SDOT's Recommended Alignment: Two-Way Broadway
The First Hill Streetcar alignment.

The Seattle City Council today unanimously voted to approve the First Hill Streetcar.

The decision follows months of public outreach, which included strong lobbying from various coalitions seeking to put the alignment on 12th Ave or closer to the hospitals south of Union St. In the end, a two-way Broadway alignment was picked by Seattle’s Department of Transportation (SDOT). The mayor forwarded SDOT’s recommendation to the council.

The resolution is the same as the one passed last week by the council’s transportation committee. In it, the First Hill Streetcar will begin construction next year and start operations in late 2013. That is three years ahead of the original schedule in the Sound Transit 2 plan.

The Sound Transit Board must approve the plan before funding is released, but that is expected to be a formality. A more controversial board vote will center around an extension the city wants sooner than later.

The resolution calls an option contained in the inter-local agreement between Sound Transit and the city, which allows the city to propose an extension north of the Capitol Hill light rail station. The resolution direct SDOT to seek funding sources for an extension north to Aloha, which would serve more of the vibrant Broadway shopping and restaurant district. If preliminary engineering were completed on the extension — which SDOT has told us would cost around $20 million to fully construct — then Seattle could receive regional, state, or federal grants to fund the extension. Preliminary engineering would cost less than $1 million, and SDOT is expected to ask Sound Transit for the ability to fund that engineering from the streetcar fund.

Sound Transit staff — on background — do not support that move, even though the First Hill Streetcar is currently $6 million under budget including the contingency. Sound Transit is worried about its ability to fund its capital projects given the dire revenue situation for the Sound Transit 2 plan that went before voters in 2008. That plan is the funding source for the First Hill Streetcar.

54 Replies to “Seattle City Council Approves First Hill Streetcar”

  1. With the Streetcar and 520 looking to turn out better than I expected, I’m actually starting to get a bit hopeful about the Viaduct Replacement.

  2. While I believe that the map here is from ST, can somebody place the locations of the 10 proposed stations on this map or another map? Just curious where they may end up.

      1. That is a fabulous map. Did you perchance draw it in OmniGraffle? Where did you get the base map layer? It looks similar to OpenStreetMap, but a lot cleaner.

      2. Yep, it’s OpenStreetMap. I removed the labels and turned down the opacity. I use Adobe Illustrator for my maps but sorta guessed right that I use a Mac.

      3. I had a feeling that you’d have an amazing map Oran, I just didn’t want to bother you for one…LOL!

      4. Actually, someone wanted to use my map for tomorrow’s Capitol Hill Complete Streetcar Party. I didn’t want them to use my outdated map so I updated it.

      5. Are you sure that you were wrong the first time? I think it was correct. Isn’t the intersection where the Streetcar turns onto the same intersection where Boren turns into Rainier at Jackson St? I believe that 14th Ave is a part of the 5 way intersection there. When I drive to Capitol Hill from Mount Baker, I usually make that slight right turn from Rainier onto 14th. Might want to check the diagrams again, though I could be wrong.

        Also, will there really be two closely spaced Streetcar stations near the Capitol Hill light rail station? One on the north side of John and one on the south side?

      6. I think I heard that during Capitol Hill Station construction the streetcar line will have a temporary terminus at Broadway and Denny, the southernmost station of the two by CHS on Oran’s map. Once station construction is done the streetcar station will move up to Broadway and John.

        Either that or the exact station location depends on funding for an Aloha extension.

  3. When does the Mayor step in and do something that slows this down? Based on his track record, it’s an inevitability, yeah?

    1. The mayor strongly supports this project, as does the city council. Indeed, I can’t think of a single transit project the mayor has opposed or slowed down.

      The things he has strongly opposed so far are (1) the deep bore automobile-only tunnel downtown; (2) the version of the 520 project that had not thought out transit connectivity and had no possibility of future light rail without significant tear-down and reconstruction; and (3) an ordinance aimed at downtown panhandlers (the poor people on the streets, not the lobbyists seeking taxpayer subsidies or the politicians, that is).

      There have been years and years of delay on replacing the viaduct and 520. You can only try to blame McGinn for four months of additional delay, and nobody has yet made the case that there was actually any delay.

      1. As a candidate, McGinn opposed the Central (1st Ave) streetcar, and to my knowledge hasn’t changed his position.

  4. Looking at Oran’s fabulous map, I see that the route of the street car would sure have solved the transit hole problem I had on my last visit if it had been in service. I could probably have avoided having to take 2 taxis to go about 1 mile each leg with bags.

