[updated with additional budget details: 3:05pm]

Mayor Murray is delivering his budget address from 2-3pm today. The speech will be archived on the Seattle Channel, or you can read the remarks as prepared here. Though rightfully focused on housing, policing, and other major issues, several transportation line items were also called out.

The budget funds the Lander overpass, Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan implementation, Vision Zero initiatives, and the first hard commitment to fund the City Center Connector. The $45m city contribution will combine with an expected $75m grant to fund roughly 75% of the line’s capital cost, with $30m in additional funds coming from Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities for relocation work on 1st Avenue and Stewart Street. The city’s funding will primarily come from bonding against Commercial Parking Tax revenue. Total project costs are estimated at $166m.

The $45m in local funding would be spread over 4 years, with $4.7m this year, $16m in 2018, and $24m in the 2019-2020 biennium. The Council’s actions this fall would commit the city to spend the full $45m, but they would only be allocating the first $21m for this biennium.

The funding would set up the line for construction in 2018-2019, with a 2020 opening. The construction would bring welcome transit right-of-way to 1st Avenue, and make relative lemonade from the relative lemons of the South Lake Union and First Hill lines. From Pioneer Square to Pike Place Market, or Chinatown to Colman Dock, etc, the streetcar will be a more direct path than an out-of-direction walk to 3rd Avenue or the Link tunnel. The line would also forego the fatal mistake of the first two lines, that of running in mixed-traffic.

If the new funding is approved and the federal grant comes through as expected, construction would occur during the most intense period of disruption for downtown arterials, with simultaneous construction of Madison BRT, 2-way Columbia Street, Alaskan Way Viaduct demolition, the Waterfront overhaul, Convention Center expansion, conversion to a rail-only Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, East Link related closure of the I-90 transitway, and more. The confluence of these issues is the heart of the One Center City (formerly Center City Mobility Plan) that is off to a slow start, but will begin convening its Advisory Group this fall.

Prior City Councils were pronounced for their streetcar skepticism – especially former CM Nick Licata – with both good and bad reasons for opposition. It will be interesting to watch as this line item works its way through the budget process. There are fears that the city balking at this line may make the FTA more hesitant to fund future grants to Seattle DOT, for projects such as Madison BRT or other Rapid Ride conversions.

105 Replies to “Murray’s Budget Funds Center City Connector”

  1. Consider me a Streetcar Skeptic. I used to champion streetcars, but would rather see electric trolley buses.

    Here’s why: Streetcars require tearing up road and more capital investment, plus are stuck-in-place. Electric buses and electric trolley buses also use electricity, can be articulated and one day double tall, don’t require tearing up roads, can also be wrapped as beautifully as the Seattle Streetcars are or as minimally as the Portland Streetcars are, can be just as stuck in traffic as the Seattle Streetcar & Portland Streetcar have been, and unlike streetcars electric buses can be deployed much faster.

    Then in Seattle’s case, it seems to me the light rail spine is duplicating some of the streetcar. Need way better integration and wayfinding – that means painted arrows on the floor & ground people – between Sound Transit & Seattle Streetcar.

    Bottom Line: If we are a region are going to invest in rail transit, make sure it doesn’t end up stuck in traffic. Rail transit should bypass if not relieve congestion. OK?

    1. I’m not a fan either, generally, but I feel like this is the only decent place for a streetcar in the state, and if it takes rail to get dedicated ROW and a less car-choked 1st Avenue, count me in. Construction will be rough though, depending on what One Center City figures out for mitigation.

      1. Agreed. Trolley buses won’t get dedicated ROW. I’m not a fan of streetcars whilst our subway/light-rail system needs funds for acceleration. But I’ll support streetcar for this route because it’ll make the money spent on the First-Hill Streetcar, and the maintenance on the SLUT, not so wasteful IMO. I would be pretty strongly against future streetcar expansion until after the CCC is complete and light-rail reaches Ballard and West Seattle.

      2. Tacoma, Everett, and Spokane wouldn’t be great places for streetcar investment? They appear to be sensible locations considering the density of their urban cores and available space on their roads. Seattle has too much going on at street-level for streetcar to be effective.

        Even with dedicated ROW on 1st and the $10M Fairview Ave fix, many streetcars can get lodged in SLU gridlock.

      3. First Zach, then Andrew, then Mike just like CJ and her proteges would do it… I’ve got “The West Wing” theme song on, I can’t stand the BS artistry called a Presidential debate.

        Zach, with respect I’ve been listening to the folks clamoring for more light rail to more of Seattle – and to put gates protecting light rail trains from collisions with cars. Mayor Murray should stop all Seattle Streetcar expansion until this is done. Just give Sound Transit the money to fix Seattle up.

        Andrew, I think you gotta make a choice here. If it were me, I’d just give the money to Sound Transit. “Our subway/light-rail system needs funds for acceleration” and should be a priority for Seattleites, not a bus on rails that gets stuck in traffic. Good grief!

        Thank you Mike, “many streetcars can get lodged in SLU gridlock.”

        Oh and one last thing: I’m your friend Seattle. I love you, ok? I want you to get what you truly want and that’s more Sound Transit, more often. Sound Transit is the Seattle Seahawks of public transportation, a role model to all of us in the region and when a-holes attack Sound Transit, it’s like Santa Clara 49ers fans going after our class act Hawks!

    2. Dude. Travel. Street cars can be articulated, or run I. Pairs. And they can be double tall too.

      Murray has taken a great step with this. Streetcars aren’t LR, but they aren’t intended to be. They will never work in suburban BFE, but they do have a role in Seattle.

      And connecting Seattle’s two disconnected SC lines makes way too much sense for a rational person to overlook.

      1. I’d rather Seattle just give the money, all of it to Sound Transit to build light rail to yes, BALLARD. Because folks want LIGHT RAIL to BALLARD.

        Speed up Regional Prop 1/ST3 for my Seattle friends please. We are ONE state.


        Joe from Skagit

    3. Double talls are a non-starter for service within the city. They run into low branches on street trees (which we have a lot more of than London or other double-decker cities), they are slow to load because passengers can’t use stairs while the vehicle is in motion, and are generally unnecessary for the short distance involved.

      We’ve got two disconnected lines already, so it makes sense to connect them and have interlined service. It’s also a lot easier to lobby for complete transit-only right-of-way when you’re dealing with rails.

      1. Double talls are a non starter because they run into branches? You mean like the double tall buses that are already very successful?

    4. Joe, and everybody, the transit world has been here, and done this- for a long time. For me, the great thing about this pic is the overhead. Wouldn’t be my choice to pick. Though if work rules were same as ours, if this was all that was left, no choice about it.

      Still and all, people could drive it. Would’ve been great to be having tea with my mates and reading in the London Times latest proposal to automate it.

      Anybody remember that Monty Python movie called “Brazil”, postulating what Orwell’s “1984” would have been like in England (where Orwell actually set it, though he called it “Airstrip One?” A driverless one of these would have fit right into the technology.


      Mark Dublin

    5. Every mode of travel has its advantages and disadvantages. The main advantage of some streetcars (e. g. those in Toronto or Paris) is that they are very large, and can thus carry way more people per ride. This is not the case with our streetcars. With similar seat configuration, our buses carry roughly the same number or riders. One stated advantage is that they revitalize an area. There is very little evidence to support this, and in this case it is a moot point anyway. The last thing this city needs is a revitalization effort (Tacoma is a different story, of course).

