Photo by Oran

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:

Alternative 1
  • 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.
Alternative 4
  • 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.

64 Replies to “Technical Options for Reactivating the Waterfront Streetcar”

  1. Is there any reason as to the direction of the WFSC in alternative 4?

    “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.”

    Except that it wouldn’t. If I were wanting to go to First Hill, I would have to cross the street. If you reverse the direction the WFSC goes through it’s loop, then what they suggest above could be accomplished.

    1. Yes, I understand that people coming from First Hill going to the waterfront have a same stop transfer but the point is, with alternative 4, it’s not as convenient as they would make it sound. If you have the couplet, it’s only easy to transfer in one direction.

    2. The southern terminus station of the FHSC is on a tail-track so there’s only one platform for all riders going to and from First Hill. If it remains single-track with an Alternative 4 couplet, then yes, riders would be transferring at a common stop.

      1. Unless my understanding of the FHSC is wrong, the stop would be at 5th and Jackson, which is not where the single tail-track would be. Riders in one direction would have to cross the street to continue in that same direction.

        Jackson and Occidental is where the single-track is and, even then, it is only single track for the length of the platform.

  2. How does this fit into the planned waterfront redesign?

    I would think that a streetcar line would be an attractive amenity for the new waterfront – and if it were part of the design that could allow for other advances like some additional passing loops so that higher frequencies can be maintained. The advantage of a Broad St terminus is that there are some destinations there with Pier 70, the waterfront park, the Sculpture garden, and it is almost walking distance to Seattle Center.

    1. You might have the right idea: go big or go not at all. Or, at least, don’t go so small that you build something completely useless. If there’s plausible demand for greater frequencies, at least build to support it.

      Along those lines, why settle for “almost” walking distance to Seattle Center? If you’re going to spend $225/hr. to run this thing, run it up Broad to Seattle Center! I’m sure there’s some reason that’s impossible, and obviously it means some money spent up-front. And I’m still not sure that from the city’s perspective, and from the regional perspective, that it makes such a line a high priority. But it makes it at least somewhat more useful, and gives a wider range of people and businesses some reason to care about the project.

      1. I think the Seattle Center might be key to making a tourist line profitable (works for the Monorail). I know it sounds silly but what if the WFSC didn’t go to the waterfront but instead went from Seattle Center to SLU? Maybe the SLUT barn can be expanded to serve all of the vintage equipment and the modern trams all go to a larger Charles St. MF. With MOHAI moving to the Armory and the Center for Wooden Boats already there a SLU facility could be a great start on a living breathing transportation museum. If it gains traction money could extend the line to the waterfront and expand the vintage fleet. Restoration of a few vintage ETBs might be a cheap way to jump start that. In fact the whole MEHVA fleet could pull limited summer excursion duty if tourist dollars funded restoration and repair.

      2. I dont think you could get to seattle center. I see two problems. 1) What grades can those streetcars climb? Broad is fairly steep. 2) Crossing those BSNF tracks at broad will ruin reliablities. Those tracks are very high traffic with freight trains, and are frequently blocked (i know i live right next to it).

      3. I’d connect the Waterfront Street car with pier 91 and then run it over to Commodore Park, or Discovery Park and the locks via interbay & Fisherman’s termimal. That would make it both a commuter line, and a tourist line. There are already other ways to get to the Seattle Center.

      4. Well, so it’s impossible then… I’ve only biked up Broad a few times, I didn’t remember it being that bad.

        Once you’re talking about building a commuter line, you’re talking about real up-front costs. First, because there’s more new distance that needs to be built than existing. Second, because you won’t be able to run much capacity on the existing single track, and will have to build a second. At that point this route’s advantage over a First Ave. project goes away, and its disadvantages remain.

        It increasingly sounds like this whole thing just shouldn’t be a priority for the city.

      5. Waterfront bus to Seattle Center! I assume Broad Street is too steep for streetcars. Connecting two of Seattle’s main tourist attractions would encourage visitors to visit both, and that would improve Seattle’s image. It would also make Seattle Center directly accessible to cruise-ship visitors, and give a closer stop to the Sculpture Park. I also like the idea of extending a streetcar to Amgen and Discovery Park, but Seattle Center is where more people go.

