Photo by Mike Bjork

A number of South Lake Union employers have offered to contribute $65,000 to Seattle to fund additional peak service for one year.

Ethan Melone of SDOT says that this will fund a third streetcar operating between 4-6 pm on weekdays, reducing headways from 15 to 10 minutes. “With several thousand additional employees moving into SLU this year, the employers are concerned that the cars are already pretty full during this timeframe and they want to be able to encourage as many employees as possible to take transit,” Melone said.

According to Vulcan spokesman David Postman, the funding comes from Amazon, Fred Hutch, UW Medicine, and Group Health. “For us, it’s really great news that companies whose employees are using the streetcar are helping to pay for additional service in the neighborhood.”

Melone also explained that enacting the change requires a resolution by the City Council, which he hopes to have in place by March.

117 Replies to “SLU Employers Chip In for More Streetcar Trips”

  1. Sweet, now we just need them to contribute $65,000,000 to extend the SLUT to Boston St and we’ll be halfway to UW.

    1. Once redundancy occurs, something has to go. So once the SLUT goes to the UD, taking roughly 40 minutes to get there, will the route 66, which takes 15 minutes to travel the same distance, be eliminated? As well as whatever other bus goes up Eastlake, like the 70, etc., in order to artificially force SLUT ridership and boost its numbers?

      1. My original comment was intended to be humorous, but a SLUT extension all the way to the U-District would be route 70 for all practical purposes and would take its place; there would be nothing “artificially forced” about it. The 66, along with all the U-District expresses will/should be truncated at the U-District once link goes in. A streetcar in this corridor would add 50% to its capacity at minimal change in O&M cost.

      2. The time is irrelevant. People who want a faster ride will use Link from Westlake, which is also faster than the express buses. The line serves to provide an intermediate service.

      3. The train doesn’t do an adequate job of replacing the 71-74 route(s) unless it comes spaced irregularly, with two trains a minute apart from each other per hour, and two gaps of 20 minutes. I’m gonna miss that simulated-random-headway experience.

  2. too bad the yard cannot hold more than 3 LRVs … something I have mentioned many times to the planners of the First Hill line (plan for expansion)

    1. Looking at a satellite view of the yard it appears that it could easily accommodate 4 streetcars – 2 inside & 2 outside. They may even be able to shoehorn another two outside – a total of six – though I can’t be sure without a tape measure.

      1. According to “Alternative A” they have the space right now to accommodate six vehicles – at no additional charge if they don’t expand the building.

      2. Did you ever use the tape measure thingy on google earth? It’ll let you measure that yard almost as accurately as if you were there.

    2. Yeah, and they run on different overhead wire system than Link so I’m not sure (assuming that the Central Line is built first) that additional capacity could be brought online from SODO. But, Pioneer Square via the Central Line could offer that additional capacity or elsewhere in SLU. I know it’s slightly tangential, but I imagine that the Seattle Streetcar could look at integrating mixed use development in SLU for its maintenance facilities rather than having one-storey facilities in the middle of prime real estate. Thoughts?

      1. IIRC, the one-story SLUS barn was designed to be modular, so private developers can build around and over it. I assume they’re doing the same thing with the FH line?

      2. @Jason Well if that’s the case, kudos! I’d say I’d be more open to the idea of additional facilities in SLU then if it were necessitated in the future. I imagine they can’t be concentrated just because that would have an impact on the streetscape and likelihood of a willing developer otherwise. Good to know though.

      3. The 12th Ave maintenance barn concept for the First Hill line is completely integrated into development, I think low-income housing. Although I guess that wouldn’t leave much room for future expansion, if they wanted to extend the line along the 49’s route to the U District or use the same barn for the Central Line or something like that.

      4. This was one thing that Trimet at least got right, they made the streetcars run on the same systems as the MAX.

    3. The yard can accomodate six vehicles as is, seven with and additional storage track in the yard.

  3. “the cars are already pretty full during this timeframe”

    Has anyone counted how many people are on each of the SLUT cars on average between 4 and 6 pm? That would give us an idea of what a “full” streetcar can carry, according to Ethan Melone.

      1. I know, most of the time I just bite my tongue, but every once in a while I slip up.

      2. Oh God, why am I bothering?

        Norman, stop misrepresenting again. It’s not 10s of thousands and the delays incurred by a couple hundred is offset easily by the increased ridership.

