Of the all possible High Capacity Transit corridor projects in Seattle’s Transit Master Plan, nothing carries more riders than a fast streetcar from downtown to Loyal Heights via Ballard and Fremont. Up to 26,000 riders per day could use this line in 2030, which would run a train train every 8 minutes at the peak, 15 minutes evenings and weekends, and 10 minutes the rest of the time and save the average traveler about 8 minutes over the current situation.
On the other hand, the 7-mile rail corridor would cost $327m in capital, well out of range for Seattle without outside assistance. It also would run less frequently than the BRT option, which costs $111m, draws 21,000 riders and is cheaper overall per new rider ($3.11 vs. $4.53). Enhanced bus takes up the rear at $4.74.
No matter what you do, nothing is big enough to handle the demand in this corridor. Even running every 5 minutes, BRT simply doesn’t; only coupled streetcars come close.
But if you can’t afford it, you can’t afford it. On the other hand, if you build the streetcar here you get the SLU/First Hill connector for free.
Nelson/Nygaard looked at constructing a ship canal crossing. They estimated the cost at $50-70m, but judged it to not meet cost/benefit considerations.
93 Replies to “TMP HCT Analysis (III): Maximum Ridership”
Ick. I’ll take a Ballard-Fremont-SLU regular-speed streetcar and a center-running 15th Ave W alignment for a Ballard-West Seattle Link Light Rail line, please!
And with that circulator streetcar should come a massive upzone: everything bounded by 32nd Ave NW, NW 65th St, 3rd Ave NW, NW Market St, and NW Leary Way/36th St should be bumped to a minimum of LR1. Run the streetcar from NW 85th / 24th Ave NW to Market, to 8th Ave, to Leary, to Fremont Ave, to Dexter. Modify the 28 and 18 accordingly.
The city can afford $300 million if voters approve.
I’d rather have the downtown streetcar plus a bunch of BRT lines.
Or about 30 gondolas ;-)
As long as I don’t have to deal with the Uptown milk run, I don’t really care which mode!
The BRT might be a good idea, but we all know it would end up being RapidRide, and we all know that RapidRide is pretty lackluster as BRT. It is more like the “Enhanced Bus” option. The streetcar would mostly run in mixed traffic as well, but it would at least draw more riders and have more capacity (plus it would be electric!). The only real advantage of BRT that I can see is that the buses could branch out at some point and serve a greater area of North Seattle. That is known as “Open BRT” rather than RapidRide’s “Closed BRT.” We should be building these lines more open in certain areas like West Seattle. After all, what’s the point of using buses if you ignore their primary advantage (the ability to go anywhere).
Not really. As far as I’m aware, the city doesn’t have a taxing authority they could put on the ballot for that much.
They have the head tax. I don’t know how much that raises, but they can bring it back.
They can issue general obligation bonds and levy property taxes not subject to limits with a 3/5 majority vote of the public under RCW 84.52.056.
McGinn was proposing to put a $241 million bond on the ballot for the seawall. So $300 million is probably doable, but would use up most of the City’s bonding capacity.
The Seattle Streetcar Network plan of a couple of years ago envisioned using LIDs to help pay for the cost of building the network. The South Lake Union line gets a big chunk of its funding from a SLU LID. Because a large part of the property in SLU is owned by one individual who supported the streetcar concept, getting the SLU LID approval was fairly easy. It might be more difficult to get the property owners along the Ballard-Fremont-Dexter corridor to get on board.
Even though Vulcan was obviously huge, IIRC something like 90% of SLU businesses supported that LID, so it wasn’t just PA.
Of course the ideal system would be elevated to not cause more congestion by blocking cross streets. Hmmmm these numbers and this plan sound familiar, Oh yeah it’s the Green Line Monorail project. In spite of the fact that Seattle couldn’t fund that project, it was and appears to be still is the right thing to build. Although at this point an elevated LINK cars would also be worth it.
Downtown-SLU-Fremont-Ballard is a long way from being the monorail alignment.
