First Avenue Streetcar right-of-way

When we last left the Center City Connector project, we were down to two alternative alignments: a 4th/5th Avenue Couplet and 1st Avenue.  As I noted at the time, 1st Avenue had the momentum.  Sure enough, it appears that 1st Avenue has been selected to move on to Phase 2.  An SDOT report (.pdf) to the city council indicates that the 1st Avenue alignment had overwhelming support and was the better choice for connecting downtown destinations, minimizing impact to buses and bikes, and redevelopment.  A second round of analysis will evaluate running the streetcar in exclusive versus shared right-of-way. A finance plan is still on track for January 2014.

109 Replies to “Center City Connector: First Avenue It Is”

  1. Slightly old news, but still worth talking about. As I have said previously elsewhere, I think that the exclusive option is really the only one that is worth the money.

    It actually may be a little overkill for just connecting the first hill and SLU lines, but should they ever connect other lines into this alignment (such as extending the 1st ave line north to uptown and south to the stadiums) it will be a much more useful line.

    Does anyone have any info on the timeline they are aiming for? I thought I heard that they were thinking about starting construction in 2018, but that’s quite a long planning/study window for a line that basically takes two years to build…

    1. I just don’t see it as feasible to close down 1st Ave for streetcar track placement and reconfiguration simultaneous to closing down Alaskan Way to convert it to a six-lane highway (or was that “promenade”?)

      1. Ah so that is why its going to take until 2018…

        Hopefully we can get some other high capacity projects started in the mean time.

      2. Jackson hasn’t been closed down much for the FHSC construction. I don’t think it’s a huge issue, especially if construction happened *before* the AW closures.

      3. @Ben Schiendelman

        Do you know when they plan to start work on this? The only numbers I have heard yet were talking somewhere around 2018… if that’s true it seems a little late to be before AW closes.

    2. Agreed. I’d like to see how an exclusive lane could also be used for select bus routes. This needs to be thought about now because it will have implications on platform design and sizing.

      1. Which bus routes, going where? It’s clear to me that a streetcar to Seattle Center would be welcome and used. It’s not clear to me that the neighborhoods beyond that would want their buses on 1st rather than 3rd, or that their predominant destinations are closer to 1st.

      2. From what I’ve seen, the extensions (if built) would basically run from Seattle Center down as far as the Stadiums. It would move quite a lot of people along that corridor, and then they would transfer somewhere along the way (or get in their cars parked in uptown if they were at the stadium).

        Most of the benefits would be felt between Uptown and the stadiums. No street car is going up Queen Anne past Seattle Center unless they bring back the counterbalance (unlikely).

      3. @Mike Orr

        I think the main route this would actually replace is the 99, which is a replacement for the streetcar.

        So essentially this replaces the waterfront street car unless there is enough pressure to bring it back in the waterfront plan. I am not sure how I feel about actually bringing back the waterfront car if they install one on 1st instead.

      4. I was referring to Adam’s point that we should make sure the exclusive lanes are bus-compatible so that other routes can run alongside the streetcar. My question is, are there really any routes for which this would be advantageous?

      5. Are you guys basically throwing in the towel on the much-promised high-capacity transit in the direction of Uptown and Ballard?

        Because if that actually exists, then no one in their right mind is ever going to use this hypothetical streetcar to go more than five blocks… which they also won’t bother to do because its headways will be beyond useless… and which would be a stupid reason to spend hundreds of millions of dollars even if everybody were that actually that lazy.

        Face it. Your Uptown Streetcar has no reason to exist.

      6. Actually, Ben, it is possible to have ordinary low-floor buses with right hand doors share the streetcar right of way. It just requires that the vehicles run “contra-flow”, as if they were in Britain or Japan.

        Contra-flow lanes are an excellent way to prevent autos from encroaching the reserved ROW.

      7. @Anadakos
        You mean share the lane with vehicles going the opposite direction? That sounds like an accident waiting to happen…

        How do these buses merge back with traffic? Mid block U-turns? Our buses don’t exactly have a short turning radius.

      8. @Charles,

        Of course they don’t share the lane with vehicles going the opposite direction. Do you really not know what a contra-flow lane is? You’ve been reading about transit for a long time and honestly I’m surprised that people don’t know this term of transportation art.

        For any others who don’t, it’s a lane which goes in the reverse of the “normal” flow. It is most commonly used to describe a single lane operating in the reverse direction on an otherwise one-way-in-the-opposite direction street. However, what it would mean for First Avenue is that the northbound streetcar/bus lane would be just to the west of the median and the southbound just to the east of it. The contra-flow section would be the entire length of the reservation.

