Update @ 5:20pm: Slog is hosting the letter that the Mayor sent to the City Council.

The Mayor’s office just sent out a press release announcing that he is asking the City Council to approve the two-way Broadway alignment. This is the recommendation made by SDOT. This isn’t a surprise but what caught my eye were a few details that I have bolded.

… There are many advantages to the recommended route. The Broadway/Jackson route is estimated to cost approximately $125 million, comfortably within the maximum Sound Transit funding limit of $132.8 million, and will provide an efficient and accessible new transit option.  The route also presents opportunities to rethink the Broadway streetscape in ways that support walking, biking and riding transit. In the Chinatown/International District, the Jackson Street route and the Pioneer Square loop integrate well with other transit and connect First Hill and Capitol Hill to this historic district and the adjacent stadium district.

The mayor is committed to developing plans to address the key transit issues that stakeholders identified throughout this process, including:

  • Improving transit access to the Boren/Madison area, through measures such as speed and reliability improvements to existing Metro routes;
  • Developing alternatives that provide north-south transit service in the 12th Avenue corridor; and
  • Extending the First Hill Streetcar to the north end of Broadway, to support the economic revitalization of Broadway and improve neighborhood access to the Capitol Hill light rail station.

All of this bodes well, although certainly doesn’t ensure anything.

67 Replies to “Second to Last Step for First Hill Streetcar Alignment”

  1. well it’s nice to know that he’s aware of the issues and discussions around this project. A bus route on 12th would be awesome.

    1. It is incredible to think that 12th Avenue has zero bus service when it is a designated Urban Center with a lot of growth happening now and in the near future. The Mayor really gets that these dense neighborhoods need more and better transit, whether in the form of a streetcar or buses.

      1. But that’s not true. The places where it’s growing are crossed by bus lines – at John, Pike/Pine, Madison, Jackson, and others. Those cover the new growth, and almost all the transit demand is to downtown, not along 12th.

        That talking point is totally bogus.

      2. Sorry, I should have said “north-south” service. The talking point is not bogus, though. I have talked to lots of people in that neighborhood and they consistently complain that all they have is downtown service. This is an issue all over the city. Residents of Capitol Hill had to fight to get the number 8 years ago. The 44 is a major route for so many people precisely because there is too much focus on downtown and not enough crosstown service connecting dense neighborhoods. Not all the jobs are downtown, and why should transit only serve jobs anyway? Wouldn’t it be nice if people could use transit to serve their day-to-day shopping and recreation activities? People on 12th want to take transit to north Broadway, or all the way to the U District, or south to Rainier and Mt Baker, not just downtown!

      3. It’s not growing because there’s no N-S bus service on 12th. Bus riders avoid moving there, while car drivers like it because of the relatively wide street, less congestion, and easier parking compared to other streets.

    2. Where should the bus route go North/South of 12th? What destinations need to be served better?

      1. Take the 49 and 9, for example. If they were moved to 12th and the 9 was increased in frequency and turned into a local bus, people on 12th could go to the U District, Broadway, Central District, connect to the Rainier East Link Station, Mt Baker station, all the way down to Columbia City. Plus it would give people in SE Seattle a way to get to 12th. The bottom line is we shouldn’t just have a transit system that is a bunch of spokes coming out from downtown. We need the crosstown connections as well if we want people to actually give up their cars. People don’t spend their whole lives going downtown and back, they want to actually visit other neighborhoods.

      2. I completely agree. I think it is really exciting to see the possible changes to bus routes that LINK will allow… if there is enough will within Metro to changing it significantly. Good ideas.

  2. So the maximum cost of the First Hill Streetcar will be $125m? Does this include the contingency? Do we know if Stacy & Witbeck have been hired again? So if all goes well (in a perfect world) and they get this entire project completed without using the contingency, do we know how much money will be in the pot to be used to extend th streetcar to Aloha? I mean, if they only use $112m of the alloted $132m and since it is estimated to cost $20m to get to Aloha, will they go ahead and build it after the line is complete to John?