      The disadvantages of streetcars are quite numerous:

      1) They can’t go up hills. This is a major issue in this city (obviously).

      2) They are costly to maintain. Managing a second set of vehicles is expensive. Worse yet, prime real estate is used to store them. Buses are stored in cheap locations, because they can travel on any road. But the streetcars use expensive barns in the heart of the city.

      3) It is more expensive to build and lay track. As part of the Roosevelt BRT project, the streetcar line needs to be moved. It will cost 7 million dollars (a big chunk of the entire project) just to move one stop.

      4) The tracks themselves are a hazard to bicycles (one death and many injuries despite only having streetcars for a very short time).

      5) The hazard to bicycles limit transit improvements. Bike and transit right of way are a major issue in this city (as we all saw with the Roosevelt BRT plans). Both groups are fighting for the same limited amount of land. But streetcars are worse because they limit what you can do to satisfy both groups. You can have a bike lane intersect a bus lane at an acute angle, but with train tracks, this is extremely dangerous (and thus not allowed). With this project, there are curves, thus making this an issue. Even just putting bike lanes (or general purpose lanes — i. e. sharrows) next to a streetcar lane is a problem. Both of these issues are discussed on the Seattle bike blog (http://www.seattlebikeblog.com/2016/06/23/downtown-streetcar-plans-would-make-1st-ave-stewart-more-dangerous-for-biking/). A few quotes from that article:

      The city can’t repeat a dangerous design and expect different results. … [Providing the level of design that safely accommodates bicycles on a streetcar line] isn’t easy. One option would be to sacrifice the exclusive transit lanes and run the streetcars in mixed traffic instead. … Without a safe plan, this project is probably going to face direct and loud opposition from safe streets advocates.

      Got that? It is quite possible that either this gets watered down or it will face opposition from bike and safe street advocates (thus potentially tying any transit improvement in the area up for years). This just wouldn’t be an issue with a bus lane.

      6) Streetcars can’t avoid obstacles. This means that an accident, a parked or stalled car can bring a streetcar to a complete stop. Construction is also a problem. It is common in this booming city to have one lane blocked off, and a flagger move traffic (or in the case of a two lane road, just have the lanes converge). But a streetcar can’t do that. So either the streetcar is shut down for a while, or special work has to be done to accommodate it (which screws up regular traffic worse or adds to the expense).

      We should stop putting good money after bad. No one wants to admit that the streetcars were a mistake. But the sooner we get rid of them, the sooner we can start building things that make more sense.

      1. As you said every mode has advantages and disadvantages. Streetcars have advantages too, which fit well with this particular alignment along tourist centric first avenue.

        1. Permanency. The not flexible disadvantage is also an advantage. With a high density of destinations, there will always be high demand for mobility along first avenue. So the difficulty to reconfigure a line here will not be such a drawback, and there’s some added assurance that it won’t go away due to arbitrary cost cutting.
        2. Durability. Yes, costs some more to lay track. But rail cars are more durable than bus, which can reduce maintenance long term.
        3. Comfort. You get a better, smoother, higher quality ride that attracts that rail preference passenger (particularly includes tourists who will get on a train much more readily than they ever would a bus, especially in an unfamiliar city).
        3. Visibility. It’s easy to see visibly where the line runs without having to decipher the transit map. That’s great for localized area transit, which is the purpose here.
        4. Frequent stop spacing. Tourists can be comfortable that even if they don’t now exactly which stop their intended destination, the stops are frequent and they can get off when it appears they’re near the destination and will not be carried far past that destination. Bus routes by contrast can be unpredictable to the unfamiliar rider.

      2. 1) When it comes to transit, flexibility is an advantage, not a disadvantage. I really can’t think of a single example where that isn’t the case (I doubt you can either, since you couldn’t think of one).

        You have a great example of the problems with inflexibility on this very route. You basically have two lines, with a huge gap in them. Both lines suck. If these were bus routes, they would have been changed a long time ago. But you can’t change them. It means you basically have only one shot at it, and guess what, we failed (twice). Metro has altered routes all through the city and you are basically saying you wish they couldn’t. That is just ridiculous.

        2) The durability costs are far outweighed by the initial cost as well as the cost to store them and maintain a completely different set of vehicles.

        3) The main reason these streetcars are more comfortable is because they are really slow. Unlike a bus, they can’t go up steep hills. But the idea that rail is intrinsically more comfortable than a bus is silly. Ride the New York subway or BART across the bay and it is damn uncomfortable. But millions ride it because it is the fastest, best way to get there.

        But let’s say you are right. Let’s assume that people just prefer the streetcar. Now imagine a bus and streetcar run on the same line. A bus appears, and you know that the train won’t arrive for another ten minutes. Better yet, both arrive, and you know from experience that a bus will get to your destination five minutes sooner. Nine out of ten people will take the bus. This isn’t Disneyland — people want to actually get there.

        4. Visibility. It’s easy to see visibly where the line runs without having to decipher the transit map.

        Nonsense. Let’s say I’m on second and Jackson, and want to head towards MLK and Jackson (a reasonable destination). I see the train tracks heading that way, so I hop on. Once it turns on 14th I wonder what the hell is going on. By the time I get up to Jefferson I know I’ve blown it, since I’m really no closer to my destination than when I started. Same with the other direction. I can see the tracks on Broadway, and assume it heads out to Rainier Valley or Beacon Hill. After it makes the left on Yesler, I figure it is going out Rainier, only to see the thing basically make a U-turn, and head west. Same with this thing. Let’s say I’m in town to watch a baseball game. After hanging out at Pike Place Market a while, I see the streetcar and tracks heading where I need to go (south). But again, the train takes a sudden turn, and suddenly I’m headed the wrong direction. Not the end of the world, of course, you can always walk. After the game you want to check out the Seattle Center, and again, look at your map. You walk a ways, pick up the streetcar, and end up quite a ways to the east.

        In all these cases, a bus would have been a better bet. In several of them, a random bus would have been a better bet.

        I don’t know about you, but I can’t see the tracks for miles. At best I can see them for a couple blocks. Just having displays on buses is a better guide for service than tracks. But whether it be a bus or a train, folks will have to figure out how to read a map, or ask someone.

        5. Frequent stop spacing. What? Buses can have exactly the same stop spacing.

        Just about every supposed advantage of a streetcar can be made by simply creating a special bus route. Oakland does that exact thing — they have a line called the “Free Broadway Shuttle. It is pretty easy to guess what it does. It runs on Broadway. It is free. This is way more intuitive than any of our streetcars and wonderful for tourists (you don’t have to figure out how or how much to pay, and you also figure that it goes up Broadway).

        As to whether putting money into something like that is a great idea or not, I don’t know. But it sure beats the hell out of these silly streetcars.

  2. I think 100% grade seperated light rail is good. I just do not understand in any way what a slow street car does. I believe it costs 3-4 times as much to build as a new trolley line. It does not hold many more passengers and when it is finished, nothing but complaints from cyclists. Every piece of track out there is potential for a lawsuit. (Meaning less money for transit). The city and county are self insured so when someone gets hurt the city and county actually have to pay. It just seems like a political move and raises real estate values, but it does not get me to work faster or cheaper. I thought the whole point of expanding transit was to move more people more eficiently. Does this do that?

