SDOT / Nelson/Nygaard

Mayor McGinn’s office announced last week that Seattle has selected Nelson/Nygaard, authors of the City’s Transit Master Plan (TMP), to conduct the federally funded $900,000 study of the downtown connector on 4th and 5th Avenues, which we discussed in detail last year.

The TMP argues that the connector is the most cost-effective streetcar line in terms of gaining new riders, although that’s largely a function of its length and it would presumably score worse in a passenger-mile calculation. It is also attractive because it links the two more advanced lines, is one of the cheaper streetcar options at $74m in capital, and is a necessary component of any line out to Fremont or up Eastlake.

Seattle’s next round of streetcar construction is supposed to be “rapid streetcar,” implying more priority treatments than the South Lake Union Line. However, observers of the First Hill Streetcar construction might be skeptical of SDOT’s fortitude in giving large transit investments the priority they deserve.

138 Replies to “Streetcar Connector Moves Forward”

  1. That map implies that streetcars wouldn’t stop at the current Westlake Hub while southbound from SLU.

    It is already often faster to get off at the Virgina stop and walk to the tunnel.

    1. According to the TMP, a “rapid streetcar” must have signal priority and reserved ROW. Seems like that would be enough to outperform RapidRide.

      1. “Rapid streetcar achieves faster operating speed and greater
        reliability through…more extensive use of exclusive right-of-way than is typical of U.S. streetcar lines…. Rapid streetcar would have higher capacity trains, greater priority over traffic, and operate at higher
        speeds compared with a local streetcar circulator…”

        It doesn’t require signal priority and reserved ROW. It requires more of this stuff than its worst possible counterpoint, which is to say more than none.

        By this measure, RapidRide is also a smashing success, because it has a couple feet of exclusive lanes and gets partial priority at a few non-critical intersections, whereas normal buses have none.

        At one point, the pro-Streetcar Network people bandied around some details. The Ballard line had exclusive lanes all the way up the short of Westlake Ave N.
        But not on Westlake in SLU.
        And not over the Fremont Bridge.
        And not on N 36th.
        And nowhere that it would actually matter.

        But hooray for any!!!!!!!!!!lolwut?

      2. … hooray because it’ll be faster than the 26/28.

        But won’t the 40 be just as fast?

        Yes. The city needs to think more about how streetcar lines can be extended to replace bus routes, rather than overlapping them redundantly. In the case of the 70, the streetcar overlaps it and the Eastlake extension would replace it (and potentially continue to Northgate, replacing the 48 south of 65th).

        In the case of the 40, nobody has suggested extending the streetcar north of Market Street, so what would happen? Truncate the 40 at Market? That would break the one-seat ride from Fremont to north Ballard, or Fremont to Northgate, for whatever they’re worth. Keep the 40 running parallel to the streetcar?

        In the case of the FHS, there is no bus that goes from Broadway to west Jackson, so that’s new service. Transferring between the 7/14/36 and the 9/60 is substandard because of the latter’s infrequency. The frustrating problem with the FHS is it doesn’t go to 23rd so it can’t replace the Jackson trunk, it doesn’t go to the U-district so it can’t replace the 49, and for several trips you’d have to transfer twice to use it (e.g., Beacon/Rainier/31st to north Capitol Hill, or Beacon/Rainier/31st to mid downtown).

  2. I will fight this Rapid Streetcar project tooth and nail. It is a horrible way to spend money. A regular streetcar to Fremont via Dexter be a much better investment.

      1. Not to worry Kyle. I was being sarcastic again.
        RapidRide is not rapid.
        Neither will RapidStreetcar over the vanila variety (SLUT/FHSC)
        RR-C,D,F are all an embarrassment to anyone who ever took a shine to BRT.

      2. Exactly, Ben.

        And mic, I knew you were being sarcastic. I was echoing your actual sentiment. Promising something we know we cannot deliver is folly. We have proven time and again that we are incapable of committing to the upgrades necessary to nudge a local mode into acceptable “rapid” or long-haul service.

        So why bother? It’s not like Fremont/Downtown is going to cease being a transit corridor, and there are hundreds of rental units coming online on Dexter Ave soon—which is about infinity percent more than will ever be built on Westlake. So if we’re going to extend the 4th/5th couplet north of the SLUT, then it makes sense to provide local, frequent service to Fremont via Dexter.

      3. Just connecting our vanilla streetcars would be highly effective.

        Define “highly”. While you’re at it, define “effective”.

  3. I hope these plans include building bike facilities downtown, since laying streetcar tracks in those streets makes them even more hazardous for cyclists than they are already…

    1. First Hill Streetcar makes Broadway far less hazardous for bicyclists. Have you looked at the design?

      1. 4th and 5th are two of the best streets for cyclists to use to travel through the downtown core. I would really prefer not to have rails in the street, as it is a huge hazard for cyclists. Even if those streets are redesigned and cycle tracks are installed, it would likely be very difficult to turn off those streets in both directions which I do frequently.

        The street redesign on Broadway includes a cycle track, and I’m hoping it’s effective and doesn’t prevent easily turning off Broadway in either direction for cyclists. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

      2. Plenty of cities have created separated cycling infrastructure (read: cycle tracks)that works brilliantly with large streetcar/tram systems. There’s no reason we can’t do so here, and the FHSC is a great step in the right direction.

      3. I would really prefer not to have rails in the street, as it is a huge hazard for cyclists.

        At last, something I approve of with respect to street cars.

    2. Honestly, I for one am TIRED of the whining of bicyclists about how unsafe streetcar tracks are. Want to be safe? DON’T RIDE PARALLEL WITH THE TRACKS!