    1. “Has anyone counted how many people are on each of the SLUT cars on average between 4 and 6 pm? That would give us an idea of what a “full” streetcar can carry, according to Ethan Melone.”

      It wouldn’t do any such thing.

      It would only give us a sense of what employers served by the streetcar deem “full enough” to merit spending their own money to fund additional service in light of the fact that thousands of additional employees are coming to the neighborhood.

      You have an awful way of twisting words. No one said streetcars were at capacity now. Only you could turn “employers are concerned that the cars are already pretty full” into “Ethan Melone says streetcars are at capacity now.”

      Are you that obtuse or that disingenuous? At this point it’s a fair question and I’d like an answer.

      1. “the employers are concerned that the cars are already pretty full during this timeframe”

        Ok. To be more precise. It is “employers” who are concerned that SLUT cars are already “pretty full” between 4 and 6 pm. Full enough to warrant adding capacity. So, in the opinion of these employers, right now, bewteen 4 and 6 pm, SLUT cars are “full” enough to discourage people from riding them.

        So, how many people are on the SLUT cars, on average, between 4 and 6 pm right now? Because, whatever this number is, it is enough to discourage people from riding them according to some “employers.”

        So, either counting how many people are on those cars now between 4 and 6 pm, will give us some idea of how many people can be on them before SLU employees are discouraged from riding the SLUT. Or, the “employers” don’t know what they are talking about.

        Is that accurate enough for you?

        By the way, “capacity” of transit vehicles for planning purposes is defined as how many people WILL ride a train car, bus, or whatever over the peak hour, on average — not how many people COULD cram into a train car, bus or whatever, if they were willing to be crammed in like sardines. So, it is the users of transit who determine capacity — not the manufacturers.

      2. Adding precision to my prior post, I should have written that for transit vehicles which allow standing passengers capacity is determined by the users. For vehicles in which standees are not allowed — like airplanes — capacity is defined as the number of seats.

      3. See how easy it is to add capacity to mass transit systems once the capital investment has been made? For $65,000, SLU employers bought capacity than can move hundreds of extra people. For the same amount of money, they could have purchased 1-2 extra parking spaces in the neighborhood, providing enough capacity for two vanpools of 6 people each.

      4. “So, in the opinion of these employers, right now, bewteen 4 and 6 pm, SLUT cars are “full” enough to discourage people from riding them.”

        Wrong again. What post are you reading? Please show us all where anyone says that.

        Employers want to increase capacity in ADVANCE of increased demand. No one says or even implies the streetcars are CURRENTLY full enough to discourage people from riding: that’s the situation they are trying to avoid. Preemptively.

        It’s like a 100-hundred word post. How many ways can you misrepresent it?

      5. What do you care anyway Norman, its not public money! In your quest to get the most “Bang for the buck”, this is pure gravy. You’re getting all bang for zero public buck. So stop trolling!

      6. You are saying there will be NO public subsidy of the third streetcar? I didn’t read that anywhere. “companies whose employees are using the streetcar are helping to pay for additional service in the neighborhood.” “Helping” to pay. Who is paying the rest? Can you determine that from this article? You sure there will be no tax subsidies for this third streetcar?

        Even if the third streetcar requires zero tax subsidies, it will surely take riders off the other two streetcars, thus reducing farebox recovery on those two streetcars, meaning higher tax subsidies on them.

        Also, if the streetcars are still getting preemption at stoplights on Mercer Street, this is going to screw up Mercer Street traffic even worse during the peak hours of 4 to 6 pm every weekday. Instead of 8 streetcar crossings of Mercer street each of these hours (4 in each direction), there will now be 12.

        Same applies to Valley Street, except each street car crosses Valley once on each trip, plus each streetcar has signal preemption at the intersection of Valley and Eastlake on each trip, also. So a streetcar will now be messing up traffic at the intersection of Valley and Eastlake 12 times every hour, instead of “only” 8 times per hour, between 4 and 6 pm.

        So, a third streetcar will likely be screwing up the trips of 10’s of thousands of commuters each weekday afternoon, even more than the current 2 streetcars do.

      7. “See how easy it is to add capacity to mass transit systems once the capital investment has been made? ”

        Adding a bus would be just as easy, and cost a lot less. Buses would be fine for that “route.” Streetcars are a very expensive waste.

