Photo by Mike Bjork

With the big boom in South Lake Union, I’ve heard mutterings about transit service in the neighborhood, particularly from employees asking if there’s a more direct bus route up into SLU.  Since many of the north-south routes that serve downtown terminate somewhere around the northern edge of the ride-free area, riders coming from points south and east often have to make a connection to a 70 or the Streetcar to get to where they’re going.

One suggestion I’ve heard tossed around is extending the termini for many of these existing routes further north into the neighborhood as to avoid the inevitable connection that has to be made under the current network.  I see a few problems with this idea, including lack of adequate layover space and real evidence that a significant number of riders would be continuing on past the downtown core.  Making these extensions wouldn’t be cheap either.

Between the 70 and the Streetcar, there’s  a strong case to be made against this idea.  However, I would acknowledge that the transfer penalty is sufficient enough to deter some SLU employees from taking transit altogether.  What it may ultimately come down to is improving frequency and reliability to these existing connecting routes to minimize that penalty.

[UPDATE 11:59AM – My mind slipped on the 4th/5th connector, which could dramatically improve these kinds of trips.  However, unless the $60 VLF passes or some other funding is found, this is what we’re left with in the meantime.]

82 Replies to “Serving South Lake Union”

      1. A year’s not gonna kill us. Mercer’s gonna be screwing up SLU traffic for a long time yet.

        Maybe we can drop the silly Westlake express streetcar and focus all of our streetcar energy on the 4th/5th couplet? Then later we can come back to a Fremont alignment that makes sense.

      2. Kyle’s exactly right. Not only the most appropriate thing to do here, but by far the most cost effective, is to extend the streetcar.

      3. I agree that the 4th/5th connector is a better short-term priority, but why is the Westlake route to Fremont “silly?” Please explain.

      4. Because it tries to solve too many problems at once, while bypassing some of the benefits of a streetcar system.

        It will never provide Ballard or Fremont with a more reliable or faster journey to downtown. The Fremont Bridge kills any and all reliability on the route. The length of Westlake isn’t a slow corridor for bus travel to begin with.; congestion happens at Mercer and at Denny.

        The streetcars gain their capacity advantage because people are willing to stand for the ride. You can’t go too fast and keep that reality. And people aren’t going to be willing to stand forever. The typical ride from Ballard to Downtown during off-peak is around twenty-five minutes, and that will not change with a streetcar. People aren’t going to want to stand that long, especially if they’re doing leisure or shopping trips and are carrying stuff.

        Instead of focusing on a one-seat express ride from Ballard and Fremont to downtown, we should instead be looking at the entire corridor. The route should take Dexter instead of Fremont Avenue, and should arguably hang a right at 8th Ave NW to Market St instead of continuing up Leary to downtown Ballard. Think about the shorter endpoint pairs that are currently underserved (Ballard-Fremont) or whose service could be improved, encouraging close-in development (Dexter Ave, western SLU, and Belltown via either 4th/5th or 1st if that gets built).

        The right mode for Ballard is light rail along 15th Ave W.

      5. The TMP report says that streetcar will save about 11 minutes compared to a normal bus trip. That is a significant travel time savings. People keep acting like the exclusive lanes on Westlake are useless, but even without congestion a vehicle can go way faster when it doesn’t have to worry about cars cutting in front of it or slowing down to turn. Exclusive lane segments, signal priority, and fewer stops will absolutely lead to better speed and reliability.

        You are also completely wrong about people’s supposed inability to stand. People on MAX in Portland routinely stand for the entire 30-45 minute trip to downtown. MAX is very similar to a streetcar in ride quality, so I really don’t know where you get this idea that people only stand for short trips.

      6. Standing is not a goal. Standing is a way to mitigate overcrowding. If people who were sitting on a bus are now standing on a streetcar, that’s a significant disadvantage except for very short trips. You can’t read while standing.