      I mean, Holy Cow, I am a cyclist myself but I have ZERO problem with any tracks because I know that my wheel will catch if I let it. Hence, I cross tracks perpendicularly. This is not rocket science.

      1. Yeah, exactly. My destination may require me to travel north on Westlake, but instead I cross the tracks at a right-angle on Thomas. I’m sure I’ll get there eventually. This tactic is particularly effective when half the other roads in the area are torn up by construction.

  4. I realize I live in Skagit County and walking up to a mile to a transit ride is to be expected, but why have streetcar overlap with light rail?

    Just curious.

      1. Everyone notice the subtle double standard and rail bias going on here? When a rail line is built, people on this blog argue bus routes must be cancelled because of “duplication of service.” But when you remind them this streetcar will duplicate Link service, then all of a sudden duplication is a good thing because “it will alleviate tunnel crowding.”

      2. When a subway line functions correctly, 1.1-mile local traffic is not only expected, but welcomed as part of a multi-leg journey. Last-mile subway transfers are a normal way of getting around. Fifty separate routes end-to-end through downtown are not.

        Were it not for the terrible joint operations protocols and the p.i.t.a. overbuilt stations, there would be no “local traffic” problem to speak of.

      3. Sam: Downtown actually has a local capacity problem that slows down every bus & train passing through. Additional service here is welcomed.

        If the streetcar can take “from one end of downtown to the other” riders away from the 3rd ave transit spine, it makes buses into and out of downtown faster and more reliable (especially once the RFA ends)

        As for being duplicative with Link, all I can say is that the 4 stops it duplicates are all extremely popular intermodal transfer points, and it serves different destinations that Link misses(SLU, Little Saigon). Remember, Metro’s system is primarily hub & spoke, and downtown is the system’s largest hub.

        It wouldn’t be reasonable for us to complain about duplication of service on 3rd ave, either.

      4. What “Lack Thereof” said. I was indeed thinking of people using buses for short hops across downtown, which so many people were moaning about when the RFA went away.

        Now, certainly if Link remains undercrowded it could do this. But given that Link is planned to be focused on bringing passengers in from the far reaches of the neighboring counties, how much room will it, in the end, have for short trips across downtown?

        Of course, people could always walk, but people are lazy.

      5. I don’t know about you, Lack, but I’m not waiting 10-15 minutes for a streetcar, when I could walk nearly as fast on a nice day, when I can be in the subway tunnel on an inclement one, or when buses are coming constantly on the next block over.

        This proposal attracts no one and alleviates nothing.

      6. Let me rephrase my question: How many bus routes will get removed from running the length of downtown because the 4th/5th Ave streetcar gets built?

      7. The answer is to have the Streetcars running every 5 minutes, not every 10-15. Make them frequent enough and people will ride them.

        DT could handle that kind of frequency. Especially if it coincided with Metro actually doing some route truncating.

      8. Not gonna happen. Not in any version of any plan. And in Seattle, plans always get worse as they come to fruition, not better.

      9. The obvious way to get the headways down would be to build the Westlake extension to the Fremont Bridge (the separated ROW is there, just waiting to be used) along with the Eastlake extension. The downtown connector would then have twice the frequency of the branches.

        I find it odd that d.p. is arguing in favor of Link over the connector, since two of his biggest gripes about Link are stop spacing and the difficulty of getting to the platforms from the surface. Streetcar could make for a quick trip through downtown, as long as it is prioritized over other traffic.

      10. I don’t know about you, Lack, but I’m not waiting 10-15 minutes for a streetcar,

        You will be if you’re standing in South Lake Union and are headed further South than Westlake, perhaps to the Financial District or the Sounder Station. Unless your propensity to walk is well beyond the vast majority of Americans.

      11. If you’re standing at the Westlake & Harrison SLUT stop, and the arrival indicator says you’ve got more than 9 or 10 minutes to wait, you’re better off walking downtown and descending into the tunnel.

        The majority of current users already get this, and act accordingly.

        Nothing about this connector would change that calculation.

        AW, good rapid transit > bad rapid transit > fake rapid transit.

      12. Martin is right in that we need to look at this as connecting SLU to the ID, and not that it will be useful for those of us already DT, because it won’t.

        For me, I would never walk to 4th to catch a street car that comes 6 times an hour when I can walk to 3rd and catch a bus that comes 37 times an hour (3rd and Columbia from 12-1p). But that doesn’t mean it won’t have value for those in SLU or the ID.

        So as long as this is all we’re evaluating, then I’m OK with it. But I really have a lot of reservations about the Rapid Streetcar lines to Ballard and Fremont. I don’t want to see that become the poor man’s Seattle Subway.

      13. Frequency on the SLUT has increased (thanks to area employers) and as ridership continues to climb I expect it will increase further. Also, improvements have been made to the terminus (McGraw Plaza) so no, things don’t always get worse.

      14. The other day, at a few minutes before 6, I sat at McGraw/Westlake/Whomevernow Plaza and ate an entire dinner while I watched a streetcar crawl from Denny into the terminus.

      15. I predict people will wait for the streetcar rather than getting on buses. Because the riding citizenry always shows a preference for rail, even if the service is identical or worse.

        And nothing about the infrastructure would limit us to 15 minute frequencies in the long run.

      16. McGraw Square is not an Olmsted park. The Olmsteds have been dead a century and until two years ago Westlake Avenue ran straight through what is now that plaza.