    1. Remember: streetcars aren’t about improving transit, they’re about development and extending walks.

      1. @Mike,

        But SC’s are still pretty good transit, and they tend to out perform buses in attracting ridership. There really isn’t a lot not to like about them, unless the goal is to spend the absolute minimum possible. In which case, why build transit at all?

    2. Someone from Seattle Streetcar needs to be sent to Europe for a few days and watch how things are operated there.

      The line in Potsdam may have some street running, but it is definitely not as slow as Portland or Seattle.

      1. Exclusive lanes help a lot. So CCC will benefit from that. Too bad most of FHSC was built to make that nearly impossible.

        That said, the Jackson stretch is some of the worst of it and that can improve.

        The city also needs to make sure they’re completing parallel bicycle infrastructue to increase safety for everyone.

      2. But please, and I say this as a regular cyclist, do not try to cram all the infrastructure onto 1st like Broadway!

      3. I think there’s some work that can be done on Broadway too to make the streetcar prioritized. An awful lot of giant left turn lanes that could be 86’d.

      4. Comparing our streetcars to those in Europe (or Toronto) misses the point. Those streetcars are bigger! Every mode has trade-offs, but the only significant advantage to streetcars is their capacity. Even if we had a line where that was an issue, it doesn’t matter. With the same seat layout, our streetcars don’t have significantly more capacity!

        @Charles — Yes, exclusive lanes help a lot. Same with buses.

        @Mike — Yes, the turns do need attention. We should just change the route — just remove the stop on 14th. That is very cheap. Oh wait, we have to move tracks. This sort of work is ridiculously expensive with a streetcar. It will cost 7 million dollars just to move one stop on Eastlake. You could also just move the route to 12th. Again, this would be trivially cheap if this was a bus route (whether BRT or not) but would cost a fortune with the streetcar line.

        James is right. It is wonderful to consider transit alternatives in the abstract. But from a practical perspective, our streetcars are really a bad idea in this city: https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2016/09/26/murrays-budget-funds-center-city-connector/#comment-756263

      5. I’m living in Brussels at the moment and take buses and trams daily. While both are great compared to US -amazing headways, well spaced stops, quick boarding because of universal proof-of-payment transit cards, the tram is smoother and more comfortable and just as fast, or faster than the bus even when both are mixed traffic.
        Also, bikers here seem to have no trouble navigating the rails. Last week was car free day in Brussels and bikes we’re up and down my tramway street. Perhaps chunkier tires or just more experience. Before I came here I was also a exclusive ROW evangalist, but it’s amazing how much you can do with shared ROW if you’re just willing to run enough buses/trams.
        In general, I’ve become much more open to trams as a competitive mode choice.

  3. Every dollar going from the city to silly toys like this is a dollar that could be going to a Seattle-centric effort for additional urban rail. $45m here and there and it starts to add up to real money…

      1. This discussion thread is great evidence for the risk of doing a new type of project poorly. Start with two crappy projects, and when the third one is great and nothing like the first two, you will have lost your audience.

        Mad about cost effectiveness? You could save a little doing a trolley, but on a dollars per rider metric, this is among the best projects we’ve seen. Mad about the timeline to get transit out of traffic? This will be done in the time it takes to go to college, not the time from birth to go to college.

        And yet because the existing streetcars are rife with problems, the first good plan we’ve seen is pilloried by transit fans.

        Make sure to do the first projects right, and the public will support the later ones.

      2. @EHS — Good point. There is a ridiculous association game that has occurred when it comes to transit, especially in a very provincial city like Seattle. RapidRide has sullied the name of BRT, and thus discourages its use in areas for which it would be faster and more appropriate than light rail (like West Seattle).

        Meanwhile, light rail in this town is somehow synonymous with speed, and thus seen as the obvious alternative (even though both modes can be watered down — and have been watered down in this very city). It is just that light rail has sacrificed stops (thus reducing its functionality) while RapidRide has never been rapid. But it isn’t just first impressions, though, that get people to think that one mode is always better. Witness the effect that U-Link has had on transit discussions. Everyone with any sense or knowledge of transit would say that is the one section that will likely be extremely popular and effective. Yet folks are using the success of that one section (that even Sound Transit couldn’t completely ruin) and saying it makes for a strong argument for rail from Federal Way to Fife.

        Streetcars in this town have the same problem, but I, for one, am glad we managed to build such silly lines first because they do a good job of disproving every myth about them. They are a really bad idea, and at least we don’t have an example suggesting otherwise. The reason they are a bad idea have been listed many times: https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2016/09/26/murrays-budget-funds-center-city-connector/#comment-756263

        Maybe if we had built really big streetcars, then folks would have a nice debate about the trade-offs between them and buses. We could argue if it really makes a difference (do we have the density to justify these huge streetcars?). But now, with the tiny streetcars, the whole question is moot. Our streetcars are a stupid idea, and spending any more money on them is stupid.

  4. By 2020, the streetcar program will have cost us more than $350M on two lines of questionable value, one of which has seen declining ridership since 2011.

    With this announcement of $166M going for City Center, those dollars could be spent on improving our exiting three RapidRide lines and beefing up/accelerating seven Move Seattle RR+ lines. That’d help speed up the commute for 50,000+ people. That’s some serious opportunity cost.

    1. True, the two lines we’ve got are throughly disappointing. But they’re stuck in traffic, have mediocre frequency, and aren’t long enough to be competitive with walking. The CCC is none of those things. Exclusive ROW makes it fast, a train every 5 minutes means it’s always coming, and it’s interlined with our existing lines, so it’s plenty long. (admittedly, it doesn’t make any sense to use it to go up First Hill – the roundabout routing of the first hill line ensures that – but there are plenty of trips that do make sense, unlike on our existing lines).

      1. Expanding on the not long enough….the SLU line connects the Westlake shopping center with Amazon and the Silver Cloud hotel. This isn’t a particularly huge set of destinations.

      2. That’s his point! Millions spent, and we got crap. We have vehicles stuck in traffic. The 7, which carries over three times the ridership of both routes combined does so without a huge influx of cash. Imagine spending $350 million on the 7! Imagine half that. Hell, imagine one seventh that, or roughly the amount of money we are going to spend on Madison BRT. Suddenly the 7 is carrying 20 thousand a day, or more than a quarter of our multi-billion dollar light rail line. Oh, and time saved for the thousands of riders is way bigger than the streetcar, in part because the streetcar saves no time! We are thinking about spending billions so that a handful of people in Fife (headed to Tacoma) can save a few minutes, but spending hundreds of millions on a mode that will not save a second of time is somehow OK. What?

        The pro-rail bias of the many of the comments here are just ridiculous. Oh, I get it. BRT can be watered down. It can suffer from “BRT creep”. Oh, heavens. But what about the opposite, What happens when a project goes the other direction, and improves (https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2016/08/02/madison-rapidride-now-with-more-and-better-bus-lanes/). Ho hum. Thousands of people save huge amounts of time and whatever — it ain’t a train. Look, I get it. RapidRide messed up the brand of BRT in this town. But that is the worst thing it did. Now, when people talk about “Madison BRT” they think RapidRIde E (quite popular, but stuck in traffic). Terrible. But does anyone really question whether the investment is worth it? Other than screwing over the meaningless label (BRT) it has been a huge success. If it was called “FrequentRide” and never bothered trying to call itself “BRT”, everyone would say it is was a great idea.