  5. Thanks for the map Oran! What will be interesting is seeing when, where and if they will tie the SLU and FH lines together. I suppose the when is when there is enough money, grants and LID available. Where is most likely 1st Ave, but the line may only run from the end of the SLU line (assuming it’s extended to 1st) to the terminus of the FH line in Pioneer Square. If, well…the council will have to determine how to connect the lines someday. It’s simply not advantageous to have these two lines that are not connected.

      1. SDOT says that there are no plans to restore the Waterfront Streetcar even after the viaduct is removed. This is what the initiative process is for though … to get them to change their minds

      2. no … but that is something to discuss when the viaduct replacement is further underway / the redesign of the waterfront is underway.

        There is no reason why there shouldn’t be a waterfront line … it is at the bottom of the hill and there is no other transit line west of 1st ave.

        There is also no reason why the line couldn’t have the same streetcars as the SLUT and the 1st Hill line with the Aussie cars running on weekends / tourist season (this would require double height platforms but that shouldn’t be a problem with all the reclaimed space on the waterfront.

      3. Sorry to repeat a post, but… about extending the Benson Trolley:

        It would take advantage of the 10 year lease for Holland America, Princess, and Carnival to bring about a half million transits to the Pier 91 through 2020. The line could run through Myrtle Edwards, with a stop at the Amgen Campus at each end. Amgen is currently paying a charter bus company to run shuttles from the campus into town. They might help cover some of the cost of the line. We own the land.

        Then a stop at the sculpture park. Its original design HAD a Benson Trolley stop. Then run it as far south along the water as Seawall and Viaduct reconstruction allow.

        If you link as far south as Pier 66, ALL one million ship visitors, and crews, and pier workers can transit along the waterfront without adding to traffic on Elliott, Western and Alaskan Way, with TOURISTS paying the bulk of the revenue.

        Along with almost a million ship visitors, the historic “green” trolley, could also connect the 4.1 million walk on passengers of the WSF, the West Seattle Water Taxi, and until the Viaduct comes down and amputates the line, bring them to Pioneer Square and the International District to meet up with the First Hill Trolley, Sounder, and Link Light Rail.

        We already own the trolleys and the right of way (we only spent 20 years to get them) and we already own the equipment!!! Just the 1.2 miles through Myrtle Edwards.

        Five years back the Port and Amgen were even willing to help Pay for this

        Build a temporary barn at the NORTH end of the line… under the Magnolia Viaduct, or behind the Grain Pier on port land. (the line had a temp barn its entire previous life!).

        Once the Viaduct / Seawall project is done, we can reconnect with Pioneer Square, King St. Station… and then add 3 more blocks of track south on 5th. Put a stop just before Dearborn, then cross it, and head down Airport Way South to the existing METRO yard, filled with electric trackless trolleys. There may be some shared maintenance opportunities there.

        With a bigger budget, you could sent a spur onto the Metro property, and continue the line westbound on Edgar Martinez Way, cross 4th with the light, and have a station at Safeco Field/Ex Hall, then run up Occidental with another stop at Qwest North end. Then back to the main line…

        PLEASE RESTORE AND EXTEND THE BENSON LINE NEXT!!! Anyone want to start a page on FB?

      4. Oran, your maps are amazing… would you have time and interest to show an extended Benson Line? I am thinking the line in the Park would stay to the east side of the park land, then curve around Amgen, and then shadow the south side of the Magnolia Viaduct. The station possibly adjacent to the Viaduct, and the barn on the north side of Viaduct near the Cell Phone lot.

        I would envision the line crossing at a N by NW angle where broad meets AK Way… to where the Father and Son statues currently reside, then staying to the WEST of the overpass and BNSF ROW…

      5. Hey Seattle Greg, Ethan Malone is probably tired of hearing from me about the Waterfront Streetcar. You’re not getting any argument from me, so why don’t you email him with your suggestions above and see what kind of answer he will give you?

        I think most of us on this forum would love to have the WF line up and running again, it just doesn’t appear that there is a lot of current energy placed on it with the city considering the Viaduct construction that will be stopping the line again in the near future.

        Ethan is really good about getting back to emails, he’s also very informative, honest and thorough (at least that’s my experience with him). His email is: ethan.melone@seattle.gov. Good luck, let us know what he says!

      6. FWIW… I have written and pleaded with all those on the Council, and the ex mayor’s office bunch, and Grace even responded with a boilerplate special e mail… but all fell on deaf ears for the last year or so.

        Richard Conlin even asked if I would approach Holland America to ask for him. But I did get an VERY interesting response from a Transportation Planner who shared with me that the idea needs to be preasured up from us in the trenches… Sort of a “Prove we really really want it”.

        At the point where they yanked it, The Benson Trolley was averaging 200,000 riders a year. That was BEFORE there were any cruise ship sailings, the water taxi and before they remodeled the Aquarium, The Sculpture Park, The Waterfront Marriott and Pier 66 development. The potential is far greater now than ever.

