The Stranger and Capitol Hill Seattle are reporting that all three of the alternatives will include a one-way couplet on Broadway and 11th Ave roughly between Madison and Denny.

The 11th Avenue segment would be:

* Northbound from Madison to Denny with the Two-Way Broadway option;

* Northbound from Union to Denny with the Boren option;

* Southbound from Denny to Union with the Broadway-12th couplet option.

I have a call into SDOT asking about the reason for the couplet as well as how it will affect travel time and if this means that the streetcar might enjoy some level of exclusive right-of-way. Later today I should be receiving detailed maps of the different alternatives so look for an update sometime later today.

UPDATE: Ethan Melone just got back to me. His response to my questions are below. I also just received maps and images for tomorrow meetings and I’m in the process of uploading them.

Q: Are the alignments the same besides the 11th Ave segment?

A: Yes, the alignments are otherwise the same south of Union or Madison street.

Q: Why 11th?

A: 10th does not continue through to the light rail station, because of Cal Anderson Park and Bobby Morris Playfield. 11th provides an opportunity to loop around the park to the terminus station. This loop has several advantages including:

  • simplest and most efficient turnback option for streetcar service;
  • easier to avoid bike conflicts with tracks in only one direction on Broadway between Madison and Denny (see proposed roadway section on forthcoming drawings);
  • improved reliability with only one direction of travel impacted by traffic congestion in this section of Broadway;
  • reduced construction impacts;
  • fewer utility conflicts.

Q: Does this mean there will be any exclusive ROW?

A: We do not see this as exclusive right-of-way from Denny to Union. It might be exclusive from Madison to Union or possibly Madison to Pike.

Q: How will this affect travel time?

A: The travel time is estimated to be the same as, if not shorter than, two-way on Broadway in this segment. We have not taken into account yet the travel time savings that might be possible if we provide signal priority at 11th & Pine and 11th & Pike (the latter would be a new signal).

45 Replies to “First Hill Streetcar: 11th Ave Couplet”

  1. ‘Twould sure be nice if the streetcar went all the way to Aloha – even if the City has to add some $ to the pot. This would make it useful to the entire Broadway neighbourhood. not just the areas south of Capital Hill Sta.

    1. I too am concerned about the lack of an Aloha extension. North Broadway businesses will suffer if the streetcar does not go farther north.

  2. Broadway and 11th, north of Madison, aren’t on a steep incline. 11th and Denny are a significantly calmer street than Broadway, and this alignment is less political than a 12th Ave one would be. We’ll have to see what SDOT’s reasoning for the 11th Ave option is before making a solid conclusion.

    1. I don’t think this is an alternatives to 12th Ave… I think it keeps all of the alternatives a possibility.

      I’m really interested in the back story and why SDOT is looking at this. It is utilities? Does SDOT want to get the streetcar out of mixed traffic or is it the opposite and they are worried that the streetcar will slow down cars too much?

      I too don’t know what to think until I see more information.

      1. Broadway has a watermain on the east side of the street to Madison, just as 12th has a watermain under the east side, both flowing from the reservoir I believe. I think that the jog north on 11th is in large part due to this conflict – having to move a watermain to allow tracks on top of it is really expensive. Plus, I would imagine they are trying to avoid removing parking ojn one side of Bway north of Madison, as you head into the Broadway biz district.

        Just a reminder that the streetcar is only funded to Link. Cap Hill has always wanted the extension to Aloha, but as of now, there is no funding for this.

      2. They don’t actually have to remove parking–the street is wide enough to have parking on both sides, bike lanes, and one shared car/streetcar lane in each direction with center platforms. The watermain is a tricky problem–I didn’t know there was one under Broadway as well as 12th. I think they just need to deal with it. It may be costly, but all these turns and loops are just going to depress ridership. As for extending to Aloha, I think those of us who live in North Capitol Hill should think about a Local Improvement District to fund it.

      3. The water main argument doesn’t add up. SDOT is proposing going south on broadway and north on 11th for two options and north on broadway and south on 11th for the other option. The very fact that they are considering going in different directions on different alignments seems to me pretty compelling proof that the could in fact go both ways if they wanted to.

      4. Please, can somebody explain to me why a street car at say 5 tons disrupts/endangers water mains and yet trucks weighing as much as 26,000 (GVW) travel up and down b’way every day, nose to ass in the early morning? Are the tracks really all that deep?
        (And while we’re making Santa lists, can we get a map of roads we CAN’T consider for alignments due to “utilities” or grades or corners? )

      5. It’s not the weight. Many of the water mains are steel, and there is concern about stray current from the streetcar line making its way to the pipe and corroding it. Some of these water mains date back to 1909.

        The other issue is that if you run tracks directly above a water line and the water line has to get maintained or replaced…you have to cut the tracks in order to do so.