Well it ended up being farther away, but the original idea Dick F. had was to extend the Seattle Center Monorail and go to Freemont and then Ballard. That got nixed for a variety of reasons, one of which is the difficulty in crossing the ship canal at height.
The final map is here:
Can you post a link to the full study?
Can someone tell me why, if there’s so much demand for this corridor, there aren’t any busses running the full length now? There’s no good way to get to downtown Ballard from Fremont without walking a good 6-8 blocks.
I think the demand isn’t solely Fremont-Ballard but a combination of those two Urban Villages plus connection to SLU and downtown Seattle.
You can cross the Fremont Bridge and catch MT 17 to downtown Ballard, though it’s only every 30 min most of the time. Actually the Nickerson bridge option would require that too.
Oh yeah, I always forget about the 17. Having to cross two bridges is always a gamble, especially in the summer.
They should really change the 17 immediately to go through Fremont, and use other buses to serve Nickerson. The 17 routing is really inconvenient, especially the process of getting from 15th to Nickerson. What a terrible intersection.
+1. One efficiency restructure being considered is to axe the 2, put those hours on the 13, axe the 4, put those hours on the 3, and extend the 3 to the turnback loop at SPU. Then have the 30 terminate at SPU rather than Seattle Center, giving you frequent service from the 30/31 from UW to SPU and 7.5 minute headways to the top of Queen Anne or downtown. The 2X would continue to exist, but be extended from its current terminus to SPU and then west on Nickerson.
With this configuration, some people will lose all-day front-door service but gain much more frequent trips to UW and downtown within walking distance. Commuters west of SPU gain faster one-seat rides on the 2X. The 17 can then be re-routed north of the ship canal to fill the gaping hole in Metro’s service between Fremont and Ballard. And Metro saves money.
The 2X proposal showed it continuing on Nickerson but didn’t say where it would terminate. (Ballard? Magnolia? Emerson & 15th W?)
Probably terminate at 15th. Not much ridership out in Magnolia and no point duplicating RapidRide up in Ballard.
Metro does want to replace the eastern all-day route on Magnolia (33) with a peak-only route, so possibly the 2X could be it, although it seems like the Queen Anne routing would make that too slow. Maybe the 2 could handle just the northern part of Thorndyke. Because it is real close to where the 2 would terminate anyway.
It’s hardly unusual for demand to exist for 10-20 years before Metro provides a route for it.
See the E/W portion of the 8 for example.
How long does a fast streetcar (regular streetcar/ a current bus) take to go from Ballard to Downtown?
Crazy thought: Tunnel starting at “C” on the chart, heading straight to downtown with only a few stops on the way (super-tall elevator to top of QA, one in Uptown, one in Belltown). Adding Uptown and Belltown to the line would seriously bump up ridership.
Yeah, it would bump up costs quite a bit. But we’d get a whole lot of ridership for our dollars.
You’ll get more riders for less money if you tunnel from CPS under SLU, Belltown, Uptown/LQA, run at-grade through Interbay, tunnel under the canal, and at-grade again to Crown Hill. CPS is the only place you can enter the existing DSTT without colossal expense, and, contrary to the oft-repeated wisdom, the DSTT is already built for two-minute headways. So far, current plans call for four-minute headways from the I.D. to Northgate, so you can fit a Ballard line in there. The Interbay-Ballard corridor has more ridership than via Fremont, and has more available at-grade ROW.
That is rather along the lines of what Forward Thrust called for (as I’m sure transit samurai Bruce is aware). As a taxpayer I’d much rather see my money go towards a good high quality, long-term solution like this rather than spending money on a streetcar or BRT solution only to regret it 20 years from now. That said, this likely couldn’t be done on any sort of reasonable timeline without state or federal assistance.
I wonder how the DBT will impact a plan like this…
I free that we should focus on long term solutions, but BRT is so cheap that I don’t think we’ll regret it because it’s going to take 20 years to build heavy rail anyways (and that BRT can be very helpful during that time). However, I think streetcars are more of a waste because they’re supposed to be longer term but really don’t equate to true heavy rail which we really should be getting instead.
