Photo courtesy of the Mayor's Office
Photo courtesy of the Mayor’s Office

Last Monday evening, Mayor McGinn and Councilmember Conlin held a ‘Seattle Transit Reception’ (slides) showcasing the city’s recently adopted Transit Master Plan (TMP), the Ballard rail study, ST3 planning, and recent progress on the Center City Connector project. The reception was open to the public but also clearly aligned to be of use for Rail~Volution attendees.

For visitors in town for Rail-Volution, McGinn’s words about the TMP were a good primer on Seattle’s geography and the various corridors the city is prioritizing for transit investment. In the five TMP corridors that the plan designates for high capacity transit (in most cases rail), the mayor reminded the audience that those select corridors are only part of a larger strategy to improve the performance of the city’s highest ridership bus routes.

The most interesting news of the evening was about the evolving design of the Center City Connector project. STB readers will already know that 1st Avenue was selected as the alignment to connect the South Lake Union and First Hill lines through downtown, but the remarks at the reception (and a subsequent Great Cities presentation Tuesday) clarified much about the current state of the project:

  • While a single-line operational model will be studied, SDOT prefers that the SLU and First Hill lines be operationally distinct, interlining for 5-minute combined headways on the shared segment between the King Street Hub and Westlake
  • Only one alternative for connecting to SLU was selected for further development: a Stewart/Olive connection to McGraw Square, running two-way (including contraflow) on Stewart west of 3rd, and on the Stewart/Olive couplet between 3rd and 5th.
  • Projected year of opening is 2018
  • No bicycle facilities are integrated into 1st Avenue in the conceptual renderings

The last detail that Conlin and McGinn touched on, and no doubt the most crucial to the reliability of the project, was the configuration of 1st Avenue’s right-of-way. The city presented two designs illustrating center platforms with center-running rail, one with the streetcar operating in mixed-traffic and one with the streetcar operating in an exclusive lane. As one might guess, there is a significant travel time difference between the two options, the mixed-traffic configuration taking an average of 6 minutes longer to traverse the short 1st Avenue alignment than the option with exclusive lanes. While an additional 6 minutes may not seem like much, on a 1.3 mile alignment a 12 minute travel time is just 6.5 mph average speed (no better than current downtown trolleybuses), while a 6 min travel time would be 13 mph average speed (possibly faster than any other surface transit downtown). Note too that the 6 minute difference for a mixed-traffic line is an optimal scenario under baseline traffic conditions. Actual reliability could only be equal to or worse than this baseline.

Exclusive ROW will add 3,000 daily riders over the mixed-traffic scenario (31k vs. 28k), exclusive ROW will cost $2m less annually to operate ($16m vs. $18m), capital costs are cheaper for exclusive lanes (one less vehicle needed), and an overwhelming majority of public feedback preferred both 1st Avenue and exclusive lanes. Despite this, however, the Great Cities report stated: “Most believe mixed-traffic operations will be necessary given limited north-south rights of way.”


I encourage anyone interested in seeing this project succeed to attend SDOT’s upcoming open house for the project on October 29th, see the plans up close, and provide feedback on SDOT’s City Center Corridor design.

95 Replies to “McGinn and Conlin on Seattle’s Rail Future”

  1. Limited north-south rights-of-way? Have they *seen* downtown Seattle? Though I suppose that in a city where the Westlake Ave ROW is deemed too narrow to provide safe infrastructure, anything can be justified.

  2. Despite this, however, the Great Cities report stated: ”Most believe mixed-traffic operations will be necessary given limited north-south rights of way.”

    So it looks like we have our mission.

    1. Exclusive ROW or nothing. It is a complete waste of time to build a “mixed traffic” line if you don’t have to, and you don’t have to.

      The bullshit of allowing cars onto EVERYTHING has got to end. This is where to take a stand.

      As LWC says, there’s ridiculous, vast quantities of asphalt for cars running north-south through Seattle. This is not a Middle Ages city with 6-foot-wide roads. There is plenty of room for exclusive right-of-way — much of it originally *used* for streetcars, in fact.

  3. “While an additional 6 minutes may not seem like much”

    An extra 6 minutes is actually an extra 12 minutes per roundtrip and if the streetcar is running at 15 minute headways, that means an extra streetcar and operator will be needed to maintain schedules.

  4. The Stewart/Olive part is a bit disappointing. The connection to Westlake will still suck, and the line won’t be visible to tourists. Two-way operation on Pine would be slightly slower but I think the benefits would be worth it.