        No one can say that with this streetcar. Eventually, maybe, you might have the right of way improvements that can just as easily serve the buses (without all the drawbacks of a streetcar — https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2016/09/26/murrays-budget-funds-center-city-connector/#comment-756263). But what if we just applied those to the buses? Does anyone really think that the streetcar investment (even when it is all done, and done as well as possible) wouldn’t have been better spent on buses?

    2. Nevegonnahappen.com

      Auora is a state highway, as is the WS bridge. WSDOT will NOT STAND for this aggression against cars.

      There will never bee decent BRT for most of the current rapidRides. This is why putting a proper urban rail onto Westlake, Eastlake and more is the way to go

      1. The Shoreline part of Aurora has full BAT lanes. So does Swift and RapidRide A. Seattle is the one that wouldn’t allow it on Aurora because of the businesses that want free street parking. Never mind that the only businesses without parking lots are between 70th and 100th, and the biggest on (O’Reilly Auto Parts) moved to a lot with parking. The Aurora commercial establishment has advertised the area as “a car-friendly part of the city with plenty of free parking”. The biggest opposition to converting the outer lanes to BAT comes as I understand it from one person, Suzie Burke, a property owner in the area.

      2. Yeah, what Mike said. The city, basically, hasn’t been able to work out a good compromise with the store owners. I didn’t know Suzie was behind this though (not exactly the most loved person in Fremont). But even in Seattle there are bus lanes on Aurora, just not 24 hour bus lanes: https://goo.gl/maps/S11JTx5tZxw

    1. I would normally default to supporting rail, including streetcars, but the SLU and First Hill lines demonstrate one of the main reasons they are worse than buses — mistakes are more expensive to fix.

      Back in 2006, when the city council approved the SLU streetcar there was not enough gridlock/political will to approve a dedicated lane. Ditto in 2008 for the FH streetcar. Now the political will exists, at least for downtown.

      If these had been “special bus lines” rather than “streetcars” we would be talking about restriping lanes. Instead we are (not yet) talking about tearing up the street to move rails.

      The pace of change in Seattle is so fast that we should take an incremental approach, looking for flexible solutions at first and committing to surface rail only as an upgrade from separated right-of-way “special bus lines” that prove their worth.

  5. Has there been any discussion about restriping more of the street car route to get dedicated ROW? I know there was some talk about Westlake, what about first hill?

    1. Jackson St is probably the only exclusive ROW that can be taken for transit on the First Hill line. The entire length on broadway was built to basically require mixed traffic operations.

      1. I wouldn’t consider defining exclusive ROW to the entire line, although that would be amazing. If the stretch from 14th/Jackson to Westlake/Denny, for example, could have its own ROW that would be a game changer.

        I’m not sure how SDOT will manage the transition from shared to exclusive. Will streetcars bunch up like busses due to delays?

      2. Lane reservation and signal pre-empt on Broadway is simple. Whatever’s hard about getting those things is SDOT’s responsibility, and job. Especially since that department was so emphatic about the line being their project and nobody else’s.

        Just reverse present situation for automobiles and streetcars. Lanes and signals, streetcars get priority. As common many places before WWII ended.

        Since Broadway isn’t a through freight arterial, and whole Broadway business district has never been anything but slow, cars won’t be any worse off than before. Maybe better for all traffic.

        Besides, with not only the streetcar, several major bus routes, but also a major LINK station, average visitor will probably do better on Broadway if they leave the car home. Or at Tukwila International or Angle Lake.

        Civil engineering and passenger ops all done, SDOT. Your turn. If you don’t, you’ve got a Mayor and a whole City Council to make you do it.


      3. Jackson will probably be improved as part of the Move Seattle project (Metro 7). It is Corridor 3 as listed here: https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2015/12/21/rapidride-the-corridors/
        The only reason I can imagine them not doing that is if moving the tracks proves to be too expensive. Yet another reason to hate the streetcar. To think that arguably the most important corridor in the state (the 7 carries more riders than any bus with the exception of two RapidRide lines) would be diminished because of a poorly designed, and poorly performing streetcar is very frustrating. Between the cost of moving those tracks and the ones being moved for the Roosevelt project, we could fund an entirely new corridor (e. g. Lake City).

    2. The obvious answer is to move the streetcar to 12th. This was considered initially. This would be trivially cheap if this was a bus route (whether BRT or not) but because it is a streetcar, it will never happen. Reason number 3 as to why these are a terrible idea for this city (https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2016/09/26/murrays-budget-funds-center-city-connector/#comment-756263). This is actually just a variation on reason number three — just making the line in the first place is expensive, moving it is really expensive, too.

      1. If so, then it is yet another reason why streetcars are a really bad idea in this town. My understanding is that the button hook was put in place to serve that area (they just wanted that stop). You may be right, though — it is possible that 12th is too steep (although it looks like a tossup to me).

        Anyway, the obvious answer is to replace the streetcar with BRT. Have the line run the same way, but turn on 12th, then continue on 12th. Go on 12th the whole way. There is parking that can be removed, thus enabling bus lanes for most of the route. Add bus lanes for Jackson (part of the Move Seattle Corridor 3 project — https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2015/12/21/rapidride-the-corridors/). 12th isn’t as important as Broadway, but it is still a big corridor, and the speed difference would be enough to make up for it. The bus could potentially just take a left on Denny, and layover right next to the station (although that would require taking more parking, as Denny is a narrow residential street through there).

        Regardless of the fine details, though, a route like that would be much faster, and thus more popular than the current streetcar. Part of the problem is the stupid button hook, but the other conflict is Broadway. Not much can be done unless we force the cars onto other streets (which would probably be a mess) or sacrifice the bike lanes. 12th has bike lanes, too, but (as mentioned) a lot of parking that can be sacrificed to transit. Plus, in some areas (north of Madison for sure) the bike lanes could be moved. With Broadway having bike lanes, the argument that 12th needs them as well is pretty weak. This isn’t like Eastlake, which is a huge bike corridor. Anyway, even without making any changes to the bike situation, you could just remove some of the parking which would enable plenty of jump ahead spots. This simply isn’t the case with the current streetcar routing.

      2. In the Old Days, there was a streetcar line in Portland that climbed Vista Avenue from Burnside south to Broadway Drive, then climbed to the top of Council Crest Hill. It gained about 1,000 feet of elevation in several miles. Many places on that route were not gradual, so it is hard for me to think of 12th Avenue in Seattle being too steep.

  6. How does Seattle City Light justify paying for utility relocation costs? In every other project I have seen, it is usually the transit agency that has to pay.

    Is it part of City ordinance that utilities have to pay for relocation of their utilities when the City deems it?

      1. Tacoma Power is a part of TPU, which is a city department. But – we hear a lot of pushback about using utility funds for non-utility purposes related to state court rulings.

        My question is how you work around that? Is it in the franchise agreement or the City Charter? Or what? Budget proposals still have to go through legal.

      2. Since the money for the connector comes from the city coffers, I believe this is just a budgetary line item to be managed (spent) by the department.

      3. If the relocation is a betterment, that could be a reason for the utilities to pay some or all of the cost. The power and water lines under First Ave. are probably pretty old.