I agree, my enthusiasm for streetcars outside the downtown core has cooled somewhat. We have one blockbuster local-service corridor with capacity issues where streetcars can shine: LQA-Belltown-Downtown-I.D.-Jackson St. Absent lots of grade-separation, a streetcar is just a very high-capacity, extremely expensive bus, and a streetcar in traffic or waiting for a drawbridge is just a very expensive bus in traffic or waiting for a drawbridge.
Ballard ultimately needs grade separated true high-capacity transit, but the city can’t afford that, and in the interim, we can meet demand on those routes with busses. For a fraction of the cost of this streetcar alignment the city could buy TVMs and more signal priority for RapidRide, which could greatly help improve its reliability. I’ll be interested to hear if this TMP HCT study contemplated doing that.
I take it the Nickerson/3rd Ave W option would be a low drawbridge that opens just as often as the Fremont Bridge?
Also interesting that several of the segments have improvements “not likely to be offset by substantial travel time savings” but would offer dramatically better bike and pedestrian facilities, such as an additional ship canal crossing by SPU and true multiuse path along Westlake Ave N. This is similar to the rebuilding of Terry Ave N which isn’t a fast streetcar but a very dramatic improvement vs the old condition without sidewalks.
That’s what it seems like. Personally, if we’re going to build a new crossing I think we should do it right; either a tunnel or a high bridge that doesn’t open all of the time (or at all).
Hopefully a tunnel that opens won’t be considered!
Hmmm, a tunnel with a sunroof? This could be interesting…
I’ve often wondered why Seattle and the cities that surround Lake Washington don’t lobby to lower the navigable waterway height requirements. Everything is predicated on the tallest ship that can fit under Aurora and a I-5 bridges.
Does Seattle really need insanely tall ships to be able enter Lake Union? What’s the distribution of ship heights over the last 10 years? Maybe a 70 or 80 foot high bridge over the canal is sufficient for commerce and would allow a high crossing that didn’t cost a ton. It’s certainly cheaper than a tunnel.
They’ve already done that with Lake Washington and it sucks. The new 520 bridge will require a two mile detour for sailboats as small as 26′ LOA. Cut off Lake Union and you kill the wooden boat center. We’ve already lost NOAA to Oregon with pro highway influence over the ship canal (nice one Gov.). The Lakes and waterways are unique; we can build roads and RR tracks anywhere.
That’s why I suggested they study the distribution of ship heights and figure out mast height needed, not just mandated. I agree 26′ is too short for many sail boats.
‘Put the wooden boat center out of business?…’ Give me a Break.
The tall boats visit the CWB about once a year. I’m not sure it make sense to design bridges around just a few boats, but it would be a shame to lose them.
Plus even a 50′ high bridge would be really tough to get to with a streetcar. The road on either side of the cut is what – 20′ or so? That means a ramp 30′ in the air to cross, and looking at steel track that’s quite a horizontal distance for a ramp that high.
I don’t see why they included that alignment alternative. It would skip the heart of Fremont and lose tons of riders. They should just use the Fremont Bridge–it doesn’t open that often and when it does it doesn’t stay open very long.
Zef, I work right next to the Fremont Bridge. It opens more often then you’d think, it can stay open for a decent interval, and traffic on both sides of the bridge backs up for block during peak. 26/28 and 30/31 delays can often be attributed to the bridge. I’m sure that’s why they examined the ‘new bridge’ alternative.
Having said all that, I agree with you that missing downtown Fremont makes no sense. And not just b/c I work here :)
It looks to me like they’d be planning on a drawbridge for the alternative as well. There’s no way they’d be able to bring a streetcar up high enough for a high bridge with the routing they’ve drawn.
That said, the traffic caused by the bridge is a larger problem than the bridge itself – you can likely just time the bridge openings between streetcars.