    1. I’ve been a skeptic of this project and I too would have preferred Pine, but I can be won over by 5-minute peak headways and exclusive ROW. Tourists would definitely see it given that there will likely be stops right outside Pike Place Market, one block from the ferry walkway at Marion, and in the heart of Pioneer Square at 1st between Cherry and James/Yesler. Sure, Stewart is currently kind of a back door that fewer people see, but the idea that Downtown stops at Pine is outdated. It’s growing northward quickly, and any problem with Stewart isn’t due to visibility but due to the poor Westlake connection, which could be (mostly) fixed with wayfinding. I mean we’re talking one block from a 3rd/Stewart stop to the Macy’s entrance to Westlake and 1 block from McGraw Square to the Westlake Center entrance.

      I’m curious though what a Stewart alignment would mean for the area around McGraw. If SLU-bound trains take Olive to McGraw, I assume they could use the current platform by turning into the square from the left lane of Olive. But for 1st Ave bound trains from SLU, would the station be at the Westin? Or a separate platform at McGraw adjacent to Stewart? I can’t see any way the current station could be used for both directions.

      1. If we can get exclusive ROW, then we should fight for exclusive ROW on Pine as well. Given that there are in fact so many E-W corridors, I doubt that making Pine Streetcar + Ped + Bike only between 1st and 5th would have a huge impact on the overall mobility of the downtown core.

        I think people underestimate the awfulness of the transfer to the streetcar. The key is to measure the platform-to-platform time. People might say “it’s only a block” — but in reality it takes a long time to get from the tunnel platform to the streetcar platform. A center streetcar stop on Pine **with direct escalators to the westlake mezzanine** would be the ideal solution for connecting riders of Link to riders of the streetcar. We really need to think of this as one, integrated holistic system, not a separate streetcar from light rail.

      2. As I’ve said before, for a fraction of the cost of this stupidness, you could build one block of tunnel directly into the Westlake mezzanine, and give a better “last mile” to every possible permutation of trip that this thing proposes to serve.

      3. The powers that be aren’t willing to build a Westlake tunnel at this time, and wishing it isn’t going to make it so. So the choice is not whether to build this streetcar or a Westlake tunnel, but whether to build this streetcar or not. We shouldn’t turn down this opportunity because it may be decades before we get another chance to build a streetcar downtown, and it will be more expensive then.

      4. Rule one of creating a transit city: You don’t go building purposeless transit just for the heck of it.

    2. The Problem: The 1st Ave streetcar line won’t work well with its proposed “Left-lane, center-platform station” configuration. The 3 street stops on 1st Ave conflict with ‘curbside’ bus service.

      A line on 5th Ave is possible, but NOT 6th Ave with the north hillclimb to the crest a degree too steep.
      A 5th/4th couplet could work.

      1st Ave ANYTHING should reach Lower Queen Anne. Trolleybus is more suitable.
      Oh, and one more thing:
      The BoreTunnel point of no return,
      is a few blocks further near Jackson,
      and the corner of FU Seattle.
      (aim the bore toward the stacked Cut/cover/Seawall)
      Then stop & sell Bertha to Los Angeles.
      The proposed Seawall technique?
      Cheap & Dirty.
      Yeah, U herd me rite, fn seattlers~

  5. Making the two lines operationally distinct makes sense – call a spade a spade and acknowledge that no one in their right mind will ride the streetcar all the way through from SLU to Capitol Hill (even slogging it out on the 8 is going to be much faster for trips like that), while maximizing frequency as much as possible for the intra-downtown section.

    5 minute headways along 1st Ave. is actually starting to get to the point where the service becomes useful, as in worth waiting for over walking the couple blocks to 3rd or the tunnel and boarding some other bus there. The question is – is the proposed 10-minute headways on each segment all-day or rush hour only? For a line that is catered mostly at tourists, it would do good to remember that tourists travel all day, seven days a week, not only during rush hour.

    1. I mean, nobody in their right mind is even going to ride it all the way from First Hill to Westlake. Even Pioneer Square to Westlake would be questionable compared to the tunnel or even 3rd Ave buses.

      So this line will go as 1st Ave goes. If 1st Ave grows into a great all-day, all-year street, the place everyone coming downtown wants to go, then this streetcar will do fine… even if the forced trek up to Westlake on Stewart makes it a useless route anywhere else.

    2. The First Hill streetcar is 10 minutes all day; that was one of ST’s requirements. The SLU streetcar is currently 15 minutes.

      The reason to connect these lines is that interconnected lines have more value than their parts. The SLU streetcar is already popular. The First Hill streetcar will probably be popular but not quite as much. Connecting the two enables a whole bunch of trips pairs.

      1st Avenue is far enough from Broadway that U-shaped trips are at least somewhat likely. Not from Denny to Denny or Pine to Pine, but shorter segments. The alternative is to wait 10-30 minutes for a bus and then 10-15 minutes for another bus. The streetcar will have come and gone by the time your bus arrives, and that will motivate some people to use it. This project also enables a future 1st Avenue extension to Belltown and Seattle Center, and there Denny to Denny may even become plausable again because the 8 is notoriously unreliable and congestion-prone, not to mention half-hourly evenings/Sundays.

