City Center Corridors Alignment Options V3The high-capacity transit corridor known as the Center City Connector — discussed previously here and here — will be just 1.1 miles long.  But it’s an important 1.1 miles! Running between King St. Station and Belltown, the connector will provide the spine for potential future extensions to Queen Anne and the North End.

Federal grant money to move forward with the project was secured last fall, and on February 6 SDOT is hosting an open house to kick off the project.  Stop by to get the details.  Before you go, you may want to prepare yourself by reading this brief corridor analysis from the Transit Master Plan (pdf).

86 Replies to “Center City Connector Open House Feb 6”

  1. I think it’s strange that options not linking the two pre-existing streetcars are even being considered.

      1. Complicated sentence structure by me, sorry. I guess I also overlooked the fact that the lightest green line would eventually connect via Mercer/5th/Thomas.

    1. Why? I don’t think it would necessarily be a good thing to have the SLU streetcar continue straight into the First Hill line – it would make the route pretty complicated and the longer a route is, the more likely it is to get off schedule.

      1. But we shouldn’t limit our options. We should make sure it’s possible to connect them, to create a line out of any combination of segments, and to get to wherever a future maintenance base may be sited. Keep in mind that other streetcar lines are also planned or possible: they should all be interconnected even if no revenue lines are currently using all the segments.

      2. the SLUT/LQA routes wouldn’t HAVE to continue on the FHS route … they can both end at the same place (they would end at 2nd/Occidental on different tracks so they would wouldn’t conflict with each other.)

        The point it that if the tracks are joined there then through routing the three routes becomes possible without having to reverse direction midstream so to speak.

        There might be a time where it would be nice to have 2 lines running up first hill, one going on to LQA and the other SLU … probably not … but one never knows the future traffic patterns that Yesler Terrace redevelopment will create

      3. I would MUCH MUCH MUCH prefer a train on 1st than on 4th/5th, especially with the 10/12 connection dead, the 99 crippled and borderline pointless, and if the Ballard Spur gets built or light rail to Ballard otherwise ends up running farther inland than is ideal. I’m very pleased to see that and a potential Belltown/Seattle Center streetcar on the table.

  2. My personal favorite is the dark green route as it will actually serve a purpose … transit on 1st ave … that stops at all the places visitors want to see (Pike Place Market, SAM, etc …) as well as connect the SLUT to FHS … and potentially the line up to Lower Queen Anne. Done correctly, so the future Belltown/LQA line can connect to both the SLUT and FHS and we have the start of an actual network of streetcars as opposed to disparate lines that function alone. Seems to make much more sense than a route on 4th/5th.

    1. Just like you don’t have to have a bunch of bus lines all attached to each other to be a network, you don’t necessarily have to have all your streetcar lines tying into each other either. While there are effeciencies you can get from doing so (shared maintance and storage facilities, etc) the purpose of a streetcar is not long distance travel (for that we have Subways) but instead moving within neighborhoods, or at most to go from one neighborhood to an adjacent neighborhood, and connecting to our Subway spines.

      I think it is more important that streetcar lines 1) run through dense, walkable areas and 2) connect these areas to HCT nodes than 3) connect to other streetcar lines.

    2. I initially supported 5th because it’s more direct, but now I’m leaning to 1st because of the number of unique destinations and tourist it would add to rail transit. If anybody wants to go fast between Westlake and Intl Dist they can take Link. And I guess we can ignore anybody who wants to go fast between SLU and Intl Dist, or between 12th & Jackson and Westlake. The difference would just be the overhead in getting to 1st Avenue and back — and that could be low if real signal priority is implemented.

      1. Looking strictly at the map, the most sensible of the suggested routes is

        (a) First Avenue

        The 4th-5th couplet is *ugly*. Apart from the inherent disadvantages of couplets, it’s absurdly close to 3rd. (If I-5 weren’t destroying the urban fabric, I think 6th would have been a reasonable distance.)