      8. If buses are just as good and cheaper, then why are these employers not just funding another bus?

      9. Businesses are not fully funding the extra streetcar, according to this article. And they sure as heck did not fully fund the streetcar line, now did they? If businesses had paid for the entire cost of the SLUT, capital, and operating, I don’t think anyone would complain, as long as they did not screw up traffic on the streets where they operate. If the SLUT were such a great deal for businesses, why didn’t businesses pay for the entire thing?

        Are you claiming that streetcars are not many times more expensive to build and operate than buses?

      10. Oh God, why am I bothering?

        Norman, stop misrepresenting again. It’s not 10s of thousands and the delays incurred by a couple hundred is offset easily by the increased ridership.

      11. Norman,

        Businesses are not fully funding the extra streetcar, according to this article.

        Where on earth did you get this assertion? $65,000 comes out to almost exactly $125/hr, which is usually the marginal going rate for additional service.

        I didn’t actually say that in the piece because I wasn’t absolutely sure that there was no public spending whatsoever. I’d appreciate it if you showed the same reserve.

      12. I’m also impressed by Norman’s deep and utter hatred for transit; even added service with LITTLE OR NO PUBLIC SUBSIDY is still evil because it might, possibly, disrupt a car’s travel somewhere. As if cars can’t use the green light the streetcar gets.

      13. It will surely take riders off the other two streetcars, thus reducing farebox recovery on those two streetcars, meaning higher tax subsidies on them.

        This is a common misconception. In fact, the opposite is true. Adding a new service will generally increase ridership on connecting services, rather than decrease it. This is referred to as a network effect. Currently, people who only ride rail transit will only ride the SLU streetcar if both their start and destination are along the line (or on Link). But as the new streetcars are built, and the number of destinations that you can reach on the rail-only network grows, the original services become more useful.

        Services that completely overlap are the exception — it goes without saying that U-Link will significantly reduce ridership on the 43. But the SLU, First Hill, and First Ave/Fremont/Ballard streetcars will not overlap with each other at all.

      14. Martin, where did you come up with this: “$125/hr, which is usually the marginal going rate for additional service.”? I would like to see the article or document which explains that. Of course, the Seattle streetcar (and Tacoma streetcar) does not necessarily have “usual” operating costs, so I presume you are not referring to some national average, are you?

        And, you wrote that cars can use the same green lights that streetcars get. Why can’t streetcars use the same green lights that cars get? Why do streetcars get signal preemptions at Mercer and Valley/Fairview (I mistakenly used Eastlake instead of Fairview in earlier posts). Would you advise giving the SLUT signal preemption when it crosses Denny, and all the other streets it crosses, also?

      15. “As if cars can’t use the green light the streetcar gets.”

        Actually, at Valley and Fairview, cars can NOT use the green light the streetcar gets — all traffic in all directions (except continuing north on Fairview) has to stop while the SLUT crawls through that intersection. I believe this is also true at Valley and Westlake — all other traffic has a red light while the SLUT goes through that intersection.

      16. Gah, ignore my comment. For some reason, I thought we were talking about multiple streetcar *lines*, not just a third physical car.

      17. So, Norman, do you have a problem with rapid ride, seeing as it messes up the signals on Highway 99?
        Also, Busses will never have the capacity trains have due to dwell time.
        the dwell time of a crowded bus is upwards of a minute, for a train its almost never over 30 seconds.
        platforms can only handle two busses at a time in my experience, whereas a train platform can handle 8 cars at a time (12 in some cities) (a car being half a link car, as we have double-long cars)
        so you could say get 10 busses through a crowded stop in 5 minutes,(a constant line of busses where two-at a time take 2 one minute at a platform, (not considering stop lights) but you can get (in Seattle) the equivalent of 16 normal train cars through a stop in 5 minutes (2 minute headways)

        Even the streetcar could run probably at least an equivalent number of cars if it ever became that busy, as busses, but the streetcars hold more people.

        This is why trains are better.

    2. It actually shouldn’t matter at all how many people are on the cars, Norman. If PRIVATE entities are willing to help fund the additional car, providing significant public benefit, what is there for you to complain about?

