Everett Station on a snowy day

This is an open thread.

72 Replies to “News Roundup: The Obvious”

  1. The best “lol” part in the Seattle Times’ light rail guide (which was generally quite nice for the Seattle stations), was when they clearly were desperate to come up with something touristy to do at Tukwila station, so they said “take a bus to the mall”. Hah!

    1. One of these days I do plan to go to the Burien Art Walk, which will probably involve going to Tukwila on Link.

  2. I’m glad Sammamish is expanding the 269 to run all day instead of restoring the old DART. The 269 is much more direct, and it connects on both ends instead of just running to Issaquah.

    I do hope they cut off the Microsoft campus tail in the off-peak trips, though, and have it turn around at the OTC.

      1. Maybe – but Bear Creek – Overlake doesn’t take very long off-peak, and it does cut off a long trip through Redmond for people headed to Seattle, so I can see some advantages to keeping it.

  3. “Transportation equity programs?”

    Whenever you target specific groups, whether it’s low income, minority, wealthy, etc, you lose focus on what truly matters and what’s truly best for the whole. We see this happen all over this city. And yet, we keep doing it more and more and look at what’s happening.

    1. So you think “expanding transportation options and services to vulnerable and hard to reach populations and groups” is losing focus on what matters for the city as a whole?

    2. Jack, I think you’ll agree that it’s a bad habit to keep putting “Low Income” and “Minority” in the same sentence- always with same pejorative cast as “Homeless”. Who with Seattle’s malignant housing prices will soon not be a minority.

      Leaving out the tiny minority everywhere who inherit most of their society’s wealth, people in their own society’s numerical minority often become known for aggressive single-minded work in a necessary specialty.

      Not always appreciated by either the majority or other minorities. Merchants and bankers, for instance (Jews, Armenians.) Our first policemen (Irish). Or steelworkers (Eastern Europeans.)

      Or ferocious soldiers (Prussians, Highland Scots, and Comanche Native Americans whose farmland left them without PhD-level merit. Also food.)

      Or transit drivers and supervisors. (Turks, Iranians, and Iraqis in Northern Europe are fine with bad hours and hard work.) Or Seattle cab drivers (from everywhere in Africa). (Uber and Lyfft- just wait!)

      List, finally adds up to all of us. If women were a minority we’d all be parameceums who can’t find our socks. When we all get the education, training, and medical care that our good qualities both require and earn us, we won’t need any specially-targeted programs at all.

      Good bumper sticker, and party platform: “In the United States of America, There’ll Be No Such Thing as Working Poor”.

      Mark Dublin

      1. Great point, Mark. The large minority population in Redmond is very different than the large minority population in Tukwilla.

    3. We see this happen all over this city.

      Which routes or service revisions do you see as being made/created to serve a specific minority, rather than the city as a whole?

      1. There was the route that ACRS lobbied for between Rainier Valley and the ID that duplicates Link service, Was it 38 or 42?

      2. Just a clarification on the point about minorities. I was objecting to current bureaucratic habit of suggesting that being a member of a numerical minority automatically belongs in the same sentence as economic hardship.

        Truth as I see it is that because of their origin, language, family economic position and skin-color, some people are denied the rewards they’ve earned through their own work.

        I’m sorry I left out this country’s most pointed, and shameful example In the slave states before the Civil War- and after the Union troops pulled out- the governing class despised anyone who worked for a living and lived their own lives accordingly.

        An outdated concept of self-esteem from medieval times Which saw to it that even skilled work, from shoe-making to steamboat piloting, was done by slaves. And that even a successful manufacturer’s occupation made him smell bad.

        For position under discussion, it might be better to pay a lot of official attention to assuring that the whole population has the education, opportunity, and political power to be paid the wages their good work earns.

        Clear lesson of history is that clean and well-run labor unions are an excellent tool toward that end.

        AJ, I’m not sure I understand your reference. For me, the question is more a matter of economic and social class than color, gender, or national origin. Regardless of these things, my goal is a whole population who can earn themselves a good life.


      3. To answer the question, it was the 42, which was retained in limited form after Link opened before being axed when the Metro cuts came. The 38, which was the south portion of the 8, was replaced by the rerouting of the 106, which essentially recreated the 42’s route.

  4. The first hill streetcar is silly and broken. It is doomed by lack of grade separation and slowly-accelerating streetcar vehicles. It’s also plagued by a complete lack of meaningful signal priority, which is exacerbated by a long winding route that ONLY WORKS if there is good signal priority. And of course SDOT says we can’t have signal priority because it would slow down buses (which are already 3x as fast as the streetcar to downtown) and because it would slow down the streetcar (LOL), so the complete lack of common sense, unmitigatable factors, and lack of desire to do what can be done to improve the streetcar makes me want to stop sinking money into this line that is slower than walking. On the flipside, tthe Broadway extension lengthens the only part of the streetcar that has reasonable travel times and a direct route.

    1. Everything you say is true. At the same time… I feel a little glow of happiness every time I see the streetcar cruise past my office window, because it makes me feel like I live in a real city instead of some suburban backwater. And if the line were extended to the north end of Broadway, I might actually even *ride* the streetcar sometimes, especially when it’s cold or rainy out.

      It’s a real shame the city felt obligated to combine the cycle-track project with the streetcar project; Broadway is a mess now.

      1. Alex, and Mars, is anybody besides us starting to look at “Stakeholders” from the viewpoint of a vampire? Especially unfair that the notoriously anti-vampire Dr. Van Helsing came from Holland, which is very pro-streetcar.