      This project is not top in Seattle’s needs, and there may be better uses for Seattle’s transit dollars. (Grade-separated transit to Ballard is especially critical, as fil mentions below.) But it will make the two lines able to work together and generate aggregate ridership, which the separate lines can’t do on their own. And if it’s part of a future interconnected streetcar network on Westlake, Eastlake, and Rainier, it will be even more useful then.

      As for two lines overlapping between Westlake and Intl Dist rather than one through-routed line, I was a bit surprised but I’m not dismissing it out of hand. It would keep a 1-seat ride from lower Broadway to 1st Avenue, and from SLU to Intl Dist, which are probably the most likely and not served now. And 5-minute frequency could be an example for the rest of Seattle. When people see it on the ground, they can see more how it would benefit them elsewhere, and start demanding it.

      1. The First Hill streetcar has been downgraded to 15 minutes at all non-peak times. Its own website says so.

        That’s certainly a broken promise (and not the first one to be associated with that project), but it’s the truth.

        Which makes your insistence on repeating the all-day myth A LIE, and makes your presumptions of future interlined awesomeness a bullshit argument.

        Knock it off.

      2. And ASDF is correct. No one who gives half a shit about their time or sanity will be riding through from one prior-built segment to the other.

      3. …And never mind that half of the trains in each direction will be arriving from a non-exclusive, almost willfully-designed-as-unreliable origin segment, so the notion of “interlining” the downtown segment at either “5-minute” or “7.5-minute” headways is ludicrous.

        Waiting ten long minutes to go very short distances will be a regular occurrence.

      4. [sigh] So, we believe that a project is worth a construction cost of $150 million, but isn’t worth the operating cost to run all day better than 15 minutes (or run at all after 7 PM on Sunday). Horray for inconsistency!

      5. If the tracks are there it’ll be easier to get an incremental improvement in the frequency later.

      6. Not on the basis of ridership, it won’t.

        Slow + infrequent + many trips not particularly helped in any way = crap demand.

      7. By your standards, d.p., the current SLUT should have crap demand. It’s standing room only.

      8. It’s standing-room only for one hour per day, five days per week. Which happens to coincide with the sole time of day it is frequent enough to ever be worth waiting for.

        Don’t strain yourself, though, bending over backward like that.

      9. The SLUT also has no equal or better parallels (though it has a few crappy ones), whereas this plan has multiple superior parallels.

      10. If the SLUT were necessary, Mike, it wouldn’t be a glorified Amazon employee shuttle that carried fewer than a couple dozen passengers in entire hours the rest of the day, night, and weekend.

        Here’s another good test of whether an expensive piece of mid-city infrastructure is necessary: Can you shut it down at 9pm, shut it even earlier on Sunday, and not strand entire sections of still-running city? Yes? Then congratulations: you’ve just built something utterly redundant!

        There’s an infuriating confirmation bias among streetcar fetishists. The moment you see anyone riding the thing, it suddenly becomes justified. Of course something that exists will occasionally come in handy, if you happen to see it coming when you need it! If this First Ave Folly has its own lanes, I might occasionally find myself on it as well (it will still be easier to walk without the lanes, even if you see it coming).

        But that doesn’t make it important. And in a city with so much fucked-up transit on so many places, the opportunity-grift of spending hundreds of millions on utterly unimportant things is nauseating.

    3. Time to start advocating for a streetcar tunnel from SLU (circa Fred Hutch) up to 10th and Prospect!

      1. For a tiny fraction of the capital and operational cost of that you could build an accessible elevator and skybridge from the bottom of Ward Street near Eastlake (700 feet east of the existing streetcar stop) up to the Lakeview ramp, removing 100 feet of the climb up Capitol Hill – an easier way up than you would have had before I-5 was built, with an amazing view to boot.

  6. This absolutely needs to be separated from traffic. Otherwise it is a complete waste of time to ride and money to build.

    1. That would help, but anytime you have frequent stops combined with frequent traffic lights, all it takes is one single car blocking the streetcar while it waits for the light to delay the streetcar an entire signal cycle.

      1. Is there data on how 3rd does perform? Are blocking cars an issue? Of course, 3rd is 4 lanes, so buses can go around a car with its tail end encroaching on the curb lane.

        This would be a great experiment for the 1st Hill Streetcar down Broadway.

      2. Blocking cars are not especially problematic on 3rd. Indeed, 3rd is often essentially car-free from Denny to Yesler, far outside of the restricted zone or restricted hours.

        What makes 3rd slow are the god-awful (yet virtually impossible to fix) signal timings. The same thing that will make this streetcar slow on 1st and even slower on Stewart, regardless of exclusivity or counterflow.