        Your link claims that the statue on the speck of land between 5th and what used to be Westlake is somehow part of the Olmsted system. I have trouble believing this is accurate either; the Olmsteds didn’t do freaking statues.

    1. Particularly when the streetcar is extended north up Eastlake, having it reach IDS will turn a lot of potential three-seat rides into two-seat rides.

      I don’t think duplicative north-south service through downtown is necessarily a bad thing, because of the overwhelming volume of demand.

      1. There’s certainly no “overwhelming demand” for a through-trip streetcar to Eastlake.

        Eastlake is a minor residential and retail strip of finite and static demand. The TMP estimated that a whopping 10,000 boardings would happen on a streetcar.

        That’s 5,000 riders.
        The same 5,000 each day.
        Paid for by 600,000 citizens who rarely if ever go to Eastlake.

        I happen to like Eastlake. It’s pretty. It contains the most outstanding sushi restaurant and the best cocktail lounge in the city. But Ballard or Fremont or Capitol Hill or even Roosevelt it is not. A streetcar to it is a terrible waste.

      2. That 10,000 boardings would be on par with the top few Metro routes in existence – and it would grow over time as Eastlake continues to fill in.

      3. You clearly don’t ride the 70 much… it runs every 10 minutes during peak and is inevitably jammed to the gunwales.

        Eastlake is small, but very transit-dependent, and the combination of Eastlake and SLU demand to both downtown (including Sounder and Link transfers) and the U-District will generate plenty of demand for a local streetcar.

      4. Exactly my point. I don’t ride the 70 much. And neither does anyone else who doesn’t live or work directly along that corridor.

        I guarantee you that a survey would find that the 70 segment north of Valley draws the exact same few thousand riders, day in and day out. A major corridor — a vital and versatile part of our transit network used by many people for many purposes — Eastlake is not.

        An Eastlake streetcar proposal is a great way to get 95% of Seattle’s population wondering why their tax dollars are going to support shiny vanity projects for fringe wealthy communities they never visit.

      5. “I don’t ride the 70 much. And neither does anyone else who doesn’t live or work directly along that corridor.”

        Couldn’t you say that about the majority of transit lines in the city?

      6. No, you couldn’t.

        And any other individual lines and/or entire neighborhoods about which you could say that shouldn’t be getting high-cost infrastructure either.

      7. Why not?

        The 45th corridor travels to, through, and between five areas of the city that are the very definition of mixed use, and that draw people from all directions at all times of day for all different reasons.

        Take a survey of the portion of Seattle residents that have made a trip to Ballard, Fremont, Phinney/the zoo, Wallingford, or the U-District in the last month. Each and every one of them will garner you a higher-percentage answer than will Eastlake. Combined, it would blow Eastlake out of the water.

        Add in all of the enhanced connections of a 45th-corridor high-capacity line (Greenwood, Green Lake, Crown Hill, parts of the Aurora corridor) and you’re in an utterly different universe.

        But Eastlake proper is the only place that an Eastlake streetcar would serve that will not already be served better by a different mode.

      8. And if I’m wrong, than why does the “Eastlake HCT corridor” only garner a pathetic 5,000 people?

      9. So if an Eastlake-or-Westlake streetcar happens to offer one-seat rides to Fremont/Ballard and SODO (assuming a southern extension), it would attract people going through SLU even if they don’t get on/off there. It would simultaneously serve people going to SLU. That’s the beauty of rail routes. Of course I’m assuming optimistically it would be faster than the SLUT’s station-every-two-blocks-and-also-stop-at-every-traffic-light. But even if it’s not, it would still be marginally useful to combine multiple bus routes into a new one-seat ride, because how else would you get from Fremont to Little Saigon or Capitol Hill without taking an hour and transferring?

      10. Of course I’m assuming optimistically it would be faster than the SLUT’s station-every-two-blocks-and-also-stop-at-every-traffic-light.

        That’s a pretty big assumption here. The truth is that if you wanted to improve Eastlake’s north-south transit, you’d reduce the stop spacing for all of the local buses to the 66 stop + Roanoke, and you’d give each of those stops curb bulbs. (I’ve said before that this would be such a speed improvement that people from North Capitol Hill might start walking to it.)

        What you would not do is put in on rails, give it Škoda vehicles that are notoriously lethargic in shared-lane stop-and-go traffic, and send it on the grand tour of South Lake Union, followed by the tour of the shopping district, theater district, and every highway-access-clogged downtown bottleneck. That helps no one connect to anything.

        How else would you get from Fremont to Little Saigon or Capitol Hill without taking an hour…?

        Perhaps via some combination of bus and rail routes that are designed to be quick rather than slow, frequent rather than sorta-kinda, reliable rather than the low-bar Seattle standard.

        Part of the reason that the Streetcar Network’s numbers are so unimpressive (10,000 boardings for Eastlake, 22,000 boardings max for Ballard-Fremont) is that the lines are so slow and so likely to retain the unpleasant transfers and transfer penalties that we enjoy today, that their appeal will be greatly diminished. In short, even their promoters know that they won’t — that they can’t — replace the car for most people or for most trips.

        If you ever took a trolley from Fremont to Capitol Hill via the I.D. and Little Saigon you should spend the rest of you should have a dunce cap permanently glued to your skull.

      11. “how else would you get from Fremont to Little Saigon or Capitol Hill without taking an hour”

        I forgot about University Link, transfer at Westlake. It’s hard to keep track of so many overlapping proposals and unfinished projects. And I also conflated just connecting the streetcars vs adding the northern extensions too.

        “If you ever took a trolley from Fremont to Capitol Hill via the I.D. and Little Saigon you should spend the rest of you should have a dunce cap permanently glued to your skull.”