      6. In the short term I’d like to see the WFSC revived on it’s current ROW as mitigation for seawall construction and removing the viaduct.

        Longer term I’d like to see ROW included for a double-track streetcar line along the waterfront (can be used by buses too). Even longer term I’l like to see the line extended to Amgen and Pier 90/91.

        A stop somewhere between Broad and Amgen could serve some of the offices along Elliott (at least the ones too far to walk from the Broad street station) if there was a ped bridge across the BNSF tracks to Elliott.

        BTW keep in mind that grade separation is generally required for streetcars or light rail to cross interstate rail lines.

      7. Those cars couldn’t cross the BNSF mainline or make it up the Broad St. hill. Its just too steep. But a bus could easily ferry passengers between the waterfront-level station and Seattle Center.

    2. It can “fit” in the sense that there is plenty of ROW available. It can also “fit” in the sense that there is a need to connect to the inter-modal hub at Coleman dock and for circulation up and down the waterfront. I don’t think Corner’s tuk-tuks or pedicabs are a real transit solution.

      Given the money we’re pouring into the waterfront it strikes me as insane that we’re not providing any real way of accessing it short of driving or walking up and down some very steep hills. This is going to discourage people from going to the waterfront and encourage those who do go there to bring their cars.

      If ROW for transit isn’t included in the waterfront plans we aren’t going to get it. No streetcar, no bus lanes, probably not even a bus route. To my mind this would be just as stupid as building a new elevated highway the width of the West Seattle bridge on the waterfront.

  3. $225 per revenue-hour is pretty pricey, regardless of low up-front costs. And this line would run at 15-minute headways in the absolute best case, so if there’s a pressing capacity need this line doesn’t fill it.

    If waterfront interests want to cover most of the operating costs of a low-frequency streetcar line that serves little other than the waterfront (for the same reason that First Ave. routes don’t really serve the waterfront), that’s great. But given the high operating costs and low productivity ceiling, I can see why SDOT has other priorities.

    1. I believe the operating subsidy would only need to be about $2 million per year once farebox recovery is factored in.

      Given the scale of the other investments going into the waterfront $2m/yr. is pretty small. How much subsidy will Corner’s tuk-tuks and pedicabs take per year?

      Lets take this from another angle. What is the public benefit of providing better car-free access to the sculpture park, Pier 70, Victoria Clipper, Edgewater Hotel, Pier 66, cruise ship terminal, Waterfront Marriot, aquarium, Piers 54-57, the ferry terminal, Pioneer Square, the new waterfront park, and whatever redevelopment happens on the East side of Alaskan Way?

      1. Keep in mind it would also be serving three colleges (The Art Institute, Argosy, and the Christian graduate school on Elliott), RealNetworks, etc. None of those are well-served by transit at the moment — the hill up to 1st is a bit daunting for many.

  4. Make it about a dozen times more useful and run it to Interbay/Magnolia. That would, of course, require a city takeover of railroad ROW, but I can dream.

  5. “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.”

    Thank god someone up there has some brains. Seattle needs yet another very expensive train to nowhere like it needs a hole in the head. If local businesses think it’s a great idea, they can vote for a LID and build it themselves. Meanwhile, the rest of us can work towards welding our disjoint network of modern streetcars together into a coherent system based on cost-effectiveness and ridership rather than nostalgia, and perhaps figure out a way to integrate the Benson cars into that.

    1. I think the waterfront street car could (and should) be funded at least in part by the viaduct replacement project. That seems like a no brainer. Once the viaduct is gone and businesses are more attracted to the waterfront, a LID for streetcar service also seems like a no brainer, at least to me.

    2. I have to agree with Bruce. I’m not sold on the idea of a new waterfront streetcar. I’m obviously in support of streetcars, but they have to be functional streetcars, not something just for tourist. A 1st Ave streetcar fits that purpose better and achieves other objectives like connecting the existing streetcar lines, as well as building a downtown spine that could be used by future extensions.

      1. Agreed – and for those who say “Connect the Benson line to Pier 91”, please remember those piers only get used about 50-55 days per year by cruise ships, so we are left with 300+ days to fill the cars north of Broad Street? And we will NOT be seeing “Golden Agers” schlepping their luggage onto the streetcar only to find themselves at the foot of University Street with no way to reach their hotel on 4th or 5th avenue.

