Photo by Atomic Taco

The First Hill Streetcar will be built.  Its alignment has been approved by the City Council, the interlocal agreement between Sound Transit and Seattle is secure, and construction begins next month. I’m personally quite excited to ride it from Capitol Hill to Little Saigon/Chinatown to get cheaper produce than I can get at QFC.

But let’s be clear, the First Hill Streetcar is an expensive investment (transit planning as consolation prize) that will do very little for mobility in central Seattle.  In its current configuration – and in the absence of money to connect the line through downtown – much more mobility could be purchased through trolleybus investment.  As a staunch rail advocate this is a difficult thing for me to say, but comparing modal choice across origin-destination pairs makes it abundantly clear that the streetcar loses in most cases to existing bus service.

Let me unpack this a bit…more after the jump.

The streetcar will do its only good work facilitating intra-local trips on Broadway.  The streetcar will provide meaningful new connectivity between Capitol Hill Station and Pike/Pine, Seattle U, Swedish, the new Yesler Terrace, and Little Saigon.  The 9 is too infrequent, and the 60 too circuitous, to provide good service between these points.

Beyond Broadway, the streetcar is an expensive disappointment.  Its routing will be circuitous, it will be slow, and it will redundantly waste its highest demand corridor (Jackson St).  Because on Jackson the streetcar will be a center platform while buses (7/14S/36) remain on the side, riders will be forced to make a modal choice between bus and streetcar before either arrive, and given that buses will both enter downtown and have shorter combined headways, most riders on Jackson will remain on the bus. (As far as I know, fully detailed ridership projections for the FHSC haven’t been done, especially modal comparisons.)

In addition, a Pioneer Square terminus severely reduces the ability to connect the SLU and First Hill segments, precluding the 4th/5th connector and requiring an even more circuitous 1st Ave alignment.

Imagine yourself in a few years as a resident of the new Yesler Terrace wanting to get to SeaTac Airport.  From Broadway/Yesler, you have the choice of walking/busing 6 blocks down a steep hill to Pioneer Square Station, or taking the First Hill Streetcar 16 blocks to get to International District Station.  For spatial navigators like myself, the idea of going the wrong direction and backtracking is anathema. Rail bias has its limits!

Look at this map of the streetcar against local bus service (as currently planned in the Oct 2012 service change): at no point on the line is the streetcar a better choice for downtown trips, and at no point is the Yesler-Jackson segment an improvement in either headway or travel time.

Despite the streetcar connection to the King Street/IDS Hub, the streetcar will do little to reduce demand for peak-only services to First Hill, even when such services are currently a tangled mess  (see map below). With the possible exception of Route 211 (Issaquah to First Hill via King Street Station), the streetcar cannot compensate for any of the existing routes, being too far from Virginia Mason and Harborview to render those services (64, 193, 205, 265, 303, 309) redundant.

At this point not much can be done, and in any case the point of the streetcar was not to facilitate downtown-First Hill trips, but rather to connect the forsaken First Hill Station to Link.  Even so, the Yesler-Jackson alignment is a disaster, and the Pioneer Square terminus commits us to a future incompatible with the 4th/5th connector.  In the short term, over the next 5-7 years, the network-coherence solution would be to create a Broadway Streetcar:  build the Aloha extension first and scrap the Jackson segment until we secure funding to connect through downtown.  In the meantime, we’ll have a highly visible, mostly redundant streetcar that provides cover for those who cry boondoggle.

158 Replies to “Who Will Ride the First Hill Streetcar?”

  1. Excellent analysis.

    To this I would only add that, in Fall 2012, Harborview and SPU will probably gain frequent diesel service to downtown via Yesler. This is because the proposed 18 (to Fremont, Ballard, Crown Hill, Northgate) is too long to through-route, and the city is pressuring Metro to use fewer layovers in Pioneer Square, so Metro hopes to be able to lay over on First Hill instead; and if you’re going to deadhead a bus up there and back, you may as well serve those ridership centers. This will be just another better option for many First Hill riders that will take away from the streetcar.

  2. well I for one am going to take it all the time.

    Currently on First Hill the only N-S connection to Capitol Hill is either the 60 or the 9.

    The 9 only runs during the day, every half hour or so and then it is usually late thanks to Rainier traffic. The 9 ONLY runs on weekdays … and when they have reduced weekday schedules it only runs for commuters.

    The 60 is usually full by the time it gets to Harborview and takes its time getting to Broadway. It also operates only every 30 minutes or so and is often running 30 minutes late. Weekends the last bus is at 7pm or so, so forget using it to go out to dinner on Capitol Hill.

    You are forgetting that there are quite a few elderly people who live near the Hospitals here … and I am sorry the bus service sucks unless you are wanting to go downtown … then sure you have a ton of options … but there is no good service N-S. Sure … I can do the 15-20 minute walk up and down the hills from First Hill to Capitol Hill but many can’t and it is a pain when carrying a laptop and/or groceries … especially late in the evening/at night.

    I don’t know what the point is of even bringing up the Peak-only routes that don’t serve people living on First Hill (what they run 4 times a day for suburban commuters? does me no good if I want to go the other direction.) Furthermore … have you seen the lame-ass peak-only services on Boren? Boren is a parking lot from about 3pm until 6pm thanks to James St. (note this also affects the 3/4/60) … I have seen the 60 take upwards of 10 traffic light cycles just to cross James St.

    I for one (as do my neighbors) welcome the First Hill Streetcar.

    1. “Currently on First Hill the only N-S connection to Capitol Hill is either the 60 or the 9.”

      Did you read the post? The whole point is that the Broadway section of the streetcar is great; the Jackson St segment is stupid.

      1. Presumably the same way they do now. Sounder to First Hill is the only intermodal connection that the streetcar improves, and it is not worth the cost of this segment.

      2. Ben,

        Sounder commuters headed to Virginia Mason would be much better off taking a 4th Avenue bus and walking 4 blocks up Seneca. Those heading to Harborview and Swedish do benefit from the streetcar, but the Jackson segment needs to do more than merely replace the 211.

      3. just stating my views … wasn’t complaining about your post … I agree with it … but as a First Hill resident I have a valid viewpoint

      4. Sounder & LINK & tunnel riders going to Harborview, should get off at the Pioneer Sq tunnel station and ride the 3/4 up the hill.

        The street car goes too far from Harborview to be worth it. If you can walk, walking up the hill is the fastest way to the Hospital.

        And I totally agree, with the analysis that the street car should go down Broadway to Aloha vs going into Pioneer Sq.

      5. I think he meant the streetcar detours too far east on its way to Harborview — it’d be quicker to walk.

  3. I live close to the Capitol Hill library and work at Harborview. I own a car, but haven’t driven to work in over eleven years. I mostly ride the 60, sometimes the 9, and sometimes I walk to and from work.

    On the commute home, the 60 is often late – which is understandable, given all it goes through to get from Georgetown to First Hill. Then, when it finally does arrive, it has to get through that mess of traffic at 9th & Jefferson, and the mess of traffic at Madison & Broadway, and the mess of traffic at Broadway & Pine.

    Personally, I am looking forward to a direct, reliable streetcar commute.