      7. I can read standing on a subway, but I can’t read sitting on a bus. (That is, not without the risk of vomiting on my neighbor)

        That said, I’d agree that standing for 15+ minutes is not ideal. But on a route like BallardDowntown, people probably wouldn’t need to stand for the whole route. It’d be people getting on along Westlake, say, who’d be getting on when all seats are taken, and they only need to stand for a few minutes.

        Still, 4th/5th is a higher priority, both for better downtown/SLU connectivity and for systemic efficiency.

      8. “You can’t read while standing”

        Tell that to the nation of Japan! I totally agree with Steve on this. As long as we’re not bringing back America’s c1930 “toonerville trolley” infrastructure, standing is fine.

      9. While I generally agree with Kyle’s suspicions about the worth of long-distance streetcars that can only travel at medium speeds — the slight time/reliability/comfort savings aren’t significant enough to make them a usable part of a rapid transit network (i.e. to overcome the transfer penalty and replace driving) — I should note that willingness to stand on transit has more to do with the sense that your journey is quick than with the speed of the vehicle or the literal number of minutes.

        People who won’t stand for 5 minutes on a plodding bus will stand 10 minutes on the SLUT. But with all the annoying lights a streetcar gets caught at, a person might feel like a 20-minute slog requires “settling in” to a seat. Not so on real subways — trains much faster than Link, Kyle, and with jerkier brakes — where the sense of distance covered makes standing 20 or 30 minutes palatable.

        Frequency also plays a role. Metro bus riders partly insist on seats because there’s a good chance they’ve been standing 20-30 minutes already waiting for the thing. A subway might let you spend those same 20-30 minutes going some place, a much more worthwhile use of your legs.

        The TMP report says that streetcar will save about 11 minutes compared to a normal bus trip.

        The TMP report claims that the current SLUT segment, which now takes 7-8 minutes from Westlake to Valley, will magically take 2-3. None of its other claims of time savings should be trusted either.

    1. How would the revenue/cost math be affected if the 4th/5th streetcar were to be the free-ride option on those streets, as I’ve seen suggested a few times?

  1. I used to work at Fred Hutch and take the 255 and get off at Denny in the morning and walk from there. In the evenings I would either take the 70+540 or the 70+255 back depending on which one has better timing or if I was going to the UW to workout at the IMA.

    I think part of the problem with the streetcars speed are the signals from Denny to Stewart. They are horribly timed I you can usually walk as fast as the streetcar along this segment because it feels like the streetcar gets caught at almost every intersection.

    1. Walk while LEGALLY crossing the streets? It seems to me that at some intersections along Westlake (like 8th/Lenora) you would have to wait for two light cycles (one to cross 8th and another to cross Lenora).

      1. When I worked in that area I walked on Westlake Ave fairly often. If you walk on the east side of the street, you always have to wait two cycles at 8th and Lenora because the pedestrian signals for the two crossings are exactly in sync. Unless you’re running there’s no way you get from 8th to Lenora before the “don’t walk” signal starts up, so you have to wait almost an entire cycle each time.

        In my experience the pedestrian signals are significantly better timed for actual walking speed on the west side of the street than they are on the east side of the street.

        I don’t think I would be able to beat the streetcar from Stewart to Denny on foot if we both started at the same time, but the streetcar only runs every 15 minutes. Unless the streetcar is leaving within about three minutes, walking that distance is faster.

      2. My Fellow STBers,

        Just fucking jaywalk.

        Seriously, just do it. Do it safely. Do it well. Do it always.

        Your walking trips will be so much faster, it will change your outlook on walking. It will change your whole relationship to distance and your sense of urban scale.

        None of the streets that cross Westlake at 45°-ish angles are ever so busy as to prevent a safe and unobtrusive jaywalk.

  2. This is why we should build the 4th/5th streetcar extension. It never really made sense to have the SLU streetcar end so far at the northern edge of downtown. It should have at least gone to Westlake Plaza for a more direct connection. I suppose people coming from south of downtown still wouldn’t have a one-seat ride, but connections are easy downtown. If they had the choice of the 70 and the 4th/5th streetcar, that would make for an easy connection.

