Back in April of this year, associated organizations in the “stadium” district released a report (PDF) to address technical options for reactivating the George Benson Waterfront Streetcar. The report’s underlying conclusion basically singles out political and institutional challenges as the biggest roadblocks to reactivation, since there are so many entities involved in planning work along the corridor. The laments of last week’s guest editorial shared similar sentiments.
Upfront, the costs to reactivate would be relatively cheap– in the neighborhood of $10 – 13 million. Because the lack of a maintenance facility is to blame for the Streetcar’s demise, the study assumed that the line would share the same barn as the one used by the First Hill line at the Charles Street Service Center. That would, of course, require creating some compatibility with the FHSC’s modern pantograph/catenary technology.
A little more on the alternatives below the jump.
The report primarily looked at seven alternatives for the southern terminus connecting with the FHSC line in some way to allow the vintage streetcars to get back to the barn. Highlights below:
- Alternatives 1 through 3 would treat both Waterfront and First Hill as separate lines linked by connecting non-revenue track for deadheading trams. Alternative 1, which was recommended to be carried forward, retains the Waterfront Line’s existing southern terminal station at 5th and Jackson, at which point riders could connect with other services in the King Street hub.
- Alternatives 4 through 6 would be couplets integrated with the First Hill tail track along South Jackson, allowing riders to transfer between lines at common stops. A couplet would actually provide some benefit to the FHSC, since headways will be limited by its single-track stub at the southern terminus, as currently designed. Alternative 4, a Main-5th-Jackson-2nd couplet, was carried forward for recommendation.
- Both Alternatives 1 and 4 were matched with two northern terminus design options: a terminal station at Broad Street (A) which was removed for Olympic Sculpture Park construction, and one further south at Bell Street (B). While a terminal at Bell Street would reduce access to points further north, it also scored higher in terms of operations because of a better potential for running shorter headways.
- Because the study assumed retaining the existing single-track configuration, headways would likely be maintained at around pre-closure levels– 20 minutes peak, 30 minutes off-peak. Alternative 1B’s (Bell Street terminus) shorter route length would potentially allow for 15-minute headways. Also, at $225 per vehicle revenue hour, the line would be, more or less, as costly to run as the SLU line.
Obviously, the biggest roadblock before advancing any of this is really getting anyone to sign on. Up to this point, the City has made no accommodations to Waterfront reactivation with the First Hill design, which essentially acts as the project’s lifeline. According to commenter Tom in the last Waterfront thread, the idea has been received with relatively broad informal support:
I have discussed the report with several members of the City Council, businessmen in Pioneer Square and along the waterfront, the POS, members of the Seattle Planning Commisiion and many people interested in the waterfront park. Everyone is supportive EXCEPT James Corner and some folks at SDOT who believe that the N/S transportation needs of the waterfront park can be met with a streetcar line on 1st Ave. Nothing can be further from reality when one considers the elevation difference between the waterfront and 1st Ave.