    1. With the problems of Madison & Broadway and having the 2 shift to Madison, I wonder why Metro didn’t revise Route 60 to continue on 9th Avenue and return to Broadway on Seneca Street to maintain some kind of all-day service to Virginia Mason? With the peak hour services still serving First Hill, it’s not like the bus stops will be going away.

    2. The streetcar is gonna get stuck in traffic on Broadway too. Don’t think the SLUT doesn’t get stuck in traffic.

  4. I know it’s not a popular position right now, but I still think the streetcar needs to extend to Aloha to get the best long term use value going, too.

  5. I’m not even sure that “The streetcar will do its only good work facilitating intra-local trips on Broadway. ” is enough to justify it’s existence.

    First, for the record, it’s unacceptable that “at no point on the line is the streetcar a better choice for downtown trips”. But even if you accept that as okay, I would argue that the streetcar isn’t even very useful on Broadway. If the headways for the streetcar are comparable to the SLUT then it’s every 10 minutes peak and 15 minutes otherwise. In general, I think people will only even take the streetcar when they know it’s faster than walking, so a viable streetcar trip has to be at least .5 – .75 miles or longer. Given that the whole length of the streetcar on broadway is only 1.25 miles, I think that most trips on broadway people will just walk. Sure there are some people going from John to Jefferson or Yesler, but you’re talking about a very small set of the total ridership in that corridor.

    Basically, we’re spending millions of dollars, and the only trips that are helped (over just walking or existing bus service), are ones between the two ends of Broadway. That’s a lot of money for a small amount of people.

    1. Precisely what I was about to write.

      Waiting for the streetcar from John to Pine or from Pine to Madison, unless you happen to see it coming, will be just as stupid as waiting for a 49 or 60 that you don’t already see coming today.

      Further, I don’t really see why it would be any better to facilitate a connection to the magically redundant 4th/5th proposal. That turns the streetcar into a 270° near-loop — hardly the most efficient surface route from anywhere to anywhere. It allows Jackson riders a slow one-seat through downtown (via some I.D. street-grid awkwardness) — exactly as the trolleybuses offer today.

      At least the straight-on-Jackson routing will cross over the sketchy two-block dead zone that currently splits Pioneer Square from the I.D. That might be the line’s only nominal benefit.

    2. Headways will be 10 minutes. Seattle tried to scrimp on that for the Aloha extension and again for the Pioneer Square extension, but ST said its minimum standard is 10 minutes, so either find the money for 10-minute service or no extension.

      The streetcar’s main usefulness will be to connect to Link, for trips south of downtown or north of Capitol Hill. Secondarily it will help Capitol Hill residents who have long asked for frequent transit on lower Broadway. It may end up as popular as the 8 on Denny; i.e., extremely popular. Whether these alone justify the cost, I won’t get into, except to say that all large transit projects require compromises and mitigations.

  6. How easy would it be to connect the current alignment with the waterfront streetcar ROW? If it’s as easy as glancing at a map would indicate, then I’m afraid I can’t share your pessimistic attitude. Reconnecting the waterfront is a laudable goal, and the current alignment brings us within blocks of achieving it.

    1. If the street car to Broadway ended near 5th and Jackson, the Waterfront street car also ends there. The only issue for the Waterfront street car, is that the two lines are incompatible via voltage. (that could be fixed) And there is no maintenance shed for the waterfront cars.

      In my street car unicorn and rainbow world, I’d re-wire the old cars, and connect the two lines, use the same maintenance shed. I’d also probably only run the old cars on the lower section, but it would be interesting if all the cars could run on the whole line. In which case, I’d pick up some more antique cars to fill out the fleet.

      1. The main “problem” with the Melbourne cars (for the Waterfront streetcar) is that they are high-floor and consequently require high platforms for loading. Since the FHSC line is being built for low-floor vehicles, you couldn’t run the Melbourne cars in revenue service on the FHSC line due to ADA requirements (ditto for running the FHSC vehicles on the Waterfront line). It’d be great if they could share a barn though.

      2. You could use just one door for ADA access, The center door, and put a ramp at that end of the platform. Might require making the platform an extra 8 ft long but it is “possible.”

      3. The Melbourne cars have a 25.5 inch loading height (from ground level). The SLUT’s Inekon low-floor streetcars are 13.8 inches. The FHSC will have (I believe) 10 inch-tall platforms. For ramps deployed from vehicles, ADA requires a 1:12 ramp slope if the height difference is greater than 9 inches (above a 6-inch curb). For platform ramps, maximum slope allowed for up to a 30 inch rise is 1:12.

        So its feasible, if you want a 15.5 foot-long ramp on every FHSC platform, but that defeats part of the purpose of using low-floor vehicles (reduced construction cost due to shorter platforms, and less visual obtrusiveness). I’d also question exactly how often we’d be trying to run the Melbourne cars there anyway and if its worth the extra cost. A ramp from the vehicle is not feasible due to the extreme length required. A lift would be best, but I’m not sure a lift could be easily retrofitted onto the cars.

        While interoperability is nice, I think your idea to “run the old cars on the lower section” ie the Waterfront streetcar line is far preferable.

      4. A lift is never preferable. One of the benefits of the streetcar is quick boarding through all doors. A lift kills that advantage.

      5. This was actually studied in a report commissioned by the sports teams/stadium authority in reopening the WFSC line. $13 mil to reactive the line, connect it to the first hill line, and restore the cars to operable condition. Of course i have to wonder will the wheel profiles be similar. IIRC, the WFSC uses a freight wheel profile, and i couldent tell you for the SLU/First Hill line.

      6. Other places have modified Melbourne cars to use low platforms but be ADA compliant. There are a number of ways to skin that cat.

    2. Why is everyone so ga-ga about running the Melbourne cars in regular service? The idea to link First Hill, Union Station and the Waterfront via a through service is excellent, but not with slow, unreliable growlers.

      If the waterfront is ever to have an actual population living along it it needs quick access to entertainment and restaurants, both of which can be found along the Jackson corridor. Modern streetcars running in a reserved ROW inland from Alaskan Way is EXACTLY the right transportation solution for it. Unfortunately, there’s no right of way to go farther north than about Bell, but there is lots of housing just south of there and a large employment base immediately to the east. It’s a perfect tourist/urbanist Seattle tri-fecta.

      Additional Saturday and Sunday tourist service using the historic cars along the waterfront portion would be a great way to provide a little color and interest without too badly interfering with the moderately rapid actual transportation service that could be provided by the Inekons.

      1. “Why is everyone so ga-ga about running the Melbourne cars in regular service?”

        ’cause when they were running they were a joy to ride? I used to make extra trips to go ride them. I brought the kids into town just to ride them. I brought relatives in from out of town to ride them.

      2. I agree, the historic cars put a smile on your face. The same can be said of the various vintage stock on the F-Market line in San Francisco.

        I haven’t looked really closely, but at a guess there might be room to squeeze in two tracks between Bell and Broad. Even then a short single-track section might not have that much impact on the service frequencies that could be run. Otherwise perhaps partial street running of one or both tracks is the right answer for this section.

        A more open question is if there is room to run either single or double tracks through the sculpture park without requiring a major reconstruction of the park. I suppose a flyover crossing the BNSF tracks then heading down Elliot would be another option.

        In any case it would be nice to extend the streetcar to Amgen, pier 91 and Interbay.