        If a route continues extends beyond the limits of the reservation, the transit way simply makes an “X” move. Let’s say that the reservation eventually extends from Edgar Martinez at the south end to Denny Way on the north. The streetcar goes no further south than Edgar Martinez in revenue service but has a pair of tail tracks extending through some part of the block to Massachusetts. At the north end it continues to Republican in left side running in with-flow reservations on the left side of the Queen Anne/First North couplet and crossing over using the westbound parking lane on Republican.

        The streetcar reversing cross-over would be south of the Edgar Martinez intersection, so any car would cross Martinez in the contra-flow direction and enter the station as is. Buses coming from the south would move to the left lane north of Massachusetts and activate a signal that would allow them to begin a “left turn” onto Massachusetts but then s-curve into the reservation and station north of the intersection. The same thing would happen in the reverse for southbound buses.

        At Denny Way, northbound streetcars would wait for a special light that would clear them to cross Denny at a slight angle and enter the northbound curb lane reservation on First North. Buses could simply cross straight into the right lane to make their stops. Coming south on Queen Anne the streetcars would already be in the leftmost lane and buses would cross over to it after making a last stop at Thomas. A transit only signal would allow either type of vehicle to turn left onto Denny in the new reserved lane and proceed to the First Avenue diagonal intersection. There a coordinated signal would allow them to turn right across the northbound tracks and into the southbound reserved lane just to the east of the median strip a few yards south of the intersection

        Does that explain it?

        Turning on or off the reservation between the termini is exactly like any other turn and must of course be protected by signals. There is one difference, though. The sharp right turn needed for a West to North change would be eased by the necessity of only needing to attain the third lane out from the nearside curb.

        Obviously, there could not be a station in a block which accommodated such a West to North turn.

      9. @Anandakos

        Ah ok, for some reason when I read your previous post I had assumed you were talking about buses going in and out of the contra-flow lane, but clearly you were referring to buses and trains sharing the row for the whole length.

        I probably mixed this up with a post above talking about the usefulness of transfers between buses and trains on the same street.

        It sounds somewhat complicated, as there will be two reversed lanes, but probably still doable.

        I would be a bit concerned that the mixed bus and train traffic could clog things up a bit (like the bus tunnel does) when a long line of people decide to pay cash at the front door.

        Also, in the case of a stalled bus, some additional lanes may have to be closed to get the vehicle out.

        I also wonder if there would be an increased chance of head on collisions with double the number of lane direction shifting. It will probably also take some time for drivers to get used to a bus driving straight at them in what may look like their side of the road.

        Are there any examples of a system like this in action?

      10. @Charles,

        There used to be a “paint-only” contra-flow lane for the “BlueStreak” service on Fifth Avenue between Terrace and Cherry for buses to access the Reversible Lane off ramp there, but it was on the “proper” side of the street.

        For something like this you’d need to have some sort of physical barrier, but it doesn’t need to be particularly tall. Basically, the transitway should be separated from the general traffic lanes by a curb. You could not allow left turns with a system like this, because the transit vehicles operating in the same direction as a car turning left would approach it from two lanes away. It might not show in the car’s mirror. However, I expect that no left turns will be allowed anyway.

        A quick scan doesn’t find an example of this exact implementation, so maybe it’s too far out of the norm to be possible. But I expect that if there is a need for buses and streetcars to share a reservation in the middle of the street, and both-side door buses are considered to have too-few seats, this would work.

        It would of course be easier to have both-side-door buses, but they really do have little room for seats.

        Someone asked “Who would want their neighborhood bus moved to First Avenue?” and that may be sufficient to put the need for bus service to rest. If the streetcar runs from Seattle Center to the stadiums and does so every seven minutes, that’s probably enough service on First Avenue.

  2. “That’s cool. Just go ahead and dump money into a slow streetcar instead of fixing the RapidRide or giving us true mass transportation” – Residents of Ballard

    1. This is being paid for by the city. Fixes to RapidRide would be paid for by Metro (with what money, it’s hard to say). True HCT will most likely be paid for by Sound Transit. Different pots of money, so this project isn’t at Ballard’s expense.

      1. Actually, the city could very well be paying for fixes to RapidRide, right? As I understand it, it’s perfectly free to do anything it wants with any pot of money.

