@TransLinkKid (Instagram)
@TransLinkKid (Instagram)

Walking by Seattle Pacific University early last week, I noticed that the trolley wire extension project appeared to have been complete, yet service has not yet been proposed for extension. We’ve been covering this issue since 2012, and earlier estimates had Metro hoping to complete the project in 2014.

The passing trolley wire at SPU allows Routes 3 and 4 to extend from Queen Anne to Seattle Pacific, eliminating their vestigial residential loops atop Queen Anne. It provides legible and frequent trunk service between SPU, Queen Anne, and Downtown, and it also atones for the 2012 loss of Route 17, previously SPU’s primary downtown access. Two years ago this week we reported that Metro had funds for design and construction, and it appears to be complete. But in an email, Metro’s Jeff Switzer tells STB that the routes will not be extended to SPU until March 2017:

Metro is planning to extend the routes 3 and 4 to SPU in March 2017 and will propose this as part of its 2017-18 budget. This extension creates a more robust connection between SPU and Queen Anne and it will provide better access to comfort stations for our Operators.  Metro’s challenge has been finding the operational resources to fund this extension which roughly adds more than another full-time bus to the schedule.

Waiting another year for this minor change is mildly frustrating, but it’s good to know it’s being officially proposed. My own estimate of the operational costs for this are approximately 3,000 service hours, or roughly $500k per year. That’s a small but non-negligible outlay, and it is definitely eligible for a Prop 1-funded boost in future service changes. Let’s hope this stays on the docket for next year.

41 Replies to “Seattle Pacific Trolley Extension Coming in March 2017”

    1. Prop 1 yes, but it’s still a limited number of hours and they’ve all been distributed. The 8 would like to complete its evening frequency (it got 30 to 20, it should get 15), and I wish the 11 would get evening/Sunday frequency to offset moving the 10. I notice the 60 has gone up to 20 minutes midday, which probably means that Metro wants to raise it to 15 when it can. The C/D split took a third of the hours I heard, and there’s differing views over whether that was really the highest priority. I’m not sure if Martin is counting on another Prop 1-like supplement on top if it (not very likely), or that revenue is still increasing as time goes on so there will be another round of additions (after a year? sounds unlikely to me but possible).

      Move Seattle was dedicated to capital improvements, mostly street reconfigurations for the future RapidRide lines, as well as sidewalk/bike improvements for “Safe Routes to School”, and safety improvements for the zero-collisions goal, and a contribution to the Northgate pedestrian bridge and Graham Station. No operational hours as far as I know.

      1. I get what you’re saying … but I think maybe the 49 with 12min freq. along side the new subway could have suffered the loss of 1 bus that could have gone to the new 3/4

        not saying it would be simple … but I think they could have found the service hours somewhere in the existing system.

      2. Metro has been gradually positioning the 49 as the primary route on Capitol Hill, and wanted 10-minute frequency in the restructure proposals. It went down to 12 due to the partial restoration of the 43, the 8-Madison failure, the 11-John failure, the 12 deletion failure, and the 11-Madison and 49-Madison failures (which depended on the 12 deletion). So it’s not really going up from 15 minutes as down from 10 minutes. And where the hours went to is the 43. The peak-only restoration of the 43 is really strange because I don’t think anybody pushed for that; they pushed for an all-day 43. So it may just hang around until the next recession or until Madison BRT.

        Meanwhile, Metro appears to believe that the 49 is the best complement to Link and the best shadow route. I myself found it useful from University Heights to the Capitol Hill library Saturday. (I boarded it intending to go to Summit, but I didn’t like the library book I’d just checked out so I decided to return it on the way.) It does seem to fill a niche between the northern U-District and northern Broadway until U-District Station opens.

      3. Also, the 49 is within the top five highest-ridership, highest-revenue routes in the system. In the evenings at 4th & Pike it comes every fifteen minutes and 30-40 people board every one (that was pre-Link so I don’t know how many of them have defected), while the 3N/4N is lucky to get four people.

      4. I’m still bummed that the 49 has no northbound stops between Pine and John. Two stops were removed during the street car preparation work and were never replaced, not even the very busy stop in front of Seattle Central.

    1. Whoa whoa whoa, slow down there tiger! 2030 doesn’t give us enough time for the public outreach required, Seattle Process, and inevitable lawsuits. Someone could be offended by the presence of trolley poles and we need to truly ensure this obvious decision is the best decision.

    2. First you have to get Metro to accept that as a desirable goal. The first issue you would have is Montlake bridge congestion making the Queen Anne/Belltown segments less reliable.