    3. Yep. At a time when we need to show that streetcars are cost-effective, a low effectiveness streetcar is not palatable.

      1. So go farther North & East. A run over to Fisherman’s terminal and the locks and Discovery Park would be used by locals wanting a day out at the park. The point of a good transit network is that you don’t need a car even on the weekends to do the fun stuff around town. Lots of folks live in Belltown who would ride it. You can bring your dog along and it makes for an easy way over to a fantastic park.

      2. Right now its a zero effectiveness streetcar because its not running. During the summer it did quite well with the tourists, and if the headways were better it would probally do even better than it did before connecting the ferry to link and the tunnel and tourists to link downtown the airport and the other attractions. It does need to be improved to fifteen minute headways though to attract more better and consistant ridership.

      3. Ben, I think you ignore the public’s love of historic streetcars. If anything bringing back the WFSC helps sell the rest of the streetcar plan.

        Beyond that while transit up and down the waterfront certainly is one purpose of the WFSC it is far from the only purpose. Similarly the F-Market line in SF isn’t just about transit.

        I can go along with trying to see if there is support for a LID and perhaps some Port money to cover the cost of restoring service and providing the ongoing operating subsidy. Still even absent other sources of money I believe it is worth it for the city to pay for restoring the line and providing the operating subsidy.

      4. The WFSC was ok for that segment but I don’t think it’s practical for longer trips outside of the tourist area. My recollection was that it really wasn’t that comfortable a ride and I don’t think it even had heating.

    4. Sorry but a 1st Ave Street car serves a completely different crowd than the Waterfront Street car does. Besides 1st Ave is narrow and unless they get rid of the on street parking adding a street car to that mess will make everything grind to a stand still.

    5. If the ROW for a streetcar isn’t included in Corner’s plans there won’t be a streetcar on the waterfront.

      Besides how useful are Corner’s tuk-tuks and pedicabs as transit? How much subsidy would they require?

      Given the scale of the other investment going into the waterfront replacing the WFSC would seem like a no-brainer both to provide access and as an attraction in an of itself.

      You may not like the WFSC strict transit productivity measures, but consider how much money is blown by cities all over the country in building tourist attractions. Consider how much is spent trying to get visitors in town for one reason to go out and see the rest of the city.

    6. “Train to nowhere?” Some nice day or evening take a walk down the right of way from Fifth and Jackson to the sculpture park- after looking over Dr. Corner’s material on On the way back, pick any street other than the two with elevators and walk rapidly uphill to First, imagining you can’t walk very well, for assessment as to whether First is close enough for transit.

      The Washington State Ferry Terminal is neither nowhere nor connected to nowhere. Same for the Victoria Clipper dock. Same for the Bell Street Center. Whatever history’s judgment on anything displayed there, the Seattle Art Museum’s new sculpture garden has local investment and worldwide reputation enough to put it in the “somewhere” category.

      If Dr. Corner is the designer I think he is, the City of Seattle is going to get a very large collection of parks, stores, restaurants, and residences that will be far to expensive to share the same sentence with “Nowhere.”

      At the other end, the International District, Pioneer Square, and the stadiums are definitely places. The International District tunnel station and King Street Amtrak Station, in addition to possessing location, are connected with Canada and Los Angeles by train and via Central LINK to Sea-Tac to the whole world by air.

      If none of the above fills the bill for location-possession…remember that Seattle’s original name was “New York Alki”, meaning “We’ll be a world’s greatest city in a little while.” For Seattle- when those tracks once again cease to be empty, nothing their whole length will be nowhere.

      Mark Dublin

  6. The first extension should be to the cruise ship terminals at Pier 90-91. Want to go downtown — take the streetcar.

    Pantograph and Trolley pole can share OCS, SF does it everyday with the F line and Muni Metro (T line was specifically configured for shared operation). Also the F line uses one leg of the Market Street ETB wire so sharing that resource is no problem. Platform height differences between the Melborne and Skoda cars would require a little station design work but sharing part of the system so transfers can be made seamlessly — a no brainer.

    This is cheap, lets do it. Personally I won’t go to any venue of the Seattle Art Museum until I can take a streetcar, maybe this would assuage my enmity towards those artsy fartsy streetcar killers.

