail goes in and property values go up the “best economic use” for a given piece of property tends to move away from the “giant box store with acres of parking” type model and toward denser development with less parking. And big box store type developments that do go in are still likely to be mixed use developments that include substantial TOD.

      5. lazarus,

        “Sure. You *could* see TAD going in next to SC/LR instead of TOD, but you’re highly unlikely to see that happen for purely economic reasons.”

        Really? What’s the parking ratio on Vulcan’s development’s in South Lake Union? I swear, they’re building so much parking you would think that they didn’t actually expect anyone to ride the streetcar to their buildings. A conspiracy theorist might start to think they only funded the SLUT to give themselves political cover when asking for an upzone.


        “any new development built on First Hill, and just about anywhere in Seattle will be pretty pedestrian friendly.”

        You are much more optimistic than I am about that. Take a look at some of the new downtown highrises that just went up in the last cycle. I would say pedestrians were the last thing on those developer’s minds. But let’s assume the best case scenario. My concern is that so much of first hill is already built out in a pedestrian-hostile way. Even if every new development were pedestrian nirvana the neighborhood would still be undermined by the mistakes of the past. It takes about 3 good buildings to make up for one bad one and there is not nearly enough land left along the first hill routes to put in that many “good” buildings. Sadly, I think first hill is a lost cause as far as the pedestrian experience goes, at least along the main streets.

        Of course, there are still 22,000 jobs on first hill, so some transit service would be nice to get them out of their cars. The sad thing is the loss of an opportunity to shape a completely unformed neighborhood along 12th ave, but the only way to do that would be to run both ways along 12th. As you point out, such an alignment does not serve first hill, and with 22,000 jobs, that’s a priority. It just hard to pass over the opportunity to get it right on 12th in order to give a streetcar to a neighborhood that is already built so poorly.

      6. Forgive me, Adam, as you seem to have taken my comment very personally. I’m not accusing you of trying to take something that is owed to me. In terms of my transit useability I don’t care either way, I’m within both walk sheds. I just think 12th Ave is a much more pedestrian friendly environment (and can be even more so with a streetcar) deserving of a streetcar line.

        I also realize the streetcar is a replacement of the first hill stop…which is also quite a conundrum. I think the First Hill residents deserve good transportation…but I don’t think we should let the hospitals decide where the streetcar should go. As I said before, for the most part, the hospitals create a hostile and/or dull pedestrian environment…and a transit friendly environment depends number one on a pedestrian friendly environment as all transit trips start and end as a walking trip.

        I’m not wishing away any facts (please, let’s be adults and leave the insults out of this). What I am wishing for, however, is a non-couplet 12th ave alignment because I agree completely, a couplet separated by 3 blocks is awful. I also agree that FH would be screwed by such an option. However, I think FH is more deserving of a direct line of transport to downtown, not a whirly-ride through cap hill or the CD. Funicular down James anyone?

      7. Okay well in this case that is a completely different project and you should create a group to come up with how the community is going to fund it.

      8. Meh, too lazy and practical to do that. I will just continue to throw my cents in on this project since it is already going.

      9. Actually I think Wes has the argument that really needs to be had. If the people who we’re trying to build a streetcar for are suburbanites commuting to First Hill hospitals, why on earth route them all the way around from King Street? Why not either build a new people-mover system (heck, look at Hong Kong’s public escalators) or go take a serious look at the express trolley system study that was done for the Viaduct. Seems like it would be a lot faster to move people east-west (on the right corridors, with some TSP and maybe even dedicated lanes) than meandering east then north.

        I guess I also wonder about what % of trips are actually going to be work-related…the numbers county-wide are what, 60% or more of all trips are not work-related?

      10. “If the people who we’re trying to build a streetcar for are suburbanites commuting to First Hill hospitals, why on earth route them all the way around from King Street?”

        For access to Sounder.

    2. Ummm…. I live on Boren south of Pike. I really like it. My neighbors seem to like it (enough to stay.) I have multiple friends who also live on Boren or Broadway south of Pike (or streets in between.)

      The Virginia Mason building that is going up is the a brutalist beast, but the rest of First Hill is wonderfully pedestrian friendly in many senses. I don’t think it is fair to discount the ped-friendliness of a neighborhood because of one badly-designed building.

      12th Avenue should probably get a bus route. I don’t think it should get the streetcar.

      1. woh, I think a lot of first hill is great. Forgive me, but Boren is aweful…to my tastes. I’m not so keen on speeding traffic and little crossing opportunities.

    3. Re “And Yesler Terrace is as equally served by a 12th ave alignment as SU is served by a Broadway alignment.” Actually, not.

      The center of gravity of Yesler Terrace is well to the west of Broadway, and will remain so when it’s redeveloped in the foreseeable future. A 12th Ave. alignment would mean a longer walk (translate: less ridership) for YT residents and visitors. As well as not filling the intended need of the line in the first place — to serve the area that would’ve been served by the now missing First Hill Link light rail station.

    4. That Virgina Mason expansion/remodel is looking pretty bad for the pedestrian experience on Seneca at Boren. How in the world did that get past the design review board?

      1. major institution has an exemption – there was an editorial on the subject some time ago (not from STB) as it’s a pretty awful gap in the regulation.

      2. Because First Hill is not in the least deficient of hospital-related services, adding more can imbalance mixed-use. First Hill hospitals serve the entire metropolitan area, yet their centralized location and expansion creates a travel demand that is largely met by driving the furthest distances. In an emergency, is it not more logical that hospital services be distributed throughout the region in order most regionwide residents to reach an emergency room soonest? Not if your bottom line is profits from automobile-dependency. How many more parking spaces are being built along with First Hill hospitals expansion?

    5. Yesler Terrace isn’t really served by a 12th avenue alignment. The NB stop at Alder isn’t easily walkable from Yesler Terrace at all.

      As for TOD there are a fair number of sites within an easy walk of the proposed streetcar stops along both Boren and Broadway that can potentially be redeveloped for office, medical, or residential use.

    6. “you make the 12th ave alignment look worse by discounting the land the freeway is on.”

      Which freeway segment are you talking about? There’s no freeway near 12th on First Hill. The streetcar will have to stop at 12th & Jackson because it’s a major transfer point, and the only way around I-5 at Yesler. Is that what you’re talking about? But the streetcar won’t be going “on” freeway land, so I don’t know what you mean.

      1. Oh sorry, not clear. I’m actually talking about the southern end of the line (all of jackson). All three maps should look the same in that area since they follow the dame exact route. Nit-picking maybe, but it does make the 12th alignment look worse. But Adam already explained he is only talking about north of Jackson.

  6. I’m totally confused and don’t want to discount the work put into this, but I don’t understand why the 12th ave alignment with the stretch going up 12th down Broadway doesn’t have a wider walking path for each of the stops. How does having a stop on 12th and on Broadway make it so that the five minute and seven minute walks only form from the center point between the stops? Can someone explain please?

    1. What Adam is showing is that for most locations it will take more than 3 minutes to walk to one of two couplet stops. Say you’re travelling to a drug store right next to stop X. It will take, say 30 seconds to walk to that drug store. But to get back on the streetcar will take more than 3 minutes of walking, since the stop that goes the other direction is 3 blocks away.

    2. Because someone who is only willing to walk 5 minutes to ride the SC must be within 5 minutes of both the NB and SB stations on the couplet. Thus the ridership potential gets reduced because there is less geographic area that is within 5 minutes of both stations.

      Of course as the distance a person is willing to walk goes up, the affect of the couplet stations being 3 blocks apart goes down. But the affect is still there.

    3. Not to mention the steep hill between Broadway and 12th, which will daunt all but the most fit walkers.

      1. Mike, I am really puzzled by this…I walked a good chunk of this route over the last couple days, and I barely noticed a hill between Broadway and 12th. Maybe I’m more fit than I thought, but compared to the hills on either side of these streets, it’s nothing.

      2. It depends where you walk. At pike there isn’t much of a hill between the Broadway and 12th but at James there is a very large hill. In my opinion though Pike is the dividing line between Cap Hill and First Hill.

  7. I haven’t decided which alignment I like the best yet, but I thought I’d throw in another point. Thanks to a connection with Link, for most destinations you can come and go from the same stop. You don’t need to wander three blocks away, just hop back on the streetcar at the same location you got off. Either direction terminates at a Link station. Yes, this is a sophisticated transit move, but employees and regulars will figure it out quickly. For transit-sophisticated riders your first map would end up looking much better than the other two.

    1. The travel time on Link between Capitol Hill and ID stations is far too long for people to consider them an equivalent.

      Plus, that logic doesn’t apply to Sounder, which is a big source of commuters to the hospitals.

      1. You think the streetcar will be faster than Link between those two stations? It’ll be making good time if it’s even half as fast given the intersections.

      2. and the traffic…especially if Boren is given any serious consideration. At rush hour you can routinely walk faster than cars can make it down Boren.

      3. Link will make it end to end faster, but that’s not the relevant concern. A person standing on first hill wanting to travel north would be choosing between taking the streetcar, which takes 15 minutes, to the capitol hill station and heading north, or taking the streetcar south, which takes the same 15 minutes and then adds the travel time between the ID and CH on link on top of that. This is clearly a longer trip.

    2. This only works for riders going to destinations along Central Link. Riders going anywhere else (e.g. Ballard, West Seattle) would still have to get to ID Station via the southbound streetcar stop.

      1. True, though not a strong point. Most buses are far more accessable from Westlake than King St. Station, and if you’re starting from near the couplet it would be faster to ride to Cap Hill and transfer to Westlake. Anyway, I think the original point of this thing was to connect to Link.

      2. The more transfers you add, the fewer people will use the system. Having to transfer through Capitol Hill adds a lot of uncertainty that a person trying to catch a bus out of downtown wouldn’t want to deal with. With one less transfer it’s a lot easier for the average rider to guesstimate if they’ll make it to their transfer point on time or not.

        The point of the streetcar isn’t to connect to Link; it’s to replace a lost Link station. Not all Link riders will be coming from points along the line; many would have transferred onto Link to get to First Hill (a two-seat trip). Making these people sometimes have an extra transfer depending on which direction they’re going is bad transit planning.

      3. The additional transfer is a fair point. I’d certainly do the transfer, but many wouldn’t. I’m not saying the couplet is perfect, I just think Adam’s missed a few points in a fair debate.

        Your second point is a bit confusing to me. If it’s to replace a lost Link station, wouldn’t people be coming from Link? If so, how is this an extra transfer?

      4. Let’s say you’re going from First Hill to Kent. With a Link station at First Hill, you could take Link to King Street Station then transfer to route 150/Sounder. With a non-couplet streetcar, you could take the streetcar to King Street Station then transfer to 150/Sounder. However, with the couplet you would have to take the streetcar to Capitol Hill Station, transfer to Link, then transfer to 150/Sounder. This logic applies to anyone transferring to any bus that stops downtown but has a different final destination than Link.

      5. Ah, I get it. I see that more as a station-specific issue (it only applies if you need to get from First Hill to King St. Station, not anywhere else Link goes), but the point is valid.

      6. Try looking at the First Hill Streetcar Couplet this way: From ID Station, you ride it to some station on 12th and decide you don’t want to walk uphill to Broadway to take the streetcar back. Say you spot the streetcar coming that’ll take you to the Capital Hill Link Station. With Link running at 5 min intervals, that’s as good a trip option back as walking uphill to Broadway and possibly just missing the streetcar when you get there. Or, once you’ve reached Broadway on the way to the Link Station, if you spot the streetcar headed south, you could catch it there and ride that way to the ID Station.

        My point is, frequent service makes transferring convenient and less an impediment to transit patronage. The problem isn’t transfers. The problem is the wait time to transfer.

      7. Your point about westlake is good but not for the reason you intend it. If we were serious about connecting first hill to link and minimizing transfers, we’d have the streetcar (or whatever) terminate at the ID and at Westlake rather than the ID and Capitol Hill. Anyone traveling to first hill from Northwest Seattle will have to ride all the way to the ID and take the streetcar back up first hill (a huge time penalty) or get off link at University Street and brave the hill.

        As concerned as everybody is about sounder, there are more people bound for first hill coming from northwest seattle than all the south sounder stops combined.

        Not that I want to undermine the idea of putting a streetcar on capitol hill, but it really is the wrong stations to try to connect at. Westlake is the hub.

    3. I don’t totally agree with your assessment even for transit savvy riders.

      Maybe an example: Say you are coming from the RV, that your destination is near one of the NB couplet stations, and that you physically are not much of a walker.

      Coming from the South you could transfer to the SC at the ID and then get to your destination on the couplet just fine. No problem here.

      But returning to the RV you are faced with a dilemma. You could walk to the SB couplet station, but this might be already above your walking limit. The other option is to ride the SC NB to the Cap Hill Link station, then transfer to Link and ride SB back to the ID and eventually to the RV.