    1. It’s the other direction that would generate more ridership once the connection were built – people walking to the streetcar, especially from the residential north of Fred Hutch, and commuting to work in the CBD.

  3. I say we just give the streetcar universal signal priority and BAT lanes. Then it might go faster than walking, and people might consider taking it. The BAT lanes would be really cheap (paint and a few signs), signal priority a little more expensive, but clearly it’s a well established technology that we’re using for BRT already.

    Also, I think the stop spacing is too tight but that’s another debate.

    1. I love water taxis (and am disappointed that James Corner seems to be ignoring them) but I think you’d have to dig some canals to make them relevant to SLU.

    2. There used to be a water taxi on Lake Union. For $5, they would pick you up and take you anywhere on Lake Union. I rode it from South Lake Union to Fremont.

  4. Still can’t get my arms around the 4th/5th streetcar couplet. If the only goal is to connect the FH and SLU streetcars, as cheaply as possible, then maybe so. But if you want to serve active all-day (and all-evening) destinations along the route, First Ave. makes far more sense.

    A First Ave routing would serve Pioneer Square and 4th/5th does not. First Ave would serve the Pike Place Market and all of that underserved strip along the west edge of downtown, and 4th/5th does not.

    Yes, First Ave is a narrower street and some sacrifices would have to be made re automobile traffic, but in terms of real service to riders, it sure beats 4th/5th. Let’s not get fixated on peak-hour commute traffic, at the expense of everything else.

    1. I dont really understand the 4th/5th couplet as well. It is basically just redundant to the current system. (Surface bus on 3rd, tunnel buses, and Link. Link will connect to both ends of the First hill streetcar and the SLU streetcar. If anything we should just make the transfer from Westlake Station to the SLU streetcar easier (maybe extend the line 1 block so it requires less walking).

      In my opinion the best use of VLF money would be conncecting neighborhoods with HCT, such as ballard/west seattle. I know we have rapid ride beginning next year but i dont think that will really cut it. To me Rapid ride is just a fancy bus. We need real reliable, frequent transit.

      1. We can kill the 70 if we extend the streetcar, freeing up some space on the 3rd Ave transit mall for non-local routes.

        The VLF will never be able to fund real HCT to Ballard and West Seattle. People are willing to stand on streetcars, which grants them higher capacity than buses, but for shorter trips. They’re useful for serving the heavy-ridership trunk of the neighborhood. HCT to Ballard and West Seattle needs to come in the form of Link, and that will never be funded with a Seattle-imposed VLF.

      2. Still stuck on the monorail, I see. West Seattle will never have the ridership demand or density required for light rail. Never.

      3. There’s pretty much no valid argument for the 4th/5th streetcar that doesn’t require admitting the DSTT is horribly designed.

    2. Could you explain more about why a 4th/5th couplet inadequately serves Pioneer Square? We’re talking about a 3-4 block walk, in an area that is relatively flat, thanks to the regrade. I see the issue in the CBD, but in the Pioneer Square area, I don’t see the problem of walking from 4th to 1st. (I’m not trying to be argumentative, I’m actually asking for more details.)

      1. I’m thinking of the nightclubs and residences that center on First Ave. and comparing the convenience of walking a block or less to the transit line, versus walking across (and out of) the neighborhood to 4th or 5th Avenue (depending on which direction you want to go).

  5. To repeat myself, there should be an all-day, frequent service from First Hill/Pike-Pine/SLU/LQA to connect four of the densest neighborhoods we’ve got. Boren has almost no traffic outside the peak and is a badly needed northwest-southeast spine through our only high-rise zoned areas. I know Mercer is a mess, and getting from SLU to LQA is a challenge and that Denny is a nonstarter, but this has got to happen.

    1. There aren’t many destinations on Boren except at Madison. I think Metro said a Boren reroute of the 7 would have low ridership. I could personally use it as I’m between Boren and Broadway, but I’m afraid it would be like a ghost town bus.