        Meanwhile, since no one has attempted to explain where these lanes would fit between Cherry and Jackson, I can only assume that no version of the plan offers exclusivity end-to-end.

      3. Blocking cars are not so bad on 3rd thanks to the car restrictions on that street, but there are other parts of the transit system where the sight of one car blocking a bus stop, delaying a whole busload of people and entire signal cycle (sometimes multiple busloads) is all-too common.

        With the streetcar on 1st, it would be a much bigger issue. 1st doesn’t have the car restrictions that 3rd does and, consequently, has a lot more car traffic. Also, a streetcar is less flexible than a bus in choosing exactly where to open its doors. Buses routinely open their doors a car length behind their official stop location is that’s the best that cars waiting for the light allow. Streetcars, however, have constraints that the train has to line up with the platform, which is just long enough to allow everybody to get on and off when the streetcar stops at exactly its prescribed spot. So, unlike a bus, when a streetcar is stuck one carlength behind the stop, it can’t just open its doors and let people on and off (not without making trouble for the people in the back). Instead, it has to sit there a whole signal cycle, then open the doors when the car in front moves out of the way, then, when the light turns red again when it’s time to go, wait yet another signal cycle. Then, repeat the whole process again at the next stop two blocks down the street.

      4. Stop placement and platform length can go a long way to making the streetcar system run faster. The original Portland Streetcar line is constantly delayed 1, 2 or 3 signal cycles by cars blocking access to the station platforms. Portland’s new line (across the river) has much smarter station placements and it runs faster.

        The First Hill streetcar has selected horrible locations for the northbound stops at Union and Pine. Let’s hope the SDOT won’t stay “Stuck-On-Stupid” when the First Avenue Line is designed.

      5. @d.p. Aside from the “is this a good idea or not” question, I would like to clarify where I think they are getting exclusive lanes from on the south end of 1st.

        The only way to get exclusive lanes between Cherry and Jackson is to drop all of the street parking. The right of way along 1st in that section actually includes a parking lane in each direction and street trees in the middle in addition to the general purpose lanes. This comes up to roughly 5 lanes of space.

        I am assuming that the “limited north-south rights-of-way” is a backhand reference to businesses being unwilling to give up a lane that is used for parking and loading for regular vehicle traffic if the streetcars claim the center two lanes.

        Its the same thing that will come up in almost any part of town where exclusive lanes are suggested for streetcars or surface light rail. Nearly all of the streets wide enough to consider something like this have had 2 of their lanes converted to parking sometime in the distant past and would need to be converted back into lane space to allow exclusivity.

        Its a natural reaction for businesses to be worried about losing parking, its the single best way for delivery trucks, taxis and car based drivers to get to their door.

      6. That would be the only way it could be accomplished. But those trees will stay — their lushness helps to distract from Pioneer Square’s intractable grime. While that leaves room for separated streetcar and traffic lanes on either side, guarding the streetcar lane from encroachment would prove difficult, especially at the worst of rush hour and after sporting events.

        If nobody has promised this explicitly, it seems likely that no plan involves unbroken ROW.

      7. @d.p. I believe the previous study document stated explicitly that some of the trees would have to go (but not all) in an exclusive corridor, and that the current tree island would be partially converted into center lane stations like the ones they are building on Jackson now.

        Its of course possible that cars might try to drive in the streetcar lanes, but that is also possible in the Rainier valley segment of central link. They already deal with one lane now on 1st though, so I guess it depends on how many people are willing to risk an accident (or a ticket) by driving on the tracks. Hopefully there would be better signage then what they have done so far for the cycle track on Broadway.

      8. MLK is the explicit contrast I was making. Link actually has quite a bit of visual and tangible buffer width. It would be impossible to accidentally wander into its path, and just as impossible to escape notice doing it intentionally.

        By contrast, the buffer on 1st South couldn’t be much wider than a line of paint. Even if they are able to build a raised demarkation (which I doubt) impatient drivers could easily intrude into it for a short block or two if the coast were clear.

        Segregated rail medians from Boston to Berlin are on streets wider than tmsub-Yesler 1st, for good reason.

  7. There is no option to separate this from traffic. It will have to wait at lights and deal with pedestrians crossing its path. This is a tourist toy. Im only interested in ballard downtown w seattle true grade separated transit.

    1. Curious just what part of where will provide the space for grade separation.
      I’m in total agreement with the idea, but short of an elevated line or a tunnel,
      I don’t know how grade separation would work.

      1. Grade-separated would pretty certainly be a tunnel from Westlake station to at least the Ship Canal or 15th W. Elevated is unlikely, and there’s no place for surface grade-separated transit in Belltown.