      1. What “public benefit”? So yuppies who work at S.L.U. can take a trolley to lunch downtown? lol

        Don’t forget, taxpayers are subsidizing the operating costs of the SLUT. I don’t think anyone here knows for sure if there will be tax subsidies for the third trolley during the afternoon, or not.

      2. I like how you mock this Norman, people do plenty of things on their lunch hour of value, shopping, health appointments, meeting clients, going to the post office…and yes, lunch too. That increase dollars spent in a diverse economy and minimises additional trips by car, or creates public transport trips that wouldn’t have been created in the first place and putting additional tax dollars into the local system that wouldn’t have either. Moreover, the public benefit is the utility that is derived from usage by other riders not benefiting from company passes in the form of greater frequency with minimal additional operating costs (due to the additional services being paid by the companies). Of course, they aren’t pay for this midday service. But, we know, you’d be bloody unhappy during midday when there isn’t high traffic volumes to run a train. God forbid it!

        So Norman, what’s the public benefit for me by you driving? I can only hope it’s you whinging everytime you see a train running–empty for that matter.

      1. LOL As opposed to the city’s intentionally misleading passenger counts?

        I’ll try to get you some as soon as the weather improves.

        By the way, just for the record, my passenger counts on Link conform closely to ST’s own official passenger counts, so, I guess if my counts are “intentionally misleading”, then ST’s counts must be, also.

  4. “Melone also explained that enacting the change requires a resolution by the City Council, which he hopes to have in place by March”
    How about next week instead – this cannot be that complicated a proposition that it takes 6-8 weeks, can it?

    1. They probably wouldn’t implement it till the June service change, so I’m not sure it matters.

    2. I’m totally conjecturing here, but it probably requires normal steps like crafting the language, review for accuracy, review for legality, completeness, public review period, etc, etc. Having it in just over a month is starting to sound like a pretty quick turnaround. Having it by the end of the week would require employees to drop everything else and work on it, which probably doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for except for truly urgent matters.

    3. In the city I work for (not Seattle), if I were to start a process for Council approval of something (like I just did today actually), the earliest I could get actual approval would be early March. First something gets referred to committee, then the committee reviews it and send its back to the full Council for approval. So it is mostly scheduling of meetings combined with what is considered a public process that provides adequate opportunity for public review and comment. 6-8 weeks is quite quick for anything going through Council review.

  5. One thing the above-mentioned corporations and institutions can do is to have their CEO’s call SDOT, and the Mayor and their city council reps, and indicate their very strong desire that the streetcars get the signal priority already designed into the system. Am told priority has been completely canceled for Mercer construction. As if 3 years’ loss of Route 70 electrification wasn’t damage enough.

    Shouldn’t take more than one call each.

    Mark Dublin

    1. That’s an excellent point. I could make a couple calls on behalf of our company come to think of it. Is there any more official language to quote, or would one just refer to it as ‘signal priority for the trolley’? I’d imagine there’s a reference to it somewhere if it’s already been put into the system.

    1. Well, Seattle Children’s did, and Seattle’s Transit Now program provides some funding to KC Metro. Looks like Auburn did too.

      “service partnership”

      Improvements on routes 5, 7, 30 and 60 are funded through a Transit Now service partnership of Metro and the City of Seattle.

      On weekdays, two Route 5 trips will be added each day to improve service frequency from downtown Seattle to Greenwood Ave N & N 105th St. New Northgate TC trips are being added and the combined service frequency will improve to every 15 minutes until about 8 pm. On weekday evenings from about 9:30 to 11:30 pm and weekend mornings, Route 7 service frequency will improve to every 15 minutes with the addition of 80 trips per week from 9:30 to 11:30 pm and on weekend mornings. On weekends, Route 30 service between the Seattle Center and the U-District will begin about 6 am on Saturday and 10 am on Sunday. With the addition of 80 trips per week, Route 30 will operate between the Seattle Center and the U-District until midnight seven days a week. On weekends, all southbound Route 60 trips will be extended from Georgetown to White Center. These trips will not operate through the Olson/Myers Way P&R.

      This improvement is funded through a Transit Now service partnership of Metro, Seattle Children’s Hospital and the City of Seattle. On weekday evenings and all day Sunday, Route 75 service frequency between Ballard and Northgate will improve from 60-minutes to 30-minutes. Seventy-nine weekly trips will be added each week between Ballard and Northgate, and 109 trips between Northgate TC and the U-District.