We understand the concept of traffic signal priority; why not bridge opening priority? It’s just an issue of coordination, and honestly, it seems like it should be a relatively easy one (given that the number of bridge intersections is far smaller than the number of intersections with traffic lights).
It’s a political one. The Coastguard sets the rules about bridge openings on the ship canal. Anything that would significantly impede the flow of water traffic would be very hard to get past the Coastguard, and the city has zero political leverage on them.
This really isn’t a problem.
From 33 CFR 117:
“The draws need not be opened for a period of up to 10 minutes after receiving an opening request, if needed to pass accumulated vehicular traffic. However, the draws shall open without delay, when requested by vessels engaged in towing operations.”
So we don’t open the bridge when a streetcar is within 10 minutes away, unless someone’s towing (which happens, but generally not more than a few times a day).
How did they deal with this in 1900? Can we buy back the Theo chocolate factory and have our trolley barn back?
Matt, we’d have to use a lower threshold than 10 minutes. If the streetcar is running every 8 – 10 minutes most of the time as the post says, then the drawbridge would never open. That also only considers streetcar traffic in one direction, unless the schedules happened to be timed so that streetcars in opposite directions arrived at the bridge at the same time.
I’d suggest using the station on either side of the bridge as the cutoff. If a streetcar is arriving at either one headed towards the bridge, the bridge stays down.
“the drawbridge would never open” The drawbridge has to open – it’s the law. But it would open right after a streetcar drives past. The limiting factor is the length of an open-close cycle. If the streetcar comes every 10 minutes and it’s a 5 minute cycle, then there’s no problem – the bridge can cycle every 10 minutes. Considering both directions this probably limits us to a frequency of about twice the average cycle time in order to keep streetcars from waiting. However, 33 CFR 117 also says that the bridge doesn’t open for most boat traffic during commute hours. So we’re really only limited in frequency on off-peak hours.
“We understand the concept of traffic signal priority; why not bridge opening priority?” Because Abraham Lincoln says no. Even Amtrak waits for boats.
I know this is outside of our price range without additional help, but this rapid streetcar corridor is a bargain compared to light rail projects around the country, including Link. We should pursue the funding for this aggressively.
Yeah, I’m surprised commenters are worrying so much about the cost. Portland got $90 million last year for its streetcar loop that won’t carry anywhere near this number of riders! This project would be very attractive to the feds (at least once the current House is booted out).
“Last year” should read “the last time”. There will be no “new starts” for years. If Seattle wants this streetcar, it will have to build it itself.
What exactly is it that makes the rapid streetcar such a good deal vs. other light rail? Does utility relocation cost so much? Or is it an issue of needing less rolling stock?
If the estimates are lower than other projects but what’s planned is similar, then I have low confidence in the estimates.
Most of the cost of to build the exclusive ROW, plus light rail would definitely need a new bridge or tunnel. It wouldn’t make any sense for this corridor.
I live in Fremont neighborhood, I think it should be built on Fremont Ave instead build a new bridge there because it is right in the middle of Fremont hub and it will help boost the ridership and Fremont businesses. I prefer streetcar over rapidbus. I tried rapid bus at few places and it does no good for me. I’d love to see another streetcar line that connect Fremont on 34th street then go right on Stone Way and go all the way to Green Lake then go to Roosevelt area. It will help improve these areas and boost ridership big time.
One other small quibble: the plan has the 28 terminating at Leary and 45th. The 28 should go all the way to the transfer hub in Fremont, where it could then thru-route in another direction.
I agree. It would be awesome if it continued to Capitol Hill–it’s always been annoying to get to Fremont from the Hill.
So……. I’m not so sure about this one.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but my impression is that these ridership estimates were generated assuming nothing new or significant along the route of the old monorail greenline.
I think this is a huge mistake. I think it is a given that eventually we will build true Central Link style LR along some semblance of the old greenline route (DT under 2nd Ave – Seattle Center – Interbay – Ballard – etc). If you have true LR operating on that route, then ridership on this SC line would be severely impacted.
