As reported last week SDOT has recommended, and the council and Mayor seam to agree, that building the streetcar entirely on Broadway is the best solution. The next major decision that must be made is the street configuration. Currently the city is looking at three alternatives.
- 4-Lane: two travel lanes in each direction, shared outside lanes with bicyclist, 1 parking lane
- 3-Lane: one travel lane in each direction, center turn lane, bike lanes in each direction, 1 parking lane
- 2-Lane: one travel lane in each direction, bi-directional cycle track, 2 parking lanes
Its good to see the city looking at a broad range of alternatives, especially the last one. The first one treats Broadway like an arterial, essentially as a means to get people somewhere else fast. I assume this alternative is still being looked at as a base alternative because at first blush it would speed up the streetcar. However I’m not convinced this would occur because there is no dedicated left turn lane, and cars will be able to pass the streetcar and then queue in front of it at signals. This could cause situations in which cars that want to make a left turn will pass the streetcar using the right lane and then cut back over. Since no protect left turn phase will be provided these car will have to wait for through traffic and pedestrians to clear the intersection. This waiting will certainly slow down the streetcar.
The second alternative is most similar to the current configuration although it removes parking on one side of this street. It treats bicyclist better however the major emphasis is still on moving through the space. I’d also be a bit worried of people parking on a bike lane, possibly blocking the streetcar, because there won’t be parking on one side of that street.
The final alternative created by the Capitol Hill Community Council envisions a different type of street, one that prioritizes what the community wants, good bicycle facilities and on-street parking. Its good that these interests have been aligned because it creates an alternative that re-defines the purpose of Broadway in a very welcome way. I would hazard a guess that with left turn lanes at specific locations and turn restrictions at other locations the streetcar would probably experience minimal increase in travel time over other alternatives. Traffic modeling that will better flesh this out will be done in June.
A few notes. As Michael Snyder at SeattleLikesBikes points out the, cycletracks are more complex than bike lanes, and all the details need to be figured out for them to work well, especially with a bi-directional cycletrack. Cycletracks on both sides of the street are certainly better but also take up more room, which is why SDOT is looking at the bi-directional design. All this absolutely does not mean that cycletracks aren’t a good solution, they just need to be built where they make sense and thoroughly designed.