      2. David – you’ve astutely pointed out one of the most pernicious problems we have – too many pots of money coming from too many authorities with a jumble of jurisdictions.

        Streetcar and surface street work? SDOT.
        Bus improvements? King County Metro.
        Light Rail? Sound Transit.
        Highway work? WSDOT.

        There are cases where these things blend together, creating strange and all-too-often uncomfortable bedfellows. ST + WSDOT = East Link. SDOT + KCM = Rapidride improvements. (Forget about Sounder improvements – once you involve BNSF, a private entity, you’re just asking for trouble.)

        It never seems like there is a way to centrally-manage a lot of the work we want to do, and it causes delays and bureaucratic red tape. Is there a better way?

      3. SDOT is the reason RapidRide launched without signal priority pretty much anywhere. SDOT is the reason there are still no ORCA readers downtown.

        The lack of frequency is Metro’s problem, but a lot of RapidRide suckage is very much in the City’s capacity to fix.

      4. TSP on the C and D lines works MUCH better than on the B Line and improvements are ongoing. There are additional queue jump lights being added soon. It’ll never substitute for dedicated ROW but in a resource constrained world, it’s working pretty well.

        Find a pot of gold and give it to SDOT and I’m sure conditions will improve quickly. In Bellevue, you can’t even get them to time an existing left turn arrow to give RapidRide priority into the transit center – Be glad you are dealing with SDOT.

    2. Am I the only one here who is paying attention to the city’s work with Sound Transit to bring rail to Ballard? Residents of Ballard are not getting screwed. They’re on the path to getting Link light rail and that’s happening this very second.

      1. Yeah! And two of the plans involve slow-ass surface routing across Belltown! Yay!

        Just how many streets of painfully slow rail does downtown need?

      2. d.p.,

        If the surface routing through Belltown is selected for Ballard Link, of course there will be no Uptown Streetcar. We aren’t as stupid as you think.

      3. I’m not accusing you of being stupid, but the fact that anyone here would accept Belltown MAX as a “solution” to any part of Seattle’s integrated transport problem is quite stupid.

        And the ongoing presumption that slow streetcars should be built on top of our few-and-far-between subway lines in lieu of getting subway stop spacing correct is willfully, stupidly ignorant of 100 years of best transit practices.

        The great detriment of blogs like this is that they are populated by people who love transit so much that they just want to ride around on it and switch back and forth between various modes of it all day and night. The rest of the world doesn’t want to do that. They just want to get there with a minimum of thinking and a minimum of waiting.

  3. A second round of analysis will evaluate running the streetcar in exclusive versus shared right-of-way.

    If the city is not willing to grant exclusive ROW for the streetcar, the whole thing should be junked. There is WAY too much traffic on First Avenue to consider mixed running.

    If they do this correctly, though, it will provide a high-capacity, and we can hope, frequent, link between Pioneer Square and the office section around University. That should help Pioneer Square restaurants with lunch service and revitalize the neighborhood.

    1. Plus extend the SLUT to be a single transfer away from Sounder. I think that’s the second-most-important benefit from this, after getting some transit service on First.

      1. SLU is a single transfer from KSS on the 26, 28, 40, and 70 already. Is there really a capacity issue there? Is there a speed/reliability issue that the streetcar will actually fix (or that couldn’t be fixed by switching to off-board payment all along 3rd Ave)? What about the trip from 1st Ave up to Westlake — won’t that be pretty slow regardless of how much ROW we get on 1st? Not to mention the slowness of the SLUSC generally and its tendency to get blocked by weird parking situations (people that work at Amazon comment on this, I don’t have much direct experience)?

      2. Also, the proposed connections from Westlake to First are awful. No one in their right mind is going to ride through that whole mess just to turn eastward again on Jackson.

        No amount of exclusive laneage on First can overcome the uselessness of this project as a whole.

    2. Agreed.

      I recall trying to take the 15 to a Mariners game once. After it took us 10 minutes to go two blocks, the operator got on the PA and suggested anyone headed to the game should get out and walk – it would be faster. And we hadn’t even made it out of Belltown.

      There’s a reason Metro moved almost all service off of 1st. A mixed-traffic streetcar on 1st Avenue would be an unconscionable waste of money.

  4. I’m hoping they improve the transfer at the Westlake hub. Right now you actually have to walk a significant distance to get from the transit tunnel to the platform of the streetcar. I would like to see them move the streetcar platform to a place where you could have a single escalator between the mezzanine of the transit tunnel and the streetcar. There are a couple ways they could do this, and it would undoubtedly be expensive, but I think this is one of the most egregious missed connections in the system.