  1. Wait, tell me it ain’t so. The 3 layover in the nice sunny park was the best ever. Grab a bite at Safeway, followed by a nice stretch-out on the lawn. Life is good, NO?

    1. You can still hang out there. Just use OneBusAway to know when you need to walk two blocks to the 3, 4, 13 stops. Or… Just walk over there any time since there’s enough frequency at most times that you don’t need a schedule.

    2. You’ll lose the convenience of the 3 and 13 going downtown in opposite directions on Queen Anne Avenue, so you won’t need OBA as much. But if you miss it to much you can go down to Kent East Hill and experience the 168/169 alternating on opposite sides of 104th to, and also the 164/169 going to Kent Station kitty-corner to each other at KK Road & 132nd.

  2. Three years from design to implementation? Quite the timeline for a block of trolley wire.

    1. Metro had a revenue crunch not too long ago and deferred everything except operations and dipped into its reserve fund. It’s just now rebuilding its force and restarting projects, and Prop 1 was a rather overwhelmingly quick reversal that Metro had to scale up for (which is why runs were silently canceled for a while: it couldn’t hire enough drivers that quickly). On top of that was the planning and implementation of the RapidRide C/D restructure, the E and F launches, and the U-Link restructure and its extended controversy in east Seattle. And replacing the trolley fleet.

  3. Way past due, although this should be just the start. Queen Anne has pretty amazing bus connections by Seattle standards (one of the peaks of living amongst the bourgeois), but it’s pretty silly that it’s impossible to get a one-seat ride from Queen Anne north to Fremont – it’s 1.5 miles.

    1. I know. Extending the 13 is not only about providing a one-seat ride to Fremont – it’s also about providing a two-seat ride on a close-to-direct route to many other neighborhoods in north Seattle, including everywhere you can get to on routes 5, 40, 44, and 62. The status quo requires either walking to Fremont (1.5 miles, steep hill) or backtracking most, if not all of the way downtown.

      1. 75 years ago, was anyone in QA going to Fremont? I wonder if the absence of trolley lines up the hill indicated that they didn’t want the unwashed tradespeople upon their golden hill

      2. 50 years ago, nobody believed that transit was for getting anywhere except downtown. Even workhorse crosstown routes, such as the 8, 44 and 48, faced a lot of initial resistance. The 48, I believe, was actually created out of the court order. In modern times, things have changed, but the transit priorities of 50 years ago still persist in the layout of our trolley wires.

      3. Thanks for the context (I’m new here). What’s the history of the court order, or a link where I can learn more?

      4. 80 years ago there were corner stores every couple blocks so you didn’t need to go out of the neighborhood as much for everyday things. People would have a shop on the ground floor and live on the second floor. When cars took over the shops were consolidated into supermarkets and larger stores, and the storefronts were converted into part of the house. All entertainment, department stores, offices, and institutions were downtown so that’s where everybody went; they didn’t go from Queen Anne to Fremont much. With the rise of cars, the people willingly allowed the streetcar network to be dismantled and the bus frequency to go down, and they drove everywhere that’s not downtown, so there wasn’t a great demand for routes like Queen Anne to Fremont or Magnolia to Ballard. It’s only when people started questioning car supremacy and too much lanes-and-parking-lots-and-congestion and the stagnation of wages below inflation and peak oil and mideast dependency and climate change that people started demanding a comprehensive transit network like more traditional cities.

      5. I don’t know if there was really a court order, but the community asked for a north-south route for years but Metro didn’t think it would get enough ridership. The same thing also occurred on Denny Way between Uptown and Capitol Hill: the community asked for a route for decades before Metro implemented it. My friend lived in Summit and walked to Queen Anne High School (the 3’s terminus) because it was faster than taking a bus downtown and transferring. But when Metro did implement the 48 and 8, they got so much ridership that they were repeatedly expanded. (The same for the 31/32 on 40th.)

      6. Remember that the streetcar system of 100 years ago was build primarily to make a profit. There may have been demand for Queen Anne to Feemont traffic, but if there wan’t enough to be profitable, then it didn’t get built.

    2. How far north are they talking about extending it, anyway, up to 46th? Are “they” even talking about it, or is it just us?

      I’d love to see it too, it’s annoying that it would have to backtrack down Nickerson to the bridge though…

  4. Will Metro maintain both route numbers (3 and 4) when they will become the same route North of downtown?

    Seems like it would be better to keep the 3 and nix the 4, just given that the current 3N tail is closer to the 13 route which runs on 3rd Ave W.