    1. I think somebody said here that while pantographs and poles can share a wire, the pantographs have trouble where the trolley wires intersect, as in 12th & Jackson or on Broadway.

      1. In San Francisco, where light rail pantographs and trolley poles share a wire (i.e. lines running between the two carbarns and F Market line), the wires make a conventional streetcar-type junction. To either side of the wire junction are powered, metal guide rails that push the pantograph an inch or two lower than the wires until past the junction. There’s a similar setup where light rail lines and ETBs cross, (J Church and 22 or 24 lines, along Market Street, etc.) where you wouldn’t want a pantograph hitting BOTH ETB wires.

  7. The original Benson streetcar is an idea whose time has come and gone.

    Its accomplishments are not inconsiderable. It brought a taste of rail transit back to Seattle. Tourists loved it, and locals might have occasionally found it useful, as I did on occasion.

    Of course, its shortcomings were painfully obvious. It was slow because you had to wait for the other car on the single track. Its operating costs were high, too. And though the Melbourne trams were cute, they were a bit of fake history for nostalgia’s sake.

    You could, I suppose, make a case for finding something to use for a car barn so that the tourists could make the schlep up to the Sculpture Park. But I’d much rather see that planning energy go toward building a dual track streetcar that actually addresses locals’ transit needs.

    1. hey as a local I loved it too. I’d ride it on my lunch hour just to get from Pioneer Sq to Myrtle Edwards Park. It made a walk in the park a joy.

      I used to bring the kids downtown just to ride it. And it was never empty even on a rainy Saturday.

    2. More cars can be bought to improve the headways and the doors automated to reduce opeating costs. Metro even has one car that even though it will need a full restoration it can be used plus there are a few w2s on the market and even some available in melbourne. Double tracking should be part of any rebuild in the post viaduct plan.

      1. As far as I know the line only ever ran a maximum of 3 cars at a time. I believe there are currently 5 cars in good working order plus a parts car that can be restored. Beyond that there are a fair number of Peter Witt cars out there from Milan not to mention quite a few US and European PCC cars.

        Let’s bring the streetcar back in 2013 as mitigation for all of the construction happening in Pioneer Square and the Waterfront over the next several years. When the Alaskan way ROW is rebuilt as part of the park plan lets include ROW for a double-track streetcar line.

      2. Theres still a fair amount of W2s and SW class cars that can be purchased from melbourne, San francisco got an SW-5 car within the last year or two from melbourne, pretty much ready for service.

  8. I’d be more supportive if it were to be operated by a volunteer organization or the cost was subsidized by local businesses.

  9. I will support a waterfront streetcar if, like the Monorail, it is purely a tourist line with all operations funded by high fares or subsidized by waterfront tourist attractions. The Monorail makes a profit because it is a tourist trap and they charge high prices to go a short distance–this waterfront streetcar could possibly get away with the same thing. If the aquarium or the sculpture want to subsidize it, that would be fine too, but the city should not be spending a dime on something as useless to city residents as this. I’m also not surprised James Corner is opposed–he is most famous for making the High Line in New York a place where people actually want to walk a long ways, so of course he wants to make the Seattle waterfront a similar kind of place. A streetcar line kind of defeats the point.

    1. It’s not a tourist “trap”. The buses are there if you look for them. A tourist trap is when there’s no other option, like a general store in the middle of nowhere, or indirectly like the hot dogs in the stadium and pizzas at the airport.

      1. On the waterfront, the buses from a tourist perspective are a joke. What is needed is frequent ( 10 minute or less) service in BOTH directions on the waterfront from the Sculpture park to Pioneer Square.

    2. It is a tourist trap because most tourists think that is how to get from Westlake to Seattle Center. Nobody new to the city would have a clue which bus to take. I’m not saying it’s a terrible thing, I’m just saying it is only “useful” or interesting to tourists, just as the waterfront streetcar would be.

  10. Didn’t the Seattle Art Museum say that they would pay for a new station at the Sculpture Park as a part of the demolition of the old WFSC trolley barn? I don’t believe any government entity will have to pay for this new station.