        I doubt it would be worse than the 44/43.

        “it appears to be a back door toward forcing sub-par streetcars upon Northwest Seattle in lieu of any real transit solution.”

        We’ll have to make sure that doesn’t happen. These streetcars are a complement to a downtown-Ballard subway, not a replacement for it. And Seattle’s TMP shows two HCT corridors, one on Westlake, the other on 15th W. So they aren’t saying this streetcar is the end-all and be-all. And the make-or-break point is what ST proposes for downtown-Ballard, and how willing it is to study all reasonable alternatives and choose the best one. For that, we’ll just have to see what ST’s initial proposal is. ST knows people’s expectations are something like Central Link. The FHS was a one-off concession to compensate for First Hill station, not ST’s model for all future lines.

    2. There is a difference between running parallel transit service (bus or rail) in the downtown core and running it miles from the core into the core.

  5. “The current Seattle Transit Master Plan shows that a rail system on this corridor could generate approximately 10,000 new transit riders in Seattle Center City by 2030.” How are these 10,000 people getting around along the corridor now?

      1. And 10-minute (or worse) service on a streetcar stuck in traffic will change this how?

        Ben, if you really want Seattle Subway to happen, you’re the last one who should be advocating SDOT’s fantasies of a “rapid” streetcar “network”.

  6. This seems like it would be a good project. Apart from the operational benefits of connecting the First Hill and South Lake Union streetcar tracks, it should at least somewhat relieve the “local capacity” crunch on buses going downtown.

    Why does it cost $900,000 to *study* it? The federal study process seems like quite the paperwork generator.

    1. Nathanael, I’ve long been curious where you are located, and what your level of connection/familiarity/interest is with Seattle.

      You generally seem pretty knowledgeable about transit geometry in general, while using words like “seems” to suggest you don’t have direct experience with Seattle specifics.

      Unfortunately, this line is highly duplicative of the overbuilt subway tunnel that would in any normal city render this project an unthinkable waste. Even more unfortunately, it appears to be a back door toward forcing sub-par streetcars upon Northwest Seattle in lieu of any real transit solution.

      1. Well, that’s unfortunate.

        I’m located in a mass transit wasteland, though I was in big cities all over the world growing up. No, I don’t have direct *recent* experience with Seattle specifics.

      2. Yeah, I thought you’ve said something about being in the middle-south of the country.

        It has always been clear that you know what you’re talking about vis-a-vis transit. But as you’ve said yourself, it’s the Seattle particulars that can be hazy for you.

        On the other hand, that’s still better than those who can describe the minutiae of all of Seattle’s worst ideas and worst practices, but have a failure to grasp why they fly in the face of everything that works the world over (hello, “2-mile subway gaps are an awesome compromise” types!).

        Aside from the face-palm that has been RapidRide, I might argue that this “downtown connector” is the most egregious thing on the menu right now. Its promotion serves only two potential purposes, both negative:

        1) To admit that Link is terrible to transfer to and from, which is the only possible reason it can’t be used to “connect” already.

        2) To provide pre-existing (though terribly sub-par) through-downtown infrastructure in order to make the case for a Ballard streetcar as NW Seattle’s default, only, and final solution.

        As you said: unfortunate.

    2. To put the 900,000 in perspective, it’s a stack of dollar bills half as high as the space needle.
      I wonder how high the the stack would be if we counted the cost every transportation study sitting on shelves at the libraries, plus all the public meetings before and after each study was completed.
      I’m thinking ‘moonshot’.
      Well, at least Seattle is getting good advice and building leading edge projects the world can marvel at. WTG Team!

      1. To put the 900,000 in perspective, it’s a stack of dollar bills half as high as the space needle.

        That’s the opposite of perspective. Perspective would be other useful things to do with the money, not silly observations about the size of it.

    3. 900,000 is an alternatives analysis. It would identify the best possible routing, do ridership estimates, and lay the groundwork to start engineering.

      1. Yeah, I know all transit projects are forced to go through this. But y’know, I could generally make better reports for less than $900,000! Ridership estimates are always wild guesses; “identifying the best routing” is a political process.

        And “laying the groundwork to start engineering”, meaning doing the research as to what it would cost to do various things, is something which I would think could be done for less than $900,000; it mainly involves paying a competent person to look up where all the utilities are, measure traffic, examine geological surveys, do surveying, etc. Worse, these “alternatives analyses” often don’t actually do the surveying (which I realize could be expensive), leading to conclusions which get thrown out as soon as the surveying starts.

        The federal process seems to me to be seriously misdesigned,

      2. It’s only a requirement if federal funds are in the mix. If you can find a way to do it with local money, no AA is required, which was how the MAX line to PDX got built so quickly.

        I’m not a huge fan of the AA process, but it does kind of force the local agencies to get their story straight and come up with a coherent narrative for why the project is needed. And ridership estimates at least get you within an order of magnitude, maybe even a little better. That’s not likely to get you within one percent of guessing what the number of boardings would be 12 months after opening, but it’s enough to help decide if it’s worth spending the money to build.

      3. I like the Alternatives Analysis *concept*, I just don’t get how they end up being *million dollar reports*.

        I mean, the *concept* is, “Hey, people are suggesting alternatives. Consider them!”

        Basically, the concept is, when politicians propose something like the Columbia River Crossing or the Deep Bore Tunnel, and community members propose alternatives, the politicians should be *forced to seriously consider the alternatives* and see whether they’re better.

