Zach’s criticism of the First Hill Streetcar last week was admirably selective about its target, limiting the criticism to the Jackson St. Segment that is duplicative with high-volume bus routes. He was, correctly, complimentary of the new connectivity between Capitol Hill, First Hill, and Little Saigon.

My complaint with the piece is that the stated purpose of the line is a good one — to connect the hugely dense, regionally important First Hill neighborhood with the regional Link spine, and to a lesser extent, Sounder. The line’s routing clearly implies that it is not intended to connect the downtown core with First Hill: as critics point out, there are lots of bus lines that do a semi-adequate job of that.

I contend that it will do a good job of meeting its goal. From the North, passengers headed from points north to Swedish Hospital or Seattle University will do best to utilize the streetcar. All Sounder riders currently face a two seat ride (or a long walk) to access First Hill; the Streetcar will make it one seat. Northbound Link riders could switch to the streetcar or continue on to Pioneer Square or University Street and face the slog on a glacial, overcrowded trolleybus. We’ll have to see how the relative travel times work out for a variety of First Hill destinations (and a more direct route around Yesler Terrace and Little Saigon would have been better), but there’s reason to believe the streetcar will be a better option. Furthermore, I think it has a better chance of getting priority treatments than those buses ever will.

It’s true there’s duplication with buses that are carrying people down Jackson, but we should view the First Hill Streetcar as one part of an embryonic network. When (if?)  the streetcar is extended through downtown, segments of the 7 and 36 running from Little Saigon through downtown will be redundant with the streetcar network and Link, and those hours can be reinvested elsewhere.

It may be that Seattle would have been better off (with respect to some metrics) deferring Jackson St. until it can extend through downtown, and instead investing the money to get to Aloha St. However, I doubt adding a single streetcar stop is going to bring many more riders to Link or Sounder, which is what ST’s projects should be about. Moreover, I doubt that it’s actually better for the underserved First Hill neighborhood, or for regional connectivity. It may be planning by consolation prize, in Zach’s wonderful phrase, but why doesn’t First Hill deserve one?

125 Replies to “The Purpose of the First Hill Streetcar”

  1. “My complaint with the piece is that the stated purpose of the line is a good one”

    Then you have no complaint, because no-one disputes that.

    “All Sounder riders currently face a two seat ride (or a long walk) to access First Hill;”

    Sounder North has four peak-direction trips into King St; Sounder South has seven. So that’s 22 streetcar trips a day that will be useful. It’s not even remotely possible that that additional utility to Sounder riders from the Jackson St segment warrants its cost.

    “Northbound Link riders could switch to the streetcar or continue on to Pioneer Square or University Street and face the slog on a glacial, overcrowded trolleybus.”

    That’s a false choice, and you know better than to write that. Moving the trolleybus wire to Yesler would fix the speed and reliability problems of James St at a fraction of the cost of the streetcar on Jackson and, in future, allow the assignment of articulated buses. After Fall ’12, those buses will be running every five minutes in the peak, via an alignment much faster and closer to the ridership centers on First Hill.

    In addition, as I pointed out in the comments, Metro will probably end up providing frequent diesel service from 3rd Ave to Yesler after Fall ’12 via a similar alignment, further reducing crowding on the 3/4 trolleys.

    “It may be planning by consolation prize, in Zach’s wonderful phrase, but why doesn’t First Hill deserve one?”

    Yes, First Hill deserves better connection to the regional transit network. It deserves a well-planned and cost-effective connection to the regional transit network. The Jackson St segment of the First Hill Streetcar is not that project: it is demonstrably inferior to what could easily have been built instead.

    1. If Sounder were the entirety of my argument, your trip count would be a good point. But it is the principal peak hours connectivity to the Kent Valley as well as some (mediocre) points north, and that’s not insignificant.

      I don’t really know what to say about your trolleybuses-over-all sentiments. If trolleybuses can, why put a streetcar anywhere? The answer is that a trolleybus is run by Metro, which means it immediately sinks into a morass of undifferentiated routes with huge complexity, on-board payment, and indeterminate level of service. Furthermore, First Hill is dense and can use the capacity. Nobody besides wonks and noise NIMBYs cares if a bus is a trolley or a diesel.

      It seems like a cheap shot to criticize a line planned since at least 2008 because Metro might, only now, get around to serving First Hill adequately in changes announced in the last couple of months and that might appear in Fall 2012. We’ll see if it happens, but they’ve had ample time to get that right and haven’t come through. More broadly, pro-streetcar arguments would be less persuasive if Metro hadn’t encouraged most of us to give up on the bus ever doing a decent job.

      1. “I don’t really know what to say about your trolleybuses-over-all sentiments.”

        That’s not my sentiment, please don’t suggest it is. My sentiment is that what matters primarily for transit is frequency, reliability and directness; not whether it runs on rails. Because of topography and geography, it’s not possible to (affordably) build a streetcar between First Hill and Downtown that can compete time-wise with trolleybuses. Moreover, improving that portion of the trolleybus network could be done for less money and benefit a much larger set of people than that segment of the streetcar will benefit. And that is the point of public transit.

        For occasional riders who prefer the certainty of having a rail trip to First Hill, the Broadway segment is more than adequate.

      2. Yikes! And I certainly hope you’re not suggesting that we should build streetcars all over the place because we’re unhappy with the service from Metro.

        Imagine for a moment, Martin, if the city’s Transit Master Plan had actually engaged in some visioning of what service we wish to see from Metro.

        After all, it’s not like the city isn’t a part of the County or city taxpayers are not also county taxpayers.

      3. Yikes! And I certainly hope you’re not suggesting that we should build streetcars all over the place because we’re unhappy with the service from Metro.

        I would like to see it, eventually, in the all densest corridors. Not “all over the place”, but the places Metro is unwilling to improve quality of service.

        Imagine for a moment, Martin, if the city’s Transit Master Plan had actually engaged in some visioning of what service we wish to see from Metro.

        It did, and I “imagine” it went straight in the circular file at Metro. The planners there already know what to do; they don’t need a Seattle-hired consultant to tell them. The problem lies elsewhere.

      4. Bruce,

        Sorry if I mis-characterized your attitude to trolleybuses.

        I agree that frequency, reliability, and directness are key. I’d add capacity and system legibility. Given the headways, capacity may be a wash but with off-board payment, easier boarding, and a separate system map the second and fifth are big discriminators.

        Is the hill too steep for diesels? Because what isn’t something that matters is electrification. So if it’s such a slam dunk, let’s not wait for the wire and just run a diesel up there. We could do it at the next service change.

      5. “My sentiment is that what matters primarily for transit is frequency, reliability and directness; not whether it runs on rails.”

        I’ve actually seen no evidence that anyone cares much about directness, at least not in the sense you mean. People care about minimizing the number of transfers, but will go wildly out of their way geographically without a moment’s thought. After a while, travel time starts to matter, but people will actually sacrifice startling amounts of travel time to (a) take a reliable route, (b) take a frequent route, (c) take a route with fewer transfers, (d) take a train rather than a bus.

