Siemens Rapid Streetcar Vehicle, Budapest

Seattle is the winner of an FTA grant to study “downtown circulator” portions of the Seattle Streetcar network:

The Federal Transit Administration announced the City of Seattle has won a $900,000 grant to study a high capacity transit project, such as a rapid streetcar, through the heart of downtown Seattle. The project would connect existing and proposed high-density neighborhoods to one another and the regional transit system.

I asked McGinn spokesman Aaron Pickus if this referred to the “CC1” (1st Avenue) or “CC2” (4th/5th) corridors. He replied that “It’s an alternatives analysis that will help identify the route as well as the mode. Everything’s still on the table.”

USDOT dished out a total of $900m in grants on Monday. Elsewhere in the $49m awarded to Washington, ST got $3m for bus and nonmotorized access to S. 200th St. Station (and $5.4m to buy buses), CT got $894,578 for the Swamp Creek P&R, and Metro got $5m for a new roof at North Base. Most of the rest is for buying buses around the state.

24 Replies to “Seattle Wins $900K for Streetcar Planning”

  1. I thought there was money in the Alaska Way Viaduct replacement project to study a First ave streetcar? At least that is what the WSDOT page says. That should cover the study for the CC1. This could go toward the CC2 idea. Hopefully these studies can win us some federal funding to actually build them. I dont see any way the city can afford them alone, but with a good amount of FTA dollars i could see the rest being covered by a LID or somthing else.

    1. Nope. Not a cent. That’s part of why the tunnel plan is so ridiculous – they took all the money they could have used on transit to fund it.

      1. I keep wondering how if the state is short $2Billion in revenue we can even build the tunnel at all. We have a constitutional mandate to fund schools, not one to move cars.

  2. Very glad to see any help and encouragement for a streetcar system in Seattle.

    But I’m interested in other readers’ assessment of this alternative for streetcar routing between Jackson and Stewart:

    .Second Avenue to Pine, on a 2-way reserved transit way on the east side of the avenue.

    . Pine to Fifth, center or right-hand lane.

    . Fifth to present South Lake Union line terminal.

    After walking that alignment several weeks ago, it seems to me that it avoids the steep grades on other proposed avenues, and has much more room.

    What does everybody else think?

    Mark Dublin

    1. Splitting the directions on a two way route is bad enough across one block, much less three. Only the *intersection* of the two directions’ walksheds is really getting service.

    2. One gets the feeling with some armchair “transit analysts,” that they never leave the house, and do all their research from their laptop. Good for you, a commenter, no less, for going out and doing field work by walking the proposed alignment. I applaud you for doing that.

    3. Has Seattle ever considered using Trams instead of Streetcars…since those can go uphill. I know at one point Seattle used to have a cable car system similar to San Fransisco. Wouldn’t those make sense for doing say a downtown to Capital Hill jaunt?

      1. I consider “tram” and “streetcar” to be synonymous. Are you using the term to refer specifically to cable cars?

      2. That’s also a good question, as tram is sometimes defined as a streetcar, but also is often used to refer to the type of street car like a funicular which can go uphill.

      3. We sold our cable cars to San Francisco. The Seattle Underground Tour gets into that.

        My impression is we already have enough modes to choose from. Trolleybuses can climb hills as well as cable cars, and we already have a big maintenance base for them. Streetcars offer a train-like aura, even if they aren’t as cool as cable cars. Streetcar = tram. A gondola or two could be a new niche on the steepest hills, but I’m not going to hold my breath for them or advocate for them.

        I’m not sure what a funicular is, or how it differs from a gondola or cable car. It looks like a funicular has tracks on the bottom, and a gondola has a wire on top. In that case it seems like an issue of whether it’s built on the hillside or in the air, and that in turn depends on station location. So one can imagine a funicular going up First Hill, but an aerial train from Seattle Center to Capitol Hill would have to be a gondola. I’m also convinced that gondolas aren’t “high-capacity”, so it would have to be a secondary route rather than the primary route. (I.e., it couldn’t replace the 8.)

      4. If you ever get the chance, visit Istanbul. They’re a great counter-example to the myth that you can have too many transit tools.

        Funiculars are quite limited in use, just getting people up hills. They’re a great way to connect two pedestrian areas when there’s a big hill and no roads between them. Basically, a car on rails pulled up and down a hill by a motor and a cable, sometimes with two cars counterbalancing each other, sometimes with just one and a counterbalance. There’s a little automated one in Ketchikan going up to a hotel – they are that cheap to build.

        I strongly challange your assertion that gondolas aren’t high capacity. They can get up to 6,000 passengers per hour per direction. That’s what, about 60 buses driving each way continuously throught the day? Good luck moving that many people with the #8. The only thing that can beat a gondola in terms of capacity is light or heavy rail, and even then only in 4-car trains at 2 minute intervals.

      5. Gondolas are pretty good at that too, but yes. Anything with a cable rather than relying on surface friction will move you uphill over snow.

        That said, despite snow being the real reason we lost our last mayor, snow is a fairly minor issue here. We lose a few days of bus service a year, and everyone takes the day to play in the snow. Those of us in walkable neighborhoods enjoy it immensely.

  3. Is this the same program that Sound Transit was hoping it would win to help extend Link to S 200th?

    1. no this is an FTA grant … you’re thinking of the TIGER III Grants that have yet to be awarded

  4. Funds to study a high capacity transit line connecting dense areas, with no limit on mode? Dare I dream that gondolas would be considered? Maybe if there’s a little left over? ($300k per project would buy 5 professionals working on each project almost 4 months of solid work – not bad, depending on how much planning they need)

  5. I’m a fan of CC4/5th, transit networks should serve residents not just tourists.

    Also if the CC4/5th wins out, then there is a case for the Waterfront street car based on the “distance” and ridership. Not that CC1st vs Alaska way street car make any real sense in ridership competition. (and the Waterfront Street car is a dual purpose line, tourist and commuter if they time the cars to the ferry system.)

    1. Isn’t CC2 the 4th/5th couplet?

      But in any case, having a couplet on 4th/5th to serve real working Seattlites makes sense — we shouldn’t bias our SC investment around tourism but instead we should build it around what we think a productive, functioning Seattle will need in the 21st century.

      And, yes, reactivating the WFSC would help serve the tourist market at fairly low comparative cost. And with the DBT going in one of the major roadblocks to restoring this service has been removed.

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