        As the two examples I just gave show, the process is not working for its intended purpose. *Demonstrably* better alternatives were demonstrated and the politicos are still pushing their *demonstrably* worse proposals.

        So, the process isn’t working for its actual intended purpose, but it *is* costing a lot of money hiring consultants. Something should be done.

      4. Another example of “failure of alternatives analysis” is the rejection of the beloved-of-transit-activists “Alternative G” for connecting NY Penn Station to NY Grand Central Station. It was found to improve service while reducing running costs, and had the lowest expected capital costs of all the proposals…. so it was declared a rejected alternative on vague and flimsy grounds of “disruption to property owners”.

        Hmm. Seriously, something is wrong with the way Alternatives Analyses are (ab)used.

      5. Having comparison studies is a good thing, even if the wrong alternative is chosen. It gives a side-by-side comparison of what the benefits and costs would be/would have been. Otherwise it’s just people throwing up numbers in the air.

      6. I guess you’re right; without an Alternatives Analysis, we wouldn’t *know for sure* that the Deep Bore Tunnel was the worst of all possible options for the Alaskan Way area.

        Is it better to know? I guess I believe it is better to know, but some would conclude that they would be happier not knowing for sure.

        It means knowing that your politicians deliberately decided to make bad choices while knowing that they were bad choices. Kind of an unpleasant thing to know.

      7. I’m glad the DBT has alternative analyses and EIS reports, and ditto for Link’s Lynnwood Extension. In the DBT’s case, it documents realistically what we could have done and the prices. It shows that the state and city prioritized automobile thoroughput over all else including cost and transit service.

        I’ve heard McGinn inserted some comments into the EIS saying that the state was ignoring the alternatives’ conclusions (which showed that the need for a tunnel without downtown exits was less than claimed), and ignoring transit needs and how transit could compensate for a smaller-scale roadway. The state was incensed with that, saying those weren’t “environmental impacts”, but more to the point it documents how the state ignored people’s concerns.

  7. I see some (not a whole lot of) utility in this line.

    For $73 million, it seems like we could give the C, D, and E lines the treatments they should be getting from SDOT (continuous bus lanes for the length of the lines without a handful of parked cars blocking them 21 hours a day, signal priority, level boarding recementing at stops with high wheelchair ridership especially downtown, off-board ORCA readers and ticket machines at *all* stops, working RTA sign boards in multiple languages, and call boxes to ask Customer Service for help instead of holding up operators).

    I’d also be more convinced streetcars served a purpose if the *existing* streetcars were given these treatments. If the tradition of letting people holding ORCA cards ride free continues, it sure makes the project look like a sweetheart deal for Paul Allen, and you’ll have John Fox fighting it every step of the way.

    Can we make the existing rapidride and streetcar lines work first, so this doesn’t look like King County Metro and SDOT are working way too independently of each other?

    1. “If the tradition of letting people holding ORCA cards ride free continues,”
      …it becomes the free downtown circulator which people were saying was needed when the RFA went away.

      Perhaps this is actually a good idea.

      1. Yes, having the streetcar free downtown would be of some help in reducing intra-downtown bus trips, but not significantly if it is on 4th/5th than if it were on 3rd (which I am not suggesting). The proposal of it being free might also draw the ire of 4th/5th businesses fearful of the streetcar being overwhelmed with people whom they do not want to ride with, and whom they would rather not see at all on their high-end street.

        Moreover, the human service agencies really want that circulator providing them front-door service, not a semi-frequent straight line being the only free option. Expect the circulator to stay regardless of the existence of other limited free options navigating downtown.

        Of course, giving the destitute a reason to have an ORCA card is a good thing.

        It goes against the predictions of the right-wing fbloggers that the SLUT hasn’t turned into a stop-and-go homeless shelter.

  8. As far as I understand, some on the city council prefer a 1st ave alignment. Will this study that as well?

    1. I hope so. One could make the argument that 1st ave is a unique corridor compared to 4th/5th, one that is currently underserved. Frankly, I think there is really no reason to ever put streetcar on 4th/5th, not just because it duplicates light rail service, but it also duplicates very frequent bus service. There are busses virtually all of the time on 4th/5th, and while we do know people prefer rail over bus when all else is equal, it’s pretty absurd to add a 10 minute headway streetcar to a place where there are busses with 2 mintue headways.

      1st ave on the other hand is farther away from the tunnel and doesn’t have such a large number of busses.

      1. There are not many buses on 5th anymore… the only all-day routes these days are ST Express routes not designed to serve local traffic.

        1st is underserved as well but is not the right street to serve SLU traffic wishing to transfer downtown. A separate streetcar line running from Sodo station to Seattle Center would be a wonderful (if expensive) idea, and could facilitate a lot of very good changes to NW Seattle service.

      2. “Farther away” is two blocks, or about the maximum distance to a station along the route itself (half the station spacing), even if it is uphill. Besides, I think taking the streetcar down some street (Stewart?) to 1st and then back up to meet the FHSC on Yesler would cause much more disruption crossing 4th/3rd/2nd than a 4th/5th alignment ever would.

        Naturally, there is no reason to expect much of a speed improvement over buses on 4th/5th, and, considering the thing will run every 10 minutes, it should be thought of as an extension of the SLUT, not a “connector”. And if we are extending the SLUT to the terminus of the FSHC, 4th/5th is obviously better, even if Stephen didn’t mean to argue for that.

        I’d definitely move some of the 4th/5th buses to 1st or 2nd, though. The streetcar provides a reason for this, and it solves the underservice problem. The Magnolia buses could go off 4th for sure, for instance.

