SDOT has released four renderings and a very slick video (above via Slog) showing what Broadway could look like if the CHCC desgin was selected. Although I’m fairly certain that SDOT has not made any decision yet on which design to build, this certainly shows they are moving towards this design. On closer analysis you will see that only a few blocks actually have the cross section that CHCC advocated for. Most of the other blocks have the 3-lane design (two travel lanes, a turn lane and one parking lane) with the cycle track added on. The only turn restrictions appear to be SB to EB at Pine, NB to WB at Pike, and SB to EB at Terrace. At all other locations a left turn lane is provided.

Visualizations available:
Broadway & Denny Station Visualization (pdf)
Broadway and Pike Station Visualization (pdf)
Broadway and Boylston Station Visualization (pdf)
Broadway and Terrace Station Visualization (pdf)

Broadway Corridor Animatic:
Broadway Corridor Animated Tour (wmv)

H/T Michael Arnold

73 Replies to “First Hill Streetcar Visualization”

  1. Those look friggin sweet! It’s exciting that it’ll be up and running within a couple years. Also excited to see the bicycle track on Broadway and test to see how well the concept works.

    Any idea when the Westlake Center SLUT station is getting rebuilt?

  2. I’m unconvinced of the superiority of bicycle tracks. They look fine so long as you’re going forward. Turns may be problematic. With both lanes on one side of the street, some turns will have to cross all lanes of traffic. With a separated track, there’s no way to pull into the left lane to make a turn. Depending on direction of travel, right turns may also be a big problem. Color me skeptical.

    1. The green boxes are “bike boxes”, a design pioneered in other cities. To turn left you actually get in the cross street and wait for the signal. It’s included in the video here:

      Of course, cyclists will still be able to use the other lanes or any of the parallel streets; the cycletrack is just a more protected area. I don’t believe cycling to be “too dangerous” to do today and more than driving is too dangerous, but that doesn’t mean both can’t be made safer.

    2. Well this problem is solved with bike-specific traffic lights in the Lowland countries. Hopefully this is something the SDOT will look into, otherwise, yes, turning could be a huge problem.

      1. The only one I know about is eastbound 34th at Fremont ave… Right by the bridge.

      2. We have enough traffic lights. I notice Vancouver has a single traffic light for many intersections, including highway boulevards like Kingsway. Seattle and the US have a set of lights for every lane, which must raise electricity consumption exponentially.

    3. As Josh pointed out I think bike boxes will be essential to mitigate this.

    4. Turns may be an issue, but it’s a huge step from whats out there now. Cars and bikes can coexist on the same road, not irritating each other. I’ll take something that’s 75% perfect for nothing. One instance that comes to mind the time we did that, we rejected our very own BART subway system because we could come up with a “better idea”.

      1. I don’t see this as 75% perfect. It’s more like deadly. I’m looking at the Terrace St. pdf and thinking a car in the position where the streetcar is and turning left will never see a bike on the wrong side of the street going the same direction. Also, drivers unfamiliar with the area turning right onto Broadway will be focused only on traffic coming from their left and pull out when they see an opening in traffic without checking for bikes coming from their right. Bikes too have very limited visibility of what drivers are doing. Staying alive in traffic is all about one, being seen and two, being able to anticipate what drivers, pedestrians and other bikes are going to do.

      2. For your first concern, how about left on green arrow only? For your second concern, maybe right on reds should be eliminated at these locations. Or raise the cycletrack significantly enough to help cross traffic notice it. Your concerns are valid, but I don’t see them as deal breakers. I’m lovin that track the full length of Broadway!

      3. Vehicles can make left turns across double yellow lines. Only quadruple yellow lines (like to the right of the tram stop in the Terrence St pdf) prohibit left turns.

  3. I’m mixed on the cycle tracks as well. They seemed geared more toward recreational cyclist as opposed commuters. I’m really concerned about how cyclist are supposed to cross the tracks to make turns as well across 3 lanes of traffic.