    1. Don’t worry, they will find a way to make the connection worse.

      Remember, the “City Center Streetcar” is not a transportation project.

      1. Did you guys see the route alternatives?

        In both plans the northbound connection gets much, much worse. In one the the plans it approaches 1/3 of a mile.

    2. I don’t think the connection is going to get much better really. Better signage might help…

      Improving connections between the two lines would actually have to be a goal of the project to make it happen.

      At a minimum, better signage would be a good idea. It took me quite a while to find the SLU car the first time I ever tried to ride it.

    3. There is an ancient SDOT plan buried somewhere on the city’s website that shows the tracks heading up Olive to reach 1st, but that doesn’t get us too much closer. Especially since you can’t build a platform on a curve.

  5. If we can’t get exclusive ROW on 1st I don’t think it’s even worth doing. If we can, I’m not even sure of it. Thoughts on the document:

    – 1st Ave to Uptown with no Westlake connection will be considered in conjunction with the Ballard study… which will somehow find that people in Ballard don’t care about the regional transit connections along 3rd and 4th Aves?
    – Most stakeholders believe mixed-traffic operations (on 1st) will be necessary given limited north-south rights of way. Seattle has loads of north-south road capacity through downtown — as with many other parts of town, it has enough north-south road capacity to turn the small number of useful east-west roads into utter parking lots.
    – Talking about connections with the FHSC… But not even a mention of interaction/conflict with waterfront transit plans right in the same area. That might be a major constraint on at least one of the projects, and that’s a decision we ought to make intentionally, right?

    1. The only reason I can see that the LQA (uptown) connection from this makes sense in context of the Ballard study is that the grade separated options could offer lots of transfer options to a 1st ave line. It doesn’t make sense as a replacement for the Ballard line.

      From what I remember of the Ballard study, the Streetcar options to Ballard basically run up Westlake and Leary Way…

      1. Or maybe they’re planning to let Sound Transit cop out and propose the Westlake streetcar as the Solution To All Of Our Problems.

        Then they can connect Westlake to First via Virginia in order to make the transfer to other transit just as slow and inconvenient as the at-grade journey into town!

      2. One of the options had a surface line through Belltown that could be incorporated into this line. That was the one that gave DP conniption fits.

      3. @d.p.

        That is far too pessimistic a view to take on this. If you fear sound transit copping out and giving us a street car instead of high capacity rail, then the proper thing to do is either organize people to make sure that doesn’t happen or show up yourself to every meeting and be a voice against the street options in the Ballard studies.

      4. To be fair, Mike, most transit plans as designed and implemented in Seattle give me conniption fits.

        Though since they almost universally fail to improve pan-urban mobility in a way that is desperately needed, my conniption fits have proven justified.

      5. ST may very well cop out of Ballard Link. The odds-on favorite to win the next Mayoral race is an advocate for ending subarea equity, and thusly giving away Seattle’s next potential Link segment to the suburbs.

      6. Perhaps McGinn — whom I personally like, whom I have voted for twice, whom I intend to vote for again, and whom I trust infinitely more than his legislatively-middling challenger — would be in better shape if he didn’t staff his campaign with antagonistic zealots who think the road to salvation is paved with in-street rails and who publicly argue that downtown Seattle has no sketch-and-disorder problem.

      7. Are you stepping up to volunteer? All I see you do on here is criticize other people and plans. Do you ever actually step up and do any work yourself?

      8. I’ve publicly testified in favor of plans that turned out to have been back-room scuttled before the public debate even began. That’s always a fun and edifying experience!

        Anyway, I would love to volunteer to sit McGinn down and explain the basics of transit to him. It pains me so much to see this fundamentally well-meaning individual act so utterly clueless. (I don’t think he’s ever set foot on public transit in his life, except on a junket to the equally clueless streetcar-happy micro-city three hours to our south).

        Unfortunately, his present trusted adviser on the subject is a financially-challenged RAIL DOWN EVERY STREET!!!!!1!! nutjob who routinely fails to disclose that conflict of interest when discussing the mayoral race here or elsewhere on the internet.

      9. “most transit plans as designed and implemented in Seattle give me conniption fits.”

        I think this one gave you the most fits of all, as you saw your Ballard subway dream die in the futility of a Belltown MAX.