        Finally, it’s not that you *can’t* use these roads – you just drive up the construction cost when you have to move the water main.

    2. One motivation might be to create a stop along the north side of Denny for direct transfers to Link. This worries me a bit as a cyclist. I would prefer to keep the tracks away from the curb and instead use a center of the Broadway platform with a signaled crosswalk.

  3. Perhaps SDOT wants to keep the tracks off of the large water main under 12th.

    Problem with the east-west connection on Denny Way, however — it would only become operational when ST is finished constructing the Capitol Hill Station and reopens the street to traffic.

    1. Hmm yeah that is a complicating factor because Denny goes right through the construction zone and will be used to removing tunnel debris.

    2. And it also could intefere with as-yet-undetermined plans for what to do with Denny between Nagel and Broadway after Link construction is done. There was some interest in closing this segment of Denny off to vehicular traffic to make the station area more pedestrian friendly.

      1. I think that is a great idea! Denny has too many cars due to the confusing crossing farther west with Olive Way. Cars come up from Denny and think they should continue on Denny rather than turning onto Olive Way, a true arterial. Closing off Denny and making a pedestrian area around the station entrance would be awesome, and is one reason this loop is a bad idea.

    3. This is not actually a problem, as the city has said the Streetcar will only go to Pike/Pine until the station construction is finished. So the 2013 opening date isn’t for the whole line.

      1. Yes, this is the plan, but wait, how will it turn around? Will they build a temporary track on pine street for two blocks and then tear it up three years later?

  4. The more I look at the First Hill streetcar in the context of the transit network at large, the more I think going straight up Broadway from Boren makes the most sense. The line will work the best when turns are minimized and Broadway splits the difference between Boren and 12th.

    Some challenges are the generally slow traffic on Broadway, especially North of Union, the Boren Hill between 12th and Broadway, and any major utilities that can’t easily be relocated.

    1. Two-way on Broadway to Roy St/Aloha St. terminal makes the most sense. One way couplets are bad news to transit riders unless the streets are only one block apart, level, and of similar development patterns. 11th doesn’t qualify.

      1. I’m not sure about this, but presumably the water mains on broadway connect to the resevoir in Cal Anderson, am I right? So it shouldn’t be such a problem farther north on broadway.

    2. However, the $134Million from the regional Transit authority is for a link from/to First Hill to both Cap Hill and King St stations. Not for any local transit network : i.e. ride time from Denny down to Jackson isn’t as important as making sure “Major employment centers on First Hill” are connected to light rail (quoting the Interlocal Agreement between city and ST).
      This isn’t cap hill’s streetcar, nor is it entirely Seattle’s: it seems to really be a ST streetcar and Seattle’s being allowed to build it. Citizens in Everett and Tacoma should be able to get to, say, the Sorrento or the Frye, with one transfer and some walking.
      Ideally, we want it to be all things and not intrude on existing things (bike routes, car arterials, ped crossings)… but obviously the budget will break and so will decent ridership if we fail to find a happy medium.
      First hill has the best potential for growth, too: there are several surface parking lots on Terry, and the area is zoned HR / MIO 160 / MIO 240 and 300. For contrast, the 12th/11th alignment has 40-65′ zoning, with Single Family Housing and TWO separate baseball/soccer fields. (And to the folks trying to slide the definition of First Hill to fit their aims: please leave that skeevy/sly tactic to the pros i.e. realtors. Activists for FH fought long & hard to estalish the borders: Broadway is the Eastern border of FH, and B’way is also the Western border of the 12th Avenue Neighborhood/urban Village) – 12th Ave isn’t within First Hill, and the vast majority of SU isn’t either.
      I’d like to see a streetcar on 12th, or even Broadway, but I don’t think for a second that’s what this money is for, and the documents would appear to back me up. Let’s get the (7K?) thousands of people on the dense Pill Hill served, and then worry about what 12th needs.

  5. Cannot someone find the money to make sure that the proposed streetcar serves the present and growing Broadway population north of John & Olive. Walk our stretch of Broadway and see the new construction. Don’t build a line without the natural terminus at Roy/Aloha.

    1. We probably all agree that that’s a good idea, there just isn’t money for it. Hopefully they can get some money from the feds and some from other sources, like an LID, and get it extended up there real quick.

      1. The Boren/madison alignments, all of them add nearly as much running time and trackwork (i.e. expense) as an extension to Aloha. It is simply not possible to say there is money for a convoluted loop through first hill but not for an extension to Aloha. It’s not a matter of money; it’s a matter of priorities.

        Please, everyone who cares about the aloha extension, don’t just post your comments here. Go to the meetings this week or send a letter to SDOT. The blogosphere doesn’t make these decisions, SDOT does.