  8. Another new thing is the Madison-BRT map goes out to MLK, not just 23rd as they’ve been saying. The text says “Waterfront to 23rd Ave/MLK Jr Way area”. That could mean they’re still deciding where to terminate (otherwise why not say “Waterfront to Broadway/MLK Jr Way area”). We should push for MLK as the terminus, because that would cover all the commercial destinations and higher-density residential short of Madison Park, and provide a convenient transfer to MLK Way trips, and a tourist gateway to the Arboretum.

    1. Finally, some genuine reason for optimism!

      23rd and Madison is not a logical endpoint for anything.

    2. MLK is a huge improvement over 23rd. All the way to Madison Park would be better yet (although having BRT to MLK would support Bruce’s proposed 8 extension).

      1. There’s no density to speak of past MLK, and only a narrow corridor of density past 23rd.

        Plus, rush-hour traffic snarls through the Madison Valley would be very expensive to operate in – it can take as long to get from John to Lk Washington Blvd as it takes to get from Broadway to 23rd. Of course, that could change if the legislature ever funds the new 520 western approach, and closes the Lake Washington ramps. But I doubt anything short of an earthquake will make that happen.

      2. No density to speak of past MLK? You’re forgetting about the center of Madison Park itself, where there’s a fair amount of multi-family housing and a nice retail district, all nearly inaccessible by transit today.

      3. It’s not entirely clear that the legislature funding the 520 western approach is necessarily even a good thing. Consider the loss of Montlake Freeway Station and years of construction impacts.

      4. You mean, if the western approach isn’t funded, we keep Montlake Freeway Station?

        That does it; leave it unfunded!!!

    3. Will the proposed Madison BRT be “open” or “closed”? If it’s “open,” then that would mean that people from Madison Park would be able to get downtown without a connection by simply having some of the Madison BRT buses continue beyond the end of the busway. However, given that the BRT is planned to be electric trolleys, that would require extending wire to Madison Park, which I believe has been opposed in the past? Otherwise, the only real way to serve Madison Park would be to extend the 8N there, which could work although it would be confusing to have two routes serving different parts of Madison.

      Nevertheless, I’m actually quite impressed by the Madison St BRT, as it is actually true BRT with 5-minute frequency, off-board payment, and fully exclusive right-of-way. They are even explicitly looking to Cleveland’s HealthLine (one of the best examples of BRT in the US) as an example! Hopefully once this line is built, we will have a nice model to copy for corridors such as RapidRide C/D/E, Lake City Way, I-405, Meridian St in Puyallup, and Pacific Ave in Tacoma where rapid transit could be implemented for almost no cost compared to grade-separated (or even at-grade) rail, considering that there is already enough space in most of these corridors for exclusive ROW.

      1. Also, does anyone know why there is the political will to provide exclusive lanes on Madison for BRT, but not on Broadway or Westlake for streetcars, when all of these streets have two lanes in one direction that would be reduced to one? This seems to invert the narrative that “exclusive right-of-way is easier to demand for rail than bus,” but I’m interested in hearing the specific reasons why, as I can’t think of any right now.

      2. 3 reasons:

        1) Because BRT needs reserved lanes to overcome it’s capacity & comfort limitations and be competitive with streetcars. Especially when limited to 40′ coaches.
        2) Because the Madison corridor currently only has 4 uninterrupted travel lanes at peak hours, and it’s politically easier to take a peak-only lane than an all-day lane.
        3) Demand on the Madison corridor is enough to warrant extremely high frequencies, and it’s a lot easier to get a reserved lane if you’re using it every 5 minutes (instead of every 15 or worse)

      3. I think it’s really because of the timing of the project, and who’s running it and under what circumstances. As time goes on, things that seemed too radical become commonplace. The previous transit master plan wasn’t very aggressive. The city was just starting to get into bus bulbs and road diets and bike lanes, and people were saying the war on cars sky was falling. Now that they’ve proven themselves, it’s easier to take more aggressive steps. Both the SLU and the First Hill projects predated the 2012 TMP. The SLU streetcar was kind of going blindly since it was the first one, and the First Hill streetcar was all tied up in ST and losing the First Hill Link station. The First Hill streetcar wasn’t very well thought out, but it did get us our first cycletrack so that’s something significant.( There was also the disappointment with RapidRide last year, and the wish to do something better than that.)

        Then the TMP update came and charted a more aggressive course, with higher-capacity transit corridors and inspiration from bettter transit systems around the world. Madison-BRT and the City Center Connector are the first concrete projects to come out of it, and you see the city is now willing to take a step toward exclusive lanes and off-board payment, and to start standing up to those who don’t want to lose a car lane or parking lane. If it succeeds and becomes popular, it may start setting a standard for other corridors.