  4. I just went through the powerpoint presentations. Looks very interesting. But I’d suggest that the headways on the broadway/firsthill and Udistrict segments need to be much more frequent e.g. 6 minutes instead of 10/12 minutes. These are very dense urban cores and need frequent service. The other thing to consider is that these routes seem to all converge in downtown. Is this really necessary? Would it make more sense for these routes to coordinate with neighborhood Link stations? For example, it appears that it would take 32 or more minutes to get from Udistrict to downtown on the Streetcar but it will take 6-8 minutes on link. Wouldn’t it make more sense to take a streetcar to the nearest link station?

    1. The line links up with Link to the north and to the south (i.e. Capitol Hill and King Street/International District). It does what you’re saying. Also, SLUT meets up with Link at Westlake and pressumably a Link station in the U District if and when it is extended northward. So in short, people will be able to get to the U District easily with a change or a bit less direct (but faster than bus) to points downtown at either Capitol Hill or International District.

      1. I guess my concern was if the lines didn’t need to be so long they could increase frequency with fewer cars.

  5. No Dick’s in the visualization? Dick’s is the place where the cool hang out.

    1. You must also be cautious to make sure the streetcar tracks do not prevent a posse from walking in 2s.

  6. I don’t really understand the necessity to jam everything onto Broadway. I’m assuming the trolleys will still run there, and delivery trucks will park in the center lane, just like they do now, and merchants are going to howl as each on street parking spot is removed, plus all the cars.
    What’s wrong with cyclist being on 12th, or other streets. Plus getting across the tracks will be perpendicular, not a glancing blow.

    1. These are the sorts of concerns I raised initially, Mike… But since I no longer live near there, and the CHCC is supportive of this, I figure let them have it.

      I look at that visualization, though, and I don’t see how that works when the street already fails to move traffic well. I just foresee a streetcar stuck in traffic and crawling down the street like cars and buses currently do. At peak times, I can walk faster down the street than the buses.

      1. Well since it is impossible to pass the streetcar once on Broadway (with the exception of the left turn lane in a couple of places), I’m thinking the streetcar will be setting the pace.

      2. Or maybe the fastest vehicles will be the cyclists. Giving each bike their own strobe to trip the signal would really speed up the corridor.

      3. Will the streetcar atleast run until closing time? While im very supportive of rail and bus transit, i’m also a regular at a certain cap hill night spot, and i will say… there goes the neighborhood. I’m sure the streetcar will start rents will be on the rise (as what happened a few years ago when ST started work on LINK to u-dist) and a lot of the unique spots in the neighborhood get forced out in favor more gentrified devlopement similar what happend/is happening (not just by Paul Allen) on the South Lake Union line.

      4. I *do* live in the neighborhood, and I have to say the cycle track makes me very nervous. I think there is a real safety issue with drivers turning left across traffic and the track, the only way to avoid this will be to ban left turns at more locations…which will then add more right turns, which from one direction will still be across the track. I don’t see how you can fix this with signaling, since limiting right on red will just push the turns into the same cycle as the parallel bike movement.

        One solution would be a dedicated bike signal, but then would all bikes have to stop while potential right turns happen? That doesn’t make any sense. And if you make it realy difficult to turn right across the track, what will that do to traffic speeds, since cars will be stuck behind the waiting turners, and there is no longer any room to pass? Remember, the streetcar is stuck in the same traffic!

        It seems to me the better course would have been to leave the bike route on 12th, where land uses are less intense and less commercial, and there would be fewer conflicts between cars, streetcars, and bikes, which would also allow parking on both sides on B’Way. Of course, removing parking from one side will create even more turns, as people prowl around looking for parking spaces.

      5. Why would they have to ban left turns? They can just control them with a left-turn signal. Prohibiting right turns across the cycle track would make more sense, because it would keep right-turning cars from holding up the streetcar and would make it safer for pedestrians and cyclists. I think this is what they’ve done in Vancouver.

      6. The danger isn’t so much right turns off of Broadway but right turns from the side streets onto Broadway. That’s because drivers on the side street will be looking left for a break in on coming traffic and not expecting a wrong way cyclist to ride out in front of them.

      7. “…not expecting a wrong way cyclist to ride out in front of them.”

        Except that already happens with cyclists riding on the sidewalk! :-)

        It’s already nearly impossible to turn right on red from the side streets onto Broadway in the main business district, due to all the pedestrian traffic, so maybe they’ll have to prohibit it altogether. If they plan on implementing the cross street bike boxes for left-turning bikes then they’ll have to anyways.

