People fear change for many reasons. In the International District, unfounded fears have reared their ugly head again, this time in opposition to tracks for the First Hill Streetcar.
The City’s Charles Street Service Center, at 8th and Dearborn, is to be the site of the streetcar maintenance facility. Lead tracks will extend south from the line at Jackson to Dearborn. These will be the same as any other streetcar – downtown Portland, the South Lake Union Streetcar, and many others around the US and the world.
I could understand if this were an opposition, say, along a major cycling route – cyclists riding parallel to the tracks can catch a wheel in them. I could also understand an issue if there were fast-moving trains here. But – neither of these are the case. The Seattle Chinatown International District preservation and development authority, or SCIDpda, is “worried” and “concerned” that people crossing the street will trip and fall.
Now, when I first heard about this, I was given an example of a senior citizen catching a walker or cane in the rails. I can see that happening, as there’s senior housing right next to 8th – so I asked how often it happens. It turns out… it doesn’t. The city hasn’t found any instances, nor has the SCIDpda, or any other groups who have picked up on this claim. What’s more, SDOT went on to investigate in Portland, just to be sure – and heard back from Good Samaritan Hospital, located in the streetcar loop in Northwest Portland, and a retirement facility next door. They’ve never heard of a problem.
These groups say their concerns are being ignored – but they claim “hazards” and “risk” without any evidence at all. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if street safety improves – as crossings and sidewalks will be improved throughout this project. If there were ever a legitimate claim here, it’s lost in an unwillingness to accept reality.