      4. aw, that’s likely because it has happened other places. The utilities try to take advantage of road/transit projects to do their own renovations at the same time.

    1. I have a hunch that SCL is using this as an opportunity to upgrade and better a system that is probably many decades old and under capacity, under 1st Ave.

      Typically, the transit agency will pay the relocation costs to rebuild exactly what is there already. If the utility wishes to upgrade or do anything different, they pay the difference in costs.

    2. This is a “Public Works” project taken on by the City. SDOT owns the right of way and all the utilities (franchise and enterprise as in the case of City Light and Seattle Public Utilities) are required to move their facilities on their own dime when required for a “Public Work”. However the city cant make the utility move all the time there is generally an agreement on how often they can make them move. This arrangement is called out in the franchise agreement with private utilities, for enterprise utilities it is called out in SMC 15.32.120 – Displacement for public use.
      Anyone upon order of the authorizing official shall upon ten (10) days’ notice, at his, her or its own cost and expense, move any underground, surface or overhead facilities which interfere with any local improvement district work or with any construction for street or transportation purposes authorized or ordered by the City.

  7. I hope that the final design and operation somehow ties into the ferries or the stadiums better. Right now, the plan runs so close — but there isn’t any sort of spur track or loop track that could directly off-load a ferry or allow for multiple streetcars to offload a game crowd.

    1. Strange you should mention this, Al. Because until 2005, Seattle had just exactly what you’re advocating. It was called The Waterfront Streetcar, and also named for its founder, Seattle Council member George Benson.

      The cars sat in a warehouse for ten years. Their return faded steadily off the renderings for the rebuilt Waterfront. Three were finally sent to St. Louis, and two are at least not in the same warehouse, and may be placed in service on our new streetcar system,

      Terminal at Myrtle Edwards Park, with maintenance where a hydrogen bomb-proof pedestrian bridge now stands. Stops were at the Victoria Clipper landing- which could literally connect Vancouver Island with the world, via our Waterfront, Pioneer Square, and LINK to Sea Tac Airport.

      This line restored wouldn’t duplicate the Connector. Between Pioneer Square and Broad Street, there’s literally a cliff between First and the Waterfront. In fact, the two lines could share communications, maintenance and substations.

      Having been personal friends with Councilman Benson, I’m nowhere near willing to accept that the Waterfront line is gone for good, because the new Waterfront will need it more than the old one did. It’s been consciously designed to attract a lot more people. The planned small electric buses running in mixed traffic just won’t handle same work.

      A couple of months ago, SDOT mentioned that some of the civil engineering on Alaskan Way is going to be installed so as to permit light rail in the future. What light rail can handle, streetcars can too. They’re not really different species.

      I think the fate of the Waterfront line has always been a hundred percent politics of the unhealthiest kind. When the person or entity that really pushed for the elimination of the car-line, after its return had literally been in project drawings for so long, will personally stand up and take credit, I’ll take that back.

      Meantime: thanks for a second to my motion.

      Mark Dublin

      1. Mark, although I agree the killing of the waterfront streetcar was tragic and unnecessary, I seriously doubt it’s coming back. Those two cars we have left are more likely to end up in a Spaghetti Factory than in our streets. It was bad enough they couldn’t find a way to relocate the maintenance barn during construction of the sculpture park but it’s inexcusable that they won’t do it for the multi-billion dollar waterfront rebuild. It’s almost like someone in power really despises that line; everything has been done to make sure it doesn’t come back.

      2. Seattle has a terrible culture of piece-meal planning and lack of repurposing something. At this point, the waterfront line appears pretty dead but some tracks may be of some use.

        My hope is simply to use the slower streetcars as more than a mere line – and integrate them better to augment the many wonderful periodic events in our city. The ability to use streetcars as a catalyst for higher-activity places has often been a primary stated justification — but we never seem to want to add those few blocks of tracks and operate those custom operations to make it worthwhile. It’s like being fully dressed but missing socks and shoes.

        Imagine a streetcar waiting next to a ferry that takes a rider to SLU or the stadiums. While there are other ways to make that transit trip, a closer and more targeted streetcar service could be special – just like this connector project isn’t really needed because there are also plenty of nearby transit options available, but it’s considered so wonderful.

  8. The First Hill Line seems to be the Homeless Shelter Shuttle during certain hours of the day & night currently.
    At times when I ride in the evenings there are as many as 7-8 individuals that board the streetcar without ever tagging their ORCA card or purchasing a ticket. They usually come on with large backpacks, bed bundles, or bags of their belongings, and they do not smell very pleasant either. I pay every day for my transportation and would never think of not paying for this service, why should others constantly get a FREE ride(s)?
    I would hope that with the connection of the 2 lines it would be in the interest of the City to actually collect fares from every rider and have enforcement actively present or why not start now and make this be known like on Light Rail. I’ve never once seen a fare checker/enforcer on the streetcars and I’m sure the people that don’t pay their fares know there’s just an “honor system” and they abuse this system.

    1. Better solution, ‘Rider, for less transit expense. I don’t think the police really like being Washington State’s largest mental health provider. So expense of fare enforcement on people who obviously have less money for transit than they do for housing really would go farther elsewhere.

      I think we ought to pair with our public school system on a sustained lobbying program to persuade the State legislature to restore both our rubble-pile of a mental health system, and also our public school system.

      Reason whole legislature isn’t in jail for contempt over school funding is that law enforcement’s unwanted mental hospital role already has them overwhelmed. So considering some legislators, the police would insist they couldn’t handle anymore elected patients either.

      So good approach will be to bus (ST could take awhile to get to Olympia) passengers you mention to permanent housing in the State Capitol Building, with work requirement that they appear at every meeting of the legislature and testify. Also, resume some school runs so high school students’ sleeping bags can fill up the rest of the hallways. Until the legislature is purged of present contempt.

      Since the entire legislature is presently in contempt of court, they’ll be on very shaky ground demanding punishment for anybody else occupying space in the contemptuous representatives’ own building. Or, come to think of it, any other crime.

      But best result of this approach will be to let both streetcar passengers and students, probably many already in student government, and also knowing that the education they’re missing could cost them the college admission they’ll need to work at McDonald’s…

      See first-hand a chamber full of incumbents that anybody of either group of visitors can beat all hollow next election. But historic note: The Sleeping Car Porters’ union became a pillar of organized labor. So could be good tactic to rent a suitably stately uniform, and get the bedding up to your railroad’s standards!


      1. thanks for this Mark — we do not talk enough about the fact that the police departments are mostly the region’s emergency mental services …. it’s disgusting

      2. If we had housing for everybody the “homeless problem” would disappear, and the parks and libraries and buses wouldn’t be full of them. I doubt people would want to hang out in the parks or libraries all day if they had a room to relax in and hang out with friends in.

    2. I think it could be quite compassionate to assign a crew to work on our transit systems to connect with the many in need of help — rather than merely let them ride unattended or just kick them off. Transit should not be a de facto, unattended shelter.

  9. Meh. This isn’t that amazing, but if they feds will pay 75% it’s probably worth it.

    The main advantage I see is the increase frequency on the SLU section. Low frequency has always made that section not much faster than walking.

    On the other hand, they’d probably be better off replacing all the streetcars with trolleybuses. Because they can’t move around other cars and can’t break quickly, they tend to drive slowly and get stuck a lot.