      While the return trip definitely gets you to the RV, it is a very circuitous route that adds travel time. This would tend to transfer at least some ridership to other modes.

      Yes, rail is faster and more reliable, but require people to take longer routes and increased travel time and the advantages go down.

      1. The Cap Hill station is what – 8 minutes from King Station on Link? Yes, it’s a disincentive, but people will now have the choice of walking a long distance or having a slightly longer commute. And if we really don’t think people will walk for more than 7 minutes, then a couplet becomes a reasonable way to increase ridership.

      2. Or…. It could just be built to in a way that makes it accessible and fast for the riders it was originally intended to serve.

      3. Which is fine. I’m not saying 12th is the best route, and I think the original intent is one of the best arguments against it. I just think your map gives a false impression.

      4. Another point that isn’t touched on in the analysis and should be is the effectiveness of the streetcar routes. No matter which route is ultimately decided upon, the streetcar will only be effective as the provisions made for it. One of the biggest advantages of the couplet option is the distribution of the streetcar’s impact on traffic. The existing ROW along Boren is pretty well maxed out with traffic lanes, provides minimal sidewalks (somewhat necessary for successful transit in my opinion) and little opportunity to gain additional ROW (i.e. there are a lot of buildings already built out along Boren). Additionally, Boren has the narrowest ROW of the principal streets in all options. It’s 70′ wide and even narrows to 66′. Broadway and 12th Avenue are both 80′ wide for the entire length of the potential routes. Also much of Boren doesn’t have parking lanes that buffer pedestrians or could be sacrificed for a dedicated lane(s). Both Broadway and 12th do. The two latter streets even have enough ROW for bicycles. To further complicate matters, Boren Avenue also has the highest vehicle volume of the three principal streets. I don’t have the data to support it, but I would also suspect that the majority of Boren’s volume occurs during peak periods.

        A streetcar on any of these streets will need to deal with traffic to be successful. A double track route on Boren may provide better connectivity on paper, but unless there is a dramatic re-envisioning of Boren, that superior connectivity will only be on paper and the streetcar will sit in the same traffic as everyone else. Incorporating the couplet, while maybe not as ideal in terms of its walkshed or its perceived directness, will have much less impact on the ROW and will permit other improvements to the streetscape to ensure the success of the streetcar and stands a far better chance of running in a dedicated lane and actually negotiating traffic and connecting to Link.

      5. Yes point taken but that is why in the intro I said “…Broadway or Boren alignments (or some variation of these two) is the best option”.

        I think that a good hybrid could be created. I created a little google map to show what I’m thinking of.

        View Streetcar in a larger map

      6. No, that’s all wrong. Putting both lines of the streetcar in one street gives it mass and presence to overawe automobile traffic, as well as making it obvious to parking enforcement that they actually need to enforce and keep the double-parkers and scofflaws off the street. If you put one line in one street and one line in another street, each of the two separated lines is outnumbered by the cars, and the parking enforcement per square foot is effectively halved.

        Secondly, Boren, which used to connect Dearborn with Denny, is already obsolete. Disrupting the automobile traffic on that street is exactly what’s needed. The entire neighborhood from Seneca to Yesler has been sliced and diced by streets carrying and providing parking for too much automobile traffic. This isn’t something that should be preserved. The ability to move cars through that area has not been an asset to the city- in fact, it seems to have delayed or prevented development of some very desirable land near downtown because life at the street level is just not very pleasant.

        To put it simply, it’s time to take the streets back from the automobile. With the proximity to downtown and the transit available there is no reason to preserve or enhance automobility in those neighborhoods. Considering the investment and the number of riders involved, it is entirely reasonable to have a route where the streets the trolleys run in are dedicated to streetcars, pedestrians, and bicyclists.

        Now, before the whining about the bicyclists and streetcar rails begins, consider that putting both lines in one street leaves more alternate routes free of treacherous hidden rails, and increase the chance that the observant cyclist might actually notice that there is a streetcar line in the route that is chosen.

      7. Arg, Adam. Expecting the streetcar to make that many turns is a bad idea. Keep in mind that just south of your map the route is already expected to turn from Jackson to 12th and then 12th to Boren. The routes you have depicted here will make either 4 or 6 turns within a quarter mile…does that not seem inappropriate to anyone else? The only reason why I’m not that concerned about the streetcar not going down 12th is I figured anything but the Boren to Broadway routing was dead on arrival. I didn’t think anyone would actually support the streetcar to pass Broadway on Boren only to return to Broadway later on…makes no sense. Does not matter which destinations are along Boren, that many turns will make the streetcar excruciatingly slow and, thus, not useful to anyone.

      8. No, streetcars very rarely go at a speed that would make them slow down for a corner. What matters is how much of the street you claim for the streetcar and that the streetcar not stop except at loading points.

      9. All those lefts means it will be sitting there waiting to make a left turn. Unless of course, as I said somewhere else in this massive comment thread, it comes with a good overhaul of the streets…which I wouldn’t hold my breath on. But hey, you never know: so many gifts from the transit gods these days.

      10. I’m just throwing them out there because I think it would be good to take a look at. Turns are an issue but as I explained below the Boren alignment has a good theoretical reason supporting it.

        “I’ll tell you why I think that Boren is a better alignment despite the jog to the West. This streetcar won’t act like most transit routes in which ridership builds towards the center (ie as you get closer to the CBD), rather it will be the exact opposite, with the highest ridership at the ends and the lowest ridership in the middle.

        In theory when you plan transit lines you want to maximize speed and directness when ridership is highest, and maximize coverage and accessibility when ridership is lowest. To me this indicates that the increased distance and reduced speed of the Boren alignment is offset by the dramatically increased service area, which happens to be right in the heart of First Hill. Very few riders will use the streetcar from end to end and so the increased coverage could actually reduced the average overall travel time for riders because they will have to walk less once they get off the streetcar.”

      11. Yah, I saw that comment. It is a very good point indeed. Something I had not considered.

        However, how does that jive with having a dependable and intelligible system? It seems to me, the reason why buses suck is that they end up routed down all sorts of weird paths: a left here, two rights there, another left, and turn yourself about (flexibility is awesome!). Just look at the number 60; the routing is craaazy. The result is that a casual bus rider has no idea where to go to get the bus. It seems a streetcar should be as straight a shot as possible so everyone, no matter where they are at, can say, “oh I need the streetcar, need to walk up to (plug) 12th” rather than “wait, where does that damn streetcar pickup down here around columbia?”, “no clue man, ’cause the City routed it in circles just to serve the hospitals”.

        As for my other point, dependability: it seems to me that a straight shot route will be more dependable than one with all sorts of turns in it. Turning adds too much ambiguity: is the streetcar going to get stuck in a long line of left turners? Is it going to get stuck trying to make a right behind a line of cars waiting for pedestrians? Where as the straight routed streetcar just needs to wait for the light and keep going straight ahead.

      12. wes,

        the reason why buses suck is that they end up routed down all sorts of weird paths: a left here, two rights there, another left, and turn yourself about

        In other words – they go where people need to be picked up, and where they need to go.

        a casual bus rider has no idea where to go to get the bus.

        Only if you accept the premise that the “casual bus rider” is incapable of picking up a timetable, looking up routing online, calling for information or just asking around, sure.

        I guess I personally have a bit more faith in the “casual bus rider”, as well as a lack of understanding as to why something “sucks” simply because it doesn’t always travel in a straight line.

      13. I prepared a lengthy response to your knee-jerk reaction to my comment, but I decided to just say: do you really believe that it is better to require people to do research before being able to use our transit system?

        And…transit should not go where people need to go; where people need to go should be where transit goes.

        “Transit” that does “little” to improve upon one’s “walking” speed is what sucks, not the straightness of the route. The straightness of the route is merely a factor in the ability to improve upon that speed.

      14. Jeff,

        In other words – they go where people need to be picked up, and where they need to go

        And that’s the beauty of rail transit — it shapes the built environment to bring more destinations to where the stations are, so in the end you have not only a route that serves people but also one that’s reasonably fast and direct for long-haul riders.

      15. Martin,

        What exactly does “shapes the built environment” mean?

        And what is so “beautiful” about forcing people to go where the transportation is – rather than makig transportation go where the people are?

        Your definition of “beauty” and mine differ substantially.

      16. Jeff,

        People go where they can go in the easiest way and that usually means driving, not the bus or the train.

        Do you know how land is developed? Land is not worth much if you can’t get to it or access is poor. You build a streetcar (1890s) or a freeway (1950s) to the country, eventually that country becomes the city and the suburbs. New and expanded infrastructure increases the value and attractiveness of the land. Therefore, it attracts more development. That’s one of the arguments that 12th Ave supporters give.

        [buses] go where people need to be picked up, and where they need to go

        Not true for most people, otherwise the bus (or train) would pick me up in front of my house and drop me off in front of my office. Try to do the same for everyone else and you end up arguing for cars.

      17. Oran,

        People go where they can go in the easiest way and that usually means driving, not the bus or the train.

        Only in the absence of either. In Seattle’s olden days – when people (most of ’em anyway) didn’t *have* cars, Seattle had an entire network of interurbans. And a few horses, too.

        The interurbans rose to meet need – not the other way around. They went where the people were and where they wanted to get to – they didn’t build lines to force people to live at location “a” and travel to location “b”.

        And you guys really need tog get over your car-phobia. Cars are not evil. They are part of the deal – and always will be.

      18. Jeff,

        Only in the absence of either.

        False. People will choose the option that’s practical for them. My dad drives to Seattle, despite the presence of frequent buses that run 18 hours of the day. 520 and I-90 are still jammed with traffic despite very frequent bus service across both. People will drive to the supermarket because they aren’t willing to walk 15 minutes each way or ride a bus that runs every half-hour.

        I’m not against cars but I’m against how they ruined the urban landscape in America by eliminating practical transportation alternatives for most people.

        Seattle had an entire network of interurbans.

        You meant streetcars? The development of Seattle’s inner neighborhoods were shaped by the streetcars. Enterprising businessmen saw opportunity with cheap and empty plots of land outside the then city and invested in streetcars to sell real estate. Business districts grew around streetcar stops. Development clustered in a way that made streetcars work and the buses inherited this legacy. Notice how transit doesn’t work as well, costing more to operate with less ridership and frequency, in automobile oriented suburbs like Bellevue.

        build lines to force people to live at location “a” and travel to location “b”.

        Ridiculous. People choose to live there because they think it’s a good location in terms of quality of life, amenities and access. So if a business or housing development decides to locate near a rail station because it’s better for them and the market demands it you’d be against that?

        Seattle and many other cities are designing and building Bus Rapid Transit to emulate rail. Would you still say that they force people to live where the transit goes? Seattle’s busiest bus routes have remained mostly unchanged for decades. Why are you not saying that they force people to go where the bus goes?

        The problem with your argument is that it is often used by anti-transit types (like Kemper Freeman) to stop investment in transit or eliminate it altogether. The last thing we need is our own words being used against ourselves (us being transit supporters).

      19. So if a business or housing development decides to locate near a rail station because it’s better for them and the market demands it you’d be against that?

        Maybe, what’s “near”?. Sounder to Auburn, Puyallup and Summner really does promote development far far away from any job centers and in no way serves a dense environment. I think Sounder South is way more “successful” exactly because it caters to “sprawl”. Note that the line starts in Tacoma and then picks up riders going away from the urban center closest to where they live. Only recently has there been a “reverse” commute train and I suspect that is populated as much or more by Seattle traffic going to Tacoma than Auburn et al going into Tacoma. If there’s demand for the later then an early train should start in Auburn, go to Tacoma and then make the trip back north to Seattle (maybe that’s a money maker?).

      20. Oran,

        False. People will choose the option that’s practical for them.

        That’s a pretty flat statement. However on general principal I’ll agree. That doesn’t make my statement false. In the absence of an option of either rail or bus – people will use automobiles if they can. My statement stands. It is profoundly impractical to travel to a needed destination by rail or bus if neither rail or bus travels to their needed destination.

        Cars have not “elminated practical transportation choices” – they ARE a practical transportation choice in the absence of other choices.

        The difference betwee me (and well, most people) and you utopians is that I support light rail and bus expansion because they GIVE people choices. You Utopians support Light Rail Uber Alles because it takes choices AWAY from people.

        In short – you want to make it more practical for people to use raile by making it less practical to travel by bus or automobile.

        Again – as I have stated my own position which I believe reflects a more mainstream view on transportation than yours or that of many advocates on this blog – I believe encouraging alternatives to individual auto travel by expanding the practical choices that people have. Your way is to force people to choose raile by making it either the only practical choice, or by doing your damndest (by cutting other types of services and funding) to make bus and auto travel LESS practical.