        P.S. As those who know me know, I think ST is highly UNlikely to choose this option (or its Westlake counterpart).

  6. Horrible choice. Nothing more than more short term thinking from a mayor who finds himself way behind in the campaign.

    But what difference does it make. This mayor can’t even get the Prospect Extension done in a full 4 year term. Whatever happens with this will be done by his successor. And that means clearer transportation thinking.

    1. Uh, or it could be what nearly every person and organization commenting asked for. I can’t believe you think this is a bad choice – it means extension to Uptown and SODO could happen later, too.

      1. It’s a good choice if this city is only ever going to build one more line and then stop building for ever and ever. Personally I have greater expectations and think this city is better than that.

  7. 16 foot wide sidewalks! Fantastic!

    This is my kind of design..I would be riding my bike on those…safely and segregated from all the motorized vehicles like nature intended!

    1. Keep in mind that with the landscaping, that would more realistically make the sidewalks about 11′ – that’s less room when you consider the flocks of pedestrians that are usually meandering along 1st. I’m glad that you’ll be out riding your bike, but I hope you’ll consider that everyone’s safer when bikes behave predictably like vehicles, and ride in the road, with traffic.

      1. But thanks for the reminder about trees…in fact I was going to suggest that they not plant them and use that to create a marked bike lane.

        The safest place for bicycles is on the side walk, travelling at low speed when pedestrians are present.

      2. Sasha, I agree. I think the sidewalks should be 20′, there should be a bicycle track, and no car lanes at all.

      3. No, John Bailo, the best place for bicycles to be is separated from pedestrians. Complete Streets does not mean ‘let’s put all the bikes on wide sidewalks so they can share space with pedestrians’. Complete Streets means ‘let’s provide safe and welcoming places for cyclists to ride that *DO NOT COMPETE* with dedicated spaces for pedestrians.’

        As much as I am not a fan of this plan (particularly not if they recommend running in mixed traffic!) wider sidewalks are a win – they should not be a replacement for allocating space to cyclists.

    2. I would suggest walking your bike on first. Go to one of the streets that will have cycle tracks when you want to ride. It will be a lot safer considering how busy thing are going to be downtown when this actually opens.

      1. Unless there are laws prohibiting it, I will always ride on the sidewalk.

        Riding next to cars, with no segregation, is insanity and in fact, should be illegal.

        We don’t allow a person to ride in a car that doesn’t have bumpers, airbags, safety belts, unibody construction, safety testing. Yet, you say we should let someone ride in an unprotected triangle of steel tubing! Seems nuts!

      2. We don’t allow a person to ride in a car that doesn’t have bumpers, airbags, safety belts, unibody construction, safety testing.

        There’s no standard requiring unibody construction. All trucks and most full-size SUV’s produced today are not unibody.

        And we have no restrictions on the use of vehicles produced before any of the actual standards came into effect. Vehicles built before 1965 aren’t required to have any of those things, yet mingle with general traffic every day in downtown Seattle.

        And motorcycles and mopeds have already been mentioned.

        The solution to “cager” inattentiveness is not to remove everything they might hit.

  8. I think most effort and investment in new facilities should be directed toward facilities with exclusive rights of way/lanes. I hate to be negative, but slow mixed-traffic streetcars pale in comparison to more off board payment options, bus only lanes, and signal priority, in my mind. Imagine if the SLUS was up to Link standards or even if it had dedicated lanes during the peak hours.

    I believe that Seattle has the courage to approve dedicated lanes for this project. My fingers are crossed!

  9. Yaay! I’m glad the feedback was so heavily for 1st and that SDOT listened. That’s a good sign for future transit corridors. 1st is clearly a better corridor because it’s more distinct from the plentiful of transit on 3rd, it has a better mix of residential/retail/tourist destinations — which more importantly aren’t being served by other transit — and it’s a straight shot for a Belltown/Uptown extension someday.

    The results will probably show that exclusive lanes aren’t that much more expensive to build than shared lanes. Then it’ll just be a matter of convincing the city that the shorter travel time is a very important consideration, and the only way to make transit more competitive with cars. As for just two car lanes being sufficient, I can also see traffic jams, but boo hoo, that’ll teach drivers to use 2nd or 4th if they’re going more than a few blocks.

    1. If the aim was to connect the SLU streetcar with the FH streetcar, I fail to see why 1st Ave. is better than the 4th/5th couplet. The latter would be a more direct route and enable trips between SLU and the ID more quickly.