      2. Unless the ridership numbers for the alignments that swing over toward the middle of First Hill are really that much better than Broadway I’d say keep the streetcar on Broadway. It still provides service to the same area the Link station would have and is a short walk from most of First Hill. It is a more direct route that hopefully is faster than any of the “Boren” alignments.

      3. Yes, folks should keep in mind that the original planned First Hill Link station was at Madison & Broadway… NOT over next to most of the hospitals.

      4. Actually to be more accurate Madison and Boylston Ave which just happens to be served best by the Boren (two-way Boylston Ave option) or the Broadway alignment. And last time I check that is *right* next to the northern ends of Swedish and SU which is the natural desire lines for pedestrians to the station.

        From that location it is a 1 minute walk to a northbound and southbound station with the Boren Boylston Ave option and I 1 minute to northbound and southbound stops in the Broadway alternative.

        The closest northbound station with 12th Ave option is 1 minute walk but the southbound station is 6 minute walk (12th and Marion) or 7 minute (11th and Pike) not taking the hill into account. This effectively makes it pointless to use for anyone traveling from Capitol Hill station to anywhere west of Broadway, ie First Hill

        And this is exactly what I don’t think 12th Ave proponents get. The 12th Ave couplet simply doesn’t work well for anyone besides SU student.

      5. Look at this First Hill Station Area Overlay District Boundaries map.

        Adam is correct, the planned light rail station was sited at Madison and Boylston Ave. This is where three of our Urban Villages intersect. Take a look at those station area boundaries. As much of it lies within each of the Pike/Pine and the 12th Avenue Urban Villages as within the First Hill UV.

        As for “serving hospitals,” the planned Link light rail station was located near Swedish Hospital, but wouldn’t have served Harborview Hospital at all. And Virginia Mason? From its front door to Madison and Boyston Ave is a walk of nearly half a mile (using Manhattan blocks!).

        In your view, Adam, would the original First Hill Link station not have been effectively pointless for a good chunk of First Hill hospital workers?

      6. Well the planned Link station would have been nearly under Swedish. But a Broadway alignment for the streetcar puts it right on Swedish’s front door too.

        Probably the biggest reason to swing a little West is all of the apartment buildings between Madison and Pine on First Hill. That spike in residential density would feed a lot of riders to the streetcar.

      7. @Tri

        First off please understand this map in for ZONING purposes and doesn’t imply where and where not should be served. People keep on telling me to look at that map without realizing what it actually is for. Note that VM is right on the fringe of the overlay zone just as much as 12th Ave is.

        But just FYI I haven’t ever said that it should serve Harbor View or Virginia Mason. If they are served while still serving SU then all the better.

        Although I can’t find the documents I also believe that Sound Transit looked at stations that were more centrally located but went with the Madison/Boylston location because it was the cheapest and lowest risk, not because it best served First Hill. That is something to keep in mind.

      8. Thank you for pointing that out, as I’d meant to long ago: not everyone agreed that the Summit/Boylston station was such a great idea.

        In voting for transit, I’m among those that look at growth potential and at number of cars we might get off the road (initial ridership be damned): First Hill fars exceeds 12th Ave by several orders of magnitude in these regards- mostly thanks to intelligent zoning and height/density potential. Also of note: check the census numbers on commute times and compare the 12th Ave UV to the First Hill UV. 12th is already better served, public transit travel time -wise, than First Hill. And that’s only in regards to those that live there, not those that commute TO 1st Hill. Throw the 240’+ zoned ‘hood a bone, guys.
        I’ll go on record saying Harborview should get some “within 5 blocks” access, as should the event centers & cathedrals, the private schools, the Frye museum, the blood center, the several tall Hotels and Virginia Mason. We must connect “major employment centers of First Hill” is the language of the law.

      9. They probably add a total of .1 or .2 miles to the overall route while the Aloha extension is a half-mile. It’s really simple, they don’t have the extra $30m for the Aloha extension.

  6. one way couplets and backtracking/zigzaging transit routes irritate me. why does every proposed streetcar have to include at least one of these?

  7. I posted the following comment on capitolhillseattle.com on this topic and I am reposting it here for this group’s consideration:

    What is it that transit planners in this town have against going straight?

    Seriously, twists, turns, corners, couplets. What’s wrong with a simple, straight, direct route? Here is a list of my concerns about 11th Ave in no particular order:

    1.) Every extra corner requires you to slow down the 5-ton streetcar, turn 90 degrees and accelerate again. This 11th Ave loop ads 4 unnecessary turns to the streetcar and that increases travel times.