      This improvement is funded through a Transit Now service partnership of Metro and the City of Auburn. New Route 910 will provide fixed-route and Dial-A-Ride Transit (DART) service between north and southwest Auburn. On weekdays, it will operate hourly service from about 7:57 am to 4:45 pm, and on Saturday from about 8:25 am to 5:13 pm.

      1. Yeah you can see the UW Health Sciences shuttle buses all parked at Montlake & Pend Oreille at the eastern edge of campus.

    2. Microsoft runs its own private bus system. I guess Microsoft feels that buses are good enough for its employees.

      And, I think I read that the Mariners and perhaps Seahawks pay for the buses between park and ride lots and the stadiums before and after games. I am sure you will correct me if I am wrong about that.

      1. “Microsoft runs its own private bus system. I guess Microsoft feels that buses are good enough for its employees.”

        Metro runs its own private bus system because it doesn’t think the Metro routes are comprehensive enough for its employees, and it’s easier to just run the service themselves than to get Metro to do so. As for Microsoft setting up something other than buses… that’s not really possible. You can’t build a private rail line from Redmond to Seattle just for your employees. And anyway, last I heard Microsoft was in favor of East Link.

      2. Techies are more comfortable with buses than most people. They think in utilitarian terms.

      3. Microsoft alone does not have enough employees really to justify a rail line, so a private rail system doesn’t make sense, a public one on the other hand, in the Seattle area, does make sense as it will get people from anywhere to anywhere to do whatever, as opposed to get microsoft employees from home to office and back.

      4. “Metro runs its own private bus system … ”

        Uh oh.

        Well, it’ll give Norman something to look for. Happy hunting!

  6. Thanks, Brian. You might tell them that you’ve been told that provision has been built into the signal system along the South Lake Union route to give streetcars priority through traffic signals- and that rumor has it this feature has been turned off due to construction.

    You might also say you’ve been told that the existing system has never been given the full degree of streetcar priority designed into it.

    Please understand that I have my information second-hand. It may be incomplete, or superseded. I wouldn’t mind being wrong. But if you get through to the right people, they’ll be able to fill you in on the details, and give you a good understanding of problems and remedies.

    But main point will be that the South Lake Union business community considers it important that the streetcar line works to maximum efficiency.

    Mark Dublin

    1. While ORCA readers would be fun, given that these major employers all have passes it would not result in much revenue increase. Right now if I remember correctly the streetcar revenue is some sort of formula.

    2. Any expansion of the SLUT will include ORCA readers, but right now, the vast majority of users are commuters in SLU who have employer passes, so adding ORCA readers wouldn’t raise enough money to even cover their installation. It might make the farebox recovery look a little better tho’.

      1. It’d make the transfers work a lot better though. Right now if I take the trolley downtown and transfer to either a bus or Link I wind up paying twice. Not that I really mind, after all it’s only a couple bucks and I’m happy to support the system, but I’m sure it’d be an issue for a lot of people.

      2. Eh? If you have an ORCA card you currently ride for free unless an inspector with a reader happens to be on that tram. Believe it or not, that’s actually their policy.

      3. I know, but I feel bad about doing that. I figure if I do that then they’re not getting any revenue from my trip at all, so I just go ahead and pay the fare.

      4. Your generous donations to our transit systems are much appreciated.

        Actually, isn’t a SLUT ticket supposed to be a valid transfer for the same amount of time as a bus transfer?

      5. If you have an ORCA pass the money is going to the agencies in proportion to your registered trips anyway. So unless you ride no other Metro service (SLUT + ST perhaps), your money’s going to Metro anyway.

  7. The other issue, than crush capacity, is the timing of the street cars. At 15 minute separation it’s pretty easy to walk faster than ride the SLUT. So any employer who is looking at getting more work from their employees would see that moving them from Westlake to their place of work faster is a low cost investment.

    I would expect that the lunch time ridership numbers will eventually drive these same companies to fund the 10 minute headway for the 11am to 1pm time period.

  8. I suspect they’ll chip in for 7AM-9AM service first. It’s weird that they’re just doing this for the afternoon commute.