    4. Lack and Josh: I’m pretty sure it would be open to other bus routes. The TMP suggested incorporating the 11 and 12 into it, and clearly the 12 would have to diverge. Plus there have been suggestions to move the 43 and 2 to Madison. As for Madison Park, would it be able to do that off-wire or is it too far? Apparently Mad Park asked to be excluded from the study scope, and that’s why BRT isn’t being considered there. That leaves several not-very-appealing alternatives for the 11: keep it as-is, put it on Madison alongside the BRT, extend some BRT runs (which would make it harder to maintain even headways), replace it with a van shuttle from MLK to the lake, or just delete the tail (ha ha). A Denny – Madison route could be an alterative, although I doubt it’s likely because the first thing people will say is, “It doesn’t go downtown.”

  9. For those who are advocating that Pine Street be off limits to cars must not remember that some years ago Pine Street was closed to cars between 4th and 5th avenues to create a pedestrian walkway at the Westlake Center. At that time city leaders were trying to convince Nordstrom to move their store from their location at that time on Pine Street across the street to the old Frederick and Nelson site. Nordstrom resisted making the move unless Pine Street was re-opened to cars and they were not the only stores and merchants that wanted the street open to cars. The city finally agreed to do so because the Nordstrom move was necessary to revive that area which had become rundown and you can be sure that Nordstrom and other stores and merchants in the area will resist any attempt to close the street to cars again. Metro was also not happy when Pine Street was closed because they had to route several of their routes over to Union Street and they may also raise their concerns about doing that again.

    1. The funny thing is, Nordstrom argued that having Pine St. closed made it difficult for people to get to the parking garage on 3rd.

      The one for Macy’s.

      1. That’s odd. Stewart Street from I-5 SB to the garage entrance was pretty easy. I liked having the pedestrian plaza on Pine Street and was sorry to see it open up to traffic. I thought it was less friendly to shoppers when cars were allowed.

      2. aw, if you close Pine to autos, guess where the foot traffic won’t be? Pine Street.

        There’s no activation on either side of the street—empty, windswept plazas are not inviting.

        If there was a street wall on Pine between 4th and 5th, closing it to autos might make it useful as a pedestrian mall. But in its current configuration, it would just be absorbed into the no-man’s-land of the failed Westlake Park.

  10. I had heard that there was going to be some sort of joint announcement, but surely this can not be it. I was hoping for some sort of funding announcement for this or the Prospect Ext, but this is just a rehash of what most of us already knew. It does nothing to move the ball forward.

    Very disappointing.

    1. This was just a summary of all the projects for the out-of-towners at Rail~volution. (And I wish I’d known about it so I could have attended.) And perhaps a campaign appearance for McGinn and Conlin to tout their transit accomplishments, since it’s so close to the election.

      1. There is no reason for Conlin to take the stage with McGinn for something as miniscule as this. There must have been more.

  11. David & Stephen are right. Pine St is a better alternative as far as connecting and productivity. It is worth the sacrifice in headway time if Seattle can a direct transfer point between Link and the Streetcar. When Metro was moving more routes to 3rd Ave in order to make transfers easier, I used to believe the effort was in vain because it was “just” one or two blocks riders had to walk.

    But now I see the importance and convenience of having minimal walking distance for riders to get from one mode to another. The current walk from Westlake Station to McGraw square is indeed a long way (in regards to transferring) due to the stairs/escalators and having to walk in the elements in order to connect. Additionally, from a potential tourist’s prospective, they don’t know that the 5th ave exit from Westlake is the closest to McGraw square. So the transfer would even take longer if they exited Westlake from 3rd Ave.

    Also a streetcar running on Olive Way?? Has anyone seen the PM traffic on that street lately? It can become quite gridlocked with the innumerable amount of articulated buses turning from 4th onto Olive.

    Does anyone know why Pine Street was left out?

    1. “It is worth the sacrifice in headway time if Seattle can a direct transfer point between Link and the Streetcar.”

      Sorry, but no. Let’s suppose you are making a Link->Streetcar connection. Think about how much time you will save walking by having the streetcar do Pine. Compare with how much extra time you will spend waiting.

      Considering that either way, you still have to walk up the escalator and out of the station, the marginal walking distance saved is just one short block, with no stoplights. Walking time saved is, give or take, about 1 minute. By contrast, the average difference in wait time between 10 minute headways and 15 minute headways is much more than 1 minute.

      Also, I don’t see a reason for Link->Streetcar transfers to be super popular to begin with. Nobody is going to get off Link at Westlake and wait 10 minutes for the streetcar to take them two blocks to First – just walking over to First would be much, much faster. In fact, given that the only real scenario for a Link->Streetcar transfer at Westlake is for trips to or from SLU, the whole point of the extension is not really about Link->Streetcar transfer at all. It’s about thru-trips from SLU to points in downtown other than Westlake.