We should assume that we will build a 2nd N-S LR line and then use our Seattle SC network to tie the two LR lines together. Add in a few SC routes to service specific destinations and underserved neighborhoods and we have a start of a real plan.
Basically we need an integrated systems approach and not a one-off, “planned in a vacuum” approach.
Lots of cities have 2 lines that begin and end in the same places but take different routes–they are called “circle” lines, and they work. This streetcar and future light rail would draw a big circle around queen anne, and I predict ridership will actually multiply, rather than just splitting between them.
My point is that if the proposed SC line is already marginal even without anything of truly high capacity on the Greenline route, then it would be a sure loser when the Greenline LR line was built.
We need to be smarter about what we build in the near future. Redundant lines with slightly different routings might be perfectly fine if you have a larger system that is already built-out, but if you are playing catch-up then it makes no sense at all.
They’re different markets; this rail line isn’t great for Ballard/Downtown, but it’s fantastic for Ballard/Fremont, Ballard/SLU or Fremont/Seattle Center..
What Martin said. I really don’t think Ballard residents will use this streetcar as their fast way to get to the downtown core–that’s what RapidRide and the express buses are for. This will, however, be awesome for anyone in Ballard or Fremont who works for Amazon or other SLU companies. Fremont also has a nice collection of tech companies. The fact that it eventually goes downtown is almost beside the point–it is connecting urban villages.
I also question the very assumption that Interbay is a good route for light rail. Yes, it would be fast, but it would be going through a long stretch of nothing. How many riders are going to board in Interbay? There would have to be a big park-and-ride to draw many Magnolia residents. Interbay seems pretty inherently car-centric (don’t really see TOD working there), so BRT may be the best use of our dollars unless someone finds a way to make the water crossing a lot cheaper.
SLU is starting to attract some destinations that I’d like an easy way to get to from Ballard. Previously, it was just the Guitar Center, but now there are quite a few restaurants opening up in the neighborhood. I can currently take the 17, but a route through downtown Fremont is superior because right now I have no direct connection to that neighborhood.
To zefwagner: Interbay isn’t a terrible TOD spot. The TOD literature suggests that one of the key drivers of overall TOD success is retail success at the TOD location (see the Round at Beaverton for a failed TOD where the lack of retail success is a big issue). Interbay has some retail already and is well-situated for more. (There’s space to build it at relatively low cost)
Put another way: a successful Interbay transit+TOD probably does involve structured parking (oriented at Magnolia residents and some West Queen Anne residents) and some retail taking advantage of the access from both parking and transit.
Um, legal problems are what’s stalled Round at Beaverton. There have been years of lawsuits between original developer, current owner, buyers and leasees, etc.
While I like having the new retail in SLU, I don’t really see it as a big transit driver because it’s almost all highly specialized places like high-end furniture. But then again I’m not a big shopper so maybe I just don’t understand. I have heard that SLU is geographically too close to downtown and U-Village to become a regional retail center.
“I really don’t think Ballard residents will use this streetcar as their fast way to get to the downtown core–that’s what RapidRide and the express buses are for.”
The 15X and 18X are the only “fast” ways to the downtown core. Not RapidRide D in its proposed configuration. If RR D went on Denny – Elliott – 15th, then it might be a contender for a reasonable-speed route from Ballard to downtown.
I gave up on Interbay when I saw the huge parking lot at Whole Foods, with the store behind it rather than in front of it. That development will set the tone for Interbay’s near-future development, I’m afraid.
Another way to think of this: we will have 2 light rail spines north and south, and the streetcars will form a big X between them. This makes more sense in a city with so much downtown demand, as opposed to having just east-west streetcar routes linking the 2 light rail spines to each other.
I would suspect that an E-W line connecting the 2 LR lines via Ballard-Wallingford/Freemont–UW would have much better performance than a 3rd line into DT along only a slightly different route.