      1. But couldn’t it be that there aren’t any destinations because there hasn’t been any service? It’d be a very fast bus outside of peak, and at Boren/Pike it’d only be three blocks from Westlake, so I bet a fair number could still use it to get downtown if they so chose. But I’m seeing it more about “retroactive TOD”…where do we want those newly-minted Amazonians to live? The high rises of First Hill. The mid-rises of LQA. New condo buildings on the west edge of Pike-Pine, etc… If you build it they will come.

      2. Yeah, there’s Cornish but not much else. However those Denny Triangle parking lots and car dealerships may get redeveloped at some point.

      3. Boren/Madison is a big stop. Boren/Denny is as well. Boren/Pike is good for Capitol Hill (connects to 10/11/14/43/49). Boren/James is close to Harborview/Swedish. Definitely once you hit Fairview, there would be lots of big stops.

        Even if we kept the 7 as is, I’d still like to see the 9 rerouted via Boren/Fairview. I think that First Hill and SLU are unquestionably bigger destinations than Broadway. And once the FHSC is running, the 9 would be redundant anyway.

      4. @Mike If you looked at the residential and commercial density within two blocks of Boren and compared that to most corridors in Seattle I would expect Boren to outperform many of them. I mean it’s First Hill. It might not have a lot of destinations like cafes, restaurants, etc. but it does have a lot of employment and housing.

        Also Boren is an extremely fast connection between the Valley/Little Saigon an Denny Trianagle/SLU, both of which are essentially where downtown in growing.

      5. If Metro claimed that, it’s because they’re having trouble thinking beyond the downtown-transfer, infrequent-connection, nobody-wants-to-walk-a-block presumptions that underlie their entire present network.

        Boren is an easy walk from 3/4 of the First Hill stops on the 2, 12, 3, and 4. It’s adjacent to a fairly busy stretch of Pike/Pine. It’s one block from the transit tunnel.

        Boren’s speed and signal priority make it a very attractive downtown bypass, even if further transfers are required to reach your final destination. Need a 2 bus? Given how slowly the 2 crawls out of downtown, taking the Boren bus might actually get you on the 2 before the 2 you could catch on 3rd. Heading further south? You might wind up two or three 36s ahead of the downtown transfer.

        A Boren bus would be three times faster to Little Saigon than the SLUT + FHSC + dumbass redundant streetcar connector.

        All of this would, of course, depend on Boren service being frequent and reliable enough to depend on as a connection. There would indeed be low ridership on a 30-minute route, because that could never be integrated into one’s movement patterns. At 10 minutes or less, Boren service would become a north-south connector to rival downtown.

      6. There’s no place to build between Olive and Madison. All the lots already have 10+ story apartment buildings. There are no businesses on that section of Boren; it’s purely residential except where Virginia Mason juts out at Spring. People might walk to southwest Capitol Hill, but as for transferring it’s really a matter of whether Boren or Broadway has more frequent transit. The First Hill Streetcar will improve north-south headways on Broadway.

      7. Also, Boren is slow during rush hour with all the cars going to the freeway. It can serve as a downtown bypass off-peak but peak hours it’s as slow as downtown.

      8. Mike, you’re doing the mistaken 1-block walkshed thing.

        How many people get on or off at all of the stops on First Hill? Because every single existing bus stop of First Hill — and every destination they serve — is an easy walk to the Boren corridor. (No highways to cross, no abandoned dead zones, no egregiously steep or extended hills like the walk from downtown proper.)

        …but as for transferring it’s really a matter of whether Boren or Broadway has more frequent transit.”

        Broadway peters out at its north end and connects to nothing. The Link station would be the only reliable transfer, and that’s basically redundant for through routes that already have Central Link connections and utterly useless for those looking for better through-travel from SLU, LQA, or points northwest, who are still stuck with the 8 or a bunch of nightmare trolleybus routes.