        I agree with VeloBusDriver. Communities should be designed to maximize both choice and lifestyle. He should be able to visit his in-laws and get around by bike or have safe sidewalks to walk/ride on as well as other public transportation choices – AND roads that accommodate freight and hes INDIVIDUAL CAR TRAVEL.

        Your BRT example doesn’t hold water by the way, as it’s flexible, and designed to run along routes where there is alreacy demand – not to create demand where there now is none, or to displace other forms of transportation.

        And stop with the “Kemper Freeman” label already. That’s nonsense – and it’s tired. Too much like the right-wing “guilt by association” crap we put up with for 8 years and still do thanks to the RW pundits.

      21. Jeff,

        In the absence of an option of either rail or bus

        If you said “in the absence of a practical and attractive option”, then I’d agree. Most of urbanized King County is covered by bus routes, yet people still drive because those buses don’t take them where they want to go, when they want to in a reasonable time frame and level of comfort.

        You Utopians support Light Rail Uber Alles because it takes choices AWAY from people.

        So much for stopping with the use of labels.

        In short – you want to make it more practical for people to use raile by making it less practical to travel by bus or automobile.

        Sorry if you see it that way but you’re wrong. Everyone on this blog is very much in favor of expanding bus service. Nobody is suggesting replacing all the buses with rail.

        As for the automobile, well, it created its own problems, which will lead to its own demise if they aren’t solved. People switched to transit when driving became less practical for them. Roads are becoming more expensive to expand (SR 99, SR 520, $20 billion for I-405 over 20 years).

        Your BRT example doesn’t hold water by the way, as it’s flexible, and designed to run along routes where there is alreacy demand – not to create demand where there now is none, or to displace other forms of transportation.

        The contradiction in your statement is that BRT is replacing bus routes just like light rail is. Swift replaced CT 100 and decreased service on CT 101. The 174 is being replaced by RapidRide A. Half of the 230/254 will be replaced by RapidRide B. The 15, 54, 140, and 358 are likely to be replaced by RapidRide. Some of these routes will have their own lane, taking space away from automobiles. Is making buses run faster at the expense of automobiles necessarily a bad thing?

        The flexibility in routing argument is at most theoretical, as I said, transit corridors in Seattle have not changed significantly in decades and are unlikely to in the future. And Link light rail to the U District and Northgate is going to serve a high ridership corridor currently served by multiple bus routes.

        You use the word “flexible” as if it’s a magic word. Flexibility is good for building ridership in new markets but when you have an established high ridership corridor, it makes little sense.

      22. Oran,

        Everyone on this blog is very much in favor of expanding bus service.

        I don’t believe that this is true, or that you can legitimately speak for “everyone on this blog”.

        Remember – I chimed i on this thread in response to a sentence that started out “the reason why buses suck. . .”. I have also seen sentences that started with the words “I hate buses”. So no, I don’t believe that your statement about the position of “everyone on this blog” is at all accurate. Not that it has to be, or should be, but there can and will be counterpoints presented at the pleasure of the blog hosts.

        Would you be comfortable making a statement about the position of folks on this blog as “anti-car” and “anti-road”? I do believe that these terms can and do accurately describe many pro-rail advocates. They’re free to be either, both, or neither of course, but let’s not pretend they don’t exist.

      23. Jeff,

        Okay, I can’t speak for everyone who comments or writes on this blog but my general impression of the blog’s contributors (not commenters), is that they do support better bus service. Some own cars and some are car-free. Some are more outspoken against cars and some aren’t but all of them are pro-transit.

        Yes, I am comfortable to say that the personal position of some (again, not talking about commenters) on this blog are “anti-car” and “anti-road” but they are not “anti-bus”. I think our general position is support expansion of light rail, improving bus service, priority for transit (buses and rail), improving bicycle and pedestrian travel, density around transit hubs, and support for high speed rail in the region. You’re fine to disagree with that and some do.

      24. Jeff,

        If your perspective truly does represent the “mainstream” of transportation planning, as you say it does, then that explains clearly why the american built environment looks the way it does. You proceed from a false assumption: that people want to live in low-density sprawl and transit should cater to that vision. The reality is that there is tremendous demand for living in dense transit oriented communities, that is communities shaped intentionally around transit infrastructure. Unfortunately, the only communities that exist today that are shaped around transit infrastructure are the old Seattle neighborhoods that were built around streetcars. Link is a way of changing that.

        You proceed from the false assumption, buried deep within the culture of transportation engineering, that land use leads and transportation follows. This is America after all, the private market should determine the outcome. Government should observe where the demand is and supply infrastructure wherever that may be. The reality is that it has never worked that way. Transportation infrastructure always leads and land use always follows. The freeway came first, the suburbs followed. New York looks the way it does not because of market forces but because of the infrastructure decisions that were made in its formative years. Every city that has ever existed anywhere started as a small settlement built around transportation links, whether it was a river, a railroad or an interstate. Seattle looks the way it does because when it was built, streetcars were the dominant mode of transportation. Bellevue looks the way it does because when it was built, the interstate was.

        The rebellion against sprawl is not driven purely by the utopian social engineers in the urban planning and architecture professions. This is a populist rebellion as well. People want a different land use pattern, but they cannot choose a different land use pattern. People choose from the options that are given to them by policy and infrastructure.

        The people of Puget Sound, Seattle in particular, have consistently elected leaders and supported policies to prevent sprawl and support traditional neighborhoods. Unfortunately, the transportation planning profession has not caught up, and the land use profession thinks it can achieve compact mixed use communities with land use regulations alone. It cannot. Transportation leads. If we want transit oriented communities, and we do, then we need to start planning and building transit in a way that leads rather than follows. Sound Transit understands this perspective. Metro does not.

      25. This is one of the most contradictory posts I’ve ever read.

        This is America after all, the private market should determine the outcome. Government should observe where the demand is and supply infrastructure wherever that may be. The reality is that it has never worked that way.

        The reality is what we have because that’s what people want. It doesn’t really matter what your perspective is on what government should or shouldn’t do. Right or wrong we have what we have because we’re a free society and this is what we decided. It’s been said the biggest problem with democracy is that the people get what they deserve.

        Transportation infrastructure always leads and land use always follows. The freeway came first, the suburbs followed.

        That’s wrong. We have the city and the suburbs voting to create light rail to fill a need that can’t be met by cars because the central core is saturated. The streetcar network wasn’t built to serve demand that didn’t exist. It brought both electric power and transportation to dense neighborhoods that were already dense because transportation options were limited to foot and horse. It created the original “sprawl” by providing cheap easy transportation options outside of what was previously available. It all emanates from a core demand, be it roads or transit.

      26. I’m not sure the rider you posit would have a greater travel time with the scenario you describe. Sure the rider would have to travel in the “wrong” direction for a distance (northbound to the Capitol Hill S.T. station). But, and this should be possible to discover from information I don’t have at hand, isn’t it likely that the time it takes for the southbound light rail train to get from the Cap. Hill station to the I.D. station will be less than the time it takes for the streetcar to travel on Boren and Jackson to the I.D. station. And, if the difference is even close, I suggest that many riders will choose to get on the S.T. train at Capitol Hill because boarding before it reaches the high volume downtown stations gives a better chance of snagging a seat rather than getting on at the I.D. station and standing in the aisle all the way to the R.V.

        At any rate, the predicted time these trips are expected to take should be available. Someone must know what that is?

      27. Dec 15th Mtg materials stated:
        12 -16 minutes, from Denny & Broadway to 12th & Jackson, depending on the route alignment (16 min. is the time for the Boren/Madison or Seneca line; Broadway-and-only-Broadway is the 12 minute run).
        Note that the good folks at the mtg acknowledged that these times are rough / pessimistic and don’t account for signal sync and SC signal priority. On the flip side, note that they also aren’t complete line times: they stop short of the Light Rail stations in both directions…
        Not that a lot of folks are going to use the entire end-to-end line once LINK is done.

    4. Lets not forget that streetcars work best as short-distance transit. Someone who wants to travel from an apartment at Yesler Terrace to the QFC at Pike isn’t really going to want to shuttle to the ID link station, ride to Capitol Hill station then ride the streetcar to QFC. People traveling only a few stops are going to be very annoyed by the couplet.

      1. No offense, but reading the Interlocal Agreement, I see your hypothetical YT resident, as unlikely as they are to shop at ‘QuiteFawkingCostly’, as not being the reason ST is putting up the multi-million dollar check: it’s to connect that YT resident (or Skyline Resident, Or Polyclinic employee or PS Blood Center donor or O’dea teacher or other First Hill commuter) to the two LINK Light Rail Stations via surface Streetcar.
        I agree though; What streetcars do best was an afterthought for ST, it seems. Not to say there aren’t good points (the ability to expand with ridership, the narrower width than buses, the perceived permanence…etc, etc).

  8. Wow this is really conclusive evidence that Broadway is better. 12th can get a streetcar in the future but Broadway is most definitely the priority.

    1. Yes, Alex. The neighborhood would be better served by putting the 60 or the 9 or some other existing route on 12th Ave. That way, Broadway and 12th each have two-way transit.

      1. I was just reading the city’s UVTN (Urban Village Transit Network) documents, which call for greatly changing Capitol Hill bus service patterns to provide more north-south routes because they won’t need nearly as many bus hours connecting Capitol Hill with Downtown. I think 12th was one of the recommended routes.

      2. Yes, Alex, and people on 12th and in the CD have been asking for north-south transit for decades…and it’s still not there. I suspect many folks read such documents with a rather great deal of skepticism. I know I do.

      3. i wish people would stop talking about the 9 as a consolation prize when we all know the first thing metro will do is cut it if the streetcar is on broadway.

  9. We should also consider that Harborview or Swedish would be unlikely to discontinue the shuttle service they provide for their employees with the 12th Avenue routing. They would most likely keep them regardless but it would reduce the amount of shuttle vans they use.

      1. that is exactly why the hospitals want it as close to their front door as possible, so they can stop paying for shuttle service that is mandated by the institutional parking management plans.

  10. I’m selfish.

    I want a Boren alignment since it’s so close to my apartment. … but I guess I’ll settle for Broadway.

    1. Boren’s probably better. With just Broadway, you leave a bigger gap between Link and Streetcar. With Boren, the “hole” between the two is a little smaller.

      1. This set of maps makes a pretty compelling case for the Boren alignment doesn’t it?

        Besides I believe Boren and Madison is right in the middle of some super-dense zoning too.

      2. I think the Boren/Madison alignment would be a bad mistake. Traffic on Madison is really awful at many times of the day, so those couple blocks on Madison and the turn between Boren and Madison would slow down the streetcar a lot. If they add another stop in there along Broadway the streetcar can at least partly compensate for not being right in the very center of the action.

      3. It would depend on how exactly you handled signal priority for the streetcar and how much of the road you were willing to give over to streetcar/transit use.

      4. Sorry, but I couldn’t disagree more. With Boren alone, the streetcar is going to sit in traffic unless there is some way of dedicating two lanes+ to the streetcar and re-routing the traffic that currently sits on Boren elsewahere. Boren looks good on paper, but it does not look good from the ground.

      5. True, Boren and Broadway are similar in their traffic volume over a 24-hour period, but it’s a bit of an over simplification to claim that they are “about the same” in respect to the traffic volumes they handle over shorter durations. I don’t have the data to support my claim that Boren sees higher peak volumes, but I think the street configurations speak for themselves. Boren is configured to handle high volumes over shorter durations (no parking lanes, two travel lanes each direction and a turn lane), whereas Broadway’s configuration only matches Boren’s configuration intermittently to the south, leaving much more untapped capacity. And, as I stated somewhere up above, Broadway and 12th Avenue have 80′ wide ROWs along the length of the proposed routes, whereas Boren is 70′ and narrows to 66′ to the west of Broadway. Boren’s ROW is maxed out. Adding a street car to the mix without some serious traffic reconfiguration is going to generate a miserable failure. Not that it is impossible, it just greatly broadens the scope of what is affected by the streetcar.

      6. I really don’t see why 2 lanes of both Boren and Madison couldn’t be made transit-only and given signal priority. That would take care of most of the issues of the streetcar getting slowed down by traffic congestion. Plus it would speed up any other transit routes using Boren or Madison. This would presumably apply to Broadway as well though I suspect area merchants would object to having on-street parking removed between Madison and John (which would be necessary to create transit-only lanes).

      7. Boren and Madison are the only diagonals the City has to speak of. Won’t happen. Would be awesome…but won’t happen. Sorry, negatively nelly here.

      8. Wes, the same hospitals who are screaming for the transit service (hoping to make their parking requirement numbers easier to reach) are the exact same folks who would never advocate for transit-only lanes on either of those corridors.

        Hell, look at the fight the City had when they took a few parking spaces out on the north side of Madison a few years back!