        (b) Stewart St or Pine St connector (but not both)

        The Virginia St connector is ridiculous, and has nothing to recommend it. The Stewart St connector is the most direct, and since Stewart St breaks the grid, removing lanes from it may actually be advantageous. The Pine St connector would provide better transfer to Link. Pike St connector has nothing to recommend it either.

        (FWIW, it goes without saying that bus options are stupid.)
        Using two streets, couplet-style, should be avoided if at all possible.

      2. There’s also the benefit of providing more uniform connectivity along a continuous route. We see this all the time with highways: when you run a freeway out to North Bend, it doesn’t just become easy to get from Seattle, Bellevue or Issaquah to North Bend. You also get one-seat express rides between Tukwila and North Bend, Fife and North Bend, and all points in between along the line.

        Of course, with a streetcar line, you wouldn’t connect just for the sake of connecting. But the line’s usefulness would be multiplied by linking it to other lines.

        And before someone else says it, why yes, I am suggesting we get the SLUT hooked up.

    3. I support 1st Avenue just because all of the combinations of spurs, simplicity of same street, and hitting all the key destinations. It doesn’t duplicate 3rd and it avoids the disaster that are 4th and 5th at most hours. Plus, 4th and 5th are already heavily served.

  3. Let’s see…..we build two disconnected streetcar lines….then we propose to connect them with a high capacity “City Center Connector” that consists of….of what? Diesel buses running on city streets??? Oh…we are so good at planning in this great city….

    Just connect the two streetcars by doing the obvious thing — extend the SLU SC south along 4th and 5th and connect it to the 1st Hill SC.

    Enough of these stupid band aides.

    1. Keep in mind that if we want any federal funds we have to at least study multiple options.

      1. This never sinks in for people. It is an absolute requirement… but if you read documents you can read between the lines and see what they are aiming for.

      2. ^ truth here. For example, you can read in-between the lines and realize that many of the RapidRide routes are predecessors to what will eventually be light rail service. Example: RapidRide B takes approximately the same route as the planned East Link. It’s all about steps and stages.

      3. RapidRide B takes approximately the same route as the planned East Link.

        No it doesn’t, not even close. East Link doesn’t go to Crossroads and RR B doesn’t go anywhere near all the planned upzone in Bel-Red. East Link won’t go to DT Redmond for decades and if that extension ever becomes a reality it’s an entirely different route than RR B. It’s like saying the 1st Hill Street Car takes the same route as Central Link just because their paths cross in two places.

      4. For most of its length, the B Line is nowhere near where East Link will go; it will connect only at Bellevue, Overlake, and (eventually) Redmond. It is not intended to be, and it will not operate as, a corridor development tool for Bel-Red.

        The corridors being studied for rail line up somewhat with RapidRide only because they all have high ridership, and those are the corridors which (rightly) attract money and attention.

      5. RapidRide B is actually the outlier because it uniquely serves Crossroads, the largest urban center in Bellevue besides downtown and Overlake, and where the most working-class/poor people live. All the other RapidRides — A, C, D, E, F — shadow potential future Link lines. But even after those are built, RapidRide will still be needed for local stops.

        What surprised me was that Link doesn’t go to Crossroads. That would have been its natural route and ridership if it weren’t for this Bel-Red redevelopment. But it provided a convenient way to split up the responsibilities of Link and RapidRide, and also make Link a bit faster because it’s going diagonally.

      6. “But even after those are built, RapidRide will still be needed for local stops.”

        There is so much wrong with this sentence. It and the previous one pretty much sum up RapidRide in a nutshell.

  4. I like the 1st ave route connecting on pine. How about closing pine to automobile traffic, sounds great to me.

    1. How about starting by closing freaking Pike Place to automobile traffic? I still can’t understand the idiocy of driving 1 mph in a crowd of people. Why would you even want to do that? These people should not have driver’s licenses!

      1. OK so everyone who has ever been to the market wonders this. Now for the actual answer…
        The merchants dont want to close the street to car traffic. There are two reasons for this.
        1) they view momentary car stops to pick up goods as essential for business. This is very true for the produce and the fish markets, where people order quantity in advance and then come get it.
        2)The value of a pedestrian walking 6ft away from your storefront is MUCH larger than a pedestrian 12ft away. MUCH! I work at a business in the market, and some of our slowest days are the festival days. Everyone is in the street, too far away to easily engage.