      3. Just because the STExpress routes are not “designed to serve local traffic” — they do, and there’s nothing wrong with this. They have the frequencies and stop spacing of a local frequent bus-spine, so why not call a spade a spade.

        Regarding the fact that it’s a longer trip, remember that the FHSC terminates at Jackson and 1st, not Jackson and 4th.

        So, actually, it allows you to run the SLUT and FHSC as one continuous line if you have the connector on 1st. Otherwise, the termini don’t match up (unless you have some sort of awkward turnaround at 1st and Jackson.

      4. Magnolia buses are moving to 3rd in three weeks. But additional buses are coming to 4th from the tunnel. It’s 5th that’s underserved, not 4th.

        Riders of the inbound suburban expresses from the north and 520 are very resistant to moving them from 5th to 2nd because of the uphill walks they encounter. Should we do it anyway? Probably. But it’s not easy.

        And Metro moved all the buses off 1st because it was too unreliable. A dedicated bus line or streetcar, delays on which didn’t affect service throughout the rest of the city, would allow for service to be reintroduced to 1st, which would be very valuable.

      5. Moving ST express buses from 5th to 2nd would require such buses to go through even more stoplights than they already do to get in and out of downtown.

        Remember, travel time today on a bus between the Stewart St. exit ramp off I-5 and the entrance ramp to either I-90 eastbound or I-5 southbound is already on the order of around 30 minutes, depending on how long you have to wait for your connection. This is a stretch that takes anywhere from 1-10 minutes if you drive, depending on traffic. Let’s not make buses even slower and make this even worse.

    2. Yes. 1st would have higher all-day ridership, and help put pressure on making 1st less of a car corridor. Connecting MOHAI with Pike Place and Pioneer Square on one line would bring a lot of ridership, and it would take people close enough to the waterfront (at Pioneer Square) to head to the new park.

      1. IMO: First should be the priority for several reasons:
        -It’s two-way, so no couplet
        -It’s got more pedestrian traffic already
        -It has attractions, retail, and residence along almost its entire length, from Belltown to SoDo.
        -It’s lower-speed already. Cars should be focused on 4th/5th, along with express buses.
        -The financial office core doesn’t particularly need all-day local streetcar service.

  9. On the note of almost-interlined rail lines:

    Has anyone looked at the feasibility of turning the DSTT into two stacked train tunnels, thereby making use of all that space wasted by the increasingly-pointless mezzanines?

      1. Well, that does point out how silly the mezzanines are. Certainly, there are a few engineers on this blog who can think three-dimensionally.

    1. Without the mezzanines, you’d have to go outside the station to switch directions, and it wouldn’t reach all the entrances. Having multiple entrances a block or two away is a good thing; it means “the station” is adjacent to more places. Psychologically, people often count their distance to “the station” as to the nearest entrance, and discount the time inside the station.

  10. Is there any hope that the results of this study would be useful in building the Seattle Subway? That’s the project they should be studying.

  11. I think that streetcars do have a purpose for moving in and about dense neighborhoods, or connecting immediately adjascent ones. I much prefer this to say a DT-Westlake-Fremont-Ballard streetcar. Better network tie ins, cheaper, and can’t be used as an excuse to get real HCT to Ballard.

    Side note, but I really REALLY wish someone would look at a Rainier Extension of the First Hill Streetcar down to Mt. Baker (picking up Rainier/I90 station on Eastlink along the way). I’ve heard it mentioned a couple times, but not recently.

    How would you get SDOT to look at such a proposal?

    1. A Rainier cross-corridor actually makes some sense to me, though it would only work if given a great deal of exclusive laneage and priority.

      As for this connector, expect it to be used as a back door to the “inevitability” of a streetcar as all the final word for Ballard, thereby having the opposite of your stated and desired intent.

      1. “a great deal of laneage” is a loopholed way to state the goal. Without the words “continuous” and “bus-only” or “transit only” in there, you’re talking about RapidRide with a couple cars blocking the lane every few blocks, so the bus has to weave in and out of general purpose lanes. I assume that’s not what you meant.

        Also, “signal priority” doesn’t automatically translate to “signal override”. We’ve learned that the hard way.

      2. In total agreement.

        I basically meant 100% impenetrable streetcar laneage to bypass the traffic that uses Rainier to get to I-90.

        This would be less needed along the wide-open section between the freeway and Mt. Baker station, then needed again when approaching Mt. Baker station (to keep the last blocks before the transfer from becoming repeat of the terrible SLUT/tunnel transfer and the similarly terrible FHSC/E. John/Link transfer*).

        *I walked by the almost-finished merge point for this stub track last night, in lousy weather. My god is it ever far from the primary intersection it is supposed to serve. Expect a total crawl from SCCC into the stub track, then a long walk to where you actually need to go.

  12. so … if I am to understand this … we’re really talking about extending the SLUT to the IDS … not a whole new third streetcar line … am I correct in this assumption?

    1. Mic, I know for a fact that you’re too nuanced a thinker and too genuine an advocate for real mobility solutions to be citing NilesyBlogs.

      1. OK, I retract it. We squabble over 10 minute headways around here and the rest of the world packs 5 buses into a station in 60 seconds. Maybe I should go back to dollar bill analogies to drive home a point.
        If Seattle wants HCT they damn well better start using rails and roads to make it happen and quit being so shy about what is possible.
        A connector will be cute, but never a substitute for lots seats going past a point.

  13. This is a total no brainer. Connect our two streetcar lines via a 4th/5th couplet and you actually have the start of some sort of organized system. It would be laughable not to do something like this

    And build the Aloha Extension too.