      9. Wait a minute folks – we all realize how streetcars work, right?? the road still gets used by cars AND you add high-capacity transit. So “dedicating” two lanes of Boren doesn’t mean you lose a lane of car traffic – it simply means that every 15 Minutes a tram rolls into one of the lanes of traffic, – or do I have that all wrong somehow?…?
        Then, Everyone yields because its the law, and the streetcar users try & not fall off. That’s what I’ve always seen in SF anyway.

        Is further ROW needed ?… i.e. are we planning on big ass wide-load streetcars and not regular sized ones?

        I still feel you must apply the salve to the hurt: Aside from just simple economics of density, Boren’s bursts of traffic (and numerous parking lots/garages and roof-parking) indicates where we need transit most – drivers should see those rails in the pavement as a reminder of what they could be using instead.

      10. Post-mtg, I’ll pretend I’m wiser: once I saw Minor on the map, my brain woke up.

        Then again, Minor does the happy medium thing real nice: easy access to Boren and its jobs/retail/clinics, while staying the hell away from the traffic.

  11. The color key charts on the Boren and Broadway maps are not correct.Instead of the color black to denote the 3 minute walkshed the color keys should be olive green (Boren) and grey (Broadway). Black is the location of the station, except for the Broadway map for some odd reason

    The 12th Avenue map is correct.

    1. Haha nit-picky!

      Actually the 12th Ave map has problems too. The shaded areas should be 50% transparent. Only the largest one is. For Boren and Broadway the 3 minute ring loops black in the key because it isn’t transparent. Also the station shapes in the Broadway map are blue not black.

  12. Moving a bus to 12th is a great idea. I don’t think the 9-express can be moved until Link gets to Capitol Hill, because there was such clamor to make it an express in the first place. (I preferred eliminating the 9 and transfering its hours to the 60 to serve First Hill more regularly, but the Rainier Valley residents convinced Metro otherwise.)

    The 60 could be moved but I expect that would anger residents of Beacon Hill and further south who want to go to Broadway, which has more shopping and destinations than 12th. Remember that there are not many shops in those areas; that’s why people take the 60 to Broadway. So I think there would have to be a compromise with some service on Broadway and some on 12th, perhaps with hours taken out of another route too.

    One problem with the Boren alignment is that the 60 takes several minutes longer to detour to Madison-9th-Spruce rather than going straight down Broadway. That makes a painfully slow route even slower. (It takes half an hour to get from Broadway to south Beacon, or an hour to White Center.) I worry that a Boren streetcar alignment would also be slow.

    1. This might be better placed in a different thread, but seems relevant.

      Once ST2 comes online, and especially if the proposed Seattle Streetcar Network gets fleshed out in that time, is Metro going to do a complete route reorganization in affected areas? I’m not talking about simply shifting lines one way or the other, but a total reorientation.

      1. I expect it will be similar to the ST1 changes but more extensive. Truncating the 71/72/73 and eliminating the 41 will free up a huge number of hours for north Seattle. The Aurora Village expresses can be turned into feeder lines, and there are probably similar routes I’m not even aware of. Even the 522 could be truncated, although it’s probably too far from the line for that to be realistic (especially given the traffic between Lake City and Northgate). I haven’t even begun to think of the impact on the Eastside, Shoreline, and Snohomish County.

        But it will be more of a reform than a complete reorganization. People howl too much about losing their existing buses. At best a reorganization might be done incrementally bit by bit.

        I wouldn’t count on the streetcar expansions until money is found. If the SLUT is extended to the UW, the 70 could be eliminated. If it’s extended to Fremont and Ballard it would displace some downtown-Fremont trips (perhaps the 17/26/28 could be truncated?), but not Fremont-Ballard because there’s little existing service in that corridor (the 17 detours too much, and the 46 runs only part-time). I doubt it will make much of a dent in downtown-Ballard trips due to the streetcar’s slowness, especially after the westside light rail is built.

        I lived in the U-district for several years and now transfer through it to work, so that’s the area I’ve pondered most. What about a 65th Street bus from Greenlake to Sand Point? I’m not sure whether the 71/72/73 should terminate at Roosevelt, Brooklyn, or Campus Parkway. Terminating at UW station is probably not feasable given the Pacific Street/Montlake traffic and lack of layover space. The UW-Ballard corridor is in drastic need of improvement, so maybe a large chunk of the money could go there.

      2. You can get some idea from the Seattle Transit Plan and the Urban Village Transit Network map.

        Most likely if the 522, 306, and 312 are changed at all it would be to route to the Roosevelt station at 65th rather than to Northgate. Some of the 41’s service hours would likely go to providing frequent service between Lake City and Northgate transit center.

        There is strong transit demand all the way along 15th/University way from 65th to Pacific so I imagine there would be some sort of service in that corridor if nothing else than just to feed the Roosevelt, Brooklyn, and possibly UW stations. Certainly completing the ST2 portions of Link is an opportunity to dramatically restructure service in NE Seattle.

      3. That 15th Ave. corridor is covered by the 48, which serves the Roosevelt, Brooklyn and UW station areas. I believe Metro has considered splitting the 48 into two routes, one from UW station to the north, and an overlapping line from Brooklyn Station to the south, or something close to that. Once UW station is open we could use some new connecting bus service up 25th Ave. and Sand Point Way (to U Village, Children’s Hospital), as well as some kind of limited stop service connecting UW west to Ballard. There’s certainly much more to say on that topic.

        A little closer to the original topic, I expect we will see a streetcar to Fremont before we see one to UW. The UW route has a trestle issue by Zymogenetics plus existing trolley wire to contend with, and the district is already getting two Link stations. Fremont has gotten zilch thus far except for a lot of growth in recent years.

      4. I’m sorry, but the 48 is in no way an adequate replacement for the service currently provided by the 71/72/73 between campus parkway and 65th. For one thing the 48 doesn’t have nearly the same service frequency. The 48 is so unreliable as to be a joke, you can wait an hour between buses even when the headways are 20 minutes or better. In addition the merchants on the ave would shit bricks if bus service was pulled from University Way. Of course this isn’t to say splitting the 48 and increasing the service hours wouldn’t be a good idea.

        One possible thought would be putting a streetcar along much of University Way as in the plan for the Eastlake/UW streetcar. Though extending this to Roosevelt station, East Greenlake, or even Crown Hill would make sense as ridership is strong all along the corridor.

      5. Chris, I think one of the ideas behind switching the 48 to a split route was to increase the service reliability. Most of the issues are at Montlake. So if you have a 48 that terminates at UWMC and then loops back north, and the “south 48” runs from Montlake to Mt. Baker TC…admittedly that does make it a little harder for the through-routed folks, but given the traffic disaster at Montlake, I’m not sure what else to do. Metro would love to run service on Montlake Blvd. direct to U Village, but it’s pretty much impossible with the current Montlake config. Anyway – I would think that if you’re going to build a streetcar on Eastlake out to the U you might as well go up the Ave to at least 50th, but I also have to agree with the poster’s comment that Fremont is probably the next line I’d build, as 26/28 service hasn’t kept up with growth in the neighborhood.

    2. You could possibly completely redo, say, the 10 or 12, and have it start at the ID and go up Jackson then 12th. I guess the problem is finding a route that can connect with Capitol Hill Station but then also go along 12th…

      1. and if you take out the 10 or 12 what do you do with the people who live at the end of the line? I think the idea behind the 27 would be that you still give the folks who use it a way to get downtown…either transfer to whatever streetcar line is built, switch to something down Jackson to get to the tunnel, or stay on the line on 12th until you get to Cap Hill. That way 12th still gets service…but I’m not saying I think this is a good or sufficient alternative, just an idea that’s been tossed around.

  13. Nice graphic Adam! Yes, SDOT should hire you to continue your analysis.

    I’m definitely leaning toward either the Boren or Broadway alignment. I think 12th Ave is a very good candidate for a “Complete Street” makeover, especially near SU. Add dedicated bike lanes, replace the turning lane with a median, and shorten the crosswalk lengths. Also, take down the garish yellow signage every 50 feet warning drivers of pedestrians – better street design would accomplish the same goals as those signs.

    12th as a “Complete Street” might be a better idea than 12th with a streetcar.

  14. I don’t buy the premise of the post. It’s not clear to me that a couplet would reduce the walkshed. Consider that most trips are round trips. In this case, the streetcar connects two Link stations that are at the opposite ends of downtown. If going to/from downtown, it matters little which station one transfers at. Using the couplet, one could walk to the nearest station and get off when it gets to the Link station, whichever direction the streetcar is going. From there, travel to your destination.

    For someone who doesn’t mind walking a bit, they might want to optimize their travel time and walk to a station further away to go in the appropriate direction. Also note that except for folks whose destination is between the couplet streets, time that may be added on one leg of their trip could be deducted from the return trip.

    For someone who prefers not to walk far, or someone who has difficulty walking, they may optimize convenience over time and go the “wrong way” in order to avoid walking.

    In all three of these cases, the couplet could attract people from a wider area. I would argue that the walkshed is larger for the couplet.

    BTW, isn’t ST also considering a S Jackson/S King couplet? I didn’t see that in the maps.

    1. “Also note that except for folks whose destination is between the couplet streets, time that may be added on one leg of their trip could be deducted from the return trip.”

      That’s a great point, and makes me realize the maps are an apples-to-oranges comparison. A better comparison would include round trip walking time, not just one way.

      1. Yes of course they are not apples to apples but that is because the couplet provides a completely different type of service than almost every streetcar in the US. I think the way that I depicted the information is the best possible way to show how riders will perceive the service.

        The trips on the streetcar will be relatively short compared to most transit trips, thus the walking and waiting that that most riders will be willing to use is relatively low. Because of this high quality and close accessibility are the two largest factors that will affect ridership. This graphic takes both of those factors into account.

        As for total travel, that is pretty much impossible to do in a more subjective way. From where to where? At what time? Not only that it won’t show the key factor how to best serve First Hill. This is what this whole discussion should be about, not how to serve 12th Ave better. This discussion has been highjacked.

      2. //As for total travel, that is pretty much impossible to do in a more subjective way. From where to where?//

        It seems like it would be easy. From a station, to your destination, back to the station going the opposite direction. If you double the travel times in the scale then the second two maps would look identical. The first map would have blobs that would roughly double in size.

        //This discussion has been highjacked.//

        Maybe. I think serving First Hill is very important for the reasons you listed. But we should put a lot of thought into how we should shape our city. Plus to give the 12th alignment a little credit, 12th is the western boundary of First Hill. It’s certainly no central line for the area, but service doesn’t go away completely. A compromise might be worth at least looking at.

      3. //
        Yes and my point is how can I choose a destination that doesn’t benefit one alternative more than another. Also the distance that people are willing to walk doesn’t just double because you want it too, especially when people are going to be riding the streetcar for no more than 10 minutes or so. It doesn’t just scale like that.

        The streetcar already is the compromise. That is the whole point.

      4. I think we’re misunderstanding each other on the first point. “the distance that people are willing to walk doesn’t just double because you want it to” No – I mean a round trip. A destination a 7 minute walk from a station under the second two options automatically becomes a 14 minute walk round trip. The maps look identical, just the scale doubles. Someone at a 7 minute walk from one station and 2 minute walk from the opposite direction station in your second map becomes a 9 minute walk round trip.

      5. I think Adam’s point regarding round trip travel time is that people are more deterred by a 1 minute one-way + 13 minute one-way combination than they are by a 7-minute one-way and 7-minute one-way, so round trip travel time is not an acceptable replacement for one-way travel time.

      6. That only applies to destinations between the two stations. For destinations to either side, you would make a 7 minute trip out to your destination then 7 back PLUS the time it took to cross over to the other line.

      7. I agree with the comments here. The 12th ave map does not show the same thing the other two do. Round trip time is what’s important, and you can discuss how having couplets affect service, or what the limits of people’s idea of a reasonable distance to walk is, but using these maps for that conversation is not working the way you think it is.

      8. To Adam’s “the streetcar is already the compromise” – look, they weren’t going to build the station, period. To believe that a single streetcar line can truly serve the same purposes as the LINK stop would have is not even a compromise – I would argue it’s wishful thinking. What happens instead seems to me to be a decision that moving employees (since most medical patients aren’t taking transit unless they have no choice) to and from the hospitals becomes the most important goal. There are plenty of legitimate conversations to have about the routing of the line, but as is pointed out here let’s at least make sure we’re having the same conversation about the same route options.

      9. My position which I have echoed throughout this conversation is that 12th Ave can have a streetcar if it wants but that is a fundamentally different project and thus should not be studied now. It doesn’t meet the original intent of the project.