Yes, something to replace the 44 would be great, but that would have to be either BRT (doubtful given the lack of ROW) or a light rail line tunneled through Phinney Ridge all the way to UW. There’s no money for that in the near future.
Personally I’d rather an E-W Link line than another N-S one right there.
My personal vision would be a Ballard-Fremont-UDistrict-(new)Sandpoint Bridge line that then split in Kirkland, half going through to Redmond, half going South to link up with Eastlink, going through the Bellevue tunnel then taking I90 to Issaquah.
Eh, Ballard-Fremont-UW is a weird route. It would miss Wallingford, would have to turn a lot, and would hit the southern part the U District rather than the Brooklyn station unless it made a big turn. It makes a lot more sense to follow the 44 route–it would go at surface along Market, then tunnel under 45th all the way to the Brooklyn Station, creating an easy transfer point. Rather than building a huge expensive bridge across to Kirkland, it should turn and head up to Lake City on up to Bothell.
Here is the full presentation to the City Council Transportation Committee this morning. Enjoy!
I’m happy to see they recommend exclusive ROW on Westlake. That will make up for any delays due to the Fremont bridge, since they can speed up to compensate. I also see they recommend coupled streetcars for the Fremont-Ballard segment. That is about the size of one light rail car, so this will almost be the light rail people are hoping for, and will dramatically exceed the capacity of BRT. It will also draw a lot more development to the Leary corridor as long the proper upzoning is done.
I tend to agree that light rail is a better way to go than streetcar, especially once you put Ballard into the equation. Streetcar seems like the way to go when you’ve got a lot of destinations in a small area, like downtown, SLU, First Hill, etc. But the area between Ballard and Fremont still doesn’t have that much going on in it, or at least, not enough to justify spending our extremely limited money placing stops there. I mean, most people who’d be on such a route would be going from central Ballard to central Fremont, rather than to the Tacoma Screw shop on Leary, right? Same with the area along Westlake between SLU and Fremont–the density there just isn’t what it is around First Hill or SLU. Which is why light rail and its wider stop spacing seems more logical to me for that route. And if light rail is the logical solution, then spending money on streetcar seems like a bad idea–better to put in BRT until light rail can be built.
The problem, of course, is making sure light rail IS built, so your stopgap of BRT doesn’t become the permanent “solution.”
Or we could stop pretending there is any real difference between Light Rail and Streetcars. A light rail vehicle is just a large streetcar. The proposed “rapid streetcar” from Ballard would have a bunch of exclusive ROW, so it functionally is a Portland MAX-style light rail line, except with smaller vehicles. It also looks like this line would have much wider stop spacing than the SLU line.
Except it will totally lack exclusive ROW at every pinch-point, which is just as bad as having no exclusive ROW at all.
First of all, I’m sure the streetcar would have signal priority and queue jumps even at places where it doesn’t have exclusive ROW. For example, it would be idiotic to not have a queue jump for the Fremont bridge so the streetcar gets to go first as soon as it closes. Also, they can work the schedule so that the streetcar would have a normal speed down Westlake, but have the option to go extra-fast to make up any time lost crossing the bridge. The exclusive ROW gives that wiggle room.
The devil’s in the details.
Fremont bridge backups frequently go 2 or 3 blocks. Is there going to be a 3-block-long queue jump? No, of course not, because that would actually be exclusive ROW, and they’ve already said they have no space for that.
No ROW = no queue jumps, practically speaking.
(Ballard Bridge backups are even worse than Fremont Bridge ones, and southbound RapidRide doesn’t look like it’s even getting merge priority, never mind queue jumps.
If a Seattle transit planner’s promise isn’t iron clad, you’d be well advised not to read it optimistically.
There’s already a bus stop right in front of the Peet’s in Fremont. They could remove the rest of the parking on that side and make that entire lane streetcar/bus. Doesn’t seem too hard.
And the three backed-up blocks of 36th street before that bus stop?
I am really excited about the prospect of turning the Westlake parking lot into a multiuse trail under this plan. That would be amazing for people who bike from Fremont to downtown, and much safer to boot.