        Boren, on the other hand, has the entirety of SLU as its northern achor. (And this thread was originally about improving SLU throughput, if you recall.)

        The First Hill Streetcar will improve north-south headways on Broadway.

        Sort of. Not enough to write home about.

        Boren is slow during rush hour with all the cars going to the freeway.

        So figure out how to segregate I-5 back-up traffic from through traffic. Just as should be done on Denny, which has a far worse back-up for many more hours.

        The Boren back-up lasts about 30 minutes, which is not in and of itself a reason to discount a corridor that is otherwise the fastest around.

      9. Mike, you’re doing the mistaken 1-block walkshed thing.

        How many people get on or off at all of the stops on First Hill combined? Because every single existing bus stop on First Hill — and every destination they serve — is an easy walk to the Boren corridor. (No highways to cross, no abandoned dead zones, no egregiously steep or extended hills like the walk from downtown proper.)

        …but as for transferring it’s really a matter of whether Boren or Broadway has more frequent transit.

        Broadway peters out at its north end and connects to nothing. The Link station would be the only reliable transfer, and that’s basically redundant for through routes that already have Central Link connections and utterly useless for those looking for better through-travel from SLU, LQA, or points northwest, who are still stuck with the 8 or a bunch of nightmare trolleybus routes.

        Boren, on the other hand, has the entirety of SLU as its northern achor. (And this thread was originally about improving SLU throughput, if you recall.)

        The First Hill Streetcar will improve north-south headways on Broadway.

        Sort of. Not enough to write home about.

        Boren is slow during rush hour with all the cars going to the freeway.

        So figure out how to segregate I-5 back-up traffic from through traffic. Just as should be done on Denny, which has a far worse back-up for many more hours.

        The Boren back-up lasts about 30 minutes, which is not in and of itself a reason to discount a corridor that is otherwise the fastest around.

      10. Fun facts:

        – There isn’t one single square inch within the defined boundaries of First Hill that is more than 1200 feet (five minutes walk) from Boren.

        – The vast, vast majority of First Hill destinations are within 2-3 blocks (650-900 feet, 2-4 minutes) of Boren.

        – Every east-west street on First Hill, with the exception of Terrace @ Harborview Medical, is a through street, providing an unbroken and perceptible connection to Boren. The north-south streets, required to access the three current First Hill routes, are full of gaps and blockages.

  6. Two issues here: Transfers for South Lake Union and streetcar routing through Downtown.

    Passengers arriving from any direction at Westlake have a short walk to either the streetcar or the Route 70. Closest mezzanine elevator to 5th Avenue from the Nordstrom’s exit is perfect. However, it should be clearly marked.

    Also,I’m starting to get pretty skeptical about both the 4th-5th couplet and First Avenue for streetcar routes. Fifth has a really steep grade at the south end. And First is narrow, busy, and crowded its whole Downtown length. Pioneer Square merchants also seem determined not to give up a single street parking space.

    A friend of mine suggested a 2-way streetcar line along the east side of Second Avenue. Jackson to Second, east on Pike to Fifth, though I think Pine would work better, and Fifth to existing plaza.

    What does everybody think?

    Mark Dublin

    1. The transfer to the streetcar is horrid. It’s non-obvious thanks to the conflicting street grids, it’s hidden by the built environment, and the crossings range from inconvenient to imposing thanks to the presence of the monorail.

      1. From Westlake platforms:Two escalators and a half block walk to the 70. An escalator, an elevator, and a one-block walk to the streetcar.

        From Pine and Fifth from the 545: a block walk to the streetcar and two blocks walk for the Route 70.

        Granted, signage and information could be better. But do high-tech workers really have that much trouble negotiating the non-virtual world?

        Mark Dublin

      2. I’d agree with Mark that what it needs is some good signage. When I did it regularly, I found the mechanics of the transfer are pretty good once you figure out which DSTT exit to use.

      3. The primary complaint about DSTT is that it already demands significant time and distance from platform to street corner, which is psychologically compounded if you miss a train or bus that a shallower/smaller-footprinted station would have allowed you to catch.