  7. The question becomes more complex once you open the Capitol Hill Link station. At that point you have a streetcar with connections to Link on either end; northbound users headed to First Hill transfer at International District; southbound at Capitol Hill. Of course, that’s a rather specific niche for an expensive streetcar to fill. It would have been nice to see something extend into Madison Valley or into the CD. The only upside of terminating at 1st and Jackson is that it leaves open the expensive possibility for a connection to a future line (of undetermined mode) that runs either to Ballard or West Seattle (or both).

      1. Hardly Ben. I’m not at all criticizing the reasoning behind the streetcar, but rather just saying that the product we’re getting is terrible. The reasons for the streetcar are justifiable, but the means to that justifiable end matter greatly, and the Yesler/Jackson segment of the line makes every possible mistake: worse frequency than the bus, forcing bus v. rail competition, adding travel time with an awful alignment, and forcing our hand onto 1st Avenue and ensuring that 4th/5th will likely never be built. Did you read to the end…if so you would have seen that I suggested not a cancellation, but rather a reprioritization that gets Aloha built first and connects Jackson once we can get money for 4th/5th. So we’d have 3 years of a streetcar that doesn’t connect to LINK, but for the 100+ years after that it would connect CHS, IDS, and all of downtown in a much more coherent way.

      2. downtacomaway, The streetcar will have a transfer penalty equal to the entire ride from Northgate or from Rainier Beach. As Zach says, that’s a very bad product.

        But Zach, why the 4th/5th obsession? What does that improve? All of your arguments against the current plan’s utility (indirect routing for 95% of trips, bus/streetcar competition) apply just as much, if not more, to the any through-routed downtown segment.

  8. I’d wait until you have some real-world experience before making too many judgments. A couple years ago when we moved to South Lake Union, I thought I’d never use the trolley but after a while I posted this “confession”:
    http://joshuadf.blogspot.com/2009/12/confession-i-like-slu-trolley.html

    I never imagined a rail bias would cause me to walk farther just for a smoother ride, or maybe it’s some intangible advantage. Also, while by schedule the streetcar is slower than the 70, the much longer dwell times of the bus (especially when people with disabilities need the lift) mean that often the streetcar is actually faster.

    1. The problem with the 70 is that Fairview is a wreck with I-5 traffic during the weekday, so regardless of the schedule, the SLUT is frequently faster. In the evenings, you have 7x local service on Fairview, which is terrible for a raft of different reasons. The streetcar is smoother smoother because the pavement the 70 runs on is falling apart. All of these problems will either be fixed with the Mercer East project, or could (and probably will) be fixed by restructuring Eastlake service.

      1. A bus on perfect pavement is still not as nice as a train. I rode Link last night after riding the 511 and I forgot about how much nicer the ride on link is. On the 511 I couldn’t even read my phone half the time because it vibrated so much and the stopping/starting/stopping motion of a bus makes it a pain. People think if you repave that a bus suddenly weights 400,000 lbs and rides on smooth steel.

      2. I’m not saying buses are as nice as a streetcar. I’m saying that properly-designed bus routes (on roads that aren’t falling apart) can get you most of the benefits, and most of the riders, for a fraction of the cost.

        You need rail when you run out of capacity on the bus. Absent the streetcar, this would happen in the peaks in SLU because there are masses of commuters coming from downtown. If the only effect of the SLUT had been to give Jason a slightly smoother ride to downtown, it would have been a waste of money.

      3. Bruce your right to a point but in reality transportation investments are not just about transportation, especially when it comes to rail. Used right it can be used as an economic development tool.

      4. Bruce your right to a point but in reality transportation investments are not just about transportation, especially when it comes to rail. Used right it can be used as an economic development tool.

        Government investment in an area often spurs private investment. But that investment can take many forms; it doesn’t have to be an expensive streetcar with marginal transportation utility.

      5. Well, I’m not sure Mercer East is going to fix the I-5 commuter traffic on Fairview, though eliminating the Valley curve will help a bit in a couple years. Actually I think Fairview will probably get even worse with all the new parking garages. When you add thousands of jobs in an area, if even 10% drive that’s hundreds of vehicles.

        And yes the pavement is terrible.

      6. Another funny thing about the SLU streetcar is that Seattle (not Metro) decided the route, which was gerrymandered to serve Vulcan properties on Terry Ave N. The only comparable mobility investment that could have been quickly politically feasible would be buying a lot more service on some existing route such as the 17 (cheaper and advantageous in some ways, but not nearly as headline-friendly).

    2. What’s actually faster is to walk, especially during rush hour. Yes walking isn’t ADA compliant but for most of us, the SLU trolley is 5 to 10 minutes slower than walking.

      Second fastest, bicycling. It does involve owning a bicycle, but in the future we may have a shared bicycle program, and that is going to beat nearly all other modes of transit along the SLUT route.

      1. I completely disagree. I have attempted this on several occasions, walking from Westlake Mall to Joeys. The street car blows me away every time, and I am in my mid/late 20s and walk briskly.

      2. Depends where you’re going. If it’s nice out I can easily walk to Whole Foods faster unless the streetcar is right there. But if I’m going all the way from Mercer to downtown then the streetcar is definitely faster. On the other hand in the summer I’ll often walk just to enjoy the sun.

      3. The last time I looked at the numbers, I think, for the price of building the SLUT, we could have bought everyone who works there a free bicycle.

      4. Walking and biking aren’t practical when you’re carrying a lot of stuff.

        I usually have to walk 5 blocks from IDS to my workplace, and carrying a heavy backpack and my laptop case, it can be a real pain, esp in inclement weather. I would wait 10 minutes at King Street Station for a streetcar if it went all the way to First. (Of course, unencumbered, I’d walk.)

      5. Walking and biking aren’t practical when you’re carrying a lot of stuff.

        Walking isn’t practical with stuff? Sure it is!

        You can drive a $20,000 vehicle with $5,000 in annual costs and $50,000 in annual externalities (between parking/road subsidies and environmental damage)… or you can pull a $30 cart.

      6. Aleks:

        I own two vehicles, but I don’t use either of them for commuting. I generally take the Sounder or a ST express bus. It’s still a pain to carry around my equipment. When I get to work, I take a company vehicle to work sites and back.

        I’m just saying more ‘last mile’ coverage and frequency is great for people who use trunk lines, like myself.

    3. I tried to go to the site you linked to twice and both times it just froze my browser, so I can’t see what is written there.

      This question may be answered on your site, which I cannot access, but: how much do you pay each time you ride the S.L.U.T.?

      If you have an ORCA card, the S.L.U.T. is free. Do you ride it for free, or do you pay for each trip? And, if you pay for each trip, how much do you pay?

      1. Maybe he has a monthly pass like I do. In that case, Metro gets the same amount of money no matter whether the SLUT is “free” or not. Unless the SLUT is the only Metro route he uses.

      2. So, basically, it costs you nothing? Your monthly pass costs the same whether you ride the S.L.U.T. 30 times a month, or zero times per month? Or, how does that work?

        Is your “pass” an ORCA card? Or, is it something that can actually be read on the S.L.U.T., unlike an ORCA card?

        How often would you ride it if it cost you $2 for each trip, in addition to your monthly pass? Like the monorail, for example. How much would you actually pay to ride the S.L.U.T., if each ride was an additional cost to you?