+1 That parking lot will be a transit lane some day, somehow. It’s just too narrow a corridor to waste for car storage.
Sadly that corridor was created for a rail line, abandoned by BNSF in the 90s. You can of course still see some of the tracks. Should have been a rails-to-trails in the first place, not parking.
Does the city own that land? I sort of assumed that it belonged to China Moon and Kenmore Air and all the other marine businesses along there. If it is public land though, then the conversion to a separated trail would be so much easier and cheaper.
Per the county parcel viewer, essentially all of the parking strip is Westlake Ave ROW, other than a few dozen feet closest to the shoreline. That’s why the city was able to implement RPZ/pay parking along it.
That said, there’s a surprisingly large residential community in the floating homes and houseboats along Westlake that will undoubtedly be irked if they lose their parking, since there are essentially no alternatives nearby (yes yes, free parking on public property is not a right, no need for a car if you have good transit, etc.)
The neighborhood had a big fight with the city a few years back when SDOT wanted to implement hourly limits and charge for parking. The city was absolutely shocked to discover how many people actually lived there versus were just using the lot as a convenient daily park-and-ride, and eventually caved and gave them the RPZ. Several of the marine industrial businesses were basically screwed because the city RPZ ordinance doesn’t have any allowance for commercial parking, so their employees suddenly lost all their parking options.
The AGC building has a fairly large surface parking lot, and there’s another one a bit north. I assume if the strip of parking goes away someone will build a parking structure or two there, and charge the residents accordingly. It’s a bit of a walk from the floating homes, but it’s something.
The businesses will complain about the loss of parking, but walk along there and it just seems really excessive. A few parking structures would provide all they need, and the streetcar would actually bring some customers as well.
It seems to me that the need is higher capacity, ala rail. The need is not going for the cheapest option, brt. Though it is a large amount for rail surely the money can be found. In the long run the cheaper option is a huge mistake, we’ll have to increase capacity eventually. And why push those costs into the future when the higher capacity need is both more urgent and more expensive? That seems very short sighted to me.
Yes, as Jarrett at Human Transit has noted, the most compelling argument for a streetcar over a bus is when you need more capacity. In most other ways a really well-designed bus route can function the same as a streetcar line (as seen in many European cities). The projections for demand along this line suggest that even buses every 5 minutes would not be able to meet the demand, so a streetcar is very justified.
Normally I prefer rail over bus, but the greater frequency of the BRT proposal gives me pause. If it’s not grade separated, frequency matters more than if it is, because something has to compensate for the slowness of traffic. I am concerned about the sudden frequency drop to 15 minutes at 7pm and all day weekends. This isn’t Bellevue, it’s an urban area with a lot of pent-up demand for transit. 10 minute frequency until 10pm would allow the area to reach its transit-riding potential. But at least 15 minute evenings is better than 30 minute evenings.
I agree, the 15 minute night/weekend thing is distressing. Experience all over the country is that more and more people are using transit for non-work trips. The New York Times recently had an article about how they used to get away with having lower frequency and shutting down whole lines for maintenance on weekends, but now ridership is so high they are having trouble doing that anymore. That said, 15 is better than most routes in Seattle for evening/weekend. Hopefully it could improve over time.
Regarding the BRT frequencies, they are great but would be offset by lower capacities. So they might come more often, but would probably still be way more crowded. Frequency also doesn’t really compensate for traffic–it can actually result in more bunching of vehicles if they are closer together.
If the city throws out financial considerations and just chooses what is best for the city, it will always be able to find the funding. That happens all the time with road projects; they design a project the way they think is best, and then try to scrounge up funding for it. With transit projects, cost seems to usually be one of the biggest considerations. While that’s admirable, it means we only get what we think we can afford, rather than what we truly want. But things will probably stay the way try are for the time being, so I just hope building low-cost transit infrastructure now doesn’t preclude the construction of expensive but truly transformative transit infrastructure a few decades down the road.
Comments are closed.