      1. To be honest with you, Adsf, I somewhat agree with you in regards to saving time. The difference in amount of potential wait time for the Streetcar and walking time is minimal (though I believe it’s a bit more than 1 minute). That’s how savvy, veteran transit riders think. That’s how WE think. However, that’s not how the general public thinks – especially potential tourists who need easy, user-friendly facilities to navigate the city. The benefit of no-walking to transfer outweighs the reduction in headways. You’d be surprised at how many people would rather stand and wait than to walk the few extra block or two. The appeal of having something “just right there” tickles the people’s desire for convenience.

        You also mentioned the con of walking up an escalator. This is something that is normal in a multi-modal. You see it in San Francisco when transferring from BART to MUNI, in NY going from Metro to PATH and even here transferring from Sounder to Metro or Link. Thank goodness for escalators!

      2. “You’d be surprised at how many people would rather stand and wait than to walk the few extra block or two. ”

        If people choose to act that way, that’s their problem, but you cannot build a transit system around people who think like that. At least not a system that people who care about getting somewhere in a reasonable amount of time will care to use. It is certainly not worth reducing the quality of service for everyone – including people who aren’t even transferring – just to cater to people who are both irrational and transferring. If user-friendlies and tourist navigation is a problem, the solution is simple – just install signs. In this case, the actual walk between Pine and Stewart is about 500 feet, virtually all of which is sheltered from the rain. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

        Also, note that the city obviously believes that there will a substantial amount of thru-riders at Westlake, since that is the whole point of building the downtown extension. There is no way the cost-benefit of this would make the slightest bit of sense if it’s primary purpose were something for people taking Link to Pike Place Market to transfer to in a bid to substitute two blocks of walking with 10 minutes of standing (a mixture of waiting for and riding the streetcar).

        Truth being told, the project probably doesn’t make sense anyway, but it is at least somewhat plausible that there are large numbers of people headed between South Lake Union and parts of downtown south and west of Westlake.

      3. Thank goodness for escalators!

        That is except when they are busted, which is all too often in the DTT.

      4. ASDF,

        System access and system transfers operate on different psychological “ease” metrics. They just do.

        The distance, though beyond the upper limit of ideal, is not the primary issue. It’s the complexity (cross the mezzanine, take this exit, walk this beggar gauntlet, turn this corner, then walk this other block, the wait forever to cross this street) .

        Above all, it’s that unfriendly street crossing. Or sometimes two — the proposed stop on Stewart is actually worse than the Westlake one, requiring backtracking across 3rd and Stewart (on top of the long block), before turning the corner to a subway entrance that frankly isn’t anywhere near the subway.

        On the other end, we’ve got an I.D. stop two light cycles from what would otherwise be the only convenient transfer in the entire Sound Transit network. Whoops!

      5. This connector is at least better than the old 4th/5th idea in that it can eventually be extended if the people who think the densest neighborhood in the city needs to preserve its on-street parking at all costs eventually change their minds.

      6. Another benefit: it’s a corridor where you can argue transit is actually lacking, instead of being completely redundant with a gazillion other routes, since First had all its buses moved to 3rd or truncated and now the 99 (and a short-term 16 and 66 reroute) is all it has.

      7. If I’m a tourist with luggage coming from the airport on Link, yeah, I’m gonna wait up to 10 minutes rather than drag all my luggage for my week-long Alaska cruise (including fancy clothes for formal night dinners) with me several more blocks after that long walk from the baggage claim to the link station at SeaTac. Having a few minutes to just sit and breathe some outdoor air on my way to my hotel is waaaaaaay better than dragging all my stuff all that way.

        If I’m an office worker commuting in on Link, I’m not waiting, I gotta get to work.

        If I’m a mom with small kids, it’s gonna depend whether I brought the stroller. No way am I making my 2-year-old walk that far because I’ll end up having to carry her plus the diaper bag. But if I’ve got the stroller, I’d rather walk it than sit with an antsy kid.

        People live different lives and make different choices. To me it’s about making it the most efficient/usable for the most people.

      8. the358, if you’re going on an Alaska cruise, you’re not taking the Streetcar, because it doesn’t go near either of the cruise terminals. Nor does it get any closer to any hotels than Link does, save the Pan Pacific at Westlake and Denny.

        But the whole point is moot, because for the price and hassle of a Link fare, you can instead arrange for shuttle service directly from SeaTac to your hotel, and not have to drag your two weeks worth of luggage on _any_ form of public transportation.

        If you’re an office worker riding Link to work, it will more likely than not be faster to walk to your destination than to wait for the Streetcar.

        Your mom & kids analogy is pretty much the only one that I don’t find immediately farcical.

      9. “if you’re going on an Alaska cruise, you’re not taking the Streetcar, because it doesn’t go near either of the cruise terminals. Nor does it get any closer to any hotels than Link does, save the Pan Pacific at Westlake and Denny.”