        The real problem is the intersection at the N end where Pike Pl meets Western. We (MMA) have asked to police to station a traffic officer there for years. We never hear back. If you fix that clogged drain then the market would be fine.

  5. So which cross street for a 1st Avenue line? Pike, Pine, Stewart, or Virginia? Or Pike/Pine or Stewart/Virginia couplets? Pike and Pine have so much congestion I’d worry about slow streetcars. Stewart is wide but has heavy traffic east of 3rd or 2nd. Virginia is lowest traffic but would make it even further from the Westlake multimodal stations. I guess overall that argues for Stewart.

    1. How about Pine, but close that portion to automobiles? It’s good for pedestrians, it gets efficient transit on the block where it’s best connected, and after a few weeks drivers won’t even notice that the connection is gone.

      1. Pine should be closed from 1st to 15th avenues EXCEPT for transit, bikes and peds. Make Pike two way with no on street parking.

      2. That makes for a longer-than-desirable transfer distance between Westlake Station and the Pike Street buses. It makes it look like transit is unimportant in Seattle. Either the bus stops should move to Pine, or the tunnel should have been extended to have an entrance on Pike Street. But that just goes with the silliness of University Street station with entrances on University and Seneca, even though the biggest pedestrian destinations are Madison and Pike (or Union as a substitute for Pike).

      3. Sorry, I misunderstood what both of you said. It sounds like you want to move all the buses to Pine, as I do.

      4. NO! NO! NO!

        Parking on arterials is a God-Given right! It’s in the Bible and the Torah and the Koran!

        Jesus himself spoke of the need to allow storage of private property on untaxed, communally owned land at under-market rates while sacrificing the carrying capacity of a public right-of-way.

        Damn Adam Smithists!!

    2. As I said above, Stewart is best. Because it’s a grid-breaker street in this area — and those create congestion — it may actually help to close it off.

  6. God, what a waste of energy, money, and everybody’s travel time near and far for all eternity.

    The only possible benefit of this thing would be fixing the unintuitive Link-SLUT transfer. But thanks to the northbound Virginia routing having to navigate multiple long light cycles as it crosses 5th, it won’t even fix that!

    If this were Toronto or Los Angeles (or frankly anywhere 100 years ago), we’d simply build a portal at SLUT Park, tunnel a block into the Westlake mezzanine, build a turnaround loop where all the empty mezz space is, and fix the transfer that way.

    Voila! No more argument for lousy surface duplications for our overbuilt subway tunnel!

    1. Just like a Local Bus is not the same as an Express, Streetcars are not a substitute for HCT, but a compliment. Both serve their own purpose.

      1. Whether this is built will have precisely zero to do with whether the high-speed lines we also need are built. The sources of funding will be different, the intended purposes will be different, the political constituencies involved will be different. This is a downtown project for downtown interests. HCT will be driven by either neighborhoods or suburbs depending on where it goes.

      2. David, I have a lovely bridge connecting Lower Manhattan to Brooklyn in which you might be interested.

      3. Fortunately for DP, the other Seattle Link lines will be primarily neighborhoods. Burien, Bothell, Shoreline, Edmonds, and Boulevard Park will not have enough clout to pull Link lines to them if Seattle isn’t ready to go, especially when they’re in another subarea from where most of the expenses are. I’m ignoring the Ballard-Kirkland line for now because the cost of the bridge will be a primary factor, which we don’t know yet. And stop spacing can also be narrower on those lines because they won’t be the primary way to get to Everett and Tacoma.

      4. HCT have local stops in downtown areas, as the DSTT does. The only problem with the DSTT’s stations is the Madison hole. The streetcar will not address this directly, nor will a second DSTT. Only surface improvements on 3rd can mitigate it (although not eliminate it). The Madison BRT will not help, although a second DSTT could have a station for it, and that station could connect to University Street station.