    Seattle’s original streetcar system was replaced with trolleybuses for the same reason…

    1. On the other hand, they’d probably be better off replacing all the streetcars with trolleybuses. Because they can’t move around other cars and can’t break quickly, they tend to drive slowly and get stuck a lot.

      Yep. It is also quite likely that bus improvements would result in a better alignment. From a bike perspective, the streetcar plans are really bad. They didn’t even consider bike safety in the EIS. This has the potential of really pissing off the bike/safety folks, and thus either killing of the entire project, or forcing changes that make the streetcar largely useless (e. g. having it run in mixed traffic). If so, it means that vital right of way (that could also be used by buses) won’t be added. http://www.seattlebikeblog.com/2016/06/23/downtown-streetcar-plans-would-make-1st-ave-stewart-more-dangerous-for-biking/

  10. I just do not understand the hate for on-street light rail / urban rail / rapid streetcar (or whatever we choose to call it) SLU and FH are poorly done, but when we take what ST built in Rainier Valley you see what half of Europe runs on — and it would be incredibly valuable to have urban rail all over seattle.

    Let’s admit this from the get go — There will never bee Seattle subway… we will never have rail in most major directions build 100% grade separated (definitely not underground; heck even ST3 is mostly elevated in Seattle) and by ST … this will not happen. ST will likely include Ballard to UW, but will it hit Fremont? Hardly. Lake city? Aurora? nope etc.
    Let’s not even think of Metro 8. Notgonnahappen.com

    The thing is that Urban rail / Rapid Streetcar, or whatever we call it (at-grade, ROW separated rail) is backbone system in many many EU cities, and a supplement to subways in pretty much all the others. That is because it’s 4-11x cheaper than grade separated rail.

    Seattle deserves the backbone of Link, but Eastlake to Rosevelt, SLU to Fremont to Ballard, Ballard to Lake City, Metro 8, and many more directions would be better served by urban rail than any bus. And decades ahead of any service that is grade separated. Urban rail also stops way more frequently and serves the intermediate areas missed by LINK stop spacing.

    The hate is unwarranted. The Connector will finally build the urban rail Seattle deserves, and if the city actually built the streetcar masterplan to the Rainier Valley spec, Seattle would be much much better off. Sadly, SLU and FH sort of need to start over — they are terribly designed.

    We can wish for link to go from everywhere to everywhere, but it won’t, and we cannot afford to fund it. Not standing behind “rapid streetcar” is a shooting the city in the foot

    1. Igor;

      It ain’t hate, it’s concern for Seattle. Stand Up Seattle and realize you can give the money to Sound Transit and they will build more light rail for Seattle faster. That’s what you guys in the STB Commentariat want, right?


      1. I get that ST can build things well, but my point is about surface rail. It’s a very good option for Eastlake, Westlake, Lake city and many other “secondary” alignments ….

        I am a very very big fan of EU style Strassebahn — or as US seems to prefer to call it — urban rail.

    2. Agreed. The cost per rider statistics on the CCC are incredible. It’s got exclusive ROW. It is not the FH or SLU streetcars; it is, as currently planned, streetcar done right.

      If we care about transportation, I think we ought to be major supporters of this project, and actively involved in making sure it is done well.

      1. Unlike previous projects. Lots of STB readers showed up to the CCC open houses and demanded that it be built with exclusive ROW if it be built at all.

        I think its fair to say that folks have indeed been involved in this and the higher quality of the project reflects that.

      2. Thank you Charles B. But doesn’t Downtown Seattle already have grade separated rail called Sound Transit Link?

        Now this may be off-topic, but I’d rather see Link extended further into Ballard where STB commentators want faster.

      3. You would get the same ridership, but lower cost, if you build BRT along the same route. Oh, and the average speed of a ride would be faster (buses can change lanes to avoid obstacles).

    3. Please visit Europe before you compare the SLUT and FHSC to a lot of their streetcars.

      The CCC by itself isn’t terrible (it’s not great either), but it will be connected at both ends to lines that don’t have exclusive ROW.

      1. I think I make it very clear that SLU and FH are badly designed. Thought let’s also be clear that trams running in mixed traffic are hardly the domain of the US — the problem is that these are the only urban rail lines we have — they need to be built to at least Rainier Valley, standard. Seattle is also so congested that anything in mixed traffic is a non-starter.

        PS: I grew up riding EU streetcars … which is why I am such a proponent. They are a key piece of the transportation puzzle.

      2. Again, folks are conflating issues. Of course a streetcar would be better if given its own right of way. So would a bus!

        In Europe the very large streetcars run through very densely populated areas, thus making them a good a value. In Seattle, we don’t have the former, but even if we did, it doesn’t matter. Our streetcars aren’t that big! They aren’t much bigger than our buses.

        Our streetcars have no advantage, but every disadvantage over a bus (http://humantransit.org/2009/07/streetcars-an-inconvenient-truth.html).

    4. “I just do not understand the hate for on-street light rail / urban rail / rapid streetcar (or whatever we choose to call it) SLU and FH are poorly done, but when we take what ST built in Rainier Valley you see what half of Europe runs on”

      That’s exactly it. ST’s definition of light rail is having exclusive lanes at minimum. Streetcars are defined as possibly running in mixed traffic. There’s also a capacity difference with light rail having larger cars and coupled cars but those are more relative. So streetcars in the Seattle/Portland sense is what Europe won’t build. They only consider mixed-traffic to get through some short segments that are too constricted for any other solution. “Short segments” meaning a block or so long, not an entire First Hill line or SLU line. There may be some pre-WWII streetcars that are street running but they improve them as much as feasable.

      The problem with Seattle/Portland-type streetcars is they’re the worst of both worlds: they’re slower than light rail and not good mobility but they cost more than a trolleybus. I think the First Hill streetcar should have been a trolleybus. Focus on high-quality Link like Joe says. However, I’m not going to protest the city’s plan after it’s decided, because Seattle has bigger problems than a couple of streetcars.

      There’s also the distance issue. Every line, no matter what its alignment or speed, is competitive in certain transit markets and uncompetitive in others. Link’s stop spacing is wider than the Chicago L’s, so it works better for longer-distance trips from discrete points, while the L works better for shorter trips from more points. Link is closer to NYC’s express subways than its locals. A streetcar as the FHS or SLU is construed would not do well for trips like downtown to the U-District, downtown to Ballard, or downtown to Mt Baker, to say nothing of downtown to Northgate or downtown to Lynnwood. It’s a different transit market and different level of service. Many people believe these longer-distance trips are what’s most critically needed and have been neglected for ever (the current buses being spotty and unreliable and not that frequent frequent). Others disagree with that and think the shorter trips are more important. But the mixed-traffic streetcars are so slow that people say they can outwalk them. So they’re losing half their transit market to walking! That’s what makes people say this is not effective mobility or the best use of our tax dollars.

    5. The Rainier Valley segment has cross streets every ten blocks or so. 1st Avenue has cross streets every block. That means the streetcar may be stopped at a light every single block, the way the SLU streetcar is.

      1. When the streetcar doesn’t have exclusive lanes, it’s almost impossible to predict when the streetcar will get to the signal, and thus to come up with decent signal timing; with exclusive ROW the timing should be much more predictable. Obviously nobody knows how well the city will implement signal timing and priority, but unlike SLU and First Hill, it should be possible to do it well (without imposing totally random signal timing on cross streets).