    1. They will be consolidated. The 4-south will also be consolidated into the 3-south at some point. In 2012 as part of the C/D restructure Metro proposed this SPU routing, consolidating the 4S, consolidating the 2N into the 13, and rerouting the 2S to Madison-Union. That led to opposition from 2N, 2S, and 4S adherents and Metro withdrew the entire bloc of proposals rather than implementing part of them. It tried again during the 2014 cuts but again ran into opposition, and then the later rounds of cuts were canceled. Now it’s going ahead with the 3N/4N, which is in conjunction with a larger layover point in SPU. The 2N, 2S, and 4S reforms will probably come back at some point, either during the next reorganization or next recession. The earlier proposals called the north part the 4 and the south part the 3, rather than calling the whole thing the 3. That seems to be because the south part is the 3, whereas on Queen Anne the 4 is the primary route (being the night/Sunday number).

      1. Personally I would use a new number, which would allow KC Metro to have the freedom to thru-route ends of trolley routes with any other trolley routes in the future. Trolley routes are the only routes that use the same number from one end of town to another, though most of the trolley routes today have different numbers. Only the 2, 3 and 4 have thru-routes. I’ll call the combined Queen Anne end of the 3/4 the 34.

  5. I think its really cool that Seattle has a trolley bus network when you realize how rare these things are.

  6. Metro has the money! They have a full time route they can cut right now! They just choose to operate a private bus for a select few citizens at Center Park instead of providing public transit for everyone.

    They’ve made a choice to provide private transportation for a few instead of providing a great transit system for all…

    1. The Center Park shuttle has been operating for 40 years now? I agree It should be dropped, sadly though i’m sure most of its riders qualify for ACCESS so it probally would not change much.

      1. Wish that were the case, MrZ, but that’s simple not correct.

        1) ADA prohibits SPH from isolating disabled residents in Center Park – the vast majority of residents have no (none, nada, zip) disability!

        2) Metro did an outreach at Center Park about a year ago to sign people up for Access. Know how many new registrants they found in the entire building of 200+ people: zero!

        Center Park is no longer for the disabled. It’s for everyone. This makes the Center Park bus a private taxi for those lucky few who live there. Even thought 99% of people in that building can ride the bus like you and me, Metro keeps dumping money down that hole.

      2. About $450,000. If they stopped providing this private taxi to a few fully-abled people, they could run service on the extension today.

  7. What is the exact routing of this wire extension? Where did the existing wire end, and where does the new one go?

  8. Remember when I pointed out the opportunity costs of the C/D split and all the great things we’d like to have happen with Prop 1 money that wouldn’t happen because that split is so expensive?

    Just add this to the list.

    1. That’s true, but having the C and D go all the way through downtown to the adjacent neighborhoods is also a benefit. And I think it’s part of a strategy of consolidating service downtown. I think the C, D, and E are being positioned as the primary routes for intra-downtown circulation, to consolidate the routes to ease congestion, and give more even headways and more consistent station amenities. The 40-RR and 120-RR will probably be added to them and share the stations, and whichever other lines go downtown (I’m not sure if the 7-RR will).

  9. Since the 3N and 4N are essentially the same route now, how about using a single number instead of two?

    The 3N and 4N get consolidated into route 6, while the 3S and 4S stay numbered 3 and 4, respectively. And yes, the 3/4 and 6 would be thru-routed.

    1. Metro has been moving away from single route numbers on two sides of downtown. That gives it more flexibility to reconnect routes to counterparts needing the same frequency and coach size. The 1 used to run as 1/36, the 7 as 7/49, the 13 as 13/12, the 14 as 14/47, and the 43 as 43/44. Now the 1 is connected to the 14 because they’re both low-ridership, the 2S alternates with the 2N and 13, the 12 was connected to the 10 for several years but is now separate, and the 47 is isolated and live-loops downtown. If the routes had continued to be two-part, Metro wouldn’t have been able to rebalance them or it would have had to move numbers to a different segment and that would have confused people even more.

  10. What’s the status/timeline of other electrifications in Seattle? 48? 8? 11? I know there were some outlined in a recent post Prop 1 SDOT report.

    1. If you mean electrifying the regular routes, I don’t know that any of them are funded. Metro wants to move the 3/4 to Yesler between 3rd and 8th but there’s been no movement on that. Madison BRT is opening in a couple years I think, but how that relates to the 11 is up in the air. SDOT assumes it will replace the 12, not the 11. There’s a pre-proposal to extend it to Madison Park without the RapidRide features but that hasn’t been approved. The new RapidRide lines are just getting started; they’ve had no open houses yet. The 8 may move to Thomas Street when the DBT construction is completed, so they wouldn’t wire Denny Way until they’re sure about that.

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