    Unfortunately I don’t think either will happen under this mayor, but at least we can hope to have the groundwork laid for the next mayor to hit the ground running.

    1. Depends on what you mean by ‘happen’, SDOT is pretty damn close to having secured all the funding necessary to get the Aloha preliminary work done. It’s close enough that the City Council lifted their budget proviso hinging on the money being secure a month or two ago.

  14. When you look at the map, there is very little value of connecting the streetcar segments at the International District? Why would you take a streetcar south, then east, the north, then west, then north again, when you could ride a bus that is no slower than the streetcar and at least takes a direct route to where you want to go?

    In fact, virtually conceivable trip you can make on the streetcar can be had just as quickly either with a bus, or with the combination of a bus and walking a few blocks.

    And between Link and every-two-minute buses running from one end of downtown to the other, we really don’t need yet another service to do intra-downtown trips. Unless of course, there’s a massive plan to truncate buses at the edge of downtown and force transfers to the streetcar that I am not aware of.

  15. This is completely asinine.

    In any transit system run by people with half a brain, we would have a single system to get from the north end of downtown to the south end of downtown. It would have vehicles coming very frequently with off-board fare collection and a single fare system.

    Instead, we have the DSTT, where Link trains have one fare and off-board fare collection, ST Express buses have a different fare and on-board fare collection, and Metro buses that have on-board fare collection and a different fare that depends on the time of day. We have 3rd Avenue with very frequent Metro bus service that suffers all the shortcomings of Metro bus service in the DSTT. And now the City wants to build a streetcar, on a *couplet*, that will not be very frequent and have its own off-board-but-only-kinda-sorta fare collection system and the same fares as Metro buses.

    And that’s just for intra-downtown travel! This sort of moronic transit planning pervades the entire system and makes folks like me who would like to avoid the excessive costs of car ownership think about moving back to Chi-town.

    1. Extremely well put.

      I think the big problem here is that people feel because it’s downtown, we have to have a separate transit route between one end of downtown and the other for every conceivable interest:

      We have Link for people coming from the airport Ranier Valley. We have buses for people coming from the U-district, more buses for people coming from Fremont, more buses for people coming from Lynnwood, and [repeat for every bus route that goes downtown].

      Then we need yet another bus for people that are traveling only within downtown and are willing to wait 20 minutes for a ride, but aren’t willing to pay. Yet another bus (at least during the peak) for people that want views of the waterfront as they travel. On top of all this, we’ve got sidewalks for walking and taxis for people who want door-to-door service and are willing to pay for it.

      And now we’re saying we need yet another transit vehicle going downtown for people that have strong enough train-over-bus preferences to accept longer waits and a more circuitous ride simply so the vehicle they ride in is a train, rather than a bus. Absolutely crazy. I can think of so many better ways to spend our limited money than this.

    2. There would be nothing more moronic than having one short streetcar line separated from another short streetcar line by just a short mile of streetcar-less city street in the most transit dependant area in the region. They wouldn’t be stupid enough to do that even in Chi-town. And we shouldn’t do it here.

      1. So what you’re demanding is that we throw good money after bad.

        The SLUT is infrequent, stuck in traffic, caught at lights, and slower than walking.

        The FHSC goes 12 blocks out of the way, shares a single through lane with cars for much of its route, stops hundreds of feet short of its transfer point, and will be slower than walking.

        But they’re NOTHING unless we connect them!

      2. Name one trip that you could actually make that connects some part of the SLUT to some part of the FHSC for which being able to take the train all the way would save a significant amount of time over a bus or walking?

        Even the 8 is not that bad, to make detouring all the way to the international district and back on a streetcar with frequent stops zero signal priority a faster alternative.

      3. One reason to connect the two lines is the potential to sell the SLUT maintenance barn property and reap the savings of having one facility and eliminate duplication of back-up rolling stock. Two, it’s not meant to be a through route end to end. That’s not what streetcars do. Not an expert on Seattle here but isn’t there a significant commercial district all along 5th avenue? It ain’t 5th Ave NYC but it is one hell of a lot more of a “Theater District” than anything Tacoma Link pretends to serve. And about that 12 block “detour”. Same thing, it connects those blocks with Link at either end. Does it pay? I don’t know but it sure seems like a lot better build than either attempt to date and one hell of a lot better than the original loop-de-lew that would have had a 1st Hill station. DT, Cap-Hill, UW; at least it makes the “Central” part of Link viable.

      4. I honestly cannot believe that you’re comparing the FHSC (especially its final incarnation) favorably to a First Hill Link Station.

        Stopping at a First Hill station would’ve had essentially no impact on the actual Link trip. Instead, we’re building an entirely new streetcar line that goes so far out its way that it’s entirely useless.

      5. I’m beginning to think that in practice much of the First Hill streetcar sections currently being built will be partly reconstructed. Well, other cities have done the same. :sigh:

        The odd thing is that it runs down perfectly logical roads, it’s just not connected up correctly. This means if it expands, at some point someone’s bound to try to reorganize the mess into a “Broadway Streetcar”, a “Jackson St. Streetcar”, etc.

      6. “Name one trip that you could actually make that connects some part of the SLUT to some part of the FHSC for which being able to take the train all the way would save a significant amount of time over a bus or walking?”

        You don’t even have to involve the FHS, just connecting SLU to Chinatown would be a good thing. It may not save time but the one-seat ride will be convenient. It makes total sense to connect the streetcar lines; that’s how you gradually build up a network. How well it compares to a 1st Avenue streetcar or upgrading RapidRide C, D, and E is a different question. Each of them has some advantages. The advantage of this proposal is that the city’s considering it now, which it’s not doing for the others. If we defeat this, do you really think it will lead to a greater likelihood of a 1st Avenue streetcar or upgrading RR C, D, and E?