  11. I don’t really see this as a transit project at all. Yes, it’s expensive to run, and doesn’t have the near-term potential for high frequencies, and doesn’t go many places. This is a tourist train. And that’s a good thing – a very good thing. Tourism brings a large amount of money to our city, and increasing tourism increases the taxes we collect. Tourists also make our city more lively – one of the reasons Pioneer Square is struggling is because the waterfront trolley disappeared.

    This should probably be paid for by those that benefit from tourists. But it should be done.

  12. I know a lot of people and organizations that would undertake the operations and maintenance of the Waterfront Streetcar, if it had a facility to operate out of. I for one would happily be an operator and/or a conductor to the system. It would be no different than what I do currently with vintage steam locomotives/tourist train operations at the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad….

  13. Thanks for this post, Sherwin, and to everybody above.

    Something to look into: George Benson once told me he thought Waterfront streetcar service could reach Seattle Center via a trestle from Myrtle Edwards Park over the BN tracks, across Elliott at and up Thomas into the center.

    Idea of serving as many cruise-ship terminals also has a lot of merit.

    However, this discussion has an underlying context that needs very much attention: how serious a part of the city are we rebuilding the Waterfront to be?
    I’ve always thought we were short-changing ourselves by putting visitors’ entertainment at the very heart of the project.

    Imagine the parks and recreations interspersed with a variety of small factories, along with glass-blowing, wood-carving, and metal-working studios in public view- a general atmosphere mindful of all the great ports of the past. Baking. Brewing. Coffee-roasting…And design studios where visitors could watch industrial products being designed on computer for manufacture worldwide.

    In other words: my own best defense against trains to nowhere and streetcars as expensive carnival rides is to give the line a part of the city to travel through where visitors and locals can see people actually doing and making things for a living. Yeah, I guess designing cell-phone apps and video games count too.

    Would also draw every tourist on the planet.

    Mark Dublin

    1. I could see that working well. Have you seen the guy that hand builds boats at Miner’s Landing?

    2. Serious problem taking the line north of the Sculpture Garden could be the massive structure carrying the park across the tracks, which now occupies the site of the former car barn. Not sure there’s enough clearance left on BN property to put even a single track between the wall and the freights.

      It would be good to get the line up to Seattle Center. Meantime, reason I suggested turntable at north end of the Waterfront is that if there’s no room for a turnback loop, might still be possible to reverse direction without driver leaving his seat. Also to operate single-ended cars in addition to the double-ended Melbourne ones.

      Mark Dublin

  14. One of the ways we could adapt the old streetcars to low platforms (assuming that the platforms would be converted, which is not likely but still…) is by installing an Access van/school bus-type wheelchair lift in one of the doors. That second door on the original streetcars does come in handy for that.

    As far as the voltage is concerned, it wouldn’t be too hard to upgrade their guts to 750 VDC. The cars got their guts upgradeed anyway when they were brought over from Australia.

  15. You are aware, of course, that the plan for when the Viaduct is started to be dismantled around the area of the WSF terminal next summer is that the tracks and overhead wire will be removed and the space left over paved so that redirected traffic can use the area where the tracks were. I don’t believe there are any plans for replacing the tracks and overhead wire since they are not in the redevelopment plans for the waterfront.

    1. I’m also aware that as the Waterfront is reconstructed, a great many extremely large and expensive things will be added that aren’t there now. Generally with a major reconstruction project, things are taken out, and other things are added on a temporary basis and then changed or removed.

      Reason for my post, and for plans of years of serious fighting if necessary, is precisely that something critical is missing from current plans, namely any serious address to public transportation along the length of the Waterfront, streetcar or anything else.

      Remember that I’m not talking about putting the George Benson Line back as it was, but rather as the basis of the upgraded facility the project needs.

      The Waterfront of thirty years ago didn’t include the streetcar line- until somebody put one there. When it was removed, main reason there was so little protest was that every agency involved promised that service was only suspended temporarily, and that they intended to restore service.

      Main thing I’m aware of to my bones after more than 30 years around transit in Seattle: if enough people decide the plan sucks, the plan changes. You might want to treat yourself to some awareness as to why the Pike Place Market still exists in its present form, in the face of serious plans to demolish it. And why the R.H.Thompson Freeway ended up as two ramps that were finally removed.

      Passive aggression may be default mode here, but the active kind can defeat it.