    1. It always seems that the PM commute is busier than the AM commute, in general. Many people are making non-home after-work trips, like going to a restaurant, shopping, etc. More frequent service in the PM helps with those spontaneous trips.

  9. If we’re going to keep using the acronym- there’s a certain movie and other entertainment establishment across from the northbound Virginia Street stop that might be willing to do a special advertisement.

    How about a lacy, frilly elastic thing around the middle of one end section of the car, and a net-patterned wrap from there to the other end of the train like a stocking? And Metro could sell garters and stockings for souvenirs.

    I keep thinking of Dolly Parton’s story about seeing the prettiest lady in town on the street when she was little, and asking her mom about her, who said: “Don’t look at her! She’s the town tramp!

    And Dolly replied something like: “Well she’s so pretty that’s what I want to be!”

    Anyhow, guess it’s better than SLUS- which only the late Don Martin could say what it’s the sound of.

    Mark Dublin

    1. I would like the extension to the UW to be called the Eastlake Extension so it will be the SLUTEE.

    1. Yeah for some reason a lot of maps and a lot of official city things still call the whole area Cascade, but really Cascade is the portion of SLU between Fairview and Eastlake, from Denny to Mercer.

      1. Actually, I have found the opposite to be true. The city has started calling the entire area SLU. Cascade is deteriorating.

      2. I screwed up which “reply” button again… One more time:

        Back when I worked for the Seattle Commons, which was attempting to build a park in the middle of SLU in the early and mid-1990s, we considered Cascade to be the area between Denny, I-5, the ramp, and Fairview. SLU was much broader. The mostly-unrelated Cascade Neighborhood Plan, if I recall, was for that area.

    2. The city also calls where I live the “West Edge” even though I have never, ever heard anyone call it that.

      1. But Bruce, there are signs all over the place! /s

        I think “West Edge” is a compromise between Downtown and Belltown, without giving exclusive preference to Market. It’s not really the Waterfront since there’s a 90ft elevation difference.

      2. I work in that district, but I haven’t heard it used either.

        Since few people use it, few businesses use it, which means few people use it. Bit of a spiral.

        Using avenue names works well in this neighborhood. First Avenue and Western are very identifyable. I say “First between Pioneer Square and the Market” sometimes.

    3. SLU, West Edge, Madison Valley, SODO, and Pike-Pine are all real-estate marketing terms. Somebody in the 90s thought that Cascade, downtown, Central District, Industrial District, and “the part of Capitol Hill between downtown and Broadway” had too many negative connotations.

      I refused to say SODO for years, although now with SODO station and the neon SODO sign I find myself saying it anyway.

      West Edge is definitely the one that sounds most blatantly artificial and has never caught on.

      1. When I first visited Seattle I thought the name SODO was a little silly, like it was trying to ape SoHo, but I guess I’m just used to it now.

        Is there much residential in SODO? I thought it was mostly commercial and light industrial, and I figure that people in that market segment would be smart and hard-nosed enough to not care about stupid names.

      2. There is very little residential in SODO, (some live/work studios here and there) but the city’s trying to get residential to creep south along the 1st ave corridor. They’ve pegged northern sodo as an area they want to heavily redevelop. The stadiums (and the huge parking structures, most notably the Kingdome’s North Lot) have killed walkability south of King Street for decades, and effectively put up a southern barrier to downtown development.

        The huge residential development proposed for the North Lot (which I haven’t heard anything about since the housing crash) is the start. We’re looking at a 50+ year timeline before there’ll be significant quantities of housing down there. But it’s on the map.

        It’s still all techically zoned as industrial right now though, even if DPD has been flexible.

      3. It’s a subdivision of a neighborhood that needs no subdividing. Downtown is downtown and everyone wants to call where they live downtown.

      4. I quit using SODO when there was no longer a dome to be south of. Now I just say down where the brewery used to be.

    4. Back when I worked for the Seattle Commons, which was attempting to build a park in the middle of SLU in the early and mid-1990s, we considered Cascade to be the area between Denny, I-5, the ramp, and Fairview. SLU was much broader. The mostly-unrelated Cascade Neighborhood Plan, if I recall, was for that area.

  10. It’s wonderful if the businesses pony up the full extra cost of these added trips (which hopefully includes maintenance and amortization?). The $65,000 seems a little bit of a lowball, given the cost of one extra operator is probably more than that.