    1. I think all of that depends on the contract language and how SDOT rates project offers.

    2. I don’t think we can count on Sound Transit using savings from this project to fund the entire Aloha extension because they are facing a funding shortfall just like Metro. They will want to use cost savings on other projects like North Link. However, if Sound Transit were willing to spend a small amount of the cost savings on the design work for the extension (around $750,000), it would make the extension eligible for full federal funding. The new Portland Streetcar loop recently got $75 million in federal money, so we could definitely get some funding if we get the project shovel-ready.

      1. From my understanding if the SDOT can deliver the project under budget it gets to keep the money. Or else what incentive does SDOT have to deliver the project under budget?

      2. Wrong, Sound Transit keeps the money as per the interlocal agreement. The incentive is that if the project went over budget due to unforeseen circumstances, the city would have to cover the overruns. The city will not allow that to happen so they have a healthy cushion.

    3. So a dead end at Aloha or a turn to the East and head to 24th? Seems a dense enough neighborhood vs continuing North on 10th.

      1. I would love to see a line east on Aloha to 24th, then south to Madison/Union/Cherry/Jackson (depending on funding) considered. If you could get all the way to Jackson, then run down the hill to 14th and meet the track there…wow.

      2. Wouldn’t it be better to head north to the U. District so Metro can redeploy the 49?

      3. I think it’d be a lot better to get that going up to the U District and have a separate line alll the way along the 48 south of the U.

      4. Aloha’s grades and road geometry are not what you’d call streetcar-friendly east of 12th Ave.

        FWIW, Metro 43 (and 44) were once streetcar lines… Streetcars crossed the Montlake Bridge. and climbed up and down the grade on 23rd/24th Avenues to Capitol Hill.

        Some years down the line, after the Aloha extension of the streetcar we are building on Broadway, I could see a case for extending the Broadway streetcar up to the U District, and the SLUT to the U District, both across the University Bridge.

        In the likely event that the 49 sticks around as a trolley route from the U District, I would consider routing that down 12th Ave., at least to Jackson St.

      5. That’s an interesting idea for the 49 and one well worth considering once the light rail opens to downtown. Unfortunately for the other ideas Aloha and 23rd are too steep for modern streetcars to operate efficiently. Those are still better reserved for trolleybus service. I’m not sure about 10th farther north but it is probably also too steep.

      6. I’m pretty sure 10th is less than 9% (the limit for the SLUT type cars) and may even be less than 6% (ST’s limit for Link).

      7. Turning east on Aloha to 24th is not possible for a streetcar due to a number of very steep slopes.

      8. Hey Tony do you know how much ad revenue comes from each streetcar and station? If there was an extra 2 stations and one more streetcar what kind of money is that? Also any idea of how this will affect ridership? On and one last question. With a 5th streetcar would this allow SDOT to operate sub 10 minute headway service? Possibly 7 minute headway service? I think this is something important to look at because it gives flexibility in the future to improve service quality but if a new vehicle has to be purchased on its own it is unlikely to be affordable for a single order.

      9. We would love to have under-10-minute headways and have communicated that, but SDOT is very concerned about operating expenses. Sound Transit is giving the streetcar a $5 million per year operating subsidy in perpetuity, but adding the extension with the 5th vehicle might put operating costs above that subsidy. Increasing frequency would add even more cost. I would like to see the city think about shifting Metro hours to help operate the streetcar. They did that with the South Lake Union streetcar, using hours freed up by light-rail-induced reroutes. When the streetcar opens in First Hill, and again when light rail opens, many routes could be shifted and some service hours could be used to increase frequency on the streetcar. As far as ad revenue goes, right now they are not planning on doing any of that because they have that operating subsidy. I think they should be doing SLUT-style sponsorships to generate additional operating revenue for the extension.

    4. There’s also the additional operating costs for the Aloha extension to consider. SDOT said that to meet Sound Transit’s mandated 10 minute headways they would need to purchase another streetcar if the line is extended to Aloha. Maybe with aggressive signal priority and other tactics it wouldn’t be necessary, but based on how the SLUT is operated I wouldn’t count on that happening.

      1. Extending to Aloha will require adding a 5th vehicle to the cycle. The cost of an additional vehicle as well as the operating costs are being factored in to the project cost for the extension.