        While the streetcar transfer is not technically “difficult,” it does require:
        – knowing your route;
        – turning additional corners;
        – dodging a busy 360-foot block’s worth of pedestrians;
        – waiting for a hardly-brief light cycle

        All to catch a train that might leave before your eyes, sticking you with a 15-minute wait (or a 15-minute walk).

        I’m in favor of extending the streetcar at least the one block to eliminate all real and psychological obstacles to the transfer. A loop to Pike Place could also provide a beneficial sense of connectivity between that civic anchor and downtown’s expanding north end. The totally redundant 4th/5th line serves no such purpose.

        [Note: Elsewhere on this thread, I decry Metro’s presumption that Boren service would be low ridership, when Boren is an easy few-blocks walk from every single existing busy bus stop on First Hill. There’s a difference between the walk people are and should be willing to make to/from a destination and the one they will make at a transfer point. A transfer that you can neither see nor rely upon us a bad one; that is the current problem for streetcar/tunnel access.]

      4. d.p., you explained my point beautifully.

        It’s the same argument I raised about the lack of the NE 45th St entrance to Brooklyn Station. Thank God we raised enough of a stink to convince ST to back away from the dumb idea of hiding the entrance in the middle of a block far away from all the actual foot traffic.

      5. I pretty much agree with d.p. But would like to emphasize how horrid the light is. The cycle is long, the walk period is relatively brief and the streetcar might leave before your eyes. I honestly jaywalk regularly right there if I know it’s within a few minutes of departure. In any reasonable transit system there would have been a well-signed pedestrian walkway from the Westlake station platform straight over to stairs and an elevator right next to that streetcar stop. We don’t even have good signage.

      1. For the most part though the buses already come into downtown via Fairview–the ST routes come from Eastlake via Republican, so adding a stop at Harrison (same stop as 70) would be straightforward.

    1. I know this is OT but let me just say that ST layover area is terribly placed. The turns that some of those MCI coaches have to make on Mercer and Republican are way too tight and those heavier buses are tearing those streets apart.

  7. Another note, it’s not any better than the 70 but if you happen to work on the western side of SLU like I do, on Dexter the 26/28 combined run just as frequently as the 70. It’s no more direct to 3rd downtown, but there really isn’t a direct route due to the street grid.

  8. There’s plans to buld the streetcar on 4th/5th. There’s alot of afternoon traffic to deal with if this plan is to go forward. At 5th & Olive, there’s a Bartell Drugs. There are delivery truks that stop in the left lane, right where the southbound tracks need to go. There’s alot of things that need to be worked out.

    1. I’m with you on 5th. It’s interesting that the Center City Circulation Report from 2003 had this to say:

      While it is continuous, 5th is much less attractive than 2nd for
      driving the length of downtown. The monorail occupies the
      median from Denny to Stewart. 5th narrows through the retail
      core, and south of Pike, it easily clogs with traffic heading to
      and from nearby I-5.

      The southern part of 5th should remain an auto-oriented
      street. It will continue to hold vehicles queuing to access I-5.
      Eventual priority treatments may be needed for southbound
      HOVs heading for the Key Tower entrance to the express
      lanes in the afternoon, though this will not be a significant transit route.

      The transit use of 5th will be primarily south of the Key Tower
      ramps, as certain Metro and Community Transit routes use
      the contraflow lane between Terrace and Cherry to access
      the northbound transit lanes during the PM peak hour, and use
      the same segment of 5th in the other direction during the AM
      peak hour. The number of routes that will continue to use this
      routing — locally known as the “Blue Streak” — may decline.
      The routing is useful only for buses that are making single trips
      in the peak direction, and it has the effect of putting buses on
      southbound 2nd Avenue even though their destinations are
      northward — a counterintuitive arrangement.

      Other transit service on 5th would be moved to either the
      4th/2nd couplet or 3rd Avenue. The key is to preserve 5th as a
      place for vehicles to queue onto I-5, allowing other streets to
      move more freely.