        I contend that the rail bias among the general public is actually *stronger* than the “direct geographic route” bias. Think about that.

        We all know that frequency and reliability are important, though. So the big question is, will the First Hill Streetcar’s odd route from Pioneer Square to First Hill be more frequent and more reliable than the alternatives, or less so?

      6. Martin: I am surprised by the tone of the second paragraph of your 1:45 p.m. response to Bruce. As your article on the Mt. Baker station design and your service on both the Link integration sounding board and Seattle Transit Master Plan committees atest, you are aware of how the several governments interact.

        First Hill transit service is the product of and interaction by several governments: Metro runs the buses, Seattle controls the lane, signal, and curb space allocation, and WSDOT build I-5 and has control of the traffic signals near several interchanges. The slow service by the ETB network is the product of all three governments. Madison, James, Spring, and Seneca streets fill with traffic orientd to and from the I-5 interchanges. The state of urban transit has been influenced by the federal construction of the interstates. Note that Harborview is owned jointly by the county and the UW and has a huge parking garage; in the last decade, Providence expanded its parking garage with earmarked funds from Senator Patty Murray. Boren, James, and Broadway are congested every weekday.

        The question ought to be: given the recession and very scarce transit funds, how can the ST2 funds best improve transit mobility on First Hill to mitigate the loss of the First Hill Link station? $132 million in capital and $5.2 million annually in service subsidy is not insignificant. what is the opportunity cost of spending so much of it on streetcar capital that only provides a short slow indirect service?

        The streetcar decision will be made by Seattle and ST. But Metro will be involved as well: the streetcar construction will disrupt ETB service; the streetcar operation will slow bus service; SDOT will probably contract with Metro to operate the streetcar, as SDOT does the SLU line and ST does Link.

        Note that the three governments collect tax revenue from the same taxpayers and serve the same riders. The ST North King subarea funds must be spent in that subarea.

        The interaction between the two overhead systems is a significant issue for SDOT. It will add cost to the project. The FHC streetcars are slated to have battery power and that will add to their cost.

        The ST study selecting the streetcar mode was published in 2007:

        It has several flaws: it did not consider bus service changes that would be prompted by Link in 2016; it did not consider the Yesler Way ETB overhead; and, it did not model alternatives spending equal amounts on the alternatives. The streetcar option was more costly than the ETB option. Note the study did not consider the 12th Avenue water main. It even has a couplet using South King Street. It was as if, the report provided the answer asked of it by the ST Board. In 2007, it was not clear that King County would buy a new ETB fleet; we now know they will have one with low floors and off wire capability.

        Does Seattle really want two short separate disconnected low ridership streetcar lines using two types of cars (one with batteries)? The facts include steep terrain and the presence of a high ridership ETB network.

        Please note the improved cooperation between SDOT and Metro: bus bulbs on the Ave and in Belltown and on South Jackson Street; the Route 44 and 7 projects; the Bridging the Gap and Transit Now service partnership; the 3rd Avenue transit spine; and, very recently, real time schedule information in the Macy’s window.

        The rapid trolley concepts show the potential of inter governmental cooperation.

        As Bruce points out, the Yesler Way ETB overhead would provide a fast and reliable connection between the IDS, PSS, and Broadway Link stations via Harborview. ETB routes could be restructured to serve Swedish directly as well. These conepts are in the rapid trolley paper. Most of the ST2 funds could be converted to service frequency. The cache of rail does not make up for the advantage of greatly reduced wait times.

        You ask where should we build a streetcar? Where demand is so high that it is most cost-effectively provided by a rapid streetcar with multiple cars as in Toronto or with the Portland MAX.

      7. eddiew,

        My tone was a little glib. It wasn’t my best.

        I didn’t mention lack of priority treatments, because you’re right, that’s the city’s fault. And at start, the streetcar isn’t doing much better in that regard than the buses do. But not having fare inspectors is totally on the County. Not branding frequent service effectively is entirely on the county. Operating other service to far-flung areas rather than having adequate headways to First Hill is ultimately on the County.

        You and I are both fierce advocates for all of these things, and I don’t think it’s totally unreasonable to hope it might happen today. But putting down rails achieves most of that now.

        Is there an issue with the grades on Yesler? Because it seems the lightest weight solution is to just run an ST Express diesel up Yesler.

    2. Bruce,

      Don’t under-estimate the “cool and fun” factor. Buses are not cool and are not fun. Streetcars are. Do you think a movie called: “A Bus Named Desire” would be popular? LOL

    3. Today, South Sounder riders oriented to and from First Hill may take Route 211 northbound on 5th Avenue South or walk from the South Jackston Street entrance to James Street and take routes 3-4.

  2. Oh, and one more thing:

    “Furthermore, I think it has a better chance of getting priority treatments than those buses ever will.”

    On a Yesler alignment, there are exactly two signals between 3rd and Broadway: one to turn onto Yesler from 3rd, one at Boren. The roads as far as Harborview are almost never congested and have only stop signs.

    Priority matters on Broadway and Jackson, and I agree that it’s a lot easier to get that as part of a streetcar on Broadway than a trolleybus project. I’ve been told by SDOT that the signal priority that’s made available to streetcar will also be available to buses, although it will have to wait for Metro to get new trolleybuses before the routes on Jackson St will get the required electronics.

    1. The caveat here, and it’s a biggie, is that Metro’s present trolleybus infrastructure is across-the-board horrible and leads to a trolleybus network that runs across-the-board horribly.

      And while I know that:
      – the world is full of fast-running trolleybus lines;
      – the Yesler bypass would involve 3/4 mile of all-new wire; and
      – it would coincide with the arrival of a new trolleybus fleet
      …I don’t have much confidence that the experience of Seattle trolley routes will improve unless there is a much more concerted push to refresh the rest of its permanent infrastructure.

      The 27 up Yesler is fast and unobstructed. But when it comes on the heels of a really bad trip through downtown, this barely matters.

      On the trolleybuses, every trip through downtown is a bad one. You crawl through the junctions at 1 MPH. You miss pretty much every light. It’s excruciating.

      My first year in Seattle, the 13 was my “home route,” and I still have some PTSD from it. Frequently, the thought of those minutes of my life ticking away just to do anything in this city made me not want to go anywhere at all. I promised myself I’d never have a trolleybus as my “primary route” ever again. I would be irrationally hesitant to live on a trolleybus line in Vancouver or West Cambridge, Mass., despite knowing for a fact that those lines run 1,000 times better.

      I’m 100% with you on rerouting the 3/4, and I understand the statistical argument you’re using (one of possibly thousands) to undermine the FHSC’s illusions of usefulness. But you really can’t do so without addressing the elephant in the room: trolleybuses in Seattle completely suck!

