Right now, the Seattle city council is starting to debate the budget provided by the mayor. As we reported before, the mayor’s budget contains several million to keep working on planning in the core high capacity transit corridors identified in the Transit Master Plan. Sources in city hall tell us there is council opposition to this funding – with a couple of councilmembers expected to run for mayor next year, it makes sense that they wouldn’t want to give McGinn a win going into the election.

It’s very important that this work continues. The Transit Master Plan, which we reported extensively about last year, has solid goals that would move tens of thousands of new people on electric transit. Identifying alternatives, mode, capacity, and the other outcomes of this planning work would provide projects not only for the city to fund, but also projects Sound Transit could fund, or things to fight for as part of a statewide transportation package.

The planning money in the city budget is mode neutral, but focused on rail. It could identify anything between streetcar and as high capacity as Link – and it could lead to choosing to study an even higher capacity mode. It’ll help inform those of us who want to see very high capacity transit.

There’s also money for “real” BRT – full offboard payment, electrification, things we want to see in bus service – for the Madison corridor. And there’s money to take the next step with whatever project is ready first, such as the downtown streetcar connector, the first hill streetcar extension, or light rail to Ballard.

This funding won’t make it through the city council unless we come help, by letting the council know we want it. The public comment for the transportation part of the city budget is from 9:30-10:00 on Wednesday morning. You MUST be signed in before 9:30 to testify.

Testimony is so easy it’s amazing. Stand up, and say “I want more rail transit, and we can’t wait another year.”

I’m taking an hour off work to come speak. If you can too, or if you want to know more, please comment here – or just call me at 206-683-7810 so we can talk about why it’s important!

34 Replies to “Wednesday: Help Take The Next Steps in Seattle Rail Planning”

  1. Stand up, and say “I want real rail transit, not crappy ten-mile “rapid” streetcar bypasses!”

    Fixed that for you, Ben.

    1. Actually, I would not say that. That gives council members a way to say “well, as this COULD lead to ‘rapid streetcar’, we shouldn’t do it.” This planning will advance us in the discussion no matter what comes out of it. And we do need more than just high speed subway. Berlin, Paris, other cities have both high speed and low speed rail.

      1. I agree that we need both high- and low-speed rail, but what the TMP has presented for Ballard is neither. It is high-speed in stretches that are already high-speed, and low-speed in stretches that are already low-speed.

        Instead of an investment in developing and developed corridors, the TMP chases visions of “fast” and “new shiny for everyone”. Following its recommendation for Ballard would be cutting off the potential of real investment in that corridor at the knees.

      2. There are two corridors for Ballard. If we build fast and high capacity in Interbay, we will still need local lower capacity in the places the TMP has identified.

        Look at who you’re talking to. I’m the biggest booster of high speed high capacity transit around. I believe strongly that we need this too, because we have people who need to take short, local trips as well. These lines provide that, and they’re not going to “replace” anything higher capacity. If anything, they will build transit ridership in the corridors where they’re built, making clear even more need for very high capacity.

        The TMP says “we need transit in these corridors, and this is what it might look like.” This study work lets us know if that makes sense. It has to be done to make any choices about what to build, or what *not* to build.

      3. Sorry Ben, but I’m not convinced that laying rail on Westlake is a good idea, precisely because it doesn’t enable “short, local trips”. Building on Dexter would enable that for soon-to-be-thousands of residents.

        I’m all for advancing the TMP and working on the corridors that make more sense first. But I’m concerned that the TMP will be used to steamroll bad ideas like the Westlake streetcar through, and that when it comes time to invest in real transportation the streetcar line will be seen as “good enough.”

      4. Kyle, this IS advancing the TMP. There is no other thing that advances the TMP but these items.

      5. Isn’t ST in charge of studying the Ballard corridor? I thought this money was for studying the Eastlake and Madison corridors.

      6. Zed, the TMP includes a corridor roughly equivalent to the current Metro Route 40: Downtown to Ballard via Westlake Ave and Leary Way. Additional considerations include a transit and/or pedestrian bridge across the Ship Canal in the vicinity of 3rd Ave N.

        Basically, I am of the opinion that such a streetcar would not measurably improve capacity, comfort, or ridership on this corridor.

      7. Well then you should raise those concerns when it comes time to talk about studying routes. This is about saying “yes, we need a lot more transit and we want that transit to be mostly rail”…. At the end of the day, thats all the TMP is saying, it is simply using examples to throw out the kinds of numbers and realities we will be looking at. A bunch of what-ifs. And the study will tell us what to do.