      8. The difference is that if your riding on the sidewalk and ride out in front of a car turning right it’s your own stupid fault. If your on a cycle track your speed is going to be higher and expecting the right of way you’re smashed into in an instant from a car you couldn’t see and they, even if looking (which is doubtful) might not be able to see you coming.

      9. Figuring what out, pushing bikes to the sidewalk or wrong-way cycle paths? An example of US cities where this has worked? Holland or France doesn’t cut it as cities in those countries have a cycling culture that predates the automobile and has been continuous ever since. Also, some states have a no right on red law. Washington doesn’t and even if you post signs that say no right on red a lot of people won’t see it since there are already so many distractions to drivers in the city.

      10. You’re right. We’re too stupid to cope with new situations. People have been driving for millions of years and the habits are so deeply ingrained in our biology that it will be impossible for people to learn to look in both directions before crossing the cycle track.

        BTW, Copenhagen’s cycling culture has only existed for the last 25 years or so. Copenhagen was a traffic-clogged mess before the oil crisis in the 70’s. People there learned to cope and deal with new traffic situations, are you saying we’re not capable of doing the same?

      11. Yep, pretty much. If anything drivers today are worse than they were 30-40 years ago. At least back then people weren’t text messaging while driving or relying on a satnav system to tell them when and where to turn. Can’t speak to why people in Copenhagen seem to be genetically superior. I didn’t realize that 25 years ago (1985) they were all driving around in big gas hogs, existed on drive thru fast food, and didn’t know what a bicycle was.

      12. Vancouver has a 2-way cycletrack, so this is not unprecedented. There are a variety of solutions to the problems people are bringing up, and Cascade Bike Club has been working with SDOT to suggest ways to guarantee a safe cycle-track. One thing several commenters have been very wrong about is the notion that people would ride their bikes fast in the cycletrack…that is not the case. Generally people ride slower in cycletracks because there is less space and more potential for conflicts, especially when it is 2-way. This is almost like a road diet for bikes, as it uses the design of the facility to naturally slow down traffic without the need for speed limits. I see 12th as the “express” bike route for hardcore cyclists and broadway as the more casual, slower, safer bike route for grandmas and kids and people in their suits who don’t want to get sweaty.

      13. From Wikipedia:

        In the United States, UK, Germany, Sweden, Denmark and Finland, it has been found that cycling on roadside urban cycle tracks/sidepaths results in up to 12-fold increases in the rate of car/bicycle collisions…. In Helsinki, research has shown that cyclists are safer cycling on roads with traffic than when using the city’s 800 kilometres (500 mi) of cycle paths. The Berlin police and Senate conducted studies which led to a similar conclusion in the 1980s… In the English town of Milton Keynes it has been shown that cyclists using the off-road Milton Keynes redway system have on a per-journey basis a significantly higher rate of fatal car-bicycle collisions than cyclists on ordinary roads.

        Seems to me that even in places with a much more embedded cycling culture, segregated facilities don’t “work”. And personally I don’t think we have the critical mass of cyclists to make segregated facilities even as “safe” as in the above places. They’ll simply put cyclists out of sight and out of mind.

      14. Interesting, though it also says that the severity is decreased at lower speeds (5% fatality rate at 30 mph). Thankfully high speeds are rare on Broadway .

    2. jam everything on Broadway? I dunno, there appears to be plenty of room for the streetcar tracks, and that cycletrack is looking pretty roomy. And the pedestrian crossing distances look smaller throughout. I’m seriously loving that downsized Pike and Broadway intersection.

    3. The cities design alway included removing a lane of parking. The only difference is that they’ve adopted the two way cycletrack instead of one way bike lanes/sharrows. I don’t recall any particular uproar from businesses, most of the existing retail is north of Denny. The Capitol Hill Community council street layout called for removing the center turn lane instead of removing parking. This layout was endorsed by the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce and the GSBA.

    4. The idea of a parallel corridor makes a lot of sense. 12th would better serve SU as well, right? I guess part of the issue is funding. Any changes on Broadway can be siphoned from the ST pot of gold. Reallocating that money to 12th would be a problem.