      1. (Meant to explain: Seattle trolleybus drivers seem so accustomed to dealing with failing infrastructure that they drive less assertively even on stretches with fewer obstacles. Give them one mile of new wiring, and their driving habits are unlikely to change.)

      2. Personally, I love the ETBs and prefer riding them whenever I can.

        However, in reviewing APTA Ridership Surveys since 1996, I noticed that Metro trolley ridership has fluctuated within a narrow band from 1996-2010. During the same time frame, Metro diesel bus ridership soared by at least 60%.

        Most all new Metro service since 1996, thanks to 40/40/20, has been diesel bus primarily in the suburbs. But the population of the core Seattle neighborhoods served by trolleys has increased quite a bit since 1996. Those new residents are voting with their feet not to use trolleys, but are probably biking or walking instead.

      3. I’m sorry, Chad, but I just don’t get the “transit geek as transit tourist” thing. Transit is supposed to get you places; it’s a means, not an end.

        Seattle’s trolleybuses are literally the slowest transit I’ve ever used, anywhere on earth. In some places, they make it take 2 minutes to go a single block. They are not “preferable” to any normal rider to whom time is an actual concern.

      4. Chad, take a look at Metro’s trolley frequencies in 1996 compared to 2010. Take a look at fleet quality in 1996 (hint: the Bredas were 15 years younger than they are today). “Voting with their feet?” Shoot, the trolleys I take are packed to the stairwells with people at rush, and still pretty full at 9:30 or 10 at night.

        the failure, if any, is on the Council’s inability to understand that providing good headways and frequent service to in-city neighborhoods is good for everyone. Instead we got 40/40/20.

  3. What I find interesting is that while the First Hill Streetcar is meant to be a cog in our transportation system in the Seattle area (which it will be, no doubt about that), however I think it’s going to be a major step for revitalizing the ID.

    We all know how light rail and streetcar lines seem to be a catalyst for new development all across this country, so while I do see this as an important transit link (especially when connected to the SLU Streetcar via 1st or 4th/5th), I see where the ID communities of Chinatown, Japantown and Little Saigon are going to realize the most (re)development.

    I believe Jackson Street is going to be transformed due to this streetcar. While it does create redundancy with the current bus lines, there will be many new projects that will occur as a result.

    1. “Let’s build streetcars everywhere to stimulate the economy!!!” Classic STB post. Please someone provide some capital and operating cost per mile comparisons of streetcar vs. ETBs that don’t make me wince at the butt kicking.

      Brand it, give it priority and double the frequency and I bet you have a cheaper, higher ridership service with ETBs in the same corridor. I’m guessing every electric trolley route today gets more riders per hour and definitely per dollar spent than the SLU streetcar.

      If anything gets built along Jackson after the streetcar goes live, Uwajimaya and Amazon deserve at least as much credit for keeping the ID area activated and interesting for developers.

      1. I didn’t mention economic stimulus anywhere.

        I had a whole series of posts when the TMP came out that compared several corridors, apples to apples, between streetcars and ETBs. Search for “TMP HCT” and prepare to be surprised.

        “Brand it, give it priority, and double the frequency.” And to open this can, I’ll assume a can opener. Show me Metro has any institutional capacity to do any of those things, and we’ll talk. Their only new brand in a while (RapidRide) has been substantially watered down, priority is DOA, and King County simply cannot resist peanut-buttering their resources all over the county instead of investing in a few key corridors. Sound Transit has none of these problems.

      2. Call me cynical, but I don’t think capital and operating cost per mile actually matter to politicians. The mental comparison goes something like this:

        Plan A: we spend a few hundred million on streetcars, Paul Allen and other developers spend a few billion on projects, increasing tax base.

        Plan B: we spend less money on good bus infrastructure, Paul Allen and other developers might spend less! Oh noes!!!

        By the way, ever wonder why Paul Allen seems obsessed with trains?

      3. joshuadf,

        Capital and operating costs per mile don’t matter to politicians because they don’t matter to voters. Either there’s a project that’s comprehensible and worthwhile or there isn’t. The most recent Prop 1 is a good example of that.

        People who are actually doing the division have already made up their minds and are looking for something to confirm their biases. And I think that’s largely true of a lot of the people here, myself included.

      4. How do you think many neighborhoods in seattle came about and became what they are today? one hint, it wasent electric trolleycoaches…

      5. Someone said once “and there are a lot of people that will ride a train that won’t ride a bus” and every time we have one of these conversations that rings in my ears. Every time I talk to people about using transit as my primary method of transportation this rings in my ears. It seems that when people realize I use buses they wince. When I tell them that I ride the Light rail to the airport they seem indifferent. Trains are a valid form of getting around just like a car – buses are not. We’re all transit riders here so we know the reality that a bus in most cases works just fine but the general public doesn’t nor do they want to hear it. People WILL vote for a train because in their mind they’re getting something because in their mind they MAY even get on it even if they never do. They won’t vote for a bus because they already know they won’t ride it. The rest of the arguments are irrelevant.

      6. “Brand it, give it priority and double the frequency and I bet you have a cheaper, higher ridership service with ETBs in the same corridor.”

        Nope. Doubling the frequency means your ETBs end up more expensive than the alternative streetcar. Shorter lifespan, higher operating costs for buses have to be weighed against lower capital costs — and you simply can’t double the frequency and stay “cheaper”.

        Higher ridership? Well, doubling frequency will usually get you substantially higher ridership. On the other hand, keeping the same frequency and switching from trolleybus to streetcar seems to get somewhat higher ridership too.

      7. Let’s try to remember that ownership patterns in the ID tend toward the complex, particularly west of the freeway. I don’t see an enormous amount of redevelopment happening in the short term. East headed up toward 12th, perhaps. Ironically, from Rainier to 23rd is already redeveloping, sans streetcar.

  4. I would like to know more about its hill climbing capabilities. Maybe a streetcar is a better choice for going from Renton LINK to Kent East Hill and beyond.

    1. Bailouts,

      The J-Church climbs a 9% grade in Dolores Park every eight minutes (and COMES DOWN, including a frequently used stop at the bottom, too!). That is nosebleed territory for rail cars and would be impossible in snowy or icy conditions. It only works in San Fiasco because it never snows or ices there.

      Now those are high-powered Breda LRV’s, not really “street cars” like the Portland Inekons. But they can probably manage 6.5 to 7%; but that would only be in clement weather. Rail vehicles can’t manage more than 3% in ice or snow.

      When will Link be in Renton? First I’ve heard of that.

      1. Myth:

        Buses can run on steep grades, but light rail cars are limited to grades of 6%.


        Rubber-tired vehicles such as buses have incrementally better traction on dry pavement, but significantly lower traction in wet, icy, or snowy conditions. Furthermore, electric light rail transit (LRT) railcars – including streetcars (trams) – are capable of negotiating much steeper grades than is commonly assumed and included in system designs.