      7. I would honestly rather see the money go towards upgrading RapidRide C, D, and E, then to build a useless 1st Avenue streetcar.

    3. THANK YOU.

      I hate feeling like a lone voice screaming in the dark just for pointing out our unrelenting, vicious violations of the basics of urban transit.

      And yet they keep coming.

    4. So all those two-seat rides into downtown that people are now doing because their old one-seat rides were too inefficient should be turned into THREE-seat rides as their second bus drops them off at the edge of downtown?

      People don’t do three-seat rides unless there is no other economically viable option, even if all three steps come frequently.

      You won’t find any city in the world with a recognizable downtown where all the buses stop at the edge.

      1. You won’t find any city in the world where every bus and train is expected to hit within 3 blocks of every inch of downtown. Except, apparently, this one.

        People transfer for their last mile all the time. Upper West Side to Grand Central. Wicker Park to the North Loop. Cambridge to North Station. Rosalyn to North Station.

        And can you really name a single commonplace trip that will become a “three seat” ride because we live-loop a handful of bus routes and fail to splice our two half-assed streetcars fail into one half-assed streetcar? Nobody is going Summit Ave to Little Saigon via downtown unless they’re an idiot.

        (Not that 3-seat rides are inherently wrong. My understanding is that Hong Kong will make you take them regularly, and that thanks to the frequency and ease of transfer, you’ll barely notice.)

      2. “You won’t find any city in the world where every bus and train is expected to hit within 3 blocks of every inch of downtown.”

        But you will find a local line going all the way from one end of downtown to the other. That’s what this extension would do, even if you ignore the FHS part. Transfers are normal, but this is only a 2-mile distance, within what’s becoming downtown. There’s no reason not to have a north-south line across the whole length.

      3. The DSTT doesn’t go to Belltown or SLU.

        I actually think it should have, at least to Denny Way. SLU was still in limbo in 1990 so its omission is understandable. Then the 358, the main route to north Seattle and Snohomish County, could have used it.

        But instead the tunnel turned east to Convention Place. That was to connect to the I-5 express lanes, serve conventioneers, and secondarily as the gateway to Capitol Hill. But all those proved problematic. The express lanes are only open peak-hous peak-direction, and other buses get stuck in the Stewart/Denny backup. Conventioneers don’t use Convention Place station much; they take a taxi from the airport or use Westlake station. And of course when they arrive in town, they go to their hotel, not to the Convention Center itself. The Capitol Hill situation has been flummoxed from the beginning because the closest eastbound stop is 8th & Pike, not 9th & Pine.

    5. What “excessive costs” of car ownership, other than the taxes involved in the mayor’s war on the automobile?

      1. Congratulations, Not Fan. Your comment was actually so removed from reality that it actually made me shake my head involuntarily. You’ve turned me into a cliché. I hope your happy.

      2. Well, if you were ready to move quickly Maria and Patty voted to kick in $3500 toward the purchase of a new car. I don’t recall any programs that gave you that much for destroying a working transit pass. I got $24 in Metro tickets for my extra $20 cost in car tabs. Would have been nice if those vouchers I paid for had the same expiration as the car tabs I paid for. True that in Seattle you pay a premium over the rest of King County for licensing a car but all of those additional costs predate McSchwinn. Unlike Obama he’s never claimed it’s all Nickel’s fault.

  16. Awesome! It only makes sense to connect our two streetcar lines. Yay!!! I really don’t understand the negativity surrounding this project…not everybody will live by a subway station to whisk them downtown or wherever. Buses are meh. However, I wish the streetcar frequencies were more like 5 minutes peak max.

    1. That’s the problem. Without investing in frequency, the connector will be a waste of money.

      Well, not entirely. It would get the streetcar closer to East Queen Anne and Dexter Ave, which would be nice. But honestly I’d rather have a 1st Avenue streetcar.

  17. It’s a good thing the “progressives” conned the proles into financing the libraries with a new levy, or they might have had to put the planning budget to a vote.

  18. Anyone notice that in the Corridor Overview, it should be “single-track” rather than “signal-track” miles???

  19. As a Belltown resident, I would use the original First Ave alignment practically on a daily basis. Pretty much everything I need to get to is on this route: Westlake transit hub, Seattle Center, the stadiums, Safeway in Lower Queen Anne… This 4th/5th route does nothing but duplicate the transit tunnel’s functionality for me sadly.

    I’m just one person, but I’m sure my fellow Belltown residents would feel similarly screwed over if this was built instead of the First Ave streetcar.

  20. Streetcars in the middle of the CBD in mixed traffic are a BAD IDEA! They’re very slow, delivery trucks and emergency vehicles stop them on their tracks (pun), and they’re just a side-show. They can be useful on the fringes of the CBD if they have signal priority and at least a shared with right turners reserved lane.

    Less than that and they’re a sinkhole.

    1. They’re considering more mixed traffic, really?


      Seriously, even the streetcars of the 19th century had lots of not-mixed-traffic running. (There’s a reason so many tracks are in the middle of the street, while the cars drove on either side.)

  21. It would be nice if you could take a rapid street car or light rail from the stadiums to Seattle Center. I know you can hop on the mono-rail from Westlake, but it’s an awkward transition. Perhaps, there are other plans in the works for a street car to pass near the Center and onto Freemont or Interbay and and onto Ballard.

Comments are closed.