    2. Crafting a statement that shows your desire for the city moving forward with transit planning but makes a statement that Streetcars are a compliment to and not a replacement of HTC shouldn’t be too hard.

      1. Kyle,
        I think your concerns are totally reasonable, and I share them. I also worry that the city will focus too much on technologies and paths that are appealing, rather than effective.
        That being said, I have a simple test for deciding if I will lend my support.
        1)Does it support and encourage transit in general?
        2) Does it further my dream of seeing mass transit in Seattle in my lifetime?
        3) Could it actually happen?(AKA money)
        4) Is it a huge disaster of a plan?
        If the answer to the first three is yes and the last one no, I’m on board. It might not be the EXACT train I want to get on board, but at least it’s going somewhere good. And not stuck in traffic ;)

      2. Not to be nit-picky, but my last sentence was meant to put a little humor into my metaphor. Not as a comment on any particular technology. The point of my comment was to explain my litmus test for measures. This one passes.
        This is a measure that moves transit forward. Not perfectly, but forward. A half loaf is not the same as no bread.

  2. I would love to show up and add to the chorus of “yes”s, but I have a midterm at 10am. Is there any other way for me to officially publicly comment?

  3. I just emailed some council members with a nice positive email encouraging a yes vote for the transit-related funding, but I’m getting all my negativity out here: whatever council member comes out against this will not only not get my vote next year in any race, under any circumstances, but will get my active and persistent opposition.

  4. Not sure if I’ll be able to make it, but I’ll try. I don’t live in Seattle but I do work there, and there’s no way rail transit will come to my city if it doesn’t get extended in Seattle first. I’m definitely committed to helping wherever I can.

  5. No more mixed traffic streetcars!

    Either provide reservations throughout the route or use the money to hang (a lot more) wire and get (a lot more) trolley buses. You get very nearly all of the environmental benefits — the tires are a minor pollution source that steel wheels aren’t — for 1/3 the price.

    And if you make them artics, you end up with nearly the same capacity per driver hour as those cute little streetcars.

    No, they’re not as cool, but if you don’t give the streetcars reserved right of way, they’re ridiculously unreliable because of the pinheads behind the wheels of the rampant SOV’s.

    1. What you don’t get with a trolleybus: ridership and comfort.

      Streetcars provide a much more pleasant ride by nature of their steel-on-steel running. Whether that’s worth it is another matter.

      1. In my opinion, if you’re projected to have any significant number of standees, it’s worth it. Ride quality is vastly more important to standees than it is to seated passengers.

      2. I agree, but I think those benefits are nullified if you extend the line so far that standees are standing for thirty or forty minutes to get to their destination. Which is why I want the City Council to focus on shorter lines in denser areas that can provide standing-room-only levels of demand.

        I can’t imagine standing on a “rapid” streetcar doing 40 around the Westlake bend being fun. It would remind me way too much of standing on the LIRR.

      3. Kyle, the lines in the budget are the shortest in the TMP. The longer lines in the TMP are being held back for ST-style spending.

      4. Kyle: actually, one can get ridership with the trolleybus; the maximum transit ridership in Seattle was during the electric trolleybus era. ridership is primarily attracted to transit attributes that are mode neutral: frequency, reliability, speed, and span. What is missing from your post and Ben’s original is cost. Streetcrars cost a lot more than ETB, especially in corridors such as Eastlake, where one electric traction mode would replace another. for the cost of one streetcar line, Seattle could electrify several others. where rail is necessary, is where demand is above the capacity of frequent bus. in the short term, why is this the time to spend scarce funds on a study when ST3 may be decades away and the Metro fiscal cliff is one year away. the SDOT study funds would be much better spent on real projects that would help riders today.

    2. And if you make them artics, you end up with nearly the same capacity per driver hour as those cute little streetcars

      Gotta fact check you here. A single streetcar has a 22% higher capacity than a single artic. That is the difference between needing 5 operators or 4.

  6. Rail is clearly the wrong technology for this region.

    We have had BRT all along, in a simple, low cost and flexible format. The express buses of Metro and SoundTransit.

    Fund these for 7 day a week service and the problem is solved immediately and at 1/100th the cost.

    1. You’d better come testify, then. Madison BRT is only going to get funded with this.

    2. We already do that.

      Ask anyone riding the 71/72/73 expresses, which are the best possible bus solution for that corridor without a rail-like investment in grade separation, whether they are a satisfactory alternative to Link.

  7. Super-bummed I couldn’t get time off from work to do this in person, but thankfully email is an option for anyone with an internet connection.

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