      2. So, Light Rail Now says that snowy conditions (except “very cold, fine, dry snow”) aren’t a limitation. Since the maritime Northwest normally has the opposite of “very cold, fine, dry” snow, this probably isn’t a limitation. So I’ll say “I was wrong about snow”.

        However, it really doesn’t mention ice, except that it forms on the wheels as an effect of the cold, dry snow. Portland’s ice storms are normally much worse than Seattle’s, because of the Gorge effect, and those do usually play serious hob with Max, by filling the flangeways in galley track and coating the overhead. ETB’s would have the same problem with the overhead, but Portland doesn’t have them.

        So, it would seem that if you get this “Link in Renton” extension that either it or a streetcar would work.

        Light Rail Now doesn’t say what the Link grade up to TIB is (the grades post is dated 2006), but it’s pretty steep; at least six percent I’d bet. If it hasn’t been closed for snow and ice, your East Hill line probably won’t either.

      3. Streetcars in Pittsburgh — modern CAF and Siemens equipment — climb 10% grades routinely. Regardless of weather.

        The old streetcars there used to climb 12% grades, the steepest in the world for streetcars. In snow and ice.

        So those are the limiting numbers.

        I doubt Seattle has any streets with worse grades. Though such streets exist: there’s one with a 27% grade in a town an hour away from me, and it has a warning basically telling trucks not to even try).

      4. I’ve long had questions about those figures.

        When expressed as a percentage, grade is base on rise/run. Thus, 100% is a 45° angle.

        18%, therefore, is only about 10°.

        This is the steepest block of the Counterbalance. Check out the angle between the sidewalk and the window just to the right of the stairwell. Does that look like only 10° to you? Looks more like 18-20° to me!

        Here’s the steepest one on the city’s list. That is so much steeper than 26% (14-ish°). Frankly, it looks more like 26° to me!

        Could the city actually be confusing slope with angle?

  5. The Purpose of the First Hill Streetcar.
    To save about $300 million by not going there with N.Link.
    It’s a short story.

    1. More like $1.1 billion. The FTA wouldn’t have given U-Link $813 million if we had kept the First Hill station because it would’ve jacked up the project’s risk too much. U-Link without First Hill is a $1.9 billion project. U-Link with First Hill is a $3 billion project.

      It’s still a short story, but we’re trying to discuss the virtues (or lack thereof) of the streetcar, not why it exists in the first place.

      1. Pro forma… You’re right about the Fed funding, but it was about fucking existing transit users to chase “new riders.” It had nothing to do with “risk.”

        But dumb Fed metrics aside, it’s certainly telling to look at it MIke’s way:

        $300 million would have bought something really useful: a First Hill fully and permanently connected, with no transfer/time penalty, to everywhere else.

        $140 million — nearly half as much!! — is buying something crappy and inconvenient and isolating, with a tremendous transfer/time penalty.

        Since when is 1/2 the cost for 1/100 as good a worthwhile trade?

      2. I don’t see how deleting First Hill chases new riders (I won’t argue it screws existing ones). The North Link SEIS estimates that Alternative B1.D (essentially the current alignment with First Hill added) would’ve had 8,000 more daily boardings than the Preferred Alternative. Serving First Hill adds 1.5-1.7 minutes of travel time to the UW-Downtown segment per the SEIS. In theory 1.5 minutes less travel time attracts more riders further out on the line, but that also has to be balanced against the increased utility of the line with the additional station, which could attract a similar number of “new” riders from far away extensions.

        On the cost issue, the FTA wouldn’t have given us $813 million for U-Link due to vastly increased construction risk. This was mostly due to having to mine the First Hill station (it would’ve been 215 feet deep) To wit, the SEIS states “A comprehensive risk analysis conducted during preliminary engineering found that construction of the mined First Hill Station has substantial risk that would add considerable schedule and cost uncertainty to the scope of any North Link project.” We deleted First Hill and two things happened which are connected: we saved $300 million in direct construction costs and $813 million in federal grants. So it isn’t really accurate to say a First Hill Link station would’ve cost $300 million; rather it would’ve cost $1.1 billion, on top of who-knows-how-much for cost overruns and schedule impacts (Beacon Hill took 20% longer and was 30% more expensive than estimated). $1.1 billion is eight times (okay, 7.857 times) the cost of the streetcar. In an ideal world I agree with you that the station is substantially more useful than the streetcar, but ST’s resources are not limitless and an extra $1.1 billion would’ve killed the project entirely, or resulted in a truly crappy Eastlake elevated alignment or something.

        So in this specific case I think the answer to your question of “Since when is 1/2 the cost for 1/100 as good a worthwhile trade?” is “When it means the project gets built at all.”

      3. Jason,

        Basically, you’re conflating two facts.

        The so-called construction “risk” — which basically means high cost and some financial uncertainty, rather than engineering unfeasibility — existed.

        But the specter of Fed rejection was not based on that “risk,” or even (all things being equal) on the high cost. Only because that money would be spent on an area that already experienced high transit ridership was the cost considered a liability.


        What’s most infuriating about the impact of Bush-era funding algorithms is that agencies like ST became too terrified to even try to submit a plan that included the First Hill station. We’ll never know for sure if it would have been rejected, because we were too scared to even make the argument for its worth.

        This wasn’t a failure of soil, it was a failure of spine!

      4. The construction risk seems to have been the primary reason, judging by the news articles at the time, so let’s just agree that the First Hill Streetcar saved us from “MASSIVE COST OVERRUN” headlines, and leave it at that?

      5. No, I won’t “leave it at that.”

        Never, then or now, was “construction risk” divorced from Fed-funding approval fears.

        Once ST’s board had voted, it was clearly in its interest to spin the rationale as being about more about engineering than politics. The only difference from article to article is the degree to which the spun information was passed along as objective rather than subjective.

        No article that did its due diligence ever claimed that the “construction risk” killed the station outright, even as it became the dittoheads’ shorthand explanation.

      6. The Bush-era FTA funding formulas (essentially judging cost-effectiveness by dollars per new transit rider) led to some very poor alignment decisions for rail transit nationwide. Minneapolis had a similar situation where a dense, high-transit use, working class, minority neighborhood was bypassed for the faster cheaper route. The “faster” route brought in more “new” suburban riders and reduced the total cost of the line making it more “cost-effective” in terms of dollars per new rider.

        In the case of the First Hill station the sharp curves required would have increased travel time even more than just the added track length and station dwell time. This would have cut down on the number of “new riders” from the other two stations (but especially UW station). The ridership model used by the FTA assumes “new riders” are very sensitive to slight changes in travel time (you can see this on the 99 vs. I-5 debate for NCT too).

        However you can’t ignore the high construction risk for First Hill station. There was a fairly good chance of schedule delays and cost overruns. One of the criteria the FTA scores on is the financing which includes contingency funds vs. construction risk.