      1. You guys are kidding, right?

        SLUT Park is just shy of 200 feet long. 5th slopes gently upward toward Pine. The mezzanine is not particularly deep.

        How the heck do you think streetcars get from subway-surface in every short-blocked city worldwide? Yeesh!

        All of this could be done for a fraction of the cost of building out overpriced concrete trackbeds across downtown.

      2. d.p. – Unfortunately, I’m not kidding but sincerely ignorant. I’ve never really taken note of the terrain around Westlake, and all I know about streetcars is that they can’t take as steep grades as diesel buses.

        Those concerns aside, your idea sounds great.

      3. It’s such a ubiquitous interchange concept in places like Toronto. Boston still has bus tunnels and pedestrian ramps that used to be streetcar loops. It’s not a novel idea and I can hardly take credit for it, but thank you anyway.

        It would, no doubt, require relocating a block of utilities. But our SLUT and FHSC trackbeds required doing so anyway, and this would only be for a blocks and a half.

        Anyone who thinks we need a “local shadow” above the downtown tunnel is implicitly admitting we overbuilt our subway. The only true problem is the transfer. Solve that and you’re good.

      4. The First Avenue routing would not be a “local shadow” of the DSTT, but something entirely separate, connecting a different group of destinations.

        The Fourth/Fifth routing is not as good precisely because it would be more duplicative of the DSTT.

      5. I like this. You wouldn’t even need a turnaround, you could use a stub track like there is currently at Westlake Park and reduce the transfer between Link, SLUT and the monorail to an elevator ride.

        I really wish we would focus on pedestrian assist with the steep slopes in downtown than duplicating the 3rd Avenue transit spine. Metro’s accessibility map appears to advocate going through the King County Courthouse to get from 3rd to 5th Avenue, which is fine except for, you know, the metal detectors at the entrance.

        Hong Kong’s system of public escalators has been so successful it has become a tourist attraction.

      6. @David: Downtown is only a half-mile wide. 1st Ave and 3rd Ave are not separate destinations.

        Help people get up and down the hill, don’t create parallel redundant service.

      7. Matt L, “getting up and down the hill” is just not of any use to people traveling between First Avenue destinations, which includes a lot of tourists (enough to pack buses, in the summer). A streetcar is a far better way to connect Pioneer Square to the Market than telling a tourist they need to walk through some of the scariest blocks in the city to find the well-hidden PSS entrance (or wait at 3rd & Janes), only to be dropped off at Westlake, again three blocks from the Market. Parallel service is bad if it’s truly duplicative. Local transit service on 1st and 3rd avenues is not duplicative.

      8. The hillside makes it two different transit markets, especially south of Union which people seem to forget. Outside downtown two lines can’t be justified, but 1st and 3rd Avenues each have more destinations than entire other neighborhoods. Not only that, a visitor will quickly learn that 3rd Ave has the most frequent transit, but the largest number of tourist destinations are on 1st and the waterfront.

      9. Come to think of it, Seattle is about the only American city with a steep hill right in downtown. Tacoma is the only other one I can think of, and San Francisco depending on how widely you define “downtown”. But Tacoma is much smaller, and San Francisco has transit lines every couple blocks because of the surrounding hills.

      10. Yes. Because our fine city isn’t adequately policing a couple of blocks at the moment, let’s build a multi-million-dollar streetcar line 600 feet from the subway.

        Looking forward to moving back to Chicago where transit planning is done by folks with an IQ greater than that of tapioca pudding.

      11. @David: I’d refute your assertion is that tourists “pack” 1st Avenue buses (only Northbound right? Because if you want to go south, you’re fucked), but our esteemed Metro still hasn’t published the 2011 Route Performance Report. You claimed they’re “too busy” to be bothered with accountability, so I assert I’m “too busy” to bother with dumbasses defending a project that would spend many millions of dollars to have streetcars stuck in 1st Avenue’s notoriously terrible traffic.