      7. I vote YES to restoring the waterfront streetcar, from the ID terminus of the First Hill Streetcar to where it can connect with the RapidRide Line D. There is no other transit on that street, and a streetcar would make it very visible for tourists. An out-of-sight-out-of-mind bus just doesn’t cut it for serving tourists.

        One request though: Make future streetcars more obviously capable of serving wheelchairs, and plan the sidewalks for those streetcar stops accordingly.

        I suspect there was very little community input on accessibility (among many other issues) on the SLUT because it had so little community interest behind it.

      8. *and* Let’s ask WSDOT to fund streetcar service on Alaskan Way as part of replacing the capacity of the viaduct. ;) Maybe they could fund some service hours on RapidRide lines C, D, and E as well, and bring these lines into service faster, as mitigation for congestion during construction.

        It can’t hurt to ask, can it?

      9. Brent… that is a great thought!!! wow! Will add that to the list! Many thanks!

      10. Isn’t sharing maintenance facilities for the Waterfront Streetcar and the First Hill Streetcar a no-brainer? They share the same tracks (S Main St) in Pioneer Square. Why would you build two barns when they have the same terminus?

        I realize that the waterfront streetcar is in limbo until the Viaduct comes down – but planning for shared facilities can’t wait. The city needs to commit to having a waterfront streetcar of one type or another, and work that into the planning for the First Hill barn.

        Great points about Amgen and cruise ships – I hadn’t even thought of that. There are tons of new office buildings on Elliot Avenue that could also be served.

        And let’s not forget that the old trolleys were tourist icon of Seattle, along with the Space Needle, Pike Place Market, and Ferries. They helped create a packaged image of Seattle that brought people (and their money) here.

        Think about the word-of-mouth appeal of a picturesque trolley ride from Pier 91 to Pioneer Square (on the way to the airport) for almost 1 million cruise ship tourists each year.

      11. Given that people are starting to talk about a post-viaduct waterfront and all of the recent First Hill Streetcar news I think now is the time to make sure restoring the Waterfront Streetcar gets on the radar of all of the interested parties.

        While it is fairly easy to call and/or email the Mayor, City Council, King County Executive, County Council, Port Commissioners, etc. I think a somewhat more organized campaign might be in order.

        Other than flooding the relevant elected officials with emails and phone calls another goal should be to reach out to other interested groups like the People’s Waterfront Coalition, neighborhood associations, merchants associations, and companies like Holland America, Amgen, Ivar’s, etc. If their voices can be added to the chorus it is much more likely that a revived and extended Waterfront streetcar line will happen.

    1. That’s necessary to adequately serve the center of Little Saigon, and actually doesn’t increase (and maybe even decreases?) travel times because the more direct route is more congested.

      1. the arterial label is off; you correctly show the alignment on 14th Avenue South but label it as 15th.

      1. Brian, there sure is a lot on our plate! The BRT lines, FH Streetcar, U-LINK, Lakewood Sounder extension (just a few things in the next 2 years)…am I missing something?

      2. ODOT new Talgos (and whatever WSDOT orders)
        2 more Amtrak Cascades round trips
        4 more Sounder round trips with new locomotives and passenger cars
        Possible start-up of Seattle – PT passenger only ferry
        Seattle – Kingston passenger only ferry
        3 new auto ferries enter service

        If we also include Vancouver and Portland

        Opening of Evergreen line in VBC
        Opening of Orange Line LR in Portland
        Opening of Portland Eastside/Loop Streetcar
        Construction/Extension of Lake Oswego Streetcar

      3. What about the opening of the bullet train line that will eventually reach from San Diego to BC? I know, it’s just a dream right now, with nowhere to put it but through that tunnel that currently is slated for replacing the viaduct. Then, run it up Mercer onto the I-5 HOV lanes to head north, with a possible station at UW, then clear sailing all the way to Everett Station possibly, maybe Western Washington U, pass customs, and next stop: the downtown Vancounver SkyTrain!

        Going south, we may yet find a way to recycle Highway 509 or 99 to get the bullet train back onto southbound I-5.

        But we digress from the topic at hand.

  6. note that the streetcar extension to East Aloha Street would require, in addition to planning funds: construction funds, another streetcar, and additional operating funds to maintain the headways of 10 and 15 minutes. all for a segment that is within walking distance of the Capitol Hill Link station already and has electric traction transit via Route 49 already. that is a lot of funding for Seattle to find, given that they must fund about $900 million is arterials and a seawall, a new Magnolia bridge, westside transit, help fill the Metro budget hole in 2012, do additional pavement management, and one billion for sidewalks on arterials that lack them. A Broadway LID is certainly in order. that is how the current wide sidewalks and dance steps were funded.

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