      3. What’s the difference between paying $2 for each ride on the SLUT, vs paying $2 for each ride on other routes? Either way I’m likely to severely reduce the number of trips I take if I didn’t have an ORCA pass, which means Metro wouldn’t get more money. For trips less than 2 miles I’d walk, and for trips more than 2 miles I’d avoid going at all. Needless to say, that would diminish my quality of life and my ability to contribute to the city’s commerce.

        Passes are not a cheat. They’re a recognition that $90 is a reasonable maximum monthly fare. The extra trips are mostly off-peak when there are seats available. Metro can’t add or eliminate a bus based on whether one person chooses to ride or not, it can only do it based on whether twenty-five people choose to ride it or not. And twenty-five passholders aren’t all going to be making an extra trip on the same bus at the same time.

      4. The actual fare on the S.L.U.T. is $2.50 one-way for an adult. The longest trip is about 1.3 miles.

        Would you pay $2.50 for a one-way trip on the S.L.U.T.?

        Or do you just ride it because riding it does not cost you anything? It is basically a “free ride.”

      5. The only people who actually gain something from “free ORCA rides” on the SLUT are those with an e-purse but no pass (mostly occasional riders and those who commute only a couple days a week), and those with an empty e-purse who are abusing the system. How many of those people live or work in the vicinity of the SLUT, so that they don’t have to go out of their way to ride it? Probably a small number.

      6. I calculate the cost of transit trips the same as everybody else. If I have a pass, I take it whenever it’s going my way, and because I’m a transit fan I seek out interesting trips beyond that. If I didn’t have a pass, I’d consider whether this trip is really worth $2.50, or whether I have the time and energy to walk half an hour, or whether I can avoid this trip.

        I currently ride the SLUT once a month or less, since I live eight blocks uphill and am usually going east-west rather than north-south. If I had to pay $2.50 per trip, I’d ride it as often as I do the Monorail, once every few years.

      7. For completeness, e-purse riders get a “free ride” only if their trip is entirely on the SLUT. If they transfer to a bus, they’re paying the same fare they would have paid on the SLUT.

  9. One thing you are forgetting here. The First Hill Streetcar was created because the deep bore First Hill Link station was going to be too difficult and expensive to build. The entire streetcar line will cost $135m and the Link station was going to cost upwards of $395m. This streetcar line actually saves money.

    Personally I agree with your analysis and assessment, however I think we are receiving what ST promised, an alternative to the deep bore station. It does enable people from the hospitals (if they want to walk a short distance), to hop aboard the new streetcar to either the new Capitol Hill or ID Link stations.

    I do believe we will be getting a benefit from it when this line connects with either the 4th/5th connector or 1st Ave line, people in this area will use it more to commute. I also see where people in Yesler Terrace (new and old YT) and the people who live along 14th and Yesler, will use it frequently. There is some density in this area.

    I am hoping a side benefit of this will be to finally turn the corner and help Chinatown, Japantown and Little Saigon revitalize their areas. They are on the cusp of revitalization right now and I hope this pushes them over. I will be using this line all the time (along with Link). I live in Mount Baker and eat in Little Saigon weekly and have to go to First Hill a couple times a month. While driving isn’t bad for me, the price of parking is and this line will save me money.

    1. I don’t think he forgot it… “At this point not much can be done, and in any case the point of the streetcar was not to facilitate downtown-First Hill trips, but rather to connect the forsaken First Hill Station to Link.”

    1. I think this ignores the reason for a streetcar. You don’t take a street car to travel long distances, its an intermediate option between walking and using Light rail/subway. Look at Berlin transit map sometime. The Trolleys/street cars fill the gaps between the S-bahn and U-bahn stations, which cover distance much faster.

    1. Two reasons: 1) The 12th and Jackson intersection is a mess of trolley wire and IIRC it would’ve cost a ton of money to set everything up properly to allow a turning streetcar movement while not screwing the trolley buses; and 2) There’s a water main running under 12th that they would’ve had to relocate. So SDOT opted to not use 12th for cost and complexity reasons. 14th is the next street you can turn north on.

      1. The simple solution would have been to use trolley poles off the 700 VDC trolley coach overhead instead of pantographs. This is done in San Francisco on the “F” market with vintage cars up to 100 years old running on their 600 VDC system. Of course high priced consultants dont seem to look at simple and effective options…

      2. Regardless of the OCS issues, the turning movements of the streetcar would cause problems in an already heavily congested intersection.

  10. I generally agree but I have a bit of a different take on the Jackson part. I see the streetcar having a bit of a hybrid role. On Broadway the role is primarily to feed the Cap Hill station, which it does especially well for riders to/from the north where demand will be extremely strong. As it move south it becomes more of a economic development tool, with Yesler Terrace, King County’s jail, Goodwill development (which fell through), etc. What the streetcar will do is tie this area to the more desirable Broadway and Pike/Pike areas, boosting development potential in the Jackson/Rainier area.

    Also in the long term I think the Jackson segment can be altered to be more useful. Reroute the FHSC to connect with East Link and possibly Mt. Baker Station via Rainier and route the SLU/4th-5th connector up Jackson to MLK replacing the 14 along this corridor(suggestion from the original streetcar studies). See http://g.co/maps/5z437. If Mt. Baker gets a significant rezone and the 14th/Jackson/Goodwill/Yesler Terrace areas starts to redevelop this routing would be very strong, stitching together three Link Stations, First Hill and three areas with large development potentials. Only the 8 can claim the same kind of thing.

    1. Rainier around I-90 would be a terrible place for a streetcar: the traffic is hideous and the ridership on that part of the 7 is relatively weak. An better extension of the streetcar would be east on Jackson and south on 23rd Ave to Mount Baker. You connect more ridership destinations and community centers, and you do so without getting close to a freeway entrance.

      1. I disagree. The traffic is hideous on Aurora and you still have strong ridership, it certainly is an issue, which TOD planning around Mt. Baker has been very cognizant of. Streetcars don’t just have to go to “pretty” places to be effective as a mode of transportation or spark redevelopment. Just look at Mercer St in SLU. It’s going to have lots of cars but will redevelop anyways.

        As for ridership, it is weak because there isn’t really a whole lot in the area to go to/from as of now, but redevelopment anchored by a Goodwill redevelopment (I believe they were looking at close to a million sq ft of retail) would change that. Also if the streetcar went to Mt. Baker the segment from Mt. Baker to I-90 would be an important connection for South/East Link transfers or at least create an area bounded by two Link stations making it very desirable.

        Going down 23rd would be more pleasant from a street scape perspective but it is surrounded mostly by single family housing while Rainier is very commercial (easier to rezone, see West Seattle rezone this week) and since it is in a valley buildings can be fairly tall without running into view blocking issues (also a plus for Mt. Baker where they are talking about 120 ft height limits).

      2. Traffic on Aurora is dangerous and voluminous but fast flowing; Rainier is stop-go from Jackson to I-90. The Goodwill development is close enough to Jackson that riders can be told to hoof it if they want the streetcar (there would still be a local bus on Rainier to Mount Baker, of course).