      12. Matt L, I’m not talking about the current, useless 99 which no one rides. I’m talking about the old 15/18 1st Avenue service. In the summer, you’d get a large crowd of tourists and sightseeers at Yesler on every northbound trip and at Pine on every southbound trip. Now that the service is gone, those people aren’t accessing the DSTT at Crack Park… they’re taking cabs.

      13. Matt L,

        The problem you and I seem to be having here is that we expect — if political energy and opportunity cost is to be expended on a project — that the project should address an obvious and articulable need, should fulfill that need as well as humanly possible, and should enhance the overall experience (speed, ride quality, connective possibility) of getting around via transit.

        Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the expectation of the average Seattle transit booster or transit junkie, who seems to suffer from an inferiority complex from decades of not getting to watch trains of various shapes and sizes conspicuously crisscrossing each other all over town. This is called “Portland envy.”

        Unfortunately, that which sates the latter may do nothing useful for the former. For a surprising percentage of proponents, commentators, and “power players”, this does not seem to be a problem.

      14. DP, there’s also the elasticity of trip patterns in response to streetcar lines. I have been saying all along that the initial streetcar segments (SLUT, FHS, downtown connector, Westlake) are weak because they miss the biggest transit needs. SLU had the 17 and 70. Westlake would be fast where the bus is already fast, etc. Upper Broadway to lower Broadway is the main hole they address. But since they’re getting built anyway, I focus on the positive aspects of their presence. And one thing you didn’t address is how trip patterns change based on available transit.

        If there’s suddenly a streetcar from SLU to 1st Avenue, or from 1st Avenue to 12th & Jackson, where no bus ever went, people will gradually start realizing, “Oh, it will work for this trip and that trip, which were previously more cumbersome.” And as they have choices on where to go, (“I’m just as happy to go to either this store or that store”), they’ll start choosing those on the streetcar route.

      15. “Elasticity of trip patterns” results from being able to get places easily, quickly, reliably, painlessly.

        That’s why people with cars — or with real transit systems where they live — do lots of stuff and make lots of stops along their way. In Seattle, meanwhile, transit riders are desperate to get to their final destination and won’t tempt fate by stopping anywhere along the way.

        Slow, laborious, circuitous, and not even frequent streetcars have jack to do with making flexible transit living possible.

    2. Gotta disagree, particularly if they use the dark green (1st) line, and double-particularly if we could get the bidirectional streetcar-only Pine suggested by other commenters. 1st Avenue has been a huge sore spot for tourists and locals alike since the 15/18 got moved onto 3rd. The dark green line would serve a very different ridership base from the DSTT, and would actually make the SLUS into a streetcar to somewhere, which would connect nearly all of downtown’s tourist and recreational destinations.

    3. One more thought… the 1st Avenue routing would enable the building of the additional 1st Avenue segment depicted above, the presence of which would substantially strengthen the arguments for getting RR D out of Queen Anne.

      1. I really want that LQA line… a bit selfishly. But then the RapidRide routing would definitely be no question. Much better solution for both sets of people.

    4. Streetcars can handle a 9% grade – so if the block in question is 200′ long – that’s an 18 foot drop, not quite enough differential, but add local topography for some additional clearance, reroute utilities, and likely doable.

      1. Yes, SC’s can handle very considerable grades.

        For Ref, the grade on I-90 across Snoqualmie Pass is approx 5%, so I think that if SC’s can do that they shouldn’t have much trouble with the grades in Seattle.

        (And, yes, Seattle has street grades in excess of 9%, but most are not anywhere near that steep, and the ones that are that steep aren’t really that important per future SC planning)

      1. Packed… with people who would wait 10-15 minute to crawl a mile, although the constant-bus spine and actual subway tunnel are one block over?

        Packed… with people who demand a one-seat ride from SLU to First Hill via 35-blocks-out-of-the-way?

        I guess you think even less of the critical faculties of Seattleites than I do!

        (Or maybe just packed because it’s kind of a small train, running infrequently, without all that much capacity to fill for the dozens of millions spent on it.)