    BTW, Is there a plan to install ORCA readers at the stations?

    1. No-one seems to know of such a plan, and it seems to be unlikely for reasons discussed further up in the comments.

    2. Like I said, I’m told Metro’s marginal service hour costs about $125, which pencils out about right for $65K. Although it’s possible marginal Streetcar costs are way out of line with that, I suspect not. For instance, I doubt they’ll operate additional fare inspectors or anything for these trips.

      1. That wouldn’t surprise me at all, given all the infrastructure for a very small number of trips.

        However, that doesn’t address the question at hand, which is marginal cost.

      2. The cost per revenue hour is the marginal cost. The long term cost of the infrastructure isn’t included. Now, line maintenance might be included, I’m not sure about that. But on the other hand pressing the third (back-up) streetcar into service for only a two hour shift is going to be more expensive per revenue hour than running all day. If they were going to couple it to one of the existing cars then they’d see a much smaller bump in the marginal cost but that’s not what’s planned. I think it’s more the frequency than capacity that’s an issue.

      3. It isn’t necessarily like pressing the third streetcar into service for a two hour period. It could overlap its time in service with the other two streetcars. The cost per revenue hour includes layover and deadhead times in the cost, but not in the revenue hours. How you structure the service matters.

      4. I’m not talking about capital infrastructure cost; I’m talking about ongoing operations cost to support streetcars. You’re running a maintenance barn, streetcar driver training, fare inspectors, and who knows what else.

        If they run a streetcar for another two hours each day, it costs more for a driver, some electricity, and more spare parts for wear and tear on the vehicle, much like a bus. It’s conceivable, even probable, that the spare parts are more expensive than the bus parts, but double? I doubt it.

      5. They’ll probably just have the supervisor operate the extra streetcar for those two hours, they’re already paying him to be around to relieve the other operators at lunch time and call tow trucks.

      6. SDOT pegs ETB service at $130/hr, SLUT costs at about $180/hr. For the reasons Martin gives, many of the “per hour” costs are not actually per hour, but per-day or fixed, and so the report uses $150/hr as the expected cost of running streetcars out of the SLUT/FHSC barn. The report also identifies sponsorship of stops and increased farebox revenue as offsetting revenue sources compared to ETB service.

      7. The 2004 “Seattle Streetcar Network and Feasibility Analysis” specifically attributes the higher total costs of streetcar to economies of scale and off-site heavy maintenance :

        “Generally, there are more buses in operation than streetcars, resulting in economies of scale for that mode. Streetcar maintenance is often done only partially on-site (as would be the case in Seattle) and partially by moving car bodies and components outside for heavy maintenance.”

  11. I thought responsibility for operation of the SLUT (i.e. cost) had been fully transfered to Metro. Other than signal priority, why is the City involved?

    1. Why is the city involved? … for the same reasons the city subsidizes lots of Metro bus routes, and expects a say in how they are operated. I thank the Creator that the city is pushing Metro around a little.

    2. The city owns the streetcar and contracts Metro to operate it. SDOT probably needs council approval to amend the contract.


        “King County Metro Transit contributes 75% of the operating costs, net of farebox revenue. The City pays the remaining 25% to Metro for the operation of the Streetcar. For 2011-2012, a small budget adjustment is made based on the escalation of Metro’s 2010 operating budget and the forecast farebox revenues.
        Farebox return is expected to increase to 55% of operating costs. The City’s direct costs and payments to Metro are offset by sponsorship funds and Federal Transit Administration grants. The initial start-up period was supported by an interfund loan authorized until December 2018 by Ordinance 122424 and amended by Ordinance 123102.”

        Interestingly they are expecting an increase in FTA Fixed Guideway funds in 2011-2012, I wonder if that’s for sure or not.

        Also ran across this, page 9:
        “The Executive, however, did not move to sell the excess maintenance base property before the economic downturn occurred in late 2008, preventing a subsequent sale. … The Executive has suggested the City may want to use the excess property for a staging area for the Mercer project.” This is in fact being done, the older bricklayer’s building and lot next to the Fairview Maintenance Base are being used for Mercer. I wonder if SDOT pays itself for that?

  12. Does the Seattle Streetcar South Lake Union Line have sufficient electrical capacity to run three cars and 10-minute headway?

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