  3. I am very pleased by the mayor’s recommendation, especially the way he wants the whole system to improve, not just one element. The reason this alignment decision has been such a battle between neighborhoods is that all of want more transit, and the streetcar was a way to try to get that improved service. It makes sense to run the streetcar down Broadway, but it also makes sense as the mayor indicated to rethink the way transit works in these neighborhoods. First Hill could use more frequency and later hours for the buses linking it to downtown, and 12th needs some good bus service, period.

    There is a big opportunity for the city and Metro to work together to find solutions that benefit all the neighborhoods. What if we built some bus bulbs and transit lanes on Madison to improve the 12? What if the 9 bus was rerouted to 12th and made into an all-day local bus in addition to the express service we already have? This would give 12th Avenue north-south service and would also benefit the Central District and SE Seattle along Rainier. If they decided someday in the future to convert that 9 into a streetcar, I wouldn’t complain either;)

    Anyway, there are definitely things the mayor and the city can do to improve transit to all these neighborhoods so that the streetcar and bus systems work together, not at cross-purposes. The mayor seems to understand this, and hopefully the City Council, Metro, and Sound Transit understand this as well.

    1. Completely agree. It would be really nice to see some work to improve the speed and performance of the 10,11,12,14,43,49,etc through this area, although maybe it is best to first look and now and see how cap hill station will change bus service in the near future and start to implement changes that will be important regardless of a bus system redesign.

      1. We in Capitol Hill and the other neighborhoods around here will surely have a lot to say about this as the Transit Master Plan is developed.

  4. Sounds good to me! I am delighted that the Council and Mayor are headed to an agreement on this one. I couldn’t agree more with the Mayor’s priorities here.

    I agree the north end of Broadway merits an extension, which in the big scheme of things will not really cost that much.

    We can surely do something to improve the bus connections (e.g. route 2) heading up the hill, and perhaps offer some kind of hill climb assist for pedestrians.

    Trolley bus service would be a good addition to 12th Ave. that doesn’t jeopardize its utility as a bike connection. Trolley buses are all we have today on Broadway, on 45th in Wallingford, on Market Street in Ballard, etc. Sure beats having no service at all along 12th Ave.

    1. Really, the 3/4 are the problem children going up the hill. The 2 doesn’t have nearly as many issues. All of them could use more frequent service, particularly at peak when many are SRO – but if we could improve timeliness through bus bulbs and other improvements, that’s a big win as well.

      Also thrilled to see Mike recognizing 12th needs service. Now we just have to figure out what that service is (the 9 would be great if more frequent than its current iteration) and how to pay for it.

      1. Adding 2 runs in the 7am and 5pm hour would improve the 2, adding a couple of runs between 7am and 9am and 5pm and 7pm on both the 3/4 would boost those routes.

        Crowding in the peak hour heavily discourages use on those routes, and they can’t use artics (even diesel) because of the turning radius in the Madrona loop.

        But I think my suggestions would work immensely.

      2. You can’t just add “2 runs” here and there. What does that bus do for the rest of the day, then?

      3. I dunno, but I know it reduces my chances of having my back coated in vomit because someone got motionsickness from an overcrowded bus.

      4. What you can do is improve speed of service so you better use your existing resources and thus can increase service frequency is enough time can be saved.

  5. I wonder how this would affect the 49, I assume streetcar and trolley wires can’t really co-exist?

    1. they can … but it can get quite complicated as the pantograph for a streetcar is quite wide … and you don’t want things shorting out

      1. Yes, but there is no complicated switches between the 70 and SLUT. In the other hand, there will be major conflicts (ie. trolley switches) between bus trolley wire and First Hill streetcar wire at several locations: Broadway and Pine, Broadway and Madison, Broadway and Jefferson, 12th and Jackson, and biggie of them all, 5th and Jackson. Why 5th and Jackson, it is the only way in and out of Atlantic Base (Bus trolley base). I call it the Achilles Heel of the bus trolley system. If we had $$$ around, I would abandon the bus trolley wire on Broadway and move it to 12th Avenue instead. For Jackson, the streetcar should have operated on King St instead of Jackson St.