      2. Packed with people going between Pioneer Square, the ferry terminal, PPM/Harbor Steps area, the retail core, and the near Denny Triangle. People will take the slower streetcar rather than heading to Crack Park (3rd and Yesler) or walking up a steep hill to access the DSTT.

        I believe they could run a streetcar every five minutes on that line and it would be full. No matter how much you look at a map and turn blue in the face, 1st and 3rd are two very different markets with very different sets of destinations, and the 1st/retail core connection adds further value that the DSTT doesn’t have for short-distance travelers.

      3. I’m not as averse to the 1st option as the 3rd, and yes, especially if you were talking real frequency as opposed to what passes for “frequency” in Seattle — something that, FYI, nobody but you has actually proposed, much less promised.

        I do think that a First Ave streetcar is just asking to be screwed by traffic, to the detriment of any destination with which it’s through-routed. I used the 15/18 for years when it was on 1st, and it can get spontaneously blocked and awful at any time of day.

        The proposals to use a 1st streetcar as “high-capacity transit” to Uptown have always been doomed for that reason. (And, FYI redux, nobody proposed real frequency even for that.)

        As a separate-market, just-through-downtown thing, it’s not nearly as dumb an idea as the 4th/5th couple, at least.

      4. Oh yes, I recall fondly the day I boarded a 15 on 1st Avenue headed for Safeco. Ten minutes and four blocks later, the operator got on the PA and advised anyone headed to the game to “get off and walk, you’ll get there sooner than I will.”

        The only way a 1st Avenue streetcar is justifiable is if it has exclusive lanes. But the SLUT and FHSC don’t give me hope that that would happen, and asserting that we should spend millions upon millions of dollars to put a mixed-traffic streetcar on 1st Avenue is in my mind an offense worthy of stoning.

      5. Exclusive lanes go without saying.

        OK. How to get an exclusive-lane streetcar on 1st Avenue? People will scream.

    5. While a good idea, I think it would be cheaper / easier to just move the streetcar stop to the corner of 5th and pine and have escaltaors going directly from the streetcar platform the the mezzanine of the westlake station. Close off pine to vehicle traffic (which will actually give you the room for the tracks and the escalators), then have the streetcar continue to 1st.

  7. All of this…

    *ALL OF THIS* is due to the decades-overdue failure to integrate the Monorail into the Seattle Public Transit and Fare Systems.

    Either build a bus loop at the Amory or extend the monorail to LQA Bartells and run the buses from there.

    1. Can we just unmark this concrete mono-monstrosity out of landmark status, demolish it and build real rail transit to Seattle Center, LQA? How about extending Link, rather than crap streetcars with a stop at Bell and 5th, Seattle Center, Mercer and 1st? And yeah, make it go through the EMP, we can tell Vancouver to take that…

  8. I like the dark green line because I think it’s important that we connect our existing infrastructure. Even if it duplicates link through downtown, I think it will improve ridership from points further out because transfers won’t be required to Link at Westlake or ID anymore. Also, this could one day lead to routings down Rainier, Eastlake, or a host of other places and simplify maintenance and operations.

    My only suggestion is that the green line should go further… ideally to the new Basketball arena that is being proposed. This would provide an easy connection to Link and better serve the stadium area.

  9. I too like First Avenue as a route.

    I like the idea of interconnected routes. Still, I wonder if there should be some sort of circular loop “plaza” to turn around some streetcars in the middle of the route. It would seem to be a good operational strategy and a great signature for the project. Something near the Ferry Terminal or King Street Station to do that would even provide space for layover vehicles that could then serve crowd surges. I guess the cross streets in Belltown could work as a loop but it seems to me that that would be too far north to provide much usefulness.

  10. If done well, I like these schemes. Although we’ve argued this, the various neighborhoods surrounding downtown Seattle, either because of geography or access, have seen really disparate. This I think contributes to high prices and jam ups as what could reasonable called the “central city” could, with speedy transit, be much, much larger.

    Really, a true urban vision could extend all the way along corridors to sister cities. But let’s start small and make regular trips around the downtown(s) a cinch!

Comments are closed.