      10. Unfortunately, Adam, the choice of alignment of the first hill streetcar will affect future conversations about 12th ave. Building the first hill streetcar will significantly undermine any grassroots campaign to build a streetcar on 12th ave because it would be considered “redundant” given how close the first hill alignment is. Unlike buses, we can just move these things around, once the tracks are in place, they are set for 50 to 100 years. Any serious planning should look a the long term vision for both first hill and 12th ave, and the rest of the center city for that matter. Then we make sure that this project fits into and builds toward that comprehensive vision.

        For example, if we were really serious about thinking comprehensively, we would connect first hill to downtown rather than capitol hill and connect capitol hill to 12th ave. That’s two projects, your right, but the planning of one affects the other, so they really should be planned together.

      11. The city has already undertaken a comprehensive look at a streetcar network and it didn’t include 12th.

      12. @Matt: please provide a link to this map showing the urban village of ’12th Avenue'(B’way to 14th) somehow disappearing…?


        “Building the first hill streetcar will significantly undermine any grassroots campaign to build a streetcar on 12th ave because it would be considered “redundant” given how close the first hill alignment is”

        Maybe so: let’s make sure the First Hill Streetcar is truly on first hill then, and far away from 12th… Like; Terry or Minor alignment? ;)

    2. Regarding the Jackson/King couplet, that’s a pretty good couplet because they’re only one block away from each other, but I was just seeing that unless they put in traffic lights on King, the streetcar would have to stop every block there, so I hope if they do choose to do that couplet, they make some provisions for that.

  15. Walking the alignment, sans numbers and stats, 12th would seem to have the most profound re-development opportunities.

    There is next to zero transit service along 12th currently, which is mystifying.

    1. There should also be some transit along Boren from its intersection w/ Broadway to Denny/Fairview (and beyond – SLU or the Seattle Center).

    2. Just because First Hill already has a lot of development doesn’t mean it doesn’t still have much more development opportunity than 12th. It is easier to imagine 12th with new buildings.

    3. Dig down deep enough on 12th and you’ll find the old streetcar car tracks buried under ashphalt.

      1. Wow, no one was thinking walkshed when they made that crazy couplet all the way around Green Lake – but I did read somewhere (maybe one of those “Now and Then” things by Paul Dorpat?) that line was funded by real estate developers who wanted to develop the Green Lake neighborhood! Maybe it would have been built mroe densely had they had access to ArcGIS.

        Also, both the bus and streetcar/bus sytem maps show what a crazy route the 38 used to take through Columbia City! That route probably gets the award for the most truncated of any Metro route as a percentage of its historical maximum length. (That sounds like a GIS question…)

      2. Actually they probably were. By creating a one way couplet you can double the area served so if you are a property developer that is good, but if you are a rider it isn’t. That is the whole reason for these graphics. You can’t have the same quality coverage when you use such a far spaced couplet.

      3. Yeah, especially with a lake in between. But I suppose the kind of walkshed they were thinking of was probably a little different because it would have been geared toward people commuting into Seattle in the morning and home in the evening – driving wasn’t an alternative for 99% of the population when they built that loop around Green Lake!

      4. Also remember that parks like Greenlake were often seen as destinations in and of themselves.

        Before automobiles were common people would walk for quite a ways to reach the nearest streetcar line, as much as a mile or two wouldn’t have been out of the question. Also a one way loop wasn’t so bad when the other option was a horsecart or walking.

      5. Green Lake Park is kind of funny though – those houses above Green Lake Way used to be, if not waterfront, right across the street from the water. Then the lake was lowered seven feet to create the park, which I think is a pretty neat trick! I think lowering a few other private property-ringed lakes for public benefit would kick ass.

      6. A scenic lollypop loop around a lake at the end of a long suburban commuter line is not a serious concern as far as service quality. A loop in the center of a connector intended to at least partially substitute for a central station on a regional light rail system is a different story.

  16. There’ve been plenty of advocacy-driven posts from Boren and 12th Ave. proponents,both. I’m hoping that after the City is done with its analysis we’ll have the benefit of something more objective.

    There must be a better measure of “development potential” than simply observing the existing zoning. It’s possible to make some informed judgments on what sites are already fully developed, what sites are underdeveloped and what kind of developments would or would not receive a boost towards reality because there’s a streetcar route nearby.

    The concept of “quality of coverage” is an interesting one. But another measure is “ridership potential” which is not directly discussed in the editorial. I for one am looking for the City’s analysis to evaluate how a high “quality” coverage of Boren, say, competes with the current quality of coverage provided by the existing bus routes that go from Boren to one of the 3rd Avenue S.T. stations in five minutes or so. Will all of the riders who travel by bus (or walk) abandon those means and switch to the streetcar?

    No doubt all of the neighborhoods trying to get the streetcar down their street could be better off with more transit. I’d like to think that both 12th Ave. and Boren will see better transit in the future. But, the streetcar is a public investment of what? —- $120,000,000 or more? I hope the City will make a decision based on what is best served by the specific mode of streetcar. If the answer were already clear, the evaluation of route alternatives would be pointless, right?

    1. Great point. I wanted to do a break out of zoning that is overlaid by each alternative but I simply ran out of time. This is an important point for most streetcars but I have to say less so for this one. You said,

      I hope the City will make a decision based on what is best served by the specific mode of streetcar.

      The problem is that this statement and the context of your comment assumes that the streetcar isn’t trying to meet any other objective beside redevelopment. The problem is that meeting the mobility needs of First Hill should be the only real deciding factor. Yes it should encourage development but that is not why Sound Transit funded the project.

      I agree that “quality of coverage” and “ridership potential” are different but I think that how I showed it is the best compromise. Your assumption is that people from First Hill will use it to get downtown. I doubt that. I think this will be used more by people that are either going north or south on Link. It is local transit acting as part of the regional transit system.

      1. If meeting the mobility needs of First Hill is of primary importance, and providing a connection to Link is central, then why are we looking at N-S routes in lieu of E-W connections? Is it simply a matter of the mode driving the thinking?

      2. No because N/S connects are what will be needed in the future. As Link grows a large number of people who are head to Cap or First hill will be passing through the ID or Cap Hill station. The streetcar is being built for these people because it is the fastest way to get to first hill for those already utilizing Link.

        This is not about linking First Hill to downtown, it is about linking it to areas north of UW and south of SODO.

      3. I agree that the N-S connection is vital, but wouldn’t the fastest way to First Hill from UW or SODO be by way of Link to an E-W connector at any of the light rail stations between the ID and CH stations? Under ideal circumstances what is the anticipated travel time to the job centers on First Hill from either the ID or Capitol Hill versus from downtown? How are travel times controlled when traffic is added to the mix?

      4. Actually, be first hill is surprisingly circular. The very fact that there is so much argument over where on the east-west axis to put this north south line, proves that the target area is a lot “wider” than your comment implies.

      5. If meeting the mobility needs of first hill were the only deciding factor, then we would never have considered a streetcar that takes the most roundabout way of getting there. First Hill’s own advocacy, pushing for a convoluted route that provides door to door service between the link station and the hospitals would have been far easier to achieve in a faster, more direct, more frequent and cheaper manner with a rubber-tired solution.

        Buses move people. Streetcars make places. We are wasting an incredible place-making opportunity because we can’t see past this first hill entitlement complex. If we get out of the box and look at a comprehensive solution that meets everyone’s needs we could create tremendous public value. Instead, like all transportation planning, we put blinders on and pretend we’re doing a project in a vacuum as if there were no connection between this project and anything else.

        Quite frankly sir, the majority of this streetcar is taking up street space in my neighborhood (capitol hill) or another neighborhood (the international district). I am not particularly interested in turning the heart of my neighborhood into a passthrough for first hill commuters. This streetcar is about much more than first hill and it is deeply troubling that so few people understand that.

      6. Its not roundabout. You just don’t understand how people will use LINK in the future. The most direct way to get to first hill from the north will be via the Cap hill station. From the south it will be via the ID station with the added benefit that is connects to sounder.

  17. Nice work on the walking shed maps!

    I appreciate the desire of folks to the east who would like to see a streetcar on 12th, but I’m not on board that plan. The density — both as-built and zoned — is really far higher west of Broadway than it is to the east. Those hospitals have a huge number of jobs per square foot. There’s a reason Sound Transit proposed a light rail station on First Hill in the first place.

    Broadway is also where the street grid changes which makes it sort of the north-south equivalent of Denny… a very important arterial for circumnavigating the center of the city.

    I doubt the diversion to Boren is worth the extra time… There’s a lot there, but anyone headed to the west slope of First Hill may be better off walking or busing up from downtown. Maybe we can build a few consecutive blocks of escalators as a hillclimb assist, like Hong Kong. That’s a pretty cheap form of transit you never have to wait for and it wouldn’t be a whole lot slower than a bus stuck in traffic on Madison.

    12th Ave. is a great bicycle route… I’m not sure that wouldn’t be compromised with a streetcar there.

    The line needs to go all the way north to Aloha. Aloha was supposed to get a light rail stop just like First Hill, in the original plan put to the voters. It doesn’t make sense to build all of this and fail to serve four of the most important commercial blocks on Broadway. Stopping at John doesn’t cut it. It should be possible to walk the length of Broadway and take the streetcar back.

    1. I’ll tell you why I think that Boren is a better alignment despite the jog to the West. This streetcar won’t act like most transit routes in which ridership builds towards the center (ie as you get closer to the CBD), rather it will be the exact opposite, with the highest ridership at the ends and the lowest ridership in the middle.

      In theory when you plan transit lines you want to maximize speed and directness when ridership is highest, and maximize coverage and accessibility when ridership is lowest. To me this indicates that the increased distance and reduced speed of the Boren alignment is offset by the dramatically increased service area, which happens to be right in the heart of First Hill. Very few riders will use the streetcar from end to end and so the increased coverage could actually reduced the average overall travel time for riders because they will have to walk less once they get off the streetcar.

      1. Huh that’s a good point to consider… and if they go with another street instead of Madison to go back to Broadway at the north, that could work out pretty well.

      2. That is a good theory, it makes sense that riders wouldn’t use the route end to end. As someone was saying earlier, this is local transit providing access rather than connecting two nodes.

        The same theory would go a long way toward arguing for extending the streetcar to Aloha street in the north. I’m assuming that the city, rather than Sound Transit, would probably have to fund the extension. It would be good for North Capitol Hill, which seems to be slowly withering compared to the south end of Capitol Hill.

      3. A question for the ST and city transportation gurus out there. What if the First Hill Streetcar comes in far below the $120m (as the city and ST seems to think might happen)? Will they automatically start the engineering to construct the line north to Aloha? Do we know how much the extension is?

        Too bad we can’t connect the South Lake Union line and First Hill line with a connection down the hill to Eastlake from the Aloha terminus and SLU terminus since they’re pretty parallel with each other. I don’t think there’s any good way to get down the hill easily.

      4. You could follow the 49 route to the U District and replace the 49. If the South Lake Union line is extended up Eastlake the lines would meet at Eastlake/Harvard. That is, if you’re willing to build yet another 1.75 miles of track…

      5. That would definitely be a good long-term plan. I think the city should plan a lot further ahead for streetcar lines. Our current streetcar network plan could easily be complete by before 2020.

      6. Michael I think that is the intention. If it comes in under budget, which I think the city thinks is very likely, they will use the extra money to extend the streetcar north. I would hope that this would be accompanied by an up zone because the density drops off really quickly north of Roy.

      7. Adam I am beginning to wonder if you have ever seen this map?

        The Link Light Rail Station never intended to provide VM with front door service, yet you interpret the promise of the first hill streetcar to mean this…

        Yes, the FH Streetcar has to serve First Hill, no doubt. But that can be achieved in a variety of ways.

      8. Yes but VM is on First Hill and 12th Ave is not in any way shape or form. It is the bottom of the valley for heavens sake.

        The reason I wrote this post is to show that serving First Hill and 12th Ave are mutually exclusive objectives that can’t be achieve by the same project. Yes First Hill can be served in multiple way but that does not in any way include 12th Ave.

      9. Adam, did you even look at the map ktstine linked to? Harborview is not even in the overlay, and Virgina Mason is twice as far from the proposed station as 12th and Marion. Four full blocks of 12th ave are contained within the station overlay. What definition of first hill are you using?

    2. The bike point is spot on. The same people who want the 12th ave alignment now might complain about the bicycling problems it surfaces when completed.

      1. There are lots of ways to deal with that issue. Will be a problem for Broadway as well. Devil is in the details at street level.

  18. Well, I must say that is a pretty good argument. I’ll have to take a closer look at that Boren alignment. I wonder how much time it would add to those through trips there would still be.

    1. It might not at all, actually. You’d end up with, I believe, one fewer traffic light, and one of the traffic lights you’d have on Boren would be much easier to change to streetcar priority than the Broadway equivalent, as the Boren light doesn’t have as heavy of traffic.

  19. A lot of people don’t seem to understand that, in spite of being big already, the hospitals and clinics are still the biggest future developers there. They probably own most of the underdeveloped properties, their existing facilities are usually very crowded and in need of expansion, and the dollar volume they do per square foot is immense.

