Seattle Central Community College last night hosted SDOT’s initial First Hill Streetcar open house event to solicit feedback from the community on the proposed alignments.
Since comments were written down privately, it’s hard to gauge an overall reaction from the community but the takeaway is that Capitol Hill is very interested in its streetcar.
The City had staff on hand to (attempt to) answer questions. Almost all of what was shown we saw earlier this week, but the material was new to most in attendance.
More after the jump…
The event focused mostly on the Broadway section of the streetcar that has been subject to the most debate online. To recap, the three main alignments in contention for Broadway are (illustrated by Ananda La Vita at The Stranger):
This blog has editorialized against the 12th Ave-Broadway couplet in the past and the alignment hasn’t changed enough to justify a serious look. (Broadway is still much more elevated than 12th Ave, and Seattle University still feels like private property than a public walkway.) Seattle University and some community members are pushing strongly for the alignment given 12th’s commercial development potential and a desire for transit service along the street. The conversation has indeed illustrated there is a palpable demand for transit service and perhaps SDOT should look into working with Metro to route the 9 and 60 buses along 12th once the streetcar opens. Not many folks who attended the open house seemed to vocalize support for the 12th Ave alignment, but the written comments may have reflected a different reality than I witnessed.
The Boren and Boylston jogs have travel times a handful of minutes larger than either the 12th Ave couplet or Broadway alignments. To reach the desired 10 minute peak headway, Ethan Malone of SDOT told meeting-goers last night, these longer travel times could lead to increased operating costs compared to other alignments. I personally feel they don’t serve Seattle University as well as the Two-way Broadway alignment and I didn’t hear anyone sing the praises of those options.
The Two-way Broadway alignment is the most reasonable to this writer. The last minute addition of an 11th Ave couplet was a surprise to even those of us following the process closely, but it clearly throws a bone to the 12th Ave alignment fans. Ethan Malone explained to me that a potential stop near Madison & 11th would serve local businesses on 12th and the northeast edge of Seattle University. He also explained that ditching the 11th ave couplet would still require some sort of loop for the streetcar to turn around, since a tail section could lead to capacity problems.
But that 11th Ave couplet seemed to draw the loudest fire from a small group of community members who attended the open house. They argued, incorrectly I later discovered, that dozens of parking spots would be removed from around Cal Anderson park. Some others worried about a train every ten minutes circumscribing that park would make the area less serene and pleasant. Some worried about damaging the character of a residential streets with a streetcar. Some folks had trouble understanding the big differences between light rail and a streetcar.
To the common concern that a streetcar will ring its bells too frequently, one astute community member remarked, “It’s not like buses honk their horns every time they stop.” Nor would a streetcar, which wouldn’t chime its bells at every stop. I hate to callously summarize real concerns of my neighbors, but these concerns struck me as the typical overwrought worrying you hear with any transit project. Some folks simply expect transit to run exclusively through commercial areas and many others won’t realize how well streetcars work on residential corridors until the tracks are laid. Until then, transit advocates can point to the successful residential sections of the Portland Streetcar.
There are two additional streetcar open houses being held tonight and tomorrow night.