      Mark Dublin

  16. As much as I hate to say it, if the best we can do is 20-30 minute headways, I say you might as well not even bother- for distances that short, the streetcar’s just not worth waiting that long for when you can just walk. There’s also tons of bus service on 1st Ave today with a combined headway of much better than 20-30 minutes. Yes, there is a bit of a hill between the waterfront and 1st, but it’s short and if you don’t want to walk up the hill to catch a bus, you can always walk a little further along the flat waterfront directly to your destination instead.

    Given Metro’s budget crisis, I can think of many ways the $10-13 million to re-activate the streetcar line could be better spent, such as preserving some service on our existing bus routes. If it’s the city’s money, there’s such a huge infrastructure backlog that I’m sure finding better ways to spend the money would be no trouble there either.

    1. I full agree the headways need improved, but if you are a tourist, and not knowing the area its an invaluable asset as it’s able to get you around and connect you to diffrent places without walking up to 1st (which since its not connected in any meaningful way with the waterfront shouldent even be an option – i dont consider a couple blocks at either end and a couple of stairways a meaningful visible connection) rebuilding the line to allow a ten to fifteen minute headway should be done with the overall reconstruction, but having the line open and inplace for when the work is done for the seawall would help keep the tourist trade alive as the line would allow the tourists to safely “skirt” around the construction if they so chose to.

    2. There’s also tons of bus service on 1st Ave today with a combined headway of much better than 20-30 minutes.

      What? The only bus service on 1st Ave is the 99, and (for a very short segment) the 10/12. I would hardly call that “tons”.

      Yes, there is a bit of a hill between the waterfront and 1st, but it’s short and if you don’t want to walk up the hill to catch a bus, you can always walk a little further along the flat waterfront directly to your destination instead.

      What? From Western to 1st is so steep that, in a number of places, they don’t even have a street, just stairs.

      Having said that, I do agree with your main point: at 20-30 minute headways, this is hardly useful as transit. It’s cool as a tourist train, but I don’t want to pay for it out of non-tourist money.

  17. It would be nice if the businesses that benefit foot the cost: the cruise lines, the ferry system, waterfront businesses, and pioneer square businesses. It is a tourist/day out kind of thing to do, but it is limited to a flat grade similar to the streetcar. Broad street would probably need a cable car system with great brakes. If Alaskan Way is widened, put the WF trolley on the west side to service the businesses better. Because the trolley has limits to grade and speed, it is for fun and not a city priority. I’d like it back but it needs some private funding I think.

  18. It seems to me that — IF the 4th/5th couplet is built — the natural thing to do is to have the SLU streetcars turn to the waterfront while the FHSC turns north to Westlake. That would double the frequency on the couplet, making it a better “short hop” provider and link the Westlake center to the waterfront. Grant, it’s a rather circuitous routing, but there isn’t any easy way to travel between them because of the big hill. If the streetcars run in a reservation in the couplet, the transit time shouldn’t be too great.

      1. One-way streets don’t have people making left turns across lanes of traffic. They probably have more thoroughput and are safer.

      2. Yes, I understand 2nd and 4th being one-way but does 5th really need to be one-way when there’s no corresponding street to pair it with in the other direction. And you can make left turns illegal and nothing is lost over current mobility. It seems really screwy given that 6th spilts in the middle to a one-way north and southbound to exit the DT. The other option is both tracks on the east side of 5th with the north bound SC contra running. But if you’re taking lanes for the SC it seems to make more sense to make it a two-way street, put the SC in the middle and not allow left turns in either direction.

  19. I always fail to understand how one can argue both that we need a beautiful, revitalized Waterfront where thousands of residents will happily come and spend their time… and a waterfront streetcar is no good and won’t have ridership.

  20. The old route 99 was pretty much useless, but I loved it anyway. It added something to Seattle. I probably only rode it 10 or 20 times in its lifespan (usually faster to walk), but I was glad it was there. In the early years fo work on the Viaduct replacement, it was always in the mix to replace the streetcar after the Viaduct came down – well that has now stretched out for 10 years or so. My thought, when the viaduct is gone, reclaim the space, including the streetcar. Fund at least 50% of it with a LID on properties within 1-2 blocks of it, and look at options to extend it to Amgen.

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