    Swedish, Virginia Mason, and Harborview are all regional hospitals, with specialized skills, research, and affiliation as teaching hospitals. The Fred Hutchinson and U of W are world-renowned research and teaching institutes as well as providing care. Think Bigger than Boeing. Where Boeing paid good wages to high school graduates, the hospitals pay good wages to college graduates and doctors. Where Boeing is innovating in building planes from plastic, Seattle hospitals are working on vaccines for diabetes and replacement hearts. Where Boeing moves away to pay workers less, our hospitals try to attract the best people by paying them more.

    So, you walk along 12th and say “Wow, we could build four-story apartments all along this street”, but that’s really nothing compared with looking at Swedish and realizing you could attract patients from all over the US for treatment in 30-story medical buildings. You not only serve your existing ridership better, but also get better development chances, when you put the line past the hospitals.

    1. Your point about the hospitals is just as easily an argument for 12th Ave. The key point is: most of the developable land on first hill is owned by the hospitals and most future development will be by the hospitals. Here is the critical issue: the growth of the hospitals, and thus future development in the neighborhood is completely independent of this streetcar. These hospitals are regional institutions. They are where they are and they are not going to move. They are going to grow at exactly the same pace with or without a streetcar.

      Thus the streetcar does not cause any development at the hospitals. Development on 12th ave on the other hand would be characterized by retail and residential. These uses can locate anywhere, but the streetcar gives them a good reason to locate here. Thus, the streetcar will make a bigger difference for 12th ave, as all development that is going to happen on first hill is going to happen anyway.

      1. These hospitals are regional institutions. They are where they are and they are not going to move.

        Yeah, like Boeing will never move it’s headquarters out of Seattle. Biotech and heath care is a lot more mobile than a family based business with substantial investment dating back generations in this area. UW has proposed that they “have no alternative” than South Lake Union for expansion. In fact there is excess potential already built in the Pacific Medical Center (built in 1933) and being abandon by Amazon. Yet our billions of dollars invested in light rail tunnels ignore that facility.

  20. Regarding the mappings of the anticipated walksheds, I think the couplet option is somewhat unfairly discounted by applying the same walking distance metric. There will be behavioral differences brought on by a couplet that will affect the perception of distances and increase the willingness of certain segments of the population to walk further distances. I’m not sure how to go about quantifying this difference, much less representing it.

  21. So, you walk along 12th and say “Wow, we could build four-story apartments all along this street”, but that’s really nothing compared with looking at Swedish and realizing you could attract patients from all over the US for treatment in 30-story medical buildings. You not only serve your existing ridership better, but also get better development chances, when you put the line past the hospitals.

    Bingo…Big growth in store on pill hill

    1. Much of SU is zoned to over 100 feet, and the south of 12th is all 65 feet. I know this is not high rise, but please let’s quote accurate facts about 12th!

      1. Not to mention that zoning is ink on a page. It can be changed if the neighborhood wants it to.

  22. I think these maps are great. It actually looks to me that the Boren alignment has the most ridership. I agree that the major medical institutions represent the biggest development potential in the near-term. In order to avoid Madison congestion, perhaps the Boren line just crosses Madison and turns right on Spring on its way back to Broadway.

    Even though First Hill deserves the highest priority intially, I agree that 12th is underserved and that Seattle University has a fair amount of development potential as a destination. The student population (many without cars) form a large pool of potential transit users. Would it be possible to later run tracks up 12th and connect back to Broadway at the link Station so that streetcars can alternate? In other words a NB streetcar on 12th becomes a SB streetcar on Broadway while a NB on Broadway becomes a SB on 12th and so on?

    1. I think there should in the future be a Jackson-12th-Madison-15th streetcar. Of course that wouldn’t tie in with the Link stop but it would serve those underserved parts of Capitol Hill.

  23. A couple questions – I wonder what the 12th Couplet’s walkshed would look like if you did a walkshed for each stop rather than combined, and came up with some combined walkshed… like one that showed where the 12-minute distance from the farther stop would be? Not directly comparable to the other maps, but I’m just trying to picture it.

    Also, does ArcGIS create the walksheds around structures or around private property? I assume the walksheds are created by modeling a pedestrian walking around obstructions known to ArcGIS – which obstructions aren’t known?

    Would there be a way to take into account known pedestrian routes, like if there’s a food court in a hospital that you could cut through? I guess my question is whether the city or county have any data on known walking routes or if that would require mapping. And that approach would probably involve a different method in ArcGIS… like creating walking paths with how long it takes to progress along them and then using those data to overlay a “shed.”

    Man, if I had that software I could get sucked into this for hours!

    1. Yes you can do that. Pathfinding was done using the street network not property or building obstructions. For example I added a link going through Cal Anderson because people can walk through it but there is no link in the original network file.

      1. Oh nice – I was assuming it was modeling the space like a big open field dotted with buildings in the way.

  24. If you want an indicator on how many riders would connect from Union Station to Harborview, just hang out at 5th & Wells. The Harborview shuttle pick-up and drop-off point. It’s currently crowded and can easily be a two shuttle wait in the morning.

    And has been said, the more interconnected these Hospitals are with each other, and the transportation system the better off we will be in the region. Harborview also caters to people who can’t pay, and typically these are the same people who ride the transit system as their only means of getting around.

    As such the 12th Ave alignment is terrible for these employment centers.

    As a bicyclist soon to be riding from the Eastside to just North of Seattle, I’d prefer that 12th not have a street car on it for all the same reasons that the SLUT tracks are a hazard down along Westlake.

    1. Then, clearly we should add another shuttle rather than spending $130 million worth of taxpayer money so that Harborview doesn’t have to. A 12th Ave alignment is hardly “terrible” for these employment centers. These employment centers have 10 minute bus service right now connecting them directly to downtown, plus a myriad of peak-only commuter routes and their own shuttles paid for on their dime. If they want more service, they can easily afford it, or the city could deploy more buses at a fraction of the cost. Let’s stop pretending that these multi-billion dollar institutions are poor children in need of charity.

  25. I only quickly skimmed the comments, so forgive me if this has been covered above.

    I believe there is an issue with your analysis of a line if the line uses different stations for the two directions (ie, 12th ave route). If the idea with these maps is equating short walk times with higher ridership, I believe you have to consider the average walk time to the station. For example, if a rider lived a 2 minute walk from the northbound station and a 6 minute walk from the southbound station, they would average those two times and treat the system as if it were a single station that was 4 minutes away.

    In the 12th ave map, each of the split stations indicate that they exist in the 5 minute walk zone. I believe this is misleading. Assuming you lived right next door to one station your commute would be zero minutes to that station, and 5 minutes to the other, average commute, 2.5 minutes. So, I think average time, not furthest time, should be considered for map coloration.

    1. One thing to add… While I think you need to consider average time, I think it’s fair to cap areas that are too far from only one of the stations…

      ie, if you lived 6 minutes from one and 13 minutes from the other and can’t (or won’t) walk more than 10 minutes, then the system is not useful to you, even if your average walk is less than 10 minutes.

      But either way, saying that the land the stations are built on only gets fair (5 minute walk) service is disingenuous, being that half the time, when you’re walking to the closer station, you’ll be getting the best service possible.

      1. I see what you are saying but lets say you live 0 minutes from one of the two way stations. In that way your round trip average time would be 0 minutes rather than the 2.5 minutes in the couplet. So yes the map would look different but it would mean that essentially no location around the couplet has the highest level of quality.

        I also think that if you ask someone how far of a walk it is to a bus stop they won’t tell you 10 minutes, 5 there and 5 back. They say 5 minutes. Additionally I don’t think that you can treat a round trip that has two 5 minutes walks the same as one that has 0 and 10 minutes. People don’t really think about walking in the way because once it exceeds a threshold they don’t even consider walking, and 10 minutes is probably at that top end especially if it isn’t in the direction of travel once they get onto the streetcar.

        Also I think I need to explain how the zones are created because you can’t just add an subtract them. I created 3,5 and 7 minute walking sheds for both Broadway and 12th Ave stations and then joined the walking shed for each time level, keeping the area that was covered by BOTH. Thus for the couplet you can’t really treat the time levels as the actual walking time to a STATION but more of an area that has an actual walking time to an EQUIVALENT SERVICE QUALITY which is defined by the time level. I know this is confusing but from my perspective it is the best way to put these different options on an equivalent scale… and to be honest I don’t know how to do what you suggest.

      2. You could overlay a walkshed for each couplet stop and then create an outer, longer walking time buffer around it. That, however, would be a lot easier if walksheds were just round buffers rather than shapes created by paths, and it would most likely be something that would be interesting to look at rather than something that communicates the effectiveness of the route simply to a map reader.

      3. Apologies for the previous comment, I wasn’t done editing before it got submitted. Feel free to delete it.

        I understand what you’ve done, and I think it’s one way to look at the issue. I think you understand where I’m coming from that considering round trip times may be another valid way to judge service level, and that a map that considers round trip times would have a much more favorable ‘high quality service’ area around the couplets.

        So, mostly I’m just worried that the maps and the language in the ‘Reduced Area with Quality Service’ section of the article seems very easy to understand and very conclusive, when I don’t think that’s actually the case. I believe that people view you as an expert on transit, (which you might be, I don’t know your background) but I think the analysis has missed the mark here a bit. I have no interest in which line is chosen other than wanting to make sure everyone is forming their opinion with the best information at hand, including knowing when the information they have at hand could be interpreted differently. Even noting in the article that there is more than one way to judge service level and that the maps aren’t the end-all of understanding how well each area will be served would help people analyze the maps, as well as stating the assumptions you used to build your model.

        I wish I had access to the software to make similar maps, because I would be really interested in creating some of these.

        Thanks for your time writing and creating these maps and your post. You’ve obviously gotten a lot of people interested, involved, and thinking about our streetcar options, which in the end, is what’s most important.


      4. I agree that there are more than one way to look at this, and the way that you explained would make service for the couplet look better, to what extent I’m not sure. The reason that I disagree is that mode and route choices are always modeled (and made by individuals) on an individual basis, not round trip basis (with some conditions such as accessibility to a car after the initial trip in a chain).

        Thus a single, one-way trip is the fundamental unit in transportation planning and I believe you have to make a very conclusive argument to go against this. So for example the Boren and Broadway alignments would most likely mean that people would travel there and back in the same way while the couplet would cause some people to travel there or back in different ways. You lose resolution when you use average, and I’m of the opinion that you should never use averages when higher resolution data is available.

        Also I phrased ‘Area with Quality Service’ very intentionally. The 3,5 and 7 areas have exactly equivalent service levels for all three maps so they can be directly compared. Using the average round trip access time method wouldn’t make the maps directly comparable.

  26. I actually wish we could do a 12th Avenue-ONLY option… :-)

    Here’s the problems I have with this post, Adam (though other media coverage isn’t any better):

    1) You point out that the original goal, or what voters were promised, was a streetcar connection to Link to compensate for the loss of a First Hill station.

    If so, then should we evaluate the options based on overall ridership, new connections, and TOD potential OR should we only evaluate them on their ridership numbers to/from the Cap Hill and ID stations?

    You — and many others — appear to be doing a little bit of both.

    2) If the goal/promise is to connect First Hill to Link, then do we have to run the streetcar to BOTH a north and south Link station? In all alignments, I actually have major objections to the Broadway end of the route which I think is going to make congestion worse, provide a slow transit connection, and adversely affect businesses in the area.

    Could we build a better streetcar route that connected First Hill to ONLY the ID station?

    3) Do we need to serve the hospitals with the streetcar? Pause before giving the obvious answer.

    Under the original ST plan, folks could have walked a few blocks to ride Link — the superior transit option. But, now, given a choice of connections to Link, will light rail riders’ best connection option be a streetcar to Cap Hill/ID stations OR will it be a bus to a Downtown station?

    In particular, I would like to see the ridership modeling for how many employees at the hospital are utilizing Link now. Since it is no longer theoretical, users are making actual decisions to ride Link or not based on existing connections.

    I think we could eliminate the Boren route option altogether if we can show only a negligible increase to Link ridership, especially if it’s faster to walk or bus to a Downtown station rather than take the streetcar.

    1. So, uh, you think that instead of considering “a little of both” streetcar-for-the-neighborhood and streetcar-as-connector, we should consider neither of those goals?

      Because it seems you want to slice off one end of the streetcar-as-connector, shorten the line so it doesn’t make traffic worse for cars in the prosperous area, oh, and skip your major employers in the area too, wouldn’t want too many pesky riders y’know.

      In fact, it’s not entirely clear, but it sounds like you’d be happy with a line that ran down 12th Ave from SU to the Link ID station.