      2. The size of the cross streets matters too. Outside downtown you can get away with pre-empting residential cross streets, some of which are low-volume. But every cross street downtown is high-volume and in many cases have buses on it. So you can’t just treat 1st and 3rd Avenues as transit highways and ignore the cross streets.

    6. @igor — I agree with much of what you said (your second paragraph should be vital reading for everyone who considers transit issues in this town). But there are a couple big things you maybe didn’t realize:

      1) Except for capacity, every advantage of a streetcar can be applied to a bus.
      2) Our streetcars aren’t much bigger than our buses.

      Thus the one major advantage of streetcars (capacity) doesn’t exist within our system, while every disadvantage (conflict with bikes, inflexibility both with the route as well as the vehicles themselves, inability to go up hills, added cost) still exists. They just aren’t a very good idea in this city (https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2016/09/26/murrays-budget-funds-center-city-connector/#comment-756263).

      Point number 5 really is a big deal. This may end up biting us in the butt big time. For the most part, while it is clear that streetcars are a waster of money (and are worse in many other ways) I am always happy when transit right of way is added. But what if the conflict with bike safety ends up watering this down to the point that we end up with nothing but another streetcar stuck in traffic? Instead of a transit lane (shared with both streetcars and buses) we end up with nothing. I consider that a real possibility, given the intrinsic challenges and danger of streetcar lines. A bus lane doesn’t have that conflict. We stand a much better chance of getting the transit only lanes if we don’t run rail through it.

  11. Brendan, any chance the streetcars got replaced with trolleybuses is that after WWII, the streets filled up with so many cars that superior streetcar service became inoperable? Because, if so, there’s a simple straightforward way to restore a transit mode that can handle more passengers smoothly and comfortably.

    Also, on subject of other languages: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meh#Origin. Though until the onset of Yelp!, seldom heard west of the Hudson River. Definitely sounds Yiddish, which we Jews of Eastern Europe invented for the specific purpose of complaining to God about how he messed up the Universe. Of which, against much evidence, Seattle-area transit is part.

    Igor, from the streetcar systems I’ve seen in Norway, Sweden, and Finland, I think you’re right that street rail is best mode for really heavy urban surface transit. In downtown Gothenburg, and especially on the Waterfront Plaza in Oslo, pedestrians are definitely more comfortable around streetcars than buses.

    I think it’s because the outside edges of the railcars never vary side to side. But also, for both pedestrian areas and city streets, main safety feature is lifelong familiarity with streetcars. At most, one tap on the bell, and people step out of the car’s way without looking up.

    Also, and you can expand on this: I have a feeling that by city traffic ordinance, if you get hit by a streetcar you have to pay to clean it and fix the dent. Right?

    Also, I don’t think “hate” really fits disagreements among Seattle residents. Usual emotion is real regret that they’re going to do something bad to you when you’re not looking, but they can’t help it because you keep offending them.

    But I’ve warned you before, Joe, comparing transit or STB bureaucracy to Russia has clear and present danger of letting a certain commenter to hypnotize the Sound Transit Board into thinking they really are billionaire Russian gangsters. Though Regional Transit Committee Chair Claudia Balducci is really impressive in her Siberian mink coat, with jeweled closed-carry for that gold-plated Kalashnikov.

    However: It was Stalin himself who created the 50 mile long trolleybus line in Crimea. It only came out later what happened to everybody who advocated streetcars for that route.


    1. I definitely see it that way — street rail is better than busses. It’s the middle ground for cities that are not NYC or London and thus do not have underground rail from everywhere to everywhere.

      Vienna, and Prague are good comparisons — both have subways, both also have urban rail.

      1. >> street rail is better than busses

        In what way? Please, tell me how our streetcars will be better than our buses. Capacity? No. Not ours. Right of way? Buses can be given the same right of way (and already have). Off board payment, level boarding? Again, can be applied to buses. Go up hills, avoid traffic, be re-routed temporarily or permanently, pose a thread to bikes? Advantage, bus.

        Because our streetcars are so small, they have no advantage over a bus (yet have every disadvantage).

    2. Mark;

      As to;

      I’ve warned you before, Joe, comparing transit or STB bureaucracy to Russia has clear and present danger of letting a certain commenter to hypnotize the Sound Transit Board into thinking they really are billionaire Russian gangsters. Though Regional Transit Committee Chair Claudia Balducci is really impressive in her Siberian mink coat, with jeweled closed-carry for that gold-plated Kalashnikov.

      Yeah, I get it.

      My message to all is there’s another option here – give Sound Transit money to accelerate light rail ;-). If that message falls on deaf ears, okay then. At least I did my best/worst – up to you. The give-Streetcar-money-to-ST proponent rests.

    3. The old streetcars also had the right of way over cars. That was one reason drivers wanted to get rid of them.

  12. Question: Is the idea to have one long streetcar line (SLU to Broadway) or would the CCC be a third, separate line?

    1. Sorta both.

      The way I understand the current plan is both lines would combine on the CCC so that you wind up with double frequency on it. However, one car would not continue from one end all the way to the other.

      1. that is my understanding as well. FHST going to Westlake and SLUT going to ID and the central corridor having very frequent service

      2. Right, two lines overlapping between Pioneer Square and Westlake, for 5-minute combined frequency.

      3. Longer term there’s a possibility of a 1st Avenue extension through Belltown to Seattle Center. But that’s beyond this phase and there has been no discussion of whether it would be a third line or modify the existing lines. That was also before the ST3 alignment of Westlake-SLU-Uptown-Ballard was decided. (The alternatives at that time didn’t serve both SLU and Uptown; it was one or the other.)

    2. Tru, no real reason First Hill Line couldn’t just turn north from Jackson to First and become the Connector? Might be tight turn. And really wonder if people would tolerate all those trees in the median having to come out?

      If the carline didn’t do that, game night traffic would block street lanes solid at the time service needed them most. Take a walk on Occidental to Yesler to First and check out the radii. That would work. No problem leaving the current FHS terminal station where it is as “stub” track.

      The Firefighters’ Monument can respectfully relocate, aiming the nozzle to where it could put out a burning bronze streetcar.

      And barman, after crossing First, the rebuilt Waterfront line could continue a couple blocks further west, to join a possible lane carrying buses to Columbia Street, and then continue north. No, the Waterfront Streetcar isn’t coming back, unless Uber really shines when automated.

      Somebody has to bring it back, preferably whoever or whatever agency anonymously rubbed it out of the renderings. But if not, somebody else, maybe a friend of George Benson’s. The given projected crowds, the Australian cars will fit better elsewhere in the system. Which, incidentally, should definitely be an integrated network.

      First Hill, South Lake Union, and Connector cars will work very well. Also:


      Street rail is a big world, isn’t it, Igor? Also, since our new trolleybuses can cross the BN tracks on Battery to head uphill to First, necessary Waterfront transitway can carry them too. Joint use doesn’t have to die when it loses Convention Place. Good if battery could make Bellevue too.