      1st Ave. is also competetive with a potential Waterfront streetcar route which seems like it would be a better route for tourists.

    2. It isn’t only to connect the two. It’s also to improve downtown circulation generally and to fulfill the Transit Master Plan. There’s not a lot of reason to “just” connect the streetcars in the tightest U shape because somebody going from SLU to Broadway is likely to take the much-shorter 8. But there is reason to see this as part of a network of several future streetcar lines, and for that they should all be interconnected. (That would also give flexibility in case we decide to change the through-routing later.) This level of streetcar will never win any speed awards, so you have to look at what other uses it might serve. Chief among them seems to be trips through the streetcar’s angles: Jackson to 1st, SLU to 1st, etc. DP is right that a detour to 1st doesn’t look appealing for a trip from SLU to Intl Dist station, but that’s not the only kind of trip that exists. If the streetcar is not going to replace a bus route, it should try to enable trips that no existing bus route does rather than just duplicating the routes.

  10. Everybody frothing at the mouth over this unspecified length of not-even guaranteed exclusive lanes needs to spend some serious time staring at the mess of badness proposed to connect it with anything else:

    The ultra-busy blocks to zig-zag through to navigate. The multiple lights that (necessarily) favor the Aves over the Streets. The many, many 90-degree turns. The failure to pass Link entrances in any option. The incredible distance of Virginia from the tunnel.

    This is a useless plan.

    1. I’m pretty sure the only reason the lanes aren’t guaranteed is that SDOT has to build a very strong case for them before saying they’re warranted. That means a lot of data.

    2. The connection is going to be a little weird for SLU almost no matter where you put it because of the weird place they terminated SLU in the first place. The line will run pretty fast from Jackson up to SLU though, and they might also make parts of the connection to SLU exclusive lanes which would improve the connection.

      The exclusive ROW matters more for extending this segment of the line to uptown and the stadiums. With two lines running down the 1st ROW we get much more frequent service in the corridor and can move people up and down the street a lot faster than would otherwise be possible with cars and buses.

      1. Why would you possibly want to send a slowpoke streetcar with no direct connection to any high-capacity transit through to Uptown? What possible purpose would that serve other than fulfilling the fantasies of people who like to represent rail lines with lots of colorful lines on maps?

      2. @d.p.

        They would be the same speed in the 1st ave corridor (fast). In the part of the corridor they share they would enable easy transfers between the two lines.

        How slow the other line is outside of the 1st ave corridor is irrelevant if they have a dedicated ROW, you will just get somewhat less reliable frequency with the first hill/slu cars vs the 1st ave only cars.

        In the shared corridor, this also means greater frequency for the stretch from Pike Place to Jackson.

      3. So you’re proposing a First Avenue streetcar to Ballard? Via an Uptown detour? I barely know how to respond.

        First Avenue is not fast enough for long-distance intra-urban rapid transit. Neither is 2nd, or 3rd, or 4th, or Westlake. If ST dicks the city over by proposing non-grade-separated running out of downtown, you can kiss the utility of the line goodbye, especially as a part of any multi-leg journeys.

        But you would make that even worse by adding a 5-minute, multi-crossing transfer from First to the tunnel?

      4. @d.p.
        I am doing nothing of the sort. The Ballard line would be in a tunnel downtown and be completely grade separated. It would likely have a station or two somewhere in Belltown or uptown where you could exit and take the streetcar the rest of the way.

        This would be similar to the placement of the first hill line with lInk.

        You get both express and local service that way.

      5. None of the fast express rail + slow surface rail boosters have every successfully explained why anyone would wait 10-15 minutes for a transfer to go the last half mile of their journey, or why building two overlapping rail lines with a heavy transfer penalty would possibly be worth the 30 seconds and handful of dollars you save over just building correct stop spacing in the first place on the primary line.

        The FHSC, with its reduced-to-15-minutes-the-moment-rush-hour-ends headways and awful alignment, is poised to be one of the most useless trains in the entire western world. A First Avenue streetcar shadow to any decent Belltown subway would be equally asinine.

        Anyway, since 5/8 plans presented in the first-round Ballard alternatives involved surface running into downtown Seattle, we can hardly stand astride any presumptions about what the final proposal will entail. There’s a good chance it will be no better than the train you now propose a block or two over.