    2. On Market in San Francisco they solved that problem by having the streetcars use trolley poles instead of pantographs on one of the two bus trolley wires.

  6. I’m sorry, but I’m afraid you’ll all eventually regret Center Station/Left Lane Track arrangement. Who’ll really enjoy waiting for the streetcar while traffic speeds by on both sides? I’ll answer for you: Nobody. And how about the safety of those ‘runners’ who’ll jump across traffic to catch the streetcar not waiting at the stop? Oh, I’m sorry. Did I make you use your brain and it hurt? What about traffic stopping in the left lane? Is passing on the right now legal or safe? Somebody explain what about Center Station/Left Lane Track makes sense.

    1. Given that other cities aren’t regretting it, I think you’re pretty off base.

      1. Have you conducted a thorough survey of potential streetcar riders who choose not to ride and confirmed that this is not one of the significant factors in their decision?

      2. Portland Streetcar has 2 stops in the center of Harrison, a low traffic 2-lane street with a wide, landscaped median. San Francisco Streetcar stations on Market Street have one lane for mostly transit dividing stations from the curb and sidewalk. Provide an example if it’s not too much trouble, of a successful Center Station arrangement on a busy 4-lane street like Broadway or 1st Ave before concluding it’s off base to make this responsible complaint about safety and comfort.

      3. North of Pine Street Broadway only has 2 travel lanes, and will more than likely remain that way when the streetcar is built. South of Pine it has 4 travel lanes, but this number could be reduced to make room for the streetcar, left-turn lanes, and bike lanes. Whatever the ultimate configuration, Broadway is far from being the busy, treacherous 4-lane street that you seem to assume it is. Traffic on Fairview is heavier and travels much faster than on Broadway and the center streetcar platform works just fine there. It’s actually helped calmed traffic because of the extra set of lights for the crosswalk to the platform and the perceived narrowing of the street at that location.

    2. It makes it so that bikes can go without getting tangled up with the tracks along streets. There is no problem with waiting in the middle of the street. Have you ever waited at the station at Fred Hutch? It’s very pleasant. Many cities have stations like that around the world and it works out great. Traffic will have to wait behind the streetcar sometimes, yes. But think about it: if there are, say, a dozen people in the streetcar at a non-busy time, and five cars line up waiting behind the streetcar, there are far more people in the streetcar than in the cars, so the streetcar deserves that space on the road more.

      1. I’d quibble a bit with priority based on the numbers of people in the street car vs individuals in a car. If the streetcar is making a stop to let of one person it’s no more noble than a SOV. Granted it’s 12 SOVs in a smaller footprint which is an improvement but it’s still a traffic impediment; stopping more often works against the advantage of smaller footprint.

        To Wells, if I’m in a car I don’t get any more or less satisfaction zooming by on the left or the right. Passing on the right actually might be preferable since it’s closer to parking and presumably the auto traffic is looking to do business (which means park) rather than “zoom” through the neighborhood. As for “runners”, same category as left turn into the train crowd. I may lean Republican but I’m a Darwinist at heart.

        Cycling. The more I think about it and after reading other comments the wrong way cycle track is a bad idea. I was in the city recently and had a chance to drive along Ravenna. Granted, I’m a cyclist and am (semi)aware of what’s going on there. When I went through there was a full kit roadie to share the road with. No problem at all. He had eyes on me and I gave him clearance as required. Didn’t impede me a bit. It’s a bit confusing but even though it’s an oddity at this point I’m still a fan of how center bike lanes work. Yes the median is key but even on Ravenna the median pretty much disappears where there’s left turn lanes and I think we can do with more median and less left turn lane in a huge percentage of our roads. Whatever configuration is chosen visibility is the key for surviving on two wheels.

    3. The whole streetcar system won’t get blocked every time an emergency vehicle stops on the tracks, the way they currently mess up the SLUT.