        It wasn’t so much Sound Transit was afraid to try submitting an alignment with First Hill included so much as it knew such an alignment simply wouldn’t get Federal Funding.

      7. I don’t doubt your sense of the Bush’s algorithms. Anything that administration could do to screw over the urbanites who had voted against him 2:1, they did.

        Of course, in the real world, the extra 60-75 seconds that First Hill would have added to travel times wouldn’t have altered UW ridership an ounce. Its effect as a psychological deterrent to ridership pales in comparison to the crappy placement of UW station, which no higher-ups took issue.

        Maybe your right, and the Bush FTA would have put First Hill on the chopping block themselves. We’ll never know, which I guess is my point. First Hill was so vital to our urban connectivity — vital enough to spend $140 on a consolation prize that will be slower than walking much of the time — that ST owed it to the city to make the best case for its inclusion.

        Instead, it simply folded. And now we’re stuck with… this.

      1. Because Central Link was approved back when Federal policy only implicitly favored suburban commuter lines… before the Bush administration went out of its way to explicitly screw over urbanites every chance they got.

    2. I think it’s important to look at the tortured route Link would have taken to serve 1st hill. Someone on this blog was kind enough to bring up the map once and it looks like a piece of spaghetti was just dropped on the map. The alignment we ended up with, DT -> Capitol Hill -> Montlake -> U-Dist. is the most direct and will be the busiest station on the whole system. The time savings and the reduced cost benefit all of North Link. The streetcar connecting the neighborhood(s) to major Link stations is a better design and is ripe for future expansion.

      1. The tortured route Link would have taken to serve 1st Hill.

        Your “Seattle’s never had anything but surface transit” bias is showing.

        When your transit is stuck on the street grid and even the slightest deviation — Pike-to-Pine, Elliott-to-LQA, FHSC zigging to 14th before zagging back to 9th — means minutes wasted at left turn signals, it’s easy to pine for arrow-straight routes.

        But, inherently deep enough to make the grid irrelevent, First Hill Link was barely even a detour. Broadway and Madison is just shy of due east from the stub tunnel, in the precise direction that the stub already points. The southbound curvature required to turn the trains in the direction of Capitol Hill station would have been measured in feet, not in blocks.

        The train might have had to run a couple of MPH slower for a tiny portion of its trip. The extra stop itself wouldn’t have added more than 45-60 seconds. At most, we’re talking about a 75-90 second penalty for riders from further north. A negligible difference when compared to the improvement over current Cap Hill or U-District service. And laughably piss-ant compared to slogging down I-5 in traffic.

        And we’d have given the entire Link network access to the city’s single densest mixed-use neighborhood and one of its highest-concentration employment centers.

        For a 75-second “penalty” (likely no greater than the “penalty” of hitting Husky Stadium, and arguably with greater benefits).

  6. We have friends who lived in Portland at the time TriMet had just finished the Blue Line, from downtown Portland to Gresham. I remember them grumbling that the city had spent so much money on a light rail project that “doesn’t go anywhere that people want to go”. Since then, TriMet has extended the Blue Line, added the Red Line, added the Yellow Line and extended it, and added the Green Line. Portland built a streetcar line and is extending it.

    I am of the opinion that we need to build what we can, even if it doesn’t go anywhere that people want to go, and extend the system when we can.

    I agree that the First Hill Streetcar alignment is not ideal, but the geography of Seattle sucks. How do we make a more direct route from Broadway to the International District? Run it through Yesler Terrace? Build a counterbalance system down Yesler Street? Or James Street? Tunnel under First Hill? – no that’s why we’re building the streetcar.

    1. “How do we make a more direct route from Broadway to the International District?”

      As I’ve pointed out numerous times, you add new trolleybus wire from Harborview via 8th and 9th Avenues down Yesler to 3rd Ave. Metro has costed this out in the past — it’s about $15 million. The First Hill Streetcar is about $130 million. It’s not possible to factor out the cost of the Jackson St segment completely, but it’s clearly more than $15 million. The resulting trolley alignment would almost certainly take less than half the time of the streetcar, be very reliable, run twice as frequently, and serve the doorstep of the Pioneer Square tunnel station.

      1. The intelligent and thoughtful reader is not going to accept your argument. If it was just a matter of $15M to extend trolley lines plus some money to add signal priority to achieve a better alignment from Broadway, Metro and ST would have done it.

      2. No mate, that’s just the point. Metro and ST staff do know it, and it didn’t happen. That is why I am cheesed off about it.

        And like I noted above, you don’t even need signal priority to make a Yesler trolley twice as fast — there are only two stoplights between 3rd Ave and Broadway if you go via Yesler and Harborview, and the one at 3rd & Yesler wouldn’t even make sense for transit priority, as so many other transit routes feed through it.

      3. I think that’s where the “consolation prize” bugaboo comes into play. First Hill was supposed to get a Link station, but that didn’t pan out, so they were told they’d get a streetcar line instead. There’s a huge difference in many people’s minds between a streetcar and a trolleybus, no matter how compelling the metrics are in the trolleybus’ favor.

        I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, but it’s there and until this region finds some way to sway the opinion of the “choice” riders towards modes that are currently less appealing to them I suspect we’ll continue to make these types of suboptimal tradeoffs.

      4. Actually I think this is where politics plays into it. Metro wasn’t going to voluntarily spend $15m on anything with their current funding situation, and ST wasn’t going to spend $15m making Metro look good. That leaves City of Seattle which put it on the ballot with Prop 1 and lost. It’s an eerie replay of the $142m Rapid Trolley Network that might have been paid for by Viaduct mitigation money:

        Also strange to me: seems like Metro could get Federal “Very Small Starts” BRT money for ETB improvements, but chose RapidRide instead.

      5. Ding! Ding! Ding! So instead of wasting taxpayer money, perhaps we should put a little more time and effort into the political process here…

      6. Changing the political process probably involves removing the necessity for voters to approve every little thing.

        Good luck with that. In the meantime, I’ll support us spending more money for something that is both nicer and that we know will work well.

      7. So many of you, Mr. Nourish, are singing the blues about a very short corridor. WOW. Cry me a river. Oh, horror, of horrors, the streetcar might go a few blocks out of the way. Heck, if the going gets tough, I can walk.

        First Hill/Broadway is fortunate.

        Please complain about something that has problems, like West Seattle.

      8. Rod,

        This blog is all about debating the best possible policy decisions. Bruce and I differ about whether or not the whole line was worth building, but there are certainly lessons we can draw from it about what to do and what not to do.

    2. “I am of the opinion that we need to build what we can, even if it doesn’t go anywhere that people want to go,”

      I think it is fair to say that you don’t really think THAT. The fact is that people who say “it doesn’t go anywhere that people want to go” are always exaggerating — every one of these lines goes where SOMEONE wants to go. You need to build what you can, even if it doesn’t go where EVERYONE wants to go.