      1. Except the plan is to have the streetcar on the right side of 5th, where cars are not lining up to turn left to get to the freeway. There’s no real congestion issue here.

  9. I’d rather make 3rd a transit supermall. Let buses, an extended SLUT, and longer/faster trams coexist in the same lane, with one big difference vs. the tunnel…buses should be able to pass, and move to the left at lights. Hopefully trains could coexist like they do on Westlake, vs. the huge required separation in the tunnel.

    We haven’t had our debate on Ballard and West Seattle, but it seems unlikely that we’ll get a second DTT in time. Maybe all these fit together, if there’s room…

    1. I don’t think you’re accounting for how crowded 3rd already is. It’s at (or damned near) capacity. Mixing modes is not going to help matters.

      1. What 3rd Ave routes would Link be replacing? And of the ones it will replace, won’t they be replaced by other routes kicked out of the DSTT? And you want to mix streetcars in with this traffic?

        The streetcar isn’t (and shouldn’t be) a long-haul mode. The buses do a much better job of that. If we keep the streetcars off 3rd, they can stop more frequently to act as neighborhood trunk lines without worrying about upsetting the bus system.

    2. While I think Second would be easiest due to its width, and also the steep grade between Third and Jackson, I’ve always thought Third deserved a more active “street life”.

      Compared with the days in the black-and-white pictures, Third looks pretty bleak most of the time in a 1970’s sort of way. I can see long sidwalk arcades from Stewart to Yesler, roofed with glass or canvas, or both, and populated with cafes and stalls.

      Electric transit only. 30 years after the Bredas, we should be able to get a workable dual-power bus. And some of the routes now on Third used to be trolley. No reason we can’t hang more wire after the Depression is over.

      Speaking of trolleybuses, if First isn’t chosen for streetcars, most of it is already wired between Jackson and Seattle Center. I also remember that Metro planned to wire the 15 and the 18 in the ’80’s, but backed down to opposition over wires north of 85th. Dual-power buses could fix that too.

      Lots of possibilities.

      Mark Dublin

    1. People don’t mind transferring if it’s an easy transfer and it doesn’t happen right before they get to their destination.

      1. That’s way too broad a generalization! People don’t want to wait in uncomfortable locations or cross busy streets; they don’t like to go out of direction; they don’t want to wait for connecting services that are unreliable or overcrowded. Transfers are good and a strong transit system isn’t afraid to rely on them, but they don’t work without a lot of care to the details.

  10. There are a lot of intertwined issues here.

    You-all tend to disregard the use of buses, but it would not be difficult to extend one or two high frequency tunnel routes into SLU, providing a good transfer opportunity to people coming into town from all over the region.

    There are good opportunities for developing a bus corridor that would serve SLU, Denny Triangle and First Hill using 8th, which goes by CPS and under under the convention center but isn’t congested like Boren is. Boren is slow slow slow. The key to getting ridership on routes serving peripheral neighborhoods to downtown is to line up several destinations.

    The challenges using the streetcar to serve SLU are many – one is its extremely limited capacity. But the bigger challenge is that it doesn’t extend into the downtown to allow easy transfers. Once downtown, a streetcar would have the opportunity to provide a real circulator function, which might be more important in a post-ride-free-area future. The generators for a circulator are King Street Station and the ferry terminal, which bring more transit passengers into downtown all at once than any other transit services. Also, the route of choice for tourists, who rely on a simple and highly visible transportation solution, is First Avenue between Westlake, Pike Place, Pioneer Square and the International District. The natural route for a circulator is First Avenue, connecting the SLU streetcar with Sound Transit’s First Hill streetcar. If you design a streetcar to meet circulation needs (rather than simply to enhance already pricy property values), it’s hard to see a better route. A Fourth Ave route is DOA, since it would bring both transit and car traffic to a complete standstill.