      6. “reduced-to-15-minutes-the-moment-rush-hour-ends”

        Headways aren’t cast in stone forever. It just takes more funding and a decision to improve them. People’s attitudes won’t always be the same, state restrictions won’t always be the same, and politicians and managers won’t always be the same. If the infrastructure exists it would be easy to add some incremental frequency. If the infrastructure doesn’t exist, then you have the entire capital cost of building the line, which makes it a far bigger and less likely decision.

      7. Unless minimum headways are handed down from management as a matter of brand identity at the time of roll-out — which was supposed to be the case here; a 10-minute all-day standard was widely circulated before being reduced to 12 and finally 15 — then the headways will never improve in the absence of demonstrated demand.

        And greater demand not going to be demonstrated, because the First Hill Streetcar will be ridiculously fucking slow, will be stuck at lights or behind turning cars at all times, will be a horrible way to get to First Hill from north, south, or west, and will reveal itself as inferior to walking from the moment it debuts.

        Shit headways will, of course, make its transfer penalty and user-worthiness calculus all the worse. But you won’t see an overwhelming clamor for more trains when the ones that do exist are barely worth the effort of climbing aboard.

    3. Close Olive Way to cars; problem solved.

      Actually, the problem with the Seattle Streetcar madness is the idea of running in mixed traffic. You *do not do that* in a sane design.

      The only mixed-traffic streetcar construction I can think of in the last few decades in the world *outside of Seattle* have been for tiny little sections of one-lane alley (marked “local access only”) or similar things.

      1. Don’t forget Portland.

        Miles and miles and miles of zig-zagging, light-missing, out-of-direction-travelling, slower-than-walking, non-development-spurring (oops!) mixed-traffic rails.

        More mixed-traffic rail than you can sit there for 18 minutes shaking a craft beer at.

        Still, there’s no point in dangling four blocks of “exclusive” ROW at the streetcar enthusiasts, if the ROW attaches to bottlenecks at each end and serves no independent purpose to begin with.

      2. And for the last time, people, there is no Olive Way between 1st and 4th. It doesn’t exist. And Stewart is not going transit-only anytime soon. And even if it did, transit volumes on 2nd, 3rd, and 4th would prevent you from ever coordinating the signals to favor your dinky little rail line. And so this connection will never be fast.

  11. What are you trying to accomplish? Are you saying people SHOULDN’T push for exclusive lanes? They shouldn’t try and get rock solid TSP, good connections, and make this as useful as possible?

    This project is moving forward. The only question is will it be pretty useful (exclusive lanes, rock solid TSP, good connections) or only marginally useful (SLUTish).

    And no matter what happens, stopping this or making it less useful WILL NOT get you the Ballard Spur.

    So I repeat my question, what are you trying to do here?

      1. I’m saying we shouldn’t try to polish turds. As long as “pro-transit” is Seattle insists on being blind boosterism for an endless string of this and this and this and this — i.e. a gigantic cumulative pile of useless shit — I’m going to call it out.

        No one is going to be able to get anywhere on a First Ave streetcar (badly) attached to two other slow boats to Hades. It’s even worse as a precursor to an Uptown Streetcar, because we’re supposed to be thinking about the kind of mobility investments that would make such a thing completely superfluous

        How about pushing for lanes and signal improvements and larger projects where they’ll actually make one goddamned lick of difference!?

      2. Because without the federal government supporting a project, we don’t have the political will to take lanes in the places we need them most. Not without your help rather than hindrance, anyway. :)

      3. There is no valid “because” for building functionally useless projects. By definition.

        I’m going to stay off this thread, because it’s just going to annoy me. The lanes aren’t even being guaranteed, and as with so many streetcar plans, they don’t even attempt to address the worst bottlenecks. Lowest effort, lowest yield.

        Apparently we have that low a bar.

    1. Interesting alignment idea. I would not be opposed to that myself….

      I think there is a strong desire of the local businesses to keep curb drop off though. I think we can convince them to give up the parking, but not the curb drop off for auto passengers.

      Currently the engineers working on this are convinced we should convert the street tree islands into median stations like the ones we are getting on Jackson. I also think this has a lot of benefits personally.

      Why do you think that the SB configuration works better?

      1. Yes, of course greater segregation, as represented in your Prague photo, is better than less segregation.

        But what you people all need to remember is that the intact pre-war street rail networks of Eastern Europe are basically just their bus systems. They’re better bus systems, thanks to high frequency and POP and some degree of ROW priority, but the basic short-haul mobility principle is no different.

        Prague has not built more than a block or two of new streetcar since the subway came into being.