        A 23rd Ave streetcar would rejoin Rainier north of College St, perfectly place to capture any new riders from a Mount Baker upzone, but still avoiding the worst of the freeway traffic, while also connecting to the midrise development on Jackson west of 23rd and the businesses at Jackson Square.

        It would be faster, more reliable and have higher ridership.

      3. Hadn’t though about congestion along Rainier. That is a good point. I still believe thought that Rainier between Jackson and I-90 has much more development capacity than 23rd/Jackson. You basically have an area the size of Yesler Terrace that is ripe for redevelopment.

      4. 23rd Ave. actually does provide a connection of sort with I-90. Sometimes, when I come into Seattle from Issaquah, I get off at I-90/Ranier and then head north on the 48, rather than going through downtown. The walk from the #554 stop to the #48 stop on 23rd is about 5-6 minutes going up the hill, probably a little shorter going down.

      5. Going down 23rd wouldn’t preclude a connection between East Link and Central link. The I-90 station will have entrances on both Rainier and 23rd.

        That said I tend to agree that Rainier between Jackson and Mount Baker has much more redevelopment potential than going via 23rd and Jackson.

        The key for choosing a routing via Rainier other than the necessary upzones would be getting signal priority and reserved ROW.

    2. Cities with old rail lines inevitably reconfigure them, and it’s not uncommon for a station to be switched to a different line or a section of track abandoned. A Broadway-Rainier streetcar is not in the cards for the next decade, but it could be a part of adding a downtown-Jackson line.

  11. This seems like a straw man argument to me: the line doesn’t provide connections to places it doesn’t go. That doesn’t mean the line is useless, because it could do a good job of serving the places it does go.

  12. I don’t understand why having the FHSC terminate in Pioneer Square “commits us to a future incompatible to the 4th/5th connector”.
    If you mean the FHSC cannot continue from King Street Station up 4th, than I suppose it does, but I never assumed it would. What advantage would there be in doing so?
    And if you’re going to evaluate this route by looking at the end points, how does a FHSC + 4th/5th Connector fair any better? Nobody would ride from First Hill to Westlake that way, either.

    1. The argument is that the SLU and FH streetcars should be connected through midtown (5th Ave). This would serve trips from Jackson to SLU, and potentially on streetcar extensions to Fremont, Eastlake, Rainier, and/or 31st, plus of course First Hill. Link is not a substitute because it would require two transfers from Little Saigon to SLU, and because a streetcar attracts “local” trips that Link doesn’t. Of course it could be on 4th or 6th Ave, but 5th is the natural corridor between Westlake and Intl Dist stations, and is up a steep hill from 3rd.

      Alternatively, some people have suggested connecting them via 1st Avenue. That would be good for Pike Place tourists but bad for those not going to 1st.

      A third possiblity, the “psi-shape” I mention below, is a First Hill-Jackson-Alaskan Way line, and a separate SLU-5th-Stadium-(SODO?) line.

  13. A longer term view can see the streetcar investments as useful to building out a network that connects central Seattle neighborhoods by using Link stations as anchor points.

    If your prediction is correct that the Jackson and Broadway segments are not useful as a single line I could imagine a scenario where the Broadway segment is extended to Mt. Baker station and the Jackson Segment to 23rd.

    Connecting streetcar lines to Future and existing Link station stops will facilitate Transit Oriented Development (TOD). Let’s remember that a primary goal of fixed rail is to facilitate TOD by making transit investments and the two corridors I just mentioned are prime places where in-fill density is occurring and where we are primed for more.

  14. First of all..this is a tram.

    Second of all…if they can build hill climbing trams like these, then all the arguments for super expensive tunneling go out the window. The could have simply routed LINK up and down I5 south, like they plan to do north, and built rail connectors using surface level tram technology!

    1. Much of I-5 at and south of the ship canal is an elevated viaduct on a hill and/or tall bridge (or tunneled under convention centers/etc). Not convinced that would be cheaper/easier than a tunnel (ignoring desirability issues).

      1. Why would coming to our senses involve dismantling a major north-south Interstate highway that connects Tijuana to Vancouver?

      2. Kyle: From the perspective of interstate/international travel, the segment of I-5 between Lynnwood and Tukwila is completely redundant with I-405. We could easily designate I-405 the main route, and then reclassify I-5 as a state road — except for the portion in Seattle (which would disappear).

        As far as why we should do this: because freeways destroy cities. I-5 might as well be a wall, for how much it interferes with mobility. Between the roads it disconnects, and the entry-ramp streets with interminable traffic, I-5’s presence effectively makes it faster to leave Seattle than to travel within it. That’s no way to design a city.

      3. Vancouver, BC is doing just fine with zero limited-access highways in the city proper (except for the tiniest sliver of the Trans-Canada Highway skirting the eastern edge).

      4. We would lament the collapse of our economy as freight and services could no longer pass through Seattle.

      5. Cheesewheels: It’s funny that your comment comes after d.p.’s. The lack of freeways in our neighbor to the north has not exactly destroyed its economy. Nor has it destroyed the economies of San Francisco or Manhattan; they both have freeways on the periphery, but none in the middle.

        Honestly, one of the biggest arguments against freeways in an urban context is that they cause more congestion than they fix. Everyone complains about how the deep-bore tunnel won’t have any ramps in downtown, but actually, that’s a feature! A grid of urban arterials provides much better mobility, for passengers and freight alike, than a single freeway.

        Just look at Denny/Mercer/Howell/James/etc. and tell me that freeways are enhancing in-city mobility.

      6. Aleks, I mean to suggest if we dismantle I-5 without providing an alternative. I would very much be for a bypass freeway, but the N-S nature of our city means that for trucks to access the industrial areas, a freeway has to be somewhat close. You can’t just shove everything onto 405, even if you doubled its capacity.

        The other difference with BC is that it’s essentially the end of the line. Seattle lies ON the corridor, not at the end of it.

      7. The industrial areas? You mean the ones in Interbay (along 15th NW) and Georgetown/Boeing Field (along SR-99)?

        Seems like the bypass roads are already there… ;)

      8. And for freight that has to pass through Seattle? Do we saddle Bellevue with that traffic? I’m all for removing the barrier of I5 between downtown and First/Capital hill, but we do need N-S highways – no way around it. Vancouver’s geography allows them to get away with not having any near the city center. Our other options would be to ruin eastern Seattle with one, or increase 405 capacity. Personally, I opt for I5 improvements, including lidding.

  15. There must be a bunch of people at Sound Transit who know this is a bad idea, so why hasn’t there been a bigger effort to put the kabash on it? It’s almost treasonous to rail advocates to waste this much money (and provide ammunition to rail haters) when you could use it on other projects that would actually improve a lot of commutes. Heck, just extend the SLU down Eastlake as far as you could with the money. The rail project people at Sound Transit need to start speaking up since I’m pretty sure they recognize this boondoggle too.

    1. Yes, there are people at ST who know their stuff and who share the same or similar opinions about the streetcar. Unfortunately, they are not the right people to stop or modify the project.

    2. There must be a bunch of people at Sound Transit who know this is a bad idea, so why hasn’t there been a bigger effort to put the kabash on it?

      Because they executed an interlocal agreement with the City of Seattle to build it, and it will have Seattle Streetcar branding. So when people see an empty streetcar running down the street, they’ll shout “boondoggle” at the City, not Sound Transit.