        There are some hotels on First Avenue, like the Alexis quite near to the Madison/Marion stop. And the Westin is just across the street from the current SLUT terminus. I’ve never been on a cruise, but I expect most people spend a bit of time in their departure city. So once they get settled into their hotel, having a streetcar close by could make it quick and convenient to Pike Place, Lake Union Park, the ID or Capitol Hill (for whatever reason).

      10. I’ve never been on a cruise, but I expect most people spend a bit of time in their departure city.

        Some do, some don’t. Cruise companies usually offer transportation deals to and from the airport (called “transfers”), so you get off the plane, onto a van, and onto the cruise ship without ever setting foot in the city of your departure. Likewise upon your return.

        Either way, two weeks of cruise wear is not something any sane person is going to want to lug around on public transportation. We’re not talking a weekend trip to the beach here. I pack enough to have two outfits per day: daywear and dinnerwear, which includes the one or two formal nights.

      11. Regardless of a cruise or a dinner & show, there are already people lugging around luggage who step off the Link. As a hotel bellman and avid rider myself, I notice younger travelers are much more willing to connect to buses and trains than older ones, thus they’d probably would transfer to the streetcar (if there would be a stop along Pine St) to head to the Seattle Center. I see older folks hailing cabs when they exit Westlake Station to take them to their hotel.

        The 358rider has a good point. A variety of people will be in a variety of travel scenarios. Our transit network should cater to those who want convenience, making riding transit more appealing. Transit savvy commuters know their options & “back ways” already.

    2. The previous iteration had alternatives at Pine Street, Stewart Street, and Virginia Street. It looks like after digesting the feedback and narrowing down the options they chose Stewart Street. It doesn’t say why, but that’s something you can ask at the open house.

  12. at GGLO, SDOT and NN explained that most the options for the east-west connection between Westlake and 1st avenues would touch the water proof membrame of Westlake Station, so were dropped. Also a new south-westbound station would be needed.

    a combined five-minute headway may not be frequent enough to avoid the “empty lane syndrome” with the other north-south avenues congested except for 3rd Avenue in the peaks with transit priority.

    there are two game changers coming before the targeted implementation year: U Link will open with six-minute headway and provide much better connections between Capitol Hill and downtown and through downtown; and, the new low-floor electric trolleybuses will reduce dwell times and improve speed.

    hopefully, as this is a high cost and low benefit project, Seattle will drop it. there is no where in the region with more transit service than the north-south corridor in downtown Seattle. transit provides a network of service and the south ends of the two streetcar lines are alreay well connected via Link and many bus routes. as d.p. has stated, it is the redundant option and is not needed.

    McGinn, Murray, and all nine councilmembers seem to suffer from a streetcar virus. I recommend two asprin and a trip to Vancouver, BC.

    1. Too funny Eddiew!

      But it looks like our toy trains are here to stay. If the city council is adamant about it, then we might as well make it the best darn streetcar system around.

      Though it would be nice to have automated, separate-grade trains everywhere . . .

      1. They are not mutually exclusive. Streetcars are for shorter trims, grade-separated trains are for longer trips.

      2. Good transit works flexibly, and scales.

        A solution in search of a problem, which is all out streetcar network has ever been, never leads to good transit.

  13. Hopefully the Madison stop will be built on the block between Marion and Madison, which would place it right at the end of the pedestrian bridge coming from the ferry terminal.

  14. I keep seeing reference to the West Seattle study, but haven’t seen any indication that it has started in earnest. Does anyone have any idea what the status of this study is? Presumably it should be on the same track as the Ballard study, which is clearly much further along.

    1. ST advertised for a consultant to study the Downtown-West Seattle-Burien corridor and the Burien-Tukwila-Renton corridor a few months ago.

  15. I’ve been hoping someone would expand upon this tweet that I believe came from this same meeting:

    Seattle Transit Blog‏@SeaTransitBlog 21 Oct
    Speakers tempered expectations for getting rail to W Seattle, Conlin saying “it’s harder than we thought” and McGinn “it’ll be a heavy lift”


    1. I can’t say for sure, but it might have to do with some sort of complication turned up during the preliminary phase of the study? They have not really started the public discussion about the West Seattle line yet… that was going to be a few weeks back, but they delayed it until after the election.

      It would certainly be a big project though (especially if we push for grade separation, which we should). What exactly the “challenges” they are referring to though are not clear to me at this point… anything else I could say would just be baseless speculation.

      1. Challenge is a euphemism for expense.

        The “challenge” is justifying a ginormous expense for the relatively paltry potential ridership that would see any travel time improvements, given the post-1950s sprawling decentralization that continues to define this quarter of the city.

        Thanks to precedents like the Roosevelt debacle, West Seattle boosters have come to believe they can demand billion-dollar subway investments while seeing only minimal changes to the present spatial uses. This is simply not going to happen.

      2. @d.p. I guess you could say getting federal funding is one of those “challenges” West Seattle will face without taking some Ballard style density.

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