      2. @d.p.

        Is there any part of this project you would view in a positive light? How about any changes that you think would improve it?

        The powers that be want this connection to happen, so we can: spend a little energy to influence the project to make more useful, spend no energy and ignore it, or spend tremendous amounts of energy trying to derail it like the monorail project.

        I personally would rather save most of my energy for pushing through the ST3 grade separated options myself. It seems like a better use of time than trying to kill the streetcar projects that downtown really seems to want.

        It also looks like this project could be synergistic with a grade separated option going up through either through Queen Anne or Interbay, so I can see positive effects of it going into place.

      3. How can a slow, winding, low-demand project possibly be synergistic with anything?

        No matter how you slice it, a First Ave streetcar will always be slow enough that it will be faster to walk than wait for it over the trip distances for which it has been proposed.

        “Downtown interests” need to be told point-blank that this latest, dumbest fad in urban development is about as useful as the street closures and mega-plazas that failed so dramatically a generation ago. They need to be encouraged to build consensus around genuine mobility-based projects that will economically benefit them by making it non-excruciating for people to access their goods and services from anywhere, while also being able to zip quickly between downtown locations.

        “Ding ding, choo choo!” is not a development strategy.

  12. I agree with dp. If its not grade separated then dont bother. Spend the money to improve the existing bus system… “because choo choo” is not a good reason.

    1. I agree as well. A grade-separated First Avenue route sounds to me like a very good idea, but if it’s not grade-separated, then I don’t see any reason to spend the extra money for rail over bus.

      1. Clarity of language:

        – “grade separated” means bridges over (or under) cross streets, like the Seattle Transit Tunnel or Linkm near the airport
        – “exclusive lanes” or “exclusive right of way” means grade crossings at streets, but no cars driving along the tracks, like Link on MLK
        – “mixed traffic” or “shared running” means cars sitting in front of the trains slowing them down, like on South Lake Union.

        With exclusive lanes, a streetcar down 1st would be pretty fast — grade separation is not strictly necessary.

        With mixed traffic, the streetcar will be as slow as a bus.

      2. You are exhausting, Nathanael.

        You don’t know the places of which you speak, and you have no business commenting here.

        Exclusive lanes don’t matter when they’re partial and the line is pointless, which is emphatically the case with this proposal.

  13. Why are we not putting the streetcars on the outside lanes? On the inside, one has to make a crossing any time you want to embark or disembark. It seems to me that on a busier traffic route, outside lanes (as exclusive as possible) are preferred.

    1. I believe because its easier to get exclusive ROW if you put the lanes in the center. Buses have to let off passengers on the left, so outer lanes would either have to be shared with buses and streetcars, or the bus riders would have to cross the streetcar tracks.

      Also, inside lanes can share a platform in the middle, reducing the number of stations you have to build, plus the current medians being used for street trees can be converted into platforms, so buses and streetcars could technically offload passengers simultaneously on the same section of street.

      They are already doing these median stations on Jackson, so you will be able to see how they work in person when the first hill line opens next year.

    2. Most higher-quality streetcar systems have the streetcars in the middle, so that cars aren’t crossing it every time they turn or park. That keeps the right of way clearer and allows the streetcars to go faster. Some systems also require that whenever the streetcar stops, the cars in the outer lanes have to stop too to let people get to the sidewalk without waiting. That sounds too pro-transit to be implemented in Seattle, but maybe.

      1. Streetcars that run in the middle lanes and drop passengers directly into the outer lanes, where drivers are expected to yield, exist in the outer sections of San Francisco’s old Muni system. These are old stops — building new train stops like this would surely not be ADA compliant (and indeed SF’s new line has ADA platforms everywhere) — running in outlying neighborhoods on streets that just aren’t all that busy. And both the train stops and the local streets are mostly used by local residents that understand how to use them. There’s no way that a new streetcar aiming to serve lots of tourists in downtown Seattle, on a street that carries lots of event and tourist traffic, most of which isn’t originating downtown, will get a boarding system like that.

  14. I like that they are actually going to join the SLU streetcar into a larger network. When they first built the SLU it looked like a waste of effort, a facade of mass transit done solely to appease a rich developer. Even if its a pretty weak mass transit option compared to light rail, I like that they’ve managed to turn it into something useful at a reasonable cost.
    Of course the most important thing is will people actually use it? And we wont know that for sure until they have finished the First Hill line and given it a couple of years for people to get used to it.

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