    3. Keep in mind that generally speaking Sound Transit is in the business of connecting regional centers, of which First Hill/Capitol Hill is one. As was pointed out earlier, a First Hill Link station was deleted due to high cost and construction risk (in addition to the ~$400m cost of the station and associated tunnels, we probably wouldn’t have gotten as much/any federal money for U-Link due to much higher risk, driving the amount of local money required even higher), so the FHSC was added to “make up” for deleting the station. It’s politics, and in the bigger picture of the multibillion-dollar ST2 program $132m for a streetcar, no matter how silly, is money well-spent to keep First Hill happy.

      ST wouldn’t pay for extending the SLUT up Eastlake to the U-District since there is no regional center along the way to connect, and Link is connecting Capitol Hill to the U-District.

      1. I feel like half the time I’m in the business of correcting misapprehensions about the “impossibility” of building a First Hill Link station, but Jason basically nails it when he highlights the federal-money algorithm as the main stumbling block.

        I just want to add a reminder that the Fed’s assumed risk/reward determination around which ST skated had much more to do with the Bush administration’s “new riders” obsession than with any trumped-up engineering difficulties. A segment that bettered service for existing riders had to be less expensive than segments that would attract new ones. The potential degree of improvement over the existing service you were replacing became irrelevant.

        The Obama administration has softened the anti-urban bias born of that obsession. But thanks to the Bush-era biases, First Hill is basically screwed forever.

      2. $400 million is nothing? The money essentially paid for the Beacon Hill station, the Rainier Valley mitigation, or stayed in the taxpayer’s pocket, depending on how you look at it. Missing from this discussion is whether the station was worth $400 million, and what else $400 million could buy. For instance, it could buy a third of a Ballard subway.

  16. This will show how much people on First Hill value the “rail experience”. The Portland Streetcar is not fast but it’s well used. I’ll ride the streetcar from Capitol Hill to Chinatown even if it takes a couple minutes longer than the 9 & 60, and I’ll be glad for the even 10-minute headways and full-time service. The extension from 12th to 14th is nto the end of the world, and it does expand the walkshed closer to 23rd. I assume it was mandated by topography.

    The most important thing is that the city was contractually obligated to maintain 10-minute frequency. They were trying to chip away at it both for the Aloha extension and the Pioneer Square extension. But what Seattle needs is some examples of 10-minute all-day routes so that people can see how it transforms trip patterns and ridership.

    I wish Aloha were built first, and then 5th to Westlake, as Zach says, but again it’s not the end of the world. And it does lead to a potential Psi-shaped routing: one line on Broadway-Jackson-Alaskan Way, and another line Westlake-5th-SODO (terminating at the stadiums or wherever convenient).

    1. “I’ll ride the streetcar from Capitol Hill to Chinatown even if it takes a couple minutes longer than the 9 & 60”

      Did you read the post?

      1. Only that quite a few commenters seem to have missed the part where Zach talked up the section of the streetcar on Broadway down to Little Saigon.

        That segment should, by the way, be quite a bit quicker than buses due primarily to fewer stops and TSP.

      2. I don’t see how you could interpret Mike’s comment as being critical of or missing the point of Zach’s post. Mike Orr is a long-time commenter who adds a lot to this blog, you didn’t need to jump on him.

    2. I said Chinatown meaning west of 12th, where the 9 & 60 don’t go.

      The FHS can’t absorb all Jackson-Jackson trips, but so what? We can’t eliminate the 7, 14, and 36 without providing alternate service from Jackson to 31st, Rainier, and Beacon Hill. So why does it matter if they overlap 7 blocks? That’s a short distance to extend to reach a station.

  17. In ten or fifteen years, I think a lot of people will be riding the streetcar between Broadway, First Hill, and IDS by choice, both for comfort and speed. Because to meet mandated headways, the transit system will be forced to do something that gives streetcars a clear advantage over buses, but is politically much harder to do.

    Sooner or later, keeping headway is going to mean streetcars get their own lanes and get to throw or hold signals- which means being through the Yesler Terrace loop before other traffic clears 12th and Jackson.

    In places I’ve visited with established street rail, public and legal understanding develops that because streetcars can’t get around obstacles, obstacles don’t get put in their way. Here, because buses can theoretically change lanes, it’s no big deal to make them do it.

    “BAT” lane says it all. Boy, what an accurate acronym!

    Theoretically, again, given same signal and lane pre-empts, trolleybuses could do the same thing. Ask yourself, though: how long has the wire been there between IDS and Seattle Central, and why no priority?

    Speaking of wire, anybody advocating anything fast using trolleybuses needs to start costing out massive systemwide replacement of existing overhead. Check out You Tube for comparison with other countries. Where else does anybody take switches at 5 mph? Bulgaria? As a trolleydriver, BTW, I’m all in favor.

    Also curious about lifetime cost of track over pavement.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Thank you, Mark. The need for (and cost of) wholesale wire replacement seems to be missing from most of Bruce’s otherwise-reasonable advocacy for a trolleybus-based core/high-frequency network.

      What a waste it would be to base your core services on something excruciating to use.

  18. I predict that people *will* ride the Jackson St segment. Partly, this is because it’s a one-seat ride between Capitol Hill/First Hill and Little Saigon/the ID. It will open two years before Link, and it will serve origin/destination pairs that Link only serves with some amount of walking, like Broadway/Madison to 5th/Jackson.

    But mostly, it’s because it’s rail. People will learn to depend on the streetcar’s routing. They’ll stay away from buses, because buses are slow, smelly, and you can never be quite sure where they’re going. (I’m not saying these things are true, but there are definitely people who believe these things.)

    FWIW, I have very mixed feelings about the project. On the one hand, it’s very grid-unfriendly, and adds very minimal mobility for its cost. (We could get almost the same effect for free by rerouting the 49 to use the back-to-base route full-time.) On the other hand, the SLU streetcar has had a fantastic effect on the area. So if you think of the streetcar as a development project, rather than a transit project, maybe it’s worth it.

    1. On the other hand, the SLU streetcar has had a fantastic effect on the area.

      Oh, so that’s what did it? I thought it was because some rich guy bought the whole damn neighborhood and rebuilt it from the ground up. Silly me.

      1. I guess “Angry Transit Nerd” isn’t just a clever name. ;)

        Obviously, Paul Allen’s efforts are the primary reason that SLU is the way it is. But Paul Allen wanted that streetcar. He clearly felt that it would contribute in a positive way to the area’s redevelopment.

        I believe — though I admit that there isn’t much concrete evidence either way — that the SLU redevelopment would not have been nearly as successful without the streetcar.

        (Of course, the blocks are too big and the streets are too wide. What if, instead of a streetcar, the whole neighborhood was rebuilt with 10 foot wide streets, like in pre-automobile European cities? That would have worked too. But for better or worse, SLU was built on a scale where some form of motorized transit is appropriate, and with current zoning laws, it’s difficult to see how that would have been different.)

      2. And here I thought it was because one rich guy cut a deal with another rich guy to lease a whole lot of property.

        Now that I work in the South Lake Union area, I can say that more people bicycle to the office than when we worked in downtown. My theory is that parking is severely limited, expensive, and that there is decent, although high priced, housing nearby on Capital Hill and South Lake Union and folks living just North of the ship canal can easily ride in.