    4. I agree that, all else being equal, people would rather wait on side platforms than in the middle of the street. The primary reason to pursue center platforms is bicycle conflicts. This is why the Capitol Hill Community Council proposed the development of a two-way cycle track on Broadway. Such a ROW configuration would fully separate bicycles and still allow the use of side platforms. In addition to the unpleasantness of waiting in the middle of the street, side platforms also allow buses and streetcars running along the same route to use the same platforms, reducing confusion for casual riders. Given that routes 9, 60, and 49 will still be using this corridor, this is a significant advantage.

      1. With center platforms, the streetcars won’t come to a halt every time a bus stalls on the tracks, since buses won’t be on the tracks. The buses will move a little more quickly since they won’t have to look for one or two riders boarding that bus amongst the crowd waiting to board the streetcar.

        The light rail system gets messed up every time a bus stalls on the tracks in the tunnel. I saw the trains (and all the buses, because a train couldn’t reverse) unable to move for a half hour two weeks ago when a bus stalled at Westlake Station.

      2. The Center Station arrangement may have more to do with overhead wire. If the streetcar and trolleybus overhead wire are completely separate, this falls in line with the wishes of those who want to completely take down ‘icky’ overhead wire of the trolleybus system. Air pollution can kill you, but it can’t be seen and is therefore less icky.

        I bicycle along Portland’s streetcar line often in the 2′ space between the curbside track and parked cars, and have no trouble. Passing cars stay on the other side of that track. I like the 2-way cycle track proposal, but need a more thorough look at it.

      3. So there’s a conspiracy to take down trolleybus wire because it’s “icky” and replace it with streetcar wire? Hmmm, that’s a new one. There are some bean counters in Metro who want to get rid of the trolley buses, but that has nothing to do with the wires being “icky.” Residents of neighborhoods with trolley bus service have demonstrated lately that they overwhelmingly support retaining the trolley buses, even with the “icky” wires.

      4. Metro is answerable to Seattle’s elite who neither use transit nor want transit to work adequately for those who do.

        Passing in the right lane of a 4-lane boulevard may be legal, but it isn’t safe and shouldn’t be encouraged. I’m not against streetcar lines, but I am against mean-spirited engineers who treat Seattlers like fools, though some rightly deserve the mistreatment.

      5. You’re so out of touch. I guess that’s what happens when you try to armchair transit plan from afar. You worry about Portland and we’ll deal with our mean-spirited engineers and elitist puppet masters.

      6. How does it feel to be a [ad-hominem], Zed? Are you being paid enough? Seattlers would be better off if more Portlanders offered advice.

  7. No one’s talking about the southern part of this line. The 5 block detour via 14th Ave S between Broadway & Jackson is too indirect and will make it less than “rapid” transit.

    1. That just added a block or two in order to adequately serve the vibrant, dense Little Saigon. I don’t think it’s going to add a substantial amount of travel time.

      1. If I recall correctly, the 14th loop actually decreases travel time vs. expected left turn wait times at 12th.

  8. I’m not surprised that the mayor agreed to this route that largely ignores the “First Hill” part of the long-promised First Hill Streetcar. The Seneca/Boren loop would have done a superb job of tying the neighborhood and all of its major employment centers and residential areas together. But it wasn’t going to be as quick for Capitol Hill residents and businesses. Sigh.

    Yes, it would have been more complex to overcome bus/streetcar/auto conflicts on that route, but it would have complimented rather than duplicating existing bus routes.

    1. This streetcar does a good job serving the eastern slope of First Hill. The western slope is already close to downtown and the University light rail station. The key is to improve bus frequency and reliability between downtown and First Hill.

      1. It does a good job of transporting people from Capitol Hill or ID to only two of the 4 or 5 large institutions of First Hill. Along the way, it happens to serve a small fraction of the First Hill population. (But, yeah, sure. We can walk. Not like people who aren’t ambulatory have any reason to live or visit here, after all.)

      2. You do realize the First Hill Light Rail Station the streetcar is a replacement for would have been within 2 blocks of Broadway along Madison. While the streetcar doesn’t go right to Harborview’s front door it does skirt the West edge of the campus. The front door is within the 1/4 mile station circle (depending on where exactly the station ends up). So really Virginia Mason is the only institution without the streetcar running nearby.

  9. Correct, Steve. The alternative was three lefts in a row from Jackson to 12th to Boren

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