  7. Out of curiosity, has there been a full survey of the patients/visitors at the various First Hill health care providers to show what transit methods they’re currently using to get there?

    There aren’t *that* many providers after all, and it’s a limited geographic area. I think it would be very interesting to see (say, for a week’s worth of people) how many of them drove themselves, how many got rides from others, or took the bus, or walked, or took a cab, or took special transit to get to their First Hill appointments.

    Maybe this has been covered already, but I don’t think I’ve seen what these stats are like under the current system(s). I’d guess that this would be an easy survey to take, because most of the patients/visitors have to sign various forms before their appointment starts anyway.

    Maybe I’m just missing something…

    1. experience has shown me that in the mornings … at least 10-15 people get off the 9 at B’way/Terrace for Harborview. About 6-10 get off at Swedish … 20-40 get off at SCCC

      about 5-10 get off the 60 at 9th/Jefferson (Harborview) … about 10 get off at Boren/Madison (to connect to the 12 & for Swedish & Virginia Mason) … and about 20-30 get off at SCCC

      What really sucks about the 9 and the 60 is that they both stop at Broadway & Madison, Broadway & Union, Broadway & Pike, Broadway & SCCC, Broadway & Howell … those are all 1 block apart (true they are connecting stops for a number of E-W bus routes) … but it takes forever.

      As for E-W … the 3/4 suck because of traffic around Jefferson/9th/James sts. and since they are stoping at Harborview there is always at least 1-2 wheel chairs getting on and off which takes a while with the ETBs …

      During the day … the EB 3/4 … the drivers usually loose half (if not more) of the fares since they have to open the back doors to get the standing-room only crowds off of the bus.

      Considering the fact that Harborview, Swedish, Virginia Mason, Group Health are all on the Hill(s) … there is a definite lack of N-S transit connecting other neighborhoods. The FHS doesn’t necessarilly solve the problem … but it is a good start.

      as for TOD … there are 2 7-story apartment buildings going up on First Hill … 1 is one block from the Broadway/Terrace stop and the other is 2 blocks (either direction) … and according to those working those projects … the real reason they actually started construction was the streetcar line (otherwise they were going to remain “pits” until the economy improved more).

      Then there’s Yesler Terrace … the streetcar line will do wonders for attracting the right mix of people to that development

      1. +1 about the 3/4. That’s why when I’m going to Swedish, which I have done a lot, I take the #12. Rarely standing room only, rarely has wheelchairs, and it just felt like a much faster trip. I know this is probably irrational, but it also felt less germy when I was going through a germ-phobia phase. (I had a kid in the NICU at Swedish, please don’t judge my paranoia.) Sure you have to walk down to 1st to catch it and it doesn’t go as far south as the 3/4, but really it’s a much more pleasant ride.

      2. One more reason to look forward to the new low-floor ETBs. 2, 3 and 4 trips up and down the hill will benefit soooooooooooo much just from that change.

  8. King County simply cannot resist peanut-buttering their resources all over the county instead of investing in a few key corridors. Sound Transit has none of these problems.

    While Metro certainly has been guilty of spending resources where they make no sense (other than politically) ST is the champion when it comes to slathering the high priced spread all over the place. RV to SEA? Sounder North. Gig Harbor to Seattle! Why in heaven would public subsidy be spent to encourage this?

    1. Bernie,

      You’re making a different point. You obviously find those corridors not worth the cost, but they’re not spread too thin. In each subarea but North King, they run the obvious freeway corridors, plus up to one Link and up to one Sounder project. In North King it’s all Link investment.

      And ST doesn’t hesitate to axe Express service if it obstructs the main point, which is Link.

      1. “In North King it’s all Link investment.”

        Only because North King doesn’t pay for all the ST Express and Sounder service it enjoys.

      2. Well, admittedly Sounder North would not be useful for a commuter who works normal hours, but there are a couple of reverse-peak trips on Sounder South that could be used by Seattle residents.

      3. Yup… all that useful Sounder service for Seattleites who happen to have transit-accessible jobs in Tacoma… and happen to want to get up at 6AM to bus it to King Street in time for a 6:50 train.

        Anybody here ever used one of those morning reverse-peak runs? Was there a soul on the thing aside from you?

        Keep the “if it touches Seattle than Seattleites should pay for it” logic coming, AW. It’s airtight.

      4. AW, I checked the schedules. The only reason those reverse peaks exist is that the first two morning Tacoma->Seattle trains clearly have to return to Tacoma anyway to serve the last two runs. Might as well run them in service: the extra time and cost are negligible.

        The reverse peaks are in no way about service the needs of the Seattle populace.

  9. “When (if?) the streetcar is extended through downtown, segments of the 7 and 36 running from Little Saigon through downtown will be redundant with the streetcar network and Link, and those hours can be reinvested elsewhere.”

    Wanna place a bet on whether the 7 and 36 would actually get truncated?

    1. Well the 7, 14, and 36 certainly are crowded between IDS and Little Saigon. One area where rail always wins over buses is on capacity. Furthermore there is very likely to be some restructuring of Central District and Capitol Hill routes due to U Link.

      Past that there are changes planners have been proposing for years. See the Rapid Trolleybus network for an example. Amazing how some of the proposed Queen Anne and CD restructuring looks a lot like parts of other plans proposed over the years.

      Sure Metro isn’t obligated to make a single change due to new Link service, but it would be rather silly for them not to.

      1. I definitely think that a major attraction for the streetcar on Jackson St will be the space. If people know they have the choice of getting on a full-to-bursting bus, or a streetcar where they might even get a seat, then sure they’ll choose the latter. Of course, eventually we’ll reach an equilibrium, but at least initially, that will help to attract riders.

  10. I contend that it will do a good job of meeting its goal. From the North, passengers headed from points north to Swedish Hospital or Seattle University will do best to utilize the streetcar.

    This is quantifiably false.

    Denny to Marion is 0.6 miles, or a 12-minute walk.

    With a wait between 0 and 10 minutes*, and a ride of about 4 minutes (if we’re lucky), you’re looking at 4-14 minutes to use the streetcar.

    So if you emerge from Link and your streetcar is more than 8 minutes away, you’re better off walking. In dry whether, warm or crisp, the “I’d rather be moving than thumb-twiddling” bias will likely convince riders to hoof it if the streetcar is more than 6 minutes away.

    Only on the wettest days will passengers “do best” to wait for the streetcar for this particular trip.

    *Everyone is celebrating ST putting its foot down about building only to the length that Seattle is willing to fund at “minimum 10-minute headways.” But do we have any guarantees that this “minimum” won’t turn out to be for only four hours per day?

  11. Here’s the painful math: The streetcar and the buses can’t have dedicated ROW because roughly 50 on-street parking spaces need to remain on Jackson.