    5. The problem with shoving the bikes over to 12th is Broadway is a destination for a lot of cyclists with the community college, the retail, the residential, and the concentration of transit. A cyclist isn’t going to want to go all of the way over to 12th and back just to get between the light rail station and the grocery store at Broadway and Pine.

      Why should cyclists be second class citizens any more than any other road user? Why don’t we ban cars from Broadway instead?

      1. Calm down Chris. Cyclist are actually first class citizens! It’s the most energy efficient mode of transportation and healthy for us too.
        I was proposing 12th or other streets, such as starting a bikeway at 10th/Roy, south through Cal Anderson (only 78 meters east of Broadway), through Seattle U. then down to 12th Ave. It seems that riding my bike on safer, quieter, and calmer pathways is more enjoyable than sharing a road with cars, buses, trucks, and now streetcars.

      2. I hope the majority of them are mike, the ones i’ve encountered lately seem to be rather aggressive, not only in philopshy but in operating their choice mode of transportation. Theres a distint crowd of them who feel that bikes are the end-all to our transportation problems, but often fail to acknowledge that public transportation, rail or bus is an importaint piece to their mode. I’m astonished that the bicycle advocasy originzations do not seem to work more with rail and transit advocasy orginizations to promote all forms of green public transit.

        I have to wonder, on public sidewalks who has the right of way, do the bicycles or do the pedistrians. I always thought pedistrians had the right of way in such cases, but based on recent experences outside my work have me wondering. Usually they speed up behind you, and either give you a couple rings of the bell as they fly past, or yell at you to get out of their way like they own the place. Being a good public servant i havent given my two cents in return however i’m sure some day… Also, while operating various motor vehicles ive had stupid cyclists who fly past me while i’m in a left turn lanes on the left side of my vehicle, and where there are bike/walking paths marked alongside the road ride either on the line or in the road blocking traffic. I suppose to ride legally they’d have to slow down some. Cant we all just get along?

  7. What would be the disadvantages to installing one way cycletracks on each side of the road?

    1. The response I have gotten is that there isn’t enough room but I personally think two uni-directional cycle tracks are better.

  8. I think I’ve come around to liking “urban” street cars although initially I couldn’t see the point.

    For one thing, transit is a way of having density — and yet not having density.

    For example, if you concentrate all your structures in the few square blocks around a subway or light rail station, you get all the problems of crime, dirt, crowded streets.

    With a trolley/street car, you basically elongate the center into a line. So, you can have shops all along there where someone can, without a car, shop along a two mile corridor at all manner of places and then return home.

    However, I think this model only works if the car is either free, or with everyone having some type of low cost fare pass.

  9. Prediction:
    ETB’s will very gradually be phased out for a several reasons.
    1. Conflicts with streetcar overhead. The consultant report emphasized the major operational problems with both overheads in so many places. Probably the 49 is the 1st to go so Broadway is not impacted.
    2. Hybrids, as they come on line in a slower buy/deliver schedule to better cannibalize the ETB fleet, will replace other less hilly routes that impact Broadway. (10/12,43).
    3. Eventually (to quell public outcries), Metro will get rid of the last trolleys, or relocate to a much smaller base nearer QA to reconfigure Atlantic/Central Base, and eliminate the 5th/Jackson confliction with streetcars.
    Metro’s doesn’t seem to be putting up ANY fight with SDOT/ST over the streetcar issues.

    1. The real problem with the overhead is at crossings and switches not where ETBs and streetcars share the route. The junctions at John, Pike, Union, Madison, Jefferson, and along Jackson are bigger issues than the wire along Broadway for the 49.

      There has been some talk of having the streetcars use poles and the same voltage as the ETBs so the wire can be shared like with the Market line in San Francisco. I’m not sure what has been decided yet though.

      I have to agree with you on the larger issue in that there seems to be a group within the management at Metro who are determined to kill the trolleys the same way they killed the Waterfront Streetcar through inaction and neglect of issues they had years to prepare for.

      The only real difference is the ETBs seem to have a bit more political support than the Waterfront Streetcar did.