      Mark Dublin

  13. Great news. CCC is a good and worthy project, so long as we work to keep it from getting watered down. Fast, frequent, efficient, and dirt cheap given the federal contribution. Will drastically increase the utility of our existing lines (both by its mere existence and by funding improvements to the SLUS and FHS) and link so many dense neighborhoods and key attractions. Walking northbound up First is also just enough of a grade to be something of a slog.

  14. I am late to this discussion and RossB made many of my points. I will jump in any way.

    I hope the council will act as our fiscal stewards and decline to pour good money after bad. It seems as if the mayor has contracted the streetcar virus from Vulcan, Drago, Nickels, and McGinn. Seattle got here by putting on streetcar blinders and making streetcar-only decisions.

    There are five opportunity cost issues to consider: the FTA capital funds, the city utility relocation funds, the CCC local capital funds, the city operating funds, and the right of way on 1st Avenue. The utility relocation funds are the nose of the camel under the budget tent; the ugly humps and odor will follow. The council has already dealt with several other streetcar disappointments: over forecasted ridership, under forecasted fare revenue and advertising revenue; longer running times; long delays in FHSC construction; battery and computer issues; disruption along the ROW; do the businesses on Broadway want to pay into an LID to fund the Broadway Extension? ($24 million in total).

    The fourth issue is quite important and tends to get overlooked. Running streetcars every five minutes at $200 per hour will take significant funds. The SDOT CCC appendix suggested $8 million annually. It may be more costly, as the First Hill is slower than expected and is using more battery power than expected, so they may have to be replaced more often. SDOT has an objective to provide frequent service to more households. The CCC does not help that objective at all; in fact, it hurts it, as the operating funds are taken from routes outside downtown Seattle.

    Suppose Seattle wanted to delay the CCC or even cancel and substitute. Could not the FTA be convinced that the seven line RR network partially funded by Move Seattle was worthy of investment? The SDOT grant writers are obviously quite clever; they sold this lemon.

    Does Seattle really have enough funding to do all it has promised in Move Seattle? Even now, we have heard that the Roosevelt line does not have funding to reach Northgate. Is the Route 48 electrification delayed? All seven lines need significant capital and operating funds to fulfill their promises. All are more needed than the CCC. Consider the following important capital projects: sidewalks on Aurora and Greenwood avenues North, extending Route 7 to the Henderson Link station, improving Mt. Baker, Madison BRT, the Yesler Way electric trolley bus overhead. All have been covered by STB. The CCC is the pet pony of projects; it an wait.

    Downtown Seattle circulation is already good and recently got better. Link was extended to Capitol Hill, the north terminal of the FHSC. Link has six-minute headway and is fast and reliable. In 2023, Link will probably have four-minute headway. the new electric trolley buses have low floors. SDOT has added trips on many CBD routes, further reducing wait times. Trust the grid. The resulting streetcar network would be a loop. Few riders want to travel in a loop. the new connections provided are already provided better by the network. No one on the First Hill line who wants to go downtown is not better served by using Link or routes 2, 12, 3, or 4. On South Jackson, routes 7, 14, and 36 provide more trips at their outside stops. In SLU, routes 40, 62, 70, and the C line have been improved and all reach South Jackson Street. The CCC would overpay for downtown circulation. Seattle has more important projects to fund.

    If Seattle is willing to give transit one-half the capacity of 1st Avenue, why not provide it to bus routes that could provide many more trips (than 12 per hour per direction) and carry riders from outside downtown rather than just internal circulation trips. Each trip would then have multiple purposes. The network would be stronger. If only the CCC used that 1st Avenue capacity, would they face the empty lane syndrome?

    The basic issue is that Seattle has a Link, bus, and streetcar network, not just a streetcar network. The question ought to be how to improve the city wide transit network, not just connect one mistaken streetcar line with another. The two streetcar lines are already connected through the service grid: Link and bus. The two existing streetcars are a sunk cost. The question ought to be the best network use of the funds in question.

    The CCC would make the two existing lines marginally better but at high cost. the streetcar network would, like a chain, only be as strong as its weakest link. The First Hill line is slow, indirect, and low ridership. It is probably not providing the intended 10-minute headway. If it has reliability issues, what will that imply for the CCC target five minute headway? The First Hill line uses battery power more than expected due to overhead conflicts. They may be present on 1st Avenue as well.

    Consider 1st Avenue. Zach mentioned this issue. When is a good time to tear it up? Next year, for utility relocation as proposed? It appears to be full of traffic oriented to the SR-99 ramps. the deep bore may open in 2019. The seawall project is still using Alaskan Way. What is the detour path for 1st Avenue construction? After the deep bore opens, are not the SR-99 bus routes to use 1st Avenue until the new Alaskan Way is constructed? At the same time as the convention center expansion ends joint operations in the transit tunnel prematurely? Please take off the streetcar blinders.

    Consider streetcar in general. The passages in the Transit Master Plan are fair. This is not rapid but local streetcar. The stations are long enough for one car only. It is bobby pin shaped, turning back on itself. The advantage of streetcar over electric trolley bus is the capability to couple multiple cars together with one operator. That is not relevant for this project. This network is slow, costly, redundant, and duplicative. Please pull the plug.

    For STB, what would Jarrett Walker do or say? At the very least, he would suggest consideration of opportunity costs.

    1. Well said. I agree completely.

      I would go farther, and look into scrapping the existing streetcars. That seems like a radical idea, but when you consider the actual ridership, not that crazy. Given that we already have extra expenses related to them, this actually makes some sense. Consider that moving the streetcar one stop for Roosevelt BRT will cost 7 million dollars. That is enough to fully fund Pronto, and about 25% of the capitol cost of the downtown to 45th section of that BRT line. Similar changes may have to be made on Jackson. You also have the value of the cars themselves, and the facility that holds them, which sits on prime real estate (not exactly a bus barn: https://goo.gl/maps/voGngAdCkTP2). Salvage the thing, and you probably fund some really good BRT lines. It wouldn’t be hard to replace these lines with much better bus service.

      For example, replace the First Hill streetcar with a BRT line that goes along Jackson (which will get BRT treatment anyway) but then goes up 12th, instead of doing the silly button hook involving 14th and Broadway. That is a straighter shot, and enables much faster speed (there is plenty of parking that can be taken off of 12th). That would mean very fast, frequent service on Jackson, and good service on 12th (to I. D.). It would be much more popular, because it would be much faster. It would provide a very fast connection from Capitol or First Hill to Rainier Valley as well. Take the First Hill BRT south, then take the BRT version of the 7 out Rainier Valley. The transfer would likely involve a center station (meaning no need to cross the street). That is a combination that struggles right now (because the streetcar is so slow) but would make a lot of sense if it was a bus on a faster street. That is pretty much the exact same route (offering up every advantage) but much, much faster.

      But that is assuming we even want to do that. Once we scrap the streetcars, we have dozens of options, and it is easy to imagine some that are better than this (even if it means folks lose these connections).

  15. I’m certainly late to this festival of streetcar hatred, but, ironically, I’m reading it on my phone on the FHSC, because I can read on my phone without vomiting on streetcars. I like buses, but I get nauseated trying to read on them. For that reason, and that reason alone, I /do/ wait for the streetcar rather than take the quicker bus. Maybe I’m RossB’s one in ten, but there it is.

    I get it that BRT is cheaper and faster and usually serves more people, and I’d support BRT over streetcar for most routes. But you come off as myopic when you say streetcars have no advantages.

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