    1. Why oh why do we need on-street parking on Jackson? I wish they’d gone with right-lane alignment, and dedicated center lanes for through traffic…

  12. A quick scan shows nobody pointing out that riders on Link from the south will be able to ride through to Capitol Hill station and get the streetcar there. That would add only four additional stops and avoid the big detour to 14th Avenue.

    I believe it would get the rider to destinations in the hospital district faster than changing at the International District.

      1. Should drop to about 6 minutes once buses get kicked out of the tunnel.

        Taking Link all the way to Capitol Hill and walking back down Broadway will remain preferable in all but the most severe weather.

  13. Jackson St needs a streetcar to keep up with existing transit demand. The buses simply cannot accommodate it. It needs the capacity only rail can provide, duplicative or not.

    First Hill is going to need a rail connection to the Broadway Link station. Buses to/from downtown on Jefferson and Madison aren’t going to be enough, even if we have super-awesome frequent BRT on those corridors.

    It’s not one corridor, it’s two separate ones that happen to be only a half mile apart. Complaining that it doesn’t make sense to build a train from the ID to Broadway is missing the point. The fact that the Broadway and Jackson corridors can be connected, with a convenient location for a maintenance base in between, is happy coincidence.

    1. In Bruce’s own words there’s “blockbuster demand” on Jackson as shown by route 7, 14, and 36 ridership. Unfortunately, riders will have to make a mode choice since the buses and streetcars each have their own set of stops. We’ll see how well that works out in practice.

      1. Currently they don’t have a mode choice. No runs are being cut, so it’s not like they’ll be waiting any longer than they already are. The smart regulars will realize that several buses come during the interval between two streetcars, and will take the buses if they hate to wait. Those who care more about the streetcar experience will take the streetcar. Problem solved. And most of the riders on the 7/14/36 aren’t getting off in Little Saigon anyway, so they can’t take the streetcar.

      2. And most of the riders on the 7/14/36 aren’t getting off in Little Saigon anyway… The smart regulars will realize that several buses come during the interval between two streetcars, and will take the buses if they hate to wait.

        Bullseye, Mike. You’ve perfectly described why mode competition is a problem, and why it’s troubling to construct transit that isn’t fast+frequent+good enough to become the default choice along its own damned right-of-way.

        Thanks to the inadequacies of the streetcar, 7/14/36 riders will continue to suffer the delays caused by cash-payers and wheelchairs and whomever boarding for the 8-block short haul. They’ll still suffer capacity constraints from those who would be better off on the competing mode (if the competing mode were actually superior).

        If you spend $140 million on something and a good number of people are justified in still choosing “the old way,” you’re doing it wrong!

      3. I remember hearing early on that the FHSC overhead system would be designed to be compatible with the existing ETB infrastructure. Is that still the case?

        Can routes 7, 14 and 36 use the center lanes and the island stops along with the streetcar?

      4. Chad,
        In a word, no. The issue isn’t the OCS so much as it is that the current bus fleet lacks the left side doors needed to serve island stops.

      5. Is it really “mode competition” if the overlap is only seven blocks? We aren’t building a multimillion dollar system for the few people going from Intl Dist to 12th. That’s short enough to walk, and they already have plenty of buses. The streetcar is for those going from Intl Dist to Broadway, which is a half hour’s walk and a steep hill. The buses are for those going from downtown to Jackson, Jackson to Beacon/Rainier/31st, or downtown to Beacon/Rainier/31st, which would take an hour or two to walk. The people who ride two stops on Jackson and get off are extra, not the tail wagging the dog.

        Yes, Metro should improve thorougput on the buses and consider replacing the 3rd-Jackson-Rainier route with a Rainier-Boren or Rainier-12th route, but that’s not the streetcar‘s fault or responsibility. The only way the streetcar could replace the 7 is if a second line went on Jackson-Rainier, which isn’t funded at this point.

      6. Mike, the streetcar tries both and does neither.

        It’s not frequent enough to supplant buses/walking along Jackson. It’s not frequent or direct enough to be the best choice up to First Hill/Broadway.

        My point was and remains: At the very least, longer-distance 7/14/36 riders should be able to expect a faster journey through this stretch once the streetcar is available to siphon away the short-hop boardings. But the streetcar sucks so much that this won’t even be the case!

      7. (Somehow, I’ve managed to bold the entire rest of the thread. I’m filling this reply with back-slashes in the hopes of fixing the glitch.)

      8. “It’s not frequent or direct enough to be the best choice up to First Hill/Broadway.”

        Do you know how many times I’ve wished the 60 or 9 were more frequent? The streetcar essentially does this. Plus the fact that it turns the corner onto Jackson, which turns a two-seat ride into a one-seat ride if you’re going to 8th or Maynard. That’s a real improvement in the area’s transit.

      9. Mike, there’s no question that the streetcar improves the Broadway-Little Saigon experience by significantly improving on the 9’s frequency and by avoiding the 60’s tour of emergency room entrances.

        That’s about all it does well.

        Martin’s Broadway->Swedish/SU example: no dice. Not far enough, not frequent/fast enough. Worse than walking a decent chunk of the time.

        Your “turns the corner onto Jackson” example: look at the map. It takes 13 blocks to make that turn (Broadway=9th -> 14th -> Jackson -> 9th = 5+3+5 = 13).

        Going to 8th in the I.D.? If the Yesler Terrace redevelopment is smart enough to include a stairway, your best bet will to get off where Broadway meets Yesler and walk down those stairs. You’ll beat the train your were just on by 3 or 4 minutes.

        Going to Maynard? Why the hell wouldn’t you just take Link?

        Going to Maynard from First Hill proper? A-ha!! Walking down or taking the 13-block u-turn becomes a toss-up.

        And this is why the streetcar plan sucks.

      10. It’s only 4 1/2 blocks more than the most natural alternative, a route that turned up 12th to Boren and Broadway. Would you prefer that it tunnel under I-5 or turn at 5th to Yesler? That would bypass one of the most important stations at 12th & Jackson.

      11. Would you prefer that it…?

        I would prefer that they’d gotten First Hill right the first time (with Link)… thus my “A-ha!” above. The one-seat ride from First Hill to the I.D. would have been take care of!

        Revised north-south transit along Broadway-Boren-12th could then have been about actually connecting north and south, rather than half-assedly filling in this one-seat service gap.

        Thanks to the topography you cite, even the “best” back-up one-seat will barely compete with walking. So there really is no “best” streetcar routing. So let’s discuss the “least worst.”

        You’re wrong about a “4 1/2 block” difference. This is precisely seven blocks longer than this. Seriously, count them: the Yesler Terrace detour is 5 blacks rather than 3; Boren to 14th is 3 extra blocks on Yesler; 14th to 12th is 2 extra blocks on Jackson.

        But the real problem with the 13-block “U” shape isn’t even about distance: it’s about right angles and traffic signals.