      1. Yes, it’s the switches, dead spots, and crosses that cause dewireing – not nice straight wires. Each dewire stalls a vehicle for a while and often leads to bringing sections of wire down, which takes at least an hour to repair.
        How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. That’s how the ETB fleet will be dismantled. First by de-energizing large sections for constructing the streetcar line, then making a decision to keep the hybrids in place for operational issues; ala Waterfront Streetcar demise.

      2. you’d probally want the streetcar to share voltage with the trolleycoaches anyway, so you can share substations and other electrical equipment which would really save money.

    2. Have there been problems where the SLUS and 70 share a route or cross (Westlake and Virginia and some of Fairview Ave N I think)? I’m sure it’s more complicated to set up but I haven’t heard of any issues. Do the streetcars have batteries at all if something yanked down the wire?

      I also wonder if there are ETBs that could run on either voltage, I should email the Metro ETB evaluation team.

      1. Changing the ETB voltage doesn’t get you anything. ETBs can’t run on a single overhead wire because they can’t send their current through the rails below them. You need two overhead wires for electric buses. So getting streetcars that also use those wires can work, though it means the streetcar needs a loop at the end of its route rather than simply being able to reverse direction like the SLUS.

      2. Not at all. You can have automatic equipment on the streetcar to lower and raise the trolley pole. the bredas had such equipment and it worked reasonably well. Also you can manually do it like what was done on the old 99 streetcar. And with streetcars you can have the negitive return though the rail so you would only need one trolley pole connecting to the positive wire. Sharing overhead with trolleycoaches is done on Market Street in Sanfrancisco so theres no reason i cant be done here. A couple of boeing LRVs even had trolley poles at one time and ran along market street, so theres no reason that it cant be done with the current offering of LRV equipment. Some modifications would need to be made to the roof to equip the car with poles, and you might not be able to have both a pole and pan, but i’d hope so for compatability’s sake.

  10. I am also very worried about the safety of the cycle-track. Remember that this alignment is not something that can be changed if it doesn’t work out as well as hoped. It literally is set in stone…(well, concrete).

    I also think that the length of the elevated station platforms should be extended. The streetcar can’t open its doors until it is situated correctly next to the platform, so if there is one car ahead of it (waiting to make a left or right turn?), the streetcar will have to wait until that car has cleared before it can move into position and open the doors. This could mean that the streetcar will have to wait through an extra light cycle just to move into position to open the doors. If the platform is longer–perhaps the length of one car–the streetcar can adapt better to the traffic ahead of it. Longer platforms will cost more money but they will likely save on overall running time.

  11. Looks like a plan to have street cars stuck in traffic and few places for delivery vans to offload for merchants and a death trap for bicycles on the cycle track going the opposite direction of the lane next to them.

    What’s not to like? It looks like a plan that is the worst of all worlds!

  12. Are Skoda/Inekon/Oregon Iron Works streetcars the best type of streetcar for this route? Might a single ended streetcar be better?

    I prefer the design option with 2 center lane streetcar tracks shared with auto traffic, two parking lanes and a 2 way cycle track. Why did the turning lane win out over the parking lane? This new street design is supposed to be a local retail street not a major auto thouroughfare.

    1. i know the wereabouts of some W-2 Class trams that might be perfect for this line. Double ended even at that!

  13. I’ve been studying an extension of the Waterfront Streetcar Line up to Lower Queen Anne. It’s about 2 1/2 miles of double-track from Occidental Park with any alignment along Alaskan Way. A permanent bridge over the RR tracks at Broad Street is already proposed, highly desirable, and could accommodate streetcar tracks. The route from there is via Elliott, crosses Western onto to 3rd Ave W, then Thomas to the Queen Anne/1st Ave N couplet with a turnaround at Mercer.

    I looked at a Western Ave, Bay Street to 1st Ave N route, but the hillclimbs of Broad and Bay Streets are probably too steep. The Thomas corridor is busy enough, not too steep (I think), and pedestrian access to Myrtle Edwards Park opens up. The new Waterfront is going to need better transit, that’s for sure. This is a sure way to generate ridership.

    These visualizations of Broadway and Jackson help a lot. I’m not yet convinced it’ll work, but the ducks may be lining up in its favor. I’d say more, but I don’t want to open up a can of worms. Good work.

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