        And even though it’s ‘winter’ the bike racks are still pretty full something I rarely saw at the previous location.

        As for the SLUT, yes I see people riding it, but the sidewalks have way more folks on them than that tram.

  19. This streetcar will blow your minds. It will be well used. It beats any bus. Perhaps not in time. But it will beat any competing bus line in use. Buses are not popular. Period. Wait and see.

    This is all water under the bridge. It is a done deal. And it will be successful. Buses are simply not popular. As the Men’s Warehouse founder said: “I guarentee it.”

  20. I generally agree with this post, but I would dissent on two points.

    First, during peak times the 3/4 and 2/12 are extremely slow and unreliable due to traffic getting on the freeway. For anyone coming north on Sounder or Link, it will make more sense to take the streetcar that goes around congestion than use those buses that will be stuck in congestion.

    Second, it has never been seriously proposed to actually through-route this streetcar with any future 1st ave or 4th/5th ave downtown streetcar. There wouldn’t really be any point to it–they will already have separate maintenance facilities, plus you would lose a lot of reliability by connecting them. The FHSC is about as long as a streetcar without exclusive lanes should be, in my opinion. Any more and the headways are in too much danger of getting out of whack. The idea in the Transit Master Plan was to have the streetcar lines remain separate, but frequent enough to provide easy transfers. They could probably even coordinate them.

    1. The center platforms were a really terrible idea. They generally work better, but they should have considered the number of bus routes.

      1. Well tracks in the right lane are a MENACE to bicycles. Westlake is dang dangerous, numerous riders have fallen because they got their wheels stuck in those track groves.

  21. A better consolation prize for the loss of the First Hill Station would have been resurrecting the Madison Cable car – up the hill from 3rd Avenue light rail — shorter track to build (and an awesome cute factor,which is pretty much what the trolley thing is about). I’m also not very happy about the distance planned between stops — also an ADA issue.

    Easiest and fastest access to light rail for me, from the South end of First Hill,is the #60 to the Beacon Station– unless it is after 7PM on a weekend or holiday.

    1. You, bet. But probably gone forever. Though there is an old cable pulley on display in the Pioneer Square Link station. Have you seen that, Kristin?

      It was found when they were digging the downtown bus/now Link tunnel.

  22. I see this as not quite useless, although I wish that U-turn was a bit less of a switchback. It’s a reasonable connector for First Hill, but it also provides access for the region of Jackson/Rainier to both the ID and Cap Hill, which means links to two Light Rail Stations.

    I imagine, if the Streetcar is smart, that at some point in the next decade, they’ll extend the line all the way up Jackson to the edge of Leschi. That would provide access to the Promenade and beyond, Pratt, the Wonder Bread housing developments, Douglass Truth Library, Washington Middle School, Seattle Girls School, and a series of other businesses along Jackson.

    If they wanted to be really gutsy, they could turn North at 23rd, then East again at Yesler, and follow the old Cable Car Trail right to the waterfront of Lake Washington. That would be a hell of a line.

    1. If it went up Jackson to 23rd, then went south on 23rd down to the I-90 East Link station and Mt Baker station, that would be an awesome streetcar line that could actually replace many bus routes on Jackson.

  23. This is clearly no replacement for having a First Hill station on the Link line, one of the key reasons I voted for Link. It was thrown into the mix as a consolation prize, not as a carefully designed transportation investment.

    But wait a sec. I’m having trouble with some of the assumptions here. What do you think the function and market of a streetcar can be? I think there are three functions a streetcar could fill far better than buses if it’s designed to do so. (1) Tourists. There are a lot of tourists downtown, and they’re looking for a dead-simple way to get from one part of downtown to another. (2) Shoppers. Lots of people come to shop and want to park once, rather than driving between all the places they visit downtown. And (3) ferry and Sounder commuters who just need help getting the last mile to destinations on the periphery of the downtown area.

    That drives me to think First Avenue is the best route to connect the SLU and First Hill streetcars. First Ave is the primary tourist and shopping route, and a line running down First Ave would connect to the ferry terminal as well as Sounder. I don’t understand the assumption held on this blog that Fourth or Fifth avenues are the obvious streetcar routes, because they are congested and don’t serve the markets streetcars are best suited for. Neither streetcar will ever be a significant commute access to South Lake Union or First Hill because of their slow speeds and low capacity. The headways and volumes anticipated don’t make even a dent in the transit capacity commute needs to these neighborhoods.

    I’m not a big streetcar fan, but I do believe streetcars can make a significant difference if they’re designed strategically to serve the kinds of markets streetcars have an advantage for. To me that means we should connect the SLU and First Hill streetcars using First Ave., serving both the ferry and commuter rail termini. That connection would make both lines much more useful to people who want to circulate to other downtown destinations, connecting primary transportation terminals to rapidly-developing peripheral downtown neighborhoods during the peak, and serving the primary tourist routes at other times of the day.

    1. Yes that’s another good missed point. Sounder and Link commuters will xfer to the Streetcar to get to First Hill. Even moreso when North and East link open.

  24. I hope the first sentence of the post does not coome true; I hope Seattle realizes that the First Hill Streetcar is a very poor use of scarce transit funds and they ask ST to cancel and substitute. The capital costs have grown to the ST ceiling and there are still agreements to sign, overhead junctions to test and select, costly cars to procure, operating plans to verify. The construction will be costly and disruptive. Seattle has no funds to pay for costs above the ST2 funds.

    ST has to spend the funds in its North King subarea. Seattle should ask for them to buy the best transit mobility for First Hill. The streetcar is clearly suboptimal. The streetcar was selected as the mode by the ST Board. They were mistaken. The place name is a give away; First Hill is too steep for a streetcar to be the best transit mobility option; Seattle already has a 70-mile electric trolleybus network, a base with capacity, and wire between Pioneer Squre and East Aloha Street. Seattle has the power to treat ETB as if they were streetcars with in-lane stops, faster fare collection, and signal priority. Seattle now knows that King County will buy a new fleet of LOW floor ETB. The streetcar has to go via 12th Avenue South topographical saddle point as they cannot climb Yesler, James, or Madison (cable cars in the 30s). That and the jog to 14th Avenue South make the streetcar slower than the ETB alternative.

    A small part of the ST2 capital could be used for ETB overhead: Yesler Way wire would provide a congestion free arterial for routes 3-4 and an extended Route 49 after the Broadway Link station in 2016; an improved Pioneer Square turn around loop might be a goood idea as well. this addresses Zef concern above about the current ETB routes being slow and unreliable. Most of the ST2 funds could be converted to improved service frequency. The streetcar is too short. A Route 49 with five-minute headway between Pioneer Square and the U District via the new Yesler Way wire, Yesler Terrace, Harborview, 9th Avenue, Madison Street and Swedish, Broadway and Link, north Capitol Hill, and the University Bridge. Route 3 would be much more reliable and would also serve Yesler Terrace. that would provide much better transit mobility for First Hill. Service frequency with shorter waits would do more to help riders than a short slow streetcar going out of direction via 14th Avenue South. The streetcar would be less frequent, less direct, and slower than the revised Route 49 and more reliable Route 3 via Yesler Way.