      I always end up wondering at this point how much land the Archdiocese owns around 12th Ave. Over the years I lived in Seattle I began to see that often property is undeveloped because the owner is waiting for some public investment to make it more valuable. If you’re a church, and don’t pay any property taxes, you can be pretty picky about when you allow development to happen.

      Of course, I’m a little biased because I’ve actually worked at those hospitals and walked or ridden the bus to commute. Given my druthers, I’d rather ride a streetcar.

      1. I always end up wondering at this point how much land the Archdiocese owns around 12th Ave. Over the years I lived in Seattle I began to see that often property is undeveloped because the owner is waiting for some public investment to make it more valuable. If you’re a church, and don’t pay any property taxes, you can be pretty picky about when you allow development to happen.

        I’ve looked at the parcel maps before and as I recall it was a fair bit. They have the middle chunk of the block between 12th, 14th, Fir, and Spruce. They also have nearly everything between 19th and Broadway between Jefferson and Cherry. You are correct that many of the vacant lots and run down buildings in the area are owned by the Archdiocese or another institutional owner.

      2. I would be happy with a line that ran down 12th from SU to the ID station, and then all the way down Jackson(?) into Pioneer Square. It could even run from SU northward to Aloha, giving more in-fill transit to Cap Hill.

      3. Agreed Adam. I think this is the best reoccurring theme you’ve mentioned throughout the post. I have no aversion to a 12th avenue corridor study beyond what SDOT is already considering. But for THIS project keeping the alignment up top in some variation is unquestionably the best move.

    2. I don’t really care how many First Hill Streetcar riders are transferring to or from Link or not. What matters is the actual ridership of the line itself.

      I suspect a Boren alignment will have more riders than the Broadway alignment and significantly more than a 12th only or Broadway/12th couplet.

      Avoiding Broadway North of Union would be stupid, if anything needs the capacity relief a streetcar can provide it is Broadway.

      Now I’m fairly agnostic when it comes to Boren vs. Broadway, at this point I favor Boren but Broadway is fine too if Boren is unworkable.

      At this point the best thing for 12th would be to find some service hours so it could have bus service between Main and at least Pine if not John or Aloha.

    3. 1) Yes I’m not evaluating ridership because I don’t have to tools too…but neither are you. This is why SDOT is doing a study. Never the less whatever the ridership Broadway and Boren should be the only alignments future study per the loss of the First Hill station.

      2) Which station do you think First Hill residents and employees are more attracted to if they are traveling north on Link? Capitol Hill obviously. The streetcar must connect with that station.

      3) People from north or south of downtown would rather get off at cap hill or ID simply because it is faster and more direct.

      1. RE #1: I still stand by my point that you can’t make two different arguments.

        I agree 100% that the promise made was to replace the First Hill station with a streetcar.

        If that’s the most important thing, then we should look at what is the best way to connect those First Hill residents to Link. And these alignments may not be best choices. I’d find a way to run frequent transit service down Madison.

        On the other hand, if the goal is to build a streetcar line with high ridership that connects to either, or both, Cap Hill or ID stations then we should be willing to consider the argument that a Boren alignment does not best meet those needs as well as consider whether a 12th Avenue alignment can compete in ridership numbers.

        Ben seems to suggest I’m just trying to impede building the streetcar. I’m saying that if we’re going to build another streetcar, then it needs to be rapid, attract high ridership, and connect neighborhoods.

      2. I don’t need a study to tell you at the 12th Ave couplet will have significantly lower ridership than either the Boren or Broadway alignment.

  27. Alot of people have mentioned traffic as a major obstacle. I was just rereading McGinn’s Powerpoint on the First Hill Streetcar and saw this:

    Streetcar line can be built like
    Rainier Valley and Tacoma rail
    lines–dedicated right of way to
    avoid getting stuck in traffic.

    First off, how likely is this to happen, and secondly would anyone’s route preference change if this was included?

    1. In my opinion, if the streetcar came with its own lanes, they could build it anywhere they want…except the seneca alignment

  28. A comment on transfers…

    In the last year, I have been to Seoul, Tokyo, Taipei, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong (and Saigon, but for postings sake, I will leave them out of this since that city of 8m doesn’t have a mass transit system unless you connect all the motor scooters together!)

    In each of these cities, I usually made no less than 3 transfers on their subway lines on my journey around their cities. In Tokyo, I had to take 4 transfers on their subway once just to get to the Tokyo Tower. It is not uncommon to do this. Mix buses into the equation and the number of transfers expand. I took buses in all these cities either apart from the subway, with a subway ride or alone.

    Last month when I was in Beijing, I took 3 buses to get to the Olympic Village from my hotel and then another day I took 3 subway lines. It’s just a fact of life over there and people are used to it. I know it’s no different in Europe. I remember taking 3 Tube lines to get to my hotel in London and 2 streetcar lines to get to my hotel in Amsterdam on another trip.

    People in Seattle do this all the time now and for those who are not used to it, will have to get used to it. I know of people in my office who take the Tacoma streetcar to Sounder to Link. One friend who lives in Tacoma and who will work at the new Amazon HQ in SLU, will take the similar trip but adding the SLU streetcar to the equation and she’s thrilled about it. No car and all trains…much less expensive than cars, parking and gas and in many cases, not much more time and in fact, faster!

    1. I agree that transfers aren’t necessarily a death knell for a system, but I think they need to be appropiate. In the case of your friend, 3 or 4 transfers to move over 40 miles is not that big of deal. 3 or 4 transfers to move 4 miles is more of a problem.

  29. Adam,
    Glad to see you giving this issue such careful thought, but your analysis overweights some factors and underweights others.

    For starters, you need to keep in mind the sustainable development opportunity present by transforming 8 acres of property along 12th Avenue, owned by King County. It’s a vast spread of parking lots right now. A couplet — that’s a route serving both 12th and Broadway, serving a broader set of residents than Broadway only — is a balanced approach that serves residents and promotes best practices in urban development.

    Please talk to community and neighborhood groups who are urging the city to seize a historic opportunity to provide a great alternative to cars, encourage pedestrian-friendly growth, promote new affordable housing and unlock economic potential to benefit all.

    Let the facts emerge. Let the city’s study go forward and reach the best conclusion for Seattle.

    Check out one voice of the community, Capitol Hill Seattle.

    The Case for a 12th Ave Streetcar
    By JoshMahar
    Recommend this (0 votes) ( report abuse ) ( add your comment )
    Last year Seattle area voters approved adding 36 new miles of track to the soon-to-be operational light rail system, a huge step towards sustainability. While a light rail station was already planned for our humble neighborhood, the new package came with a small but transformational inclusion for the hill: a new streetcar from the International District to Broadway.

    The past few weeks have seen a lot of controversy over this new mobility improvement. Some suggest constructing it sooner. Some don’t want it built at all. Some want it put down Broadway. Others say 12th would be better. Well, while I may not be a transit guru the likes of STB, I would like to present a case for why a streetcar down 12th Ave would be the best use of our money by not just adding a form of transportation but helping an entire community blossom.

    View Larger Map
    First of all, why a streetcar? Why not, as Councilmember Tom Rasmussen suggested, just use the money for more metro buses instead? Admittedly it’s a non-issue because voters specifically approved this money for a streetcar not buses, but it’s worth discussing anyway. The pro-bus side likes to point out that buses tend to be cheaper and easier to implement. In addition they can be rerouted according to demand. The pro-streetcar people point to statistically higher ridership numbers for streetcars as well as the “green” power of electricity over diesel engines. Plus, a streetcar obviously looks much prettier!
    The reason that I prefer a streetcar comes down to one thing: permanence. Perhaps this is from studying religion in college, but from a theoretical standpoint a streetcar can act as an axis mundi for a neighborhood. Because the streetcar is a connection between the neighborhood and the broader city, the metal tracks embedded in the street definitively identify the space where interactions will be the most intense and diverse (nearer the tracks) and where they will be more restrained and controlled (farther out). By creating this central point of reference people are able to more easily organize the neighborhood in their minds, and in turn, they feel more at ease moving about it.
    12th Ave – Seattle
    Map data ©2009 Google – Terms of Use
    View entire map >>

    Similarly, because of this permanence, a streetcar becomes something much more than just a form of transportation, it becomes an integral piece of the neighbor just like an ivy-covered brick building, or an old, weather-worn chestnut tree. While it may not be alive in the standard sense, it does in fact take on the qualities of a living member of the community. For instance, we call a streetcar shelter a barn, instead of a garage. Similarly, the South Lake Union streetcar garnered a nickname in a matter of days. Do any metro buses have such a loving cognomen? The reassurance afforded by a streetcar’s permanent fixture allows people to establish a deeper relationship with it and soon the simlpe sight of the little trolley gliding down the street conjures up feelings of security, comfort, and warmth.
    But for a streetcar to function as a tool for community enhancement it must be placed where it too can benefit from people around it. Jane Jacobs said it best: “life attracts life” and if the streetcar is to become an organic piece of the urban fabric it must be placed where it can interact with a lively street life. Broadway, south of Madison, is utterly dead. Sure there are a number of institutions that border the street (SU and a few medical centers) but none of them engage the street at all. It is like the backdoor to First Hill and the Central District with numerous parking garages and blank walls. A streetcar down Broadway would solely be a form of transportation. And if this is its function, it will fail.
    On the other hand, 12th Ave, while it may not be Pike/Pine or Ballard Ave, certainly has its merits. It has a host of small, interesting spaces and there are plans for a number of Seattle University improvements as well as a few Capitol Hill Housing projects (see this post for more). With the addition of a streetcar the surrounding community will really have a central area to gather around, enhancing the feeling of security and comfort. The area is like a flower just beginning to sprout but it needs a little more sunlight to help it grow. The streetcar could be that sunlight.

    1. A few points. I read that post before I wrote my post and while I appreciate the sentiment I completely disagree.

      Yes of course I weigh something more than other. That is how all decisions are made.

      The problem I have is that you are talking about ONE parcel or redevelopment. I could name 5 surface parking lots on First Hill that would be within 2 blocks of a Boren alignment, each of which has at least double the development potential of that King County site. I agree that development is important but you are losing sight of the orders of magnitude difference.

      1. But Adam, the point of a streetcar is that it helps create opportunities for redevelopment where there are none, and in this regard, 12th needs more help than Boren. Also, it matters what KIND of development this is. Streetcars aren’t used to catalyze large health care oriented office development. They are used to catalyze neighborhood development, and the type of zoning and opportunity is more ripe for this on and around 12th.

        Does this mean that the “promise” to First Hill should be disregarded? Absolutely not. Folks on 12th have simply been asking “Can we meet the transit service needs of First Hill while also meeting community economic development needs in the immediate area?” To me this seems like a reasonable question to ask when spending 120m on a streetcar line. So we are glad to see SDOT study the couplet alignment.

        Also what is important is the speed of this service. If, for example, the Boren alignment takes 20 minutes to ride from Jackson to Capitol Hill because it is stuck in traffic the whole time, and the Broadway N leg of the couplet takes 11 minutes, might people be willing to walk the extra couple of blocks for a quicker ride?

        Also, what about frequency of service? What if the couplet arrived every 5 minutes, wouldn’t that ameliorate some of the “3 block walk” issues?

        These are some of the issues we hope come out of the study, so we can actually look at how the alignments perform when not just ideas on paper…

      2. No, you’re entirely wrong. The purpose of a streetcar is to provide transportation, and the purpose of this streetcar is to provide transportation to LINK, and provide the most beneficial transportation upgrades in the area it passes through. And in those neighborhoods, that most assuredly means connecting with the hospitals so their employees do not have to drive to work.

        Nor does 12th Ave need a development stimulus. There are lots of people who would buy the land and develop it right now, if the current landowners would sell at a reasonable price.

        Detroit is a good example of a city where development needs a lot of artificial respiration. Seattle, not so much.

      3. In the interlocal agreement, ST has provided funding for 10 minute intervals – more frequent would likely require a) more funding and certainly more cars and b) a smooth running system with little room for error/delays.

    2. Couple of problems here.

      First, the county also owns Harborview, and Harborview has more development potential than all the stuff around 12th put together. And the county has a responsibility to keep Harborview financially healthy. A healthy Harborview provides more services for the poor than any amount of public housing in the area ever could.

      Secondly, the streetcar is not being built as an LID. It’s being built to provide transportation. If the landowners around 12th want to form an LID and build a streetcar to encourage TOD, they’re rich enough to do that- and that’s how TOD should be done in an area where land has the highest values in the state.

      Good heavens, people are talking about the area around 12th as though it were some poor depressed area that needed government help to develop. In reality, if that land were put on the market by a willing seller, buildings would be going up the next day. This is not a poor neighborhood and Seattle is not a poor city.

      Honestly, people living in $500,000 houses and complaining they need ‘development help’! Get out of the city once in a while.