    This blog has also suggested some good restructures that could increase east-west service through the area. My thought is to reroute the 43 across Denny to Queen Anne once Link service begins.

    But really, in perspective, it’s nutty that we’re not looking at high capacity solutions for the area generating the greatest increase in urban density in the region. To me it makes sense to run South Link into SLU (so, serve CPS and tunnel under Denny) and eventually Fremont and Ballard, and running the North and East Link lines together as a second line. The argument against this is the perceived need to reserve tunnel space in the long distant future for peak period peak direction trips from Everett, which would do far less for transit riders and the transit network than a line connecting the most rapidly developing activity centers and having all-day use. Are we really going to abandon CPS station in this context and rely on a slow low capacity streetcar connection with a transfer to serve the fastest growing downtown density in our future? Do the math and you’ll see that a streetcar won’t begin to provide for the number of trips that should be accommodated if the mode split is anywhere near what a downtown destination should be.

    1. Lynnwood (not Everett) is in ST2. Fremont and Ballard aren’t. You can’t tell ST to abandon a voter-approved mandate except by another vote.

      1. Getting to Lynnwood doesn’t exhaust the tunnel capacity. That decision awaits ST 3. In the meantime there’s plenty of time to debate what the priorities should be.

  11. The demographics of the 70 riders is 180 degrees different from the SLUT riders. Homeless, street bums etc. A much rougher crowd. My kid who used to go to the UW refused to ride it.

    I on the otherhand if I’m headed past Westlake prefer it to walking. It’s slower than bicycling the same distance but faster than walking. The SLUT is slower than walking so that’s never even considered.

      1. which will change absolutely nothing about the 70 ridership.

        Seriously – does anyone really believe that the demise of the RFA is going to magically increase enforcement on fare payment? I keep seeing this stated as if people believe a magic wand will remove all of ‘those people’ from the buses.

  12. A 4th/5th couplet makes much more sense than a first ave route for a streetcar. Have you ever tried to drive or ride a bus up 1st during rush hour in the summer? You may as well get out and walk. While 4th and fifth aren’t much better, it would be way easier to give the streetcar a dedicated lane with that alignment, and it’s easier to synchronize lights on one way streets (especially assuming two-ways have the occasional protected left turns).

    I wholly agree that a High Speed streetcar to Fremont/Ballard via Westlake and Leary would need to somehow bypass the Fremont Bridge with it’s own crossing. Westlake and leary other wise is an excellent route. Close proximity to the density on Dexter, ease of providing dedicated row (though I’m sure there will be plenty of bitching about loss of parking). Btw, the TMP calls for this route to have less frequent stops than the current streetcar, and delays due to traffic lights would be at a minimum, since there are very few comparatively speaking.

    As for bus routes through SLU the 70 & 17 are perfect for that. I ride the 17 frequently and it is incredible how much more ridership has increased on the route since various new developments have come online in SLU, especially Amazon. And once the Mercer Mess is complete, I would assume the 17 will resume service on Westlake through SLU…it’s hard to get more central than that. East west service is provided by the 8, and a few infrequent ST routes.

    1. MT 17 is a nice route though SLU, but unfortunately doesn’t run often enough (roughly 30 min headways). And yes hopefully 9th Ave N work will be finished this fall!

    2. I think the best route for a streetcar depends on what you think a streetcar is good at. In Portland, and I think here too, streetcars are circulators, they’re as slow as walking, not part of a fast light rail system. Their most useful purpose is to move people around downtown, and to move people between downtown locations and regional transportation termini. That’s what 1st Ave is all about, and it connects all the places tourists want to go and commuters arrive at.

      That’s why I bristle when people talk about streetcars to move people around the city. That’s a light rail line, and if people think of them as streetcars they won’t be successful. Fourth and Fifth might be better for that purpose if they were remotely possible (which I think they’re not). Getting through downtown is going to be the critical issue for intra-Seattle rail. And that’s why I keep raising the question of whether the better use of tunnel capacity is to carry peak period trips from Everett or all-day trips within Seattle.

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