    The ST choice of streetcar was made before the recession, before the transit fiscal crisis, and before Seattle realized that the south portal of the deep bore would direct more traffic to South Jackson Street. It seems like a political rather than a technical choice. It is even more important that the ST2 funds are well spent; there are no other new transit funds in hand. The fiscal cliff is less than two years away.

    Link in 2016 will the transit game changer. It will be fast, reliable, and frequent. It will be the best connection between Broadway and IDS or Pioneer Square. Link will lead to the restructure of bus routes. The streetcar would just get in the way. If riders want to make intermediate connections between the Broadway Link station and First Hill, they would be better off with the more frequent revised Route 49 above. It already serves north Capitol Hill. If riders want to make connections between IDS or PSS and Harborview or Swedish, they would be better off with the more frequent ETB routes. one of things ST did not do during their mode choice study was consider bus routes restructures post Link. Consider the concepts in the rapid trolley study that was part of the AWV work. Route 60 could be ETB north of the Beacon station.

    Seattle is heading toward an awkward streetcar future: two bases, two types of cars, disconnected botique lines, and low ridership. They need to get over their Portlandia envy and recognize they have hills and the appropriate mode in place.

    1. As usual, eddiew has provided a well needed dose of the morning after cure. The Puget Sound, and Seattle’s 1st Hill streetcar have entered the ‘Operating Cost Abyss’, IMHO.
      High cost transit facilities require operating subsidies for years and years to come, dwarfing the euphoric high of opening day ribbon cutting ceremonies and political speeches of the day. The latest financial reports from ST show some horrible costs per rider throughout the region. Link is now costing over $15.00 a rider to the airport (including debt and depreciation). Sounder is even higher (latest ST 3rd Qtr financial report, online). Does Seattle want to follow suit with a shinny new streetcar that adds to the drain on limited tax revenue with limited usefulness and riders, when low cost solutions exist that actually carries more people at far lower costs?
      Seattle could do a huge makeover of it’s ETB network, increase ridership, increase reliability, increase coverage, span and frequency, lower operating costs, and improve the mode share between auto and bus for the amount of money being thrown at this project.
      Sober up Seattle. The party is over!

      1. Oops! Link is only $14.12 per rider. Avg fare is $1.56
        Commuter Rail is $21.16, avg fare was $3.21
        Reg. Express was $8.74, avg fare was $1.95
        Tacoma Link cost $6.71, fare free.
        How much are ETB’s (Ops + Debt/Dep)?
        How much for 1st Hill Streetcar?

  25. The idea that we would have two incompatible streetcar technologies, if true, is unforgivable and totally avoidable if anyone has a backbone.

    1. It’s the voltage in the wires of the mothballed George Benson that is incompatible. Nobody said there is a voltage difference between the SLUT and the FHSC.

      1. The FHC cars will have supplemental and costly batteries; the SLU cars do not; there are about 45 places where the FHC and ETB overheads interesect; SDOT is hoping to solve part of that issue through signicant battery operation.

      2. … including coasting downhill through wire junctions. At what point does the tram stop at a station, and all the circus clowns deboard?
        (or alight for the geeks)

  26. I agree that the Jackson/Yestler segment would be dropped in a perfect world for a continuation South via Rainier to I90 Station and terminating at Mt. Baker.

    Either way the Aloha Extension is a must.

  27. Looking at this route, I wonder: Is this a streetcar or street sweeper?

    Seriously, though, I have mixed feelings about this, other than to point out that it serves as a great example of our mixed up transit system. The agencies don’t work together very well. If you sat down with folks and asked them where streetcars make sense, you can bet anything they wouldn’t start with South Lake Union, then go on to make this route. This route is a lot better than the one in South Lake Union, but that isn’t saying much.

    Streetcars make sense under the following circumstances:

    1) There is a huge volume of passengers already taking buses
    2) The distances aren’t that great
    3) There are lots of stops

    So, where do streetcars makes sense? To start with, downtown Seattle. Run a line from Pioneer Square to Belltown (3rd would work). This basically covers the ride free area. It also means that there is no reason for the buses to go through downtown. The buses can simply turn around when they hit either end of downtown. This frees up the buses considerably. What do we do with the freed up buses? Run them along Broadway and up Madison. This serves First Hill better at a much cheaper price. What do we do when the buses are running full all the time? Replace them with streetcars. It is a pretty simply process.

    The reason it isn’t done is because the agencies don’t cooperate very well. The South Lake Union streetcar is a Seattle thing. This is a Seattle/Sound Transit thing (as part of a package to placate the First Hill folks). Better cooperation between Seattle, Metro and Sound Transit would make for a much more efficient system.

    1. Wasn’t the SLUT funded by Vulcan? That was mainly a hedge for all the SLU development that’s happened. I’d say it paid off.

      1. No, Vulcan kicked in half of the capital cost (~$25 million). The Operating cost is public funding to the tune of around $2 million a year. I’d buy a new car if the government pays half the purchase price and then picks up the full tab for gas, maintenance and replacement for the rest of my life.

      2. You bet I did cash for clunkers. A big thank you to Patti and Maria for giving me $3,500 toward our new SUV. The real irony of that program was we only would have gotten $2,500 for buying a car with better EPA mpg but since the Subaru Outback wagon is classified as an SUV/truck it bumped the incentive up a $1,000. Still waiting for Uncle Sam though to pitch in for free gas and oil changes for life.

  28. While I’m still in favor of this Streetcar (and a 1st ave connector), I have a serious problem with the deviation up to 14th, instead of using Boren and 12th, and I am always staunchly against center-platform stations, esp on busy arterials.

    Hopefully, the street parking on Jackson will go away, or this will become a fustercluck.

    1. The extension to 14th may look bad on a map, but the designers were correct.

      A left turn from Jackson at 12th is very much worth avoiding.
      The same is true of a left from Boren to Yesler.

      As a former 36 rider, I’d posit that center running for the streetcar on Jackson might be necessary to maintain headways.
      Otherwise, it’d be blocked by the sheer quantity of buses slowly trundling up Jackson.

    2. They really didn’t have much choice. ETB service isn’t going away, the wires are there, so sharing the curb lane wasn’t going to happen.

      1. And having cycled the route, I can say with confidence they would have cyclists marching the streets in protest if they’d tried to turn left to Yesler. The detour is symbolic of the planning problems with this line, but taking 14th was the only logical option.

      2. I don’t see any important buildings or landmarks that couldn’t be edited to make this work. It might not seem like a major detour, but if this is the MO, deviations like this will add up.

    3. The 14th extension should add only a minute or two to the travel time. And it brings the walkshed closer to 23rd, which itself warrants streetcar service. It’s nine blocks — just over one suburban superblock — from 23rd to 14th.

  29. I am not sure what happened to my earlier post. This is only somewhat related to the article above, but still impacts the streetcar line. The southern terminus of the streetcar line will serve King Street Station and may also serve a new Greyhound station. According to Crosscut, the current Greyhound station received an eviction notice, http://crosscut.com/2011/12/20/seattle-city-hall/21693/Greyhound-may-test-Seattle-s-commitment-to-mass-transportation/. Moving the station to the King Street hub should be a high priority for the city.

    1. That’s very interesting, but where the hell would it go? With the northern half of the North Lot spoken for…

Comments are closed.