    2.) Taking half the streetcar off of broadway makes the entire system harder to understand. Riders have to get on for the return trip at a different place from where they got off and separating the tracks undermines the visual cue that the tracks provide as to where the streetcar is going. This may sound insignificant for the experienced rider, but it will make the difference for a casual rider. The main point of streetcars over buses is that they attract NEW riders, i.e. people who aren’t used to riding the bus and aren’t used to the convoluted spiderweb of King County Metro. People need to feel comfortable in order to try a new thing, and every regular rider has to start as a first time rider. Make it confusing and a fair number of people will never try.

    3.) Has anyone seriously thought about having a 5-ton streetcar traveling down 11th ave between pine and denny, or on denny between 11th and broadway? These are residential streets. Given how quiet streetcars are, you are just asking for an accident. Keep in mind the sun sets at 4:30 in the winter. That’s 8 hours of a 5-ton nearly silent streetcar traveling at 30 mph down a completely dark residential street. Of course they won’t actually run it at 30 mph because it would be impossibly dangerous to do so, thus adding more travel time.

    4.) Activity follows the streetcar. Taking the streetcar off of Broadway, even 1/2 off Broadway undermines its ability to focus Broadway as a “main street” and center of activity.

    5.) This loop, in adding travel time and additional turns militates against extending the streetcar to Aloha St, a long time priority for Capitol Hill. Note: I am aware that Ethan has stated that a northern extension is still possible, but I did not say this alignment makes a northbound extension impossible, just less likely. I am not convinced that SDOT has made Aloha a priority in their planning, only an afterthought.

    6.) The final planning for TOD is nowhere near complete. One of the suggestions that came up in the design charrette was closing denny between 10th and Broadway entirely to vehicle traffic. Placing the streetcar on this street may conflict with as yet finished open space plans. It is unwise to close off our options before we’ve thought it through. Note: some have said we could still make denny pedestrian and transit only, but putting a streetcar here still limits our choices. It is better to keep our options open.

    7.) Adam Parast has written a piece on the Seattle Transit Blog arguing against the 12th ave loop on the grounds that separating the northbound and southbound stops by 3 blocks decreases the effective pedestrian shed of the streetcar. His article is available here: https://seattletransitblog.com/2009/12/09/12th-ave-streetcar-a-bad-idea/

    While I take issue with certain parts of his analysis, particularly his assessment of development capacity along the two routes, his point about splitting the line is spot on. The same argument applies to 11th ave, except that unlike 12th, 11th is not a street we are TRYING to bring activity to.

    1. I think this is the kind of public comment that the city needs to hear. I think SDOT shouldn’t just choose the 11th Ave loop out of convenience.

      1. Ever since this streetcar was first proposed, I’ve failed to understand how anyone could spend significant time on and around Broadway and think that a two-way streetcar should run down there. Traffic congestion is already a concern there, so why would you add transit right into the middle of that congestion?

        The best remedy, transit-only or BAT lanes, does not function well with the existing businesses. Some already have parking concerns, which may or may not be a concern for us transit advocates. More importantly, however, is the difficulty in making deliveries to those businesses. Without significant side street or alley access — as some other business districts have — there is already a regular use of the center turn lane for parking delivery trucks for long lengths of time in order to facilitate business activity.

        There is simply too much currently going on in this street without making it worse. This proposal for the north end makes sense, and should allow us to push for a transit-only lane for streetcar and buses through the corridor.

  8. If the Aloha St. terminal is truly unaffordable, a compromise could be Mercer St., one block short of Roy St., which is the north end of the retail business district. A simple Y terminus could be constructed in the middle of the first block of Mercer west of Broadway (probably best to vacate that block of Mercer, or at least close it to through traffic). Streetcars turn left into the terminus, discharge their riders, pick up new riders, and depart with a right turn into Broadway. The cars are double-ended so no need to go around the block.

    1. But they just don’t have money to take it north of the Link station, there’s nothing to compromise. I have no doubt that they will get funding at some point in the near future though.

  9. I didn’t make it to tonight’s meeting, but I don’t get this 11th Ave. concept at all. The streetcar needs to go all the way to Aloha, which was promised a station in the original 1996 Sound Transit plan. (Turning back is easier there too.) The elegant solution here is to tie all three of the original station areas to the one station Capitol Hill / First Hill ends up with.

    There’s going to be a rail station entrance on the west side of Broadway. Running the streetcars straight up Broadway is just fine. Circling around the park (how is this better for transfers exactly?) adds about 1300 feet of track which is enough to extend the line to halfway between Republican and Mercer if it went straight up Broadway!

    Going straight up Broadway may require moving a couple of pipes, but big deal. And I’m a frequent bicyclist, but I’m pretty happy either contending with either some tracks on Broadway or moving to one of the parallel side streets.

    1. I just realized I double counted the track above. Anyway, the circle around the park adds length and I have yet to see value added. No reason to turn back there if the line extends to Aloha.

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