      1. I need development help because I rent a $500,000 house but can’t afford to buy a $250,000 house. And I could afford a condo in Darrington, but I work in Seattle and the commute would kill me.

      2. There has been very little significant investment in the southern part of 12th since urban renewal. That is why there are so many vacant lots there.

      3. No, the vacant lots are there because the landowners don’t want to develop them yet. (And incidentally, that wasn’t “urban renewal”, that was land-clearing for the largest landowners in the neighborhood.)

        Sometimes a city or region is so poor that there are vacant lots and shabby buildings because nobody can afford to build new stuff. That used to be a big problem in the CD. All of the new construction, and the prices paid for old houses, show that is no longer a problem.

  30. Your models all assume a flat topography, which is certainly not the case. Models are only good as their assumptions, and this one is pretty faulty (imho). Folks will walk further downhill than they will uphill.

    1. Yes of course, but this map is better the the pervious maps that I have see because it has much more accurate assumptions.

      But lets do a thought exercise. If I did include the hill it would mean that anyone that wants to go to the west of Broadway would have to clime up the hill once with the 12th Ave alignment. If it was on Broadway or Boren that would not be the case. And these are the people the streetcar is indented for.

      So you point actually makes the results worse for the 12th Ave alignment.

      1. If you had a DEM you could make your walkshed buffers based on the path lengths divided by the cosine of the slope angle – I bet it would be about the same, but a fun exercise in using math in GIS. You could get really physicsey and include kinesiology and make your walksheds based on how much energy a pedestrian expends along each path.

  31. this is a good discussion, but is missing a few factors.

    as some have posted, a one-way couplet is not the only way the streetcar could be placed on 12th Avenue. it could run in two directions on 12th Avenue between Denny and Little Saigon and on Denny between 12th and the Capitol Hill station.

    the post is correct about the service flaws of loops and couplets. serial cat mentioned that.

    the overall objective ought to be to get the most First Hill transit mobility for the ST2 buck. ST has a debt to Seattle for dropping the First Hill station. the transit investment should connect IDS, Sounder, and the Broadway station via First Hill. transit mobility is provided via service with frequency, speed, reliability, and span.

    note that the First Hill connector streetcar is only funded at headways of 10 minutes in the peak periods and 15 minutes during the off peak periods. if we are going to spend $50 million a mile on a mode, we should fund more service frequency.

    the alignment is the fun issue. it has drawn much interest.

    the transit routes on the street today will not be the transit routes in 2016. just as routes were changed with south-first Link in southeast Seattle(I hope they are changed some more), they will changed with the opening of the Broadway station. though 12th avenue does not have service today, it could be considered in 2016. for exmaple, suppose Route 27 was shifted to 12th Avenue and became a branch of Route 8 and went to Uptown instead of downtown. its downtown riders could transfer to Link at the Broadway station. but Dubman’s point is also strong; 12th avenue is a good bicycle corridor and transit, whether bus or streetcar would mess it up significantly, given SDOT’s lack of willingness to take away parallel parking.

    SDOT is just begining to figure out the key feasibility issues of the first hill connector. how costly will it be to squeeze it into the alignment along South Jackson Street, 12th Avenue, Boren Avenue, and Broadway that already has trolleybus overhead and turns? note that the alignment within the arterials has been shifting. when the ST study was done, they assumed it would be curbside. SDOT is now saying it will be in the middle of the arterials to avoid the conflict with cyclists. note that if the streetcar is in the center, it will serve different stops than the trolleybuses, so riders will not have the benefit of combined service frequency. there are several key intersections that will be quite difficult to engineer: 5th Avenue South and South Jackson Street; 12th Avenue South and South Jackson Street; and, Broadway and Pine Street. even Broadway and Madison Street may have issues. the two sets of overheads and turning radii will conflict. 5th and Jackson is used by all trolleybuses as a base route. note that the trolleybus routes carry more riders than the streetcar is forecast to carry. let’s let SDOT determine the cost of the streetcar so that Seattle can decide if they want it.

    note that First Hill is steep. in the 1930s (thanks to Ben for the 1941 bus map), the Madison and James corridors had cable cars, as they are too steep for streetcars. Jackson Street had streetcars. the current trolleybus routes 7, 14, and 36 follow former streetcar lines. there was a streetcar extending out Broadway to the U District, as Route 49 does today.

    if Seattle finds that the First Hill connector streetcar is too costly to be feasible for the ST2 funds available, they could obtain much more transit mobility with a electric trolleybus option. some great options were studied in the AWV scenario work. we could treat buses more like streetcars; they could be provided low floors, faster fare collection, in-lane stops, and signal priority.

    a small part of the $120 million in capital could be used for new trolleybus overhead on Yesler Way and 9th Avenue between 3rd Avenue and Jefferson Street. in the short term, that new wire would provide a congestion free path for routes 3 and 4 between First Hill and the 3rd Avenue transit spine and the DSTT stations. after the Broadway Link station opens, Route 49 could be revised to use the new path through First Hill to Pioneer Square (e.g., Broadway, Madison Street, 9th Avenue, Yesler Way, and a Pioneer Square turn around loop). the remaining capital funds and the ST2 service funds could be used to improve the Route 49 service frequency. the Route 49 would be faster and more direct, more frequent (say five-minute headway) and extend to the U District. the trolleybus can climb First Hill; the streetcar must go around it through the topographical saddle point of 12th and Jackson. the post 2016 Route 49 could serve most of the major points at issue with five-minute headway: U District, north Capitol Hill, Broadway station, SU, Swedish, Harborview, Yesler Terrace, Pioneer Square station, and the King Street Station. even WSF riders could walk to it from Colman Dock.

    1. Bravo, Eddiew. Biggest Bang for the Buck should be SDOT/ST/Metro thinking for First Hill. Mixing trolleys and streetcars on same routes is fraught with complications, leading to less than optimal solutions, when lines on the map are treated as the holy grail of transit planning.
      Service levels and overall transit trip experience (trip time, transfers, equipment quality) should trump the discussion – not this or that street, although Adam is spot on when considering the couplet argument for passenger shed.
      In other words, getting between points along either Broadway or 12th to a Link station depends on Origin/Destination pairs, and in the case of Harborview/Terrace is far better served by a trolley route running directly between DSTT and Broadway via Yesler, than a circuitous routing down through International District. Similar trade offs exist all along the Streetcar route.

  32. Ok, I’ve got no dog in this fight but can’t resist weighing in anyway.

    First, I think it’s great that the City gets to decide this rather that a ST board with people from Everett to Tacoma voting on the preferred alternative. That alone was worth the City taking on the risk of increased cost. But given that responsibility I expect the City to actually accomplish this for less money than if ST was the lead.

    The maps Adam presented are interesting. While it’s true in theory that round trip time is what should matter the fact remains that a good number of people have a “walk limit” and if that is exceeded it doesn’t matter what the “average” is they just aren’t going to use it. Push it to the extreme to just understand this line of thought. Lets say you have a nominal 30 minute commute. Option one is 25 minutes on transit and a 5 minute walk at the end each way. OK, that’s acceptable. Now imagine you’ve got a 30 minute commute on transit that drops you off at your door in the morning but after work you’ve got a 15 minute walk in the dark and the rain to get a 15 minute ride the rest of the way home. Not so appealing?

    It’s too bad the couplet has to be so far apart. No other N/S through streets to really choose from. I do like the idea of less impact on any one street by splitting the route. Unfortunately this is a really big split.

    I think the walkshed map also underplays the fact that the route will connect to link at two places. This is a replacement for a Link Station. So both connection points should be weighted equally. An important point but I don’t think it out weighs the negatives (and I really wish it did).

    The big issue to me is that this line must serve the hospitals. I know others disagree and this is a case of we agree to disagree and based on that it’s not surprising we’d come to a different conclusion. To me the hospitals are the number one, two and three priorities. Developers on 12th are paying absolutely zero toward this project which is exactly how much weight they should have in the decision.

  33. Grea discussion.

    I’d like to see a couplet on 12th/Broadway studied further in detail as the benefits to the whole district would be considerable. SDOT should study increased frequency of service to help justify the 12th Ave. portion. Instead of 7.5 to 10 minute headways, increase the service to every 4 minutes or so. Then, a 12th Avenue couplet would not necessarily take away from the quality of service on Broadway. The added ridership and area of influence around 12th would help justify the added costs…maybe 12th avenue property owners would consider a LID to supplement the cost of added trains.

    Here how this would work: Instead of waiting longer for the streetcar at any one point, you would immediately hop on a one way train coming every 4 minutes and transfer to a train going the other direction where the lines kiss. This may make more sense near the edges of the couplet than at the middle. SDOT and thie consultants should study this financially and operationally.

    Lets also not forget the couplet separation is only three short sides of blocks…less than 1000′. It’s not that far to walk if you don’t want to transfer as I described above. I understand Seattle University is considering enhancing the walkability through their campus to help facilitate safer, well lit, more direct and more accessible routes to help facilitate the 12th Avenue line.

    I also understand that major utilities exist on both 12th and Broadway. Careful placement of single track on two streets rather than one may be able to avoid costly replacement of this infrastructure while allowing easier construction sequencing and less long term traffic impact by the system.

    Take a look at the system planned for downtown Los Angeles. It has two couplet options with greater separations than our condition on First Hill:

    Thanks to Adam and everyone for diving into this so deeply. Let’s gather some more facts and then consider if a broader network that serves both streets makes sense.

  34. What the people on 12th should demand and get is a high-quality electric bus shuttle service connecting with the streetcar at the north and south ends.

    This would be quiet and pollution free, and could run on extremely short headways, as the marginal cost of keeping the buses running instead of parking them between runs would be quite small. Installing the electrical vaults for a good bus line would do most of the heavy lifting for providing electricity for any future streetcar upgrade. There would be no rail-in-street issue on 12th, and we can reasonably expect many college students to be riding bicycles to and around the campus.

    The landowners in the neighborhood could fund a large part of an electrical bus system with an LID- if they wanted to. The rest of the region has a reasonable interest in promoting electric buses, but an even greater interest in providing streetcar service to major employers on the hill who are already paying taxes on the development they did.

    Considering Seattle’s current inability to ride bicycles in streets that have rails, a ‘network that serves both streets’ would disenfranchise cyclists on 12th, and 12th is the road you’d most like to use if you’re on a bicycle.

    In any case, it’s time to start taking the streets back from the cars.

    1. Wiring 12th for ETB operation between Main and at least Union if not Pine or John then putting some service along it would seem to be a solution.

      In the city’s urban village transit network 14th and 15th between Jackson and Boston are designated as a transit corridor. South of Union 12th makes much more sense as 14th is a narrow arterial with mostly residential uses between Jackson and Union.

    2. Interesting that this conversation has turned to the topic of who “deserves” this streetcar route and who should pay for the next one. I don’t know the answer to that question, but a couple of factors relevant to Catowner’s comment: The “promise” of the Sound Transit light rail station was a station on Madison with entrances at about Summit on the West and Boylston on the east. Not exactly front-door service to all of the hospitals which, somehow, has been represented recently as the basis for some kind of entitlement. This location would have been handy for most of Swedish, but there was no promise by Sound Transit of some new way, beyond the existing bus routes, to carry riders from Harborview or VM to the light rail station.

      That this streetcar is “free” (not requiring a LID, as in the case of SLU) is probably not a small matter to those whose property would be next to the line. That a streetcar providing new transit connection to the hospitals will relieve them of the obligation to pay for the existing connections they currently fund is not a small matter. And, as for the “major employers on the hill who are already paying taxes on the development they did” it should be noted that most of the major employers cited in this discussion are non-profit corporations exempt from property tax.

      1. It would be interesting to know just what the hospitals and clinics are paying in the way of taxes. The Polyclinic, for example, is obviously a for-profit business, and Swedish and Virginia Mason are basically factories of health. Years ago the doctors owned the hospitals, which were incorporated as non-profits and served as tax-shelters for the doctors. That ended by the early 80s with Medicare regulation. The doctors sold their shares to the hospitals (which became independent businesses) and formed practices that lease space and services from the hospitals.

        On reflection I’m inclined to think the hospitals may be non-profits in terms of income taxation, but still liable for land and business taxation by the state and county. If they’re not paying land taxes, that should be changed.

  35. My concern with the 12th ave option is that it could hinder emergency vehicle response times. Both Broadway and 12th ave are heavily used North and South arterial routes by emergency responder vehicles. The East Precinct Police department and the East Pine Fire Station off of 13th ave make heavy use of the 12th ave corridor.

  36. There are many reasons to run down 12th, my favorite is that the first hill street car would hardly be on first hill, but I think that your graphs are a little deceiving. I suspect that people north of Pike would not mind rounding the north corner on the street car and heading the other direction. Obviously this would add a few minutes to their trip, but it would substantially widen your walking shed at Pine for the 12th ave alignment.

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