        The route we’re getting takes 3 right angles and has to cross 5 major intersections. The “least worst” routing would take just 1 right angle and hit only 3 major intersections — all of which it will be going with the flow of most traffic (i.e. the longest present green cycle) rather than interrupting it.

        The streetcar is not getting universal signal priority. Look for it to get most of its signal-priority help when it travels along major arterial routes, rather than when it bisects them. It’s going to get some help on Broadway, and it’s likely to get help climbing Jackson.

        But I will eat my hat if the city doesn’t make the streetcar wait to cross 12th, which has much higher traffic volumes north-south and comparatively short straight-cycles for east-west traffic. We’re making the streetcar cross 12th twice!

        Ditto, for the Boren-Broadway merge. Nearly 100% of traffic veers onto or off Boren here. They’ll make the streetcar wait, and wait, and wait to go straight into/out of Yesler Terrace. Guaranteed.

        This is a classic case of “least worst” -> “worst worst.”

    2. bus service on Madison could be improved today by about 50% if they just removed on-street parking between 9th ave and 12th ave (if not farther east)

      1. But an educated guess can compare ETB’s to FHSC from your post and Metro’s Route Performance Report for 2010.
        ST to pay up to $5.2 mil (’07$$) or $5.7 mil in 2010. Seattle pays anything over that.
        If the FHSC gets the advertised ridership of about 9,000 riders per day, that’s around $2.04 per boarding – Not bad!
        If it gets about what SLUT gets, or 3,000 per day, that rises to $6.33 per boarding.
        Now, compare that to ETB’s, using Metro’s cost per hour of $124.81, and the best ETB route (2N/S) getting 72 riders per hour, costing $1.73.
        Or one of the worst trolley routes (14) costing $3.78 per rider.
        Clearly, without looking at the investment of $130 mil. the trolleys provide a lower cost solution to moving people.
        IF the FHSC doesn’t get 3x the SLUT ridership from the git-go, then ST/SDOT have entered my “Operating Cost Abyss” I keep harping on.
        Transit needs to figure out ways to streamline, get mean and lean, be more productive, etc – Not figure out ways to stuff more cash down sink holes.

  14. The issue is what we can do vs what we can’t do. We can’t eliminate the steep hill or I-5 in anything but the very long term. We can’t narrow all of the streets in Seattle and push the blocks closer together. We can’t move Beacon Hill or Rainier Avenue to not be on the far side of Jackson Street. We can’t substitute a trolleybus for the streetcar or move the wire to Yesler or Madison, because the ballot measure said a streetcar connecting Intl Dist and Capitol Hill stations via Jackson and First Hill. What we can do is support a transit project that’s been approved by voters, and move on to pushing other transit improvements. We can be glad that a track is being laid that can be used for future extensions, additional lines, and reconfigurations.

    1. Orr, about your cannnots: after both Sound Move and ST2, the ST Board, by two-third votes, has changed, deleted, or indefinitelty deferred several projects. In 1996 and 2008, the voters were given all-or-nothing choices. if is up to the federated ST Board to make good decisions with the flow of revenue after it is approved. After Sound Move, several Link stations were dropped: First Hill, NE 45th Street, South Graham Street, and South 200th Street. After South Move, the busway across the I-90 center roadway was not implemented and we still await R8A. After Sound Move, several bus routes were deleted or revised. After Sound Move, the I-405 center access ramps at NE 85th Street were redeployed to the KTC, Totem Lake, NE 128th Street ramps and overcrossing, and NE 85th Street improvements. After ST2, the Bothell and Renton bus related projects have been suspended. This post is about the deletion of the First Hill station and that took a two-thirds board vote. The funding for the First Hill mitigation is in ST2.

  15. Martin: you asked about modes and grades. In 1940, diesels could not climb some Seattle hills. ETB could. Today, diesels perform much better. Route 27 serves Yesler Way. Routes 64, 265, 303, and 193 serve First Hill. ETB routes 2, 3-4, and 12 are often dieselized on weekends. gearing and the articulation joints matter as well. It is the streetcar that cannot climb the steepest hills. In the 30s, Yesler, James, and Madison had cable cars and Queen Anne had the counter balance. Today, the First Hill streetcar is planned via the 12th and Jackson saddle point.

    Paul Dorpat wrote about that regrade on Sunday:

    1. Diesels can climb hills but they slow down when they do, especially articulated ones. Try RapidRide B on NE 8th Street for an example. Today I rode the 12 from 1st to 4th Avenues, and got a counterexample of a trolleybus scampering up the hill as if it were flat.

  16. If a primary point of the FHSC is to provide a quick connection from CHS to First Hill, the question arises: Will the streetcar schedule be timed to mesh with the Link schedules?

    If the headways don’t mesh, then the question is moot, and a lot of able-bodied people will decide to enjoy the walk.

    So, here’s an out-of-the-box thought: What if the streetcar were increased to Link headway, with a schedule designed for people coming out of CHS, and either only went as far as the end of the First Hill business district or had enough streetcars turn back to keep Link headway in the primary section of the track between CHS and First Hill? And give the streetcar the priority treatments in that corridor.

    1. Hell, it you going to do that, you might as well put in a moving sidewalk.
      One per block ought to do it. That solves the timing thing and is probably as fast as the streetcar.
      FHSC seems like a solution searching for a problem.

    2. I have actually thought about that before. This would take fewer streetcars that fully serving the route. Only question I would have is where are switch overs. There would need to be somewhere the streetcar can switch back into the other direction.


      Brent: see slide 21 of the recent SDOT presentation to the Seattle City Council Transportation Committee. The six streetcars are estimated to cost $27 million. In 2030, ST says they want to provide four-minute headway on Link. To improve the streetcar to a similar headway, you might need to double the number of streetcars. Got $27 million and another $5.2 million annually in service subsidy?

      If you want to match the Link headway, you would be much better off using ETB routes 43 or 49 extended to Pioneer Square via the new Yesler wire.

  17. Where were all these comments when the streetcar route was being designed? Bitching after the ink has dried on the contracts seems a little pointless. Did anyone here raise these issues with SDOT during the design process? Or does the advocacy end at the keyboard? It’s not as if the jog around 14th just came out of the blue recently.

    1. It’s blood-sport.
      Look at North Link to Lynnwood. That’s been decreed a ‘Done Deal’ and the damn thing isn’t supposed to start service for about 10 years.

    2. I argued against the detour back to 9th (Broadway=9th at Yesler) rather than using the obvious Boren hypotenuse before the final routing was announced.

      But it “had” to serve the center of the new Yesler Terrace.

      Skipping Boren then meant that it “had” to use 14 to switchback. So now it serves nowhere and nothing well.

      1. …And thus the city can’t be trusted to develop any so-called “rapid streetcar” routes to supplant the real rapid transit we need.

      2. Zed: ST chose the mode; SDOT refined the path. Given the topography, the mode mistake was the most significant.

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