        An Open Thread a few weeks ago had Freighthouse Square’s owner suddenly tape signs on all the glass doors forbidding Sounder Passengers from going through the building if they weren’t going to buy anything.

        Which a lot of us would not now always do if we hadn’t initially been able to smell the curry from the sidewalk outside. Same with buying a dragon walking stick with really lethal teeth or an owl skull down the hall.

        The man gave a TV camera a vague list of uncompensated expenses from the cross-traffic. A few minutes’ castle vault negotiation with ST brought all the signs down.

        So for Broadway, question “OK, whadda ya want?” (got to be with an accent from some age-old bargaining people) should get merchants the streetcar that they all know will bring them a fortune.

        But best of all, the whole process will finally unite two needlessly divided groups. Since Broadway never was a commercial through-corridor, bicycles and streetcars (which can also push bike-rack flatcars) should get the lane space and priority they need.

        Around the world merchants work their delivery schedules around their streetcar riding customers. Same places bike wheels never get caught in grooved rail. Fact finding plane tickets for one stake-holder per group should rid Broadway of an evil transit-killing spirit.

        Lane space? One tape measure across Broadway north of Capitol Hill Station should reveal main solution. Streetcars, bicycles, buses, and LINK shouldn’t take up anymore room than the parking they’re overdue to replace.


      2. You got that wrong, Mars. Streetcars in “real cities” carry lots of passengers, and the FH carline does not. I’ve had a few meals lately at Pho Bac, there on the corner of 14th & Jackson. I’ve seen the FH cars pass by many times, in both directions, never with more riders than I can count on the fingers of one hand.

        Pho Bac is one of the city’s better pho shops. Recommended.

      3. I go to Pho Bac all the time! The irony, in the context of this discussion, is that it’s not because their soup is so much better than all the other pho places (though it is very good!), but simply because they have a parking lot. The shops on Capitol Hill are half as far, but driving to the I.D. is way more convenient than dealing with a bus expedition.

        I am a fan of streetcars precisely because I have lived in a couple of cities which did them well and have fond memories of those experiences. It seems like a straightforward, practical way Seattle could make significant improvements to its transit network. It’s a shame that the First Hill streetcar is such a misbegotten mess, but the conclusion is “do better next time”, not “stop building streetcars” as RossB would have it.

    2. Yeah, although I like the idea of the streetcar, it seems like extending it is just throwing good money after bad. I’d say it’s better to concentrate on the 1st Ave Connector instead. It’s a pretty short walk (and who knows, probably faster) to the proposed terminus from where the streetcar ends now. For those with mobility issues, there is the 49 and the 9 (also likely faster)

      1. I think the Broadway extension is a logical extension of the line, and may happen at some point, but there are many other transit needs Seattle is better off throwing money at, particularly the RR+ corridors. Fix the existing line first (connector will help). Broadway extension can be brought back up in a few years.

    3. i think the lesson of the FH streetcar is simply that it wasn’t designed to be productive from a public value operational standpoint. We need to have specific performance thresholds before spending money on more streetcar extensions or lines. Rider miles per service hour is a good place to start for minimum thresholds.

      Another design criteria should be that no line should operate at less than 10-minute frequencies at peak hours and maybe even midday. A trolley bus is more appropriate for lower frequency demand.

      Finally, we need a frank open-ended discussion about how to move people up and down between Downtown and Capitol Hill/ First Hill. Escalators, elevators, funiculars, gondolas and even ST 3 line or stub deviations or new station linkages should all be on the table . It’s much harder for people to walk or stand on a sloped vehicle floor for steep elevation changes than it is to move along a mostly level street like Broadway north of Denny. ST3 passage suggests to me that we badly need to revisit what the best solutions are here.

      1. The lesson for me on the FH streetcar is you can’t put too much into one street. FH doesn’t work because Broadway doesn’t work. Something – transit, parking, or cycletrack – needs to be removed. SDOT is on record saying if they did it all over again they would have moved the cycletrack to a different street.

        Unfortunately we only rebuild streets once in a few decades, so we are struck with Broadway for the time being.

        “Finally, we need a frank open-ended discussion about how to move people up and down between Downtown and Capitol Hill/ First Hill.” – let’s see what the Madison BRT does once it’s up and running.

      2. Moving those pesky bikes to “a different street” looks great until you try to find “a different street” and realize there isn’t one.

        Looking to the future, between John and maybe Boston I guess you could try to move cycling through-traffic onto a Federal Ave greenway, as long as we can agree to keep the pavement maintained, enforce the laws against cars parked too close to corners, and stop cut-through car traffic. And after all that that we would not have created decent local access to businesses, to say nothing of homes in a city where zoning prohibits almost all housing growth off of arterials.

      3. Unless the Madison BRT has vehicles that have floors that can be adjusted to be level on slopes, riders are not going to have a very good experience. Many will be holding a pole to keep from sliding while standing on a vehicle. Wheelchairs are going to have to be secured as well; that’s not an issue on the FHSC. Unless bicycles are secured on the vehicles, they probably will also slide inside a Madison BRT vehicle and will have to be loaded outside.

        We need to design better in the future for our steep slopes.

      4. There’s nothing in the current Madison BRT plan about regrading Madison Street, so I expect the experience to be just as awful as the current hill climb via #8 or #11; everyone who has the option to drive instead will continue to do so.

      5. Madison BRT will come frequently enough (every 5 minutes or so during peak) that most people will be sitting most of the time, except maybe in the peak of peak. Plus, bus lanes will make people’s rides shorter as the bus moves faster.

      6. I don’t care how often it runs, it’s still just going to be a bus, lurching and grumbling its way up and down the uneven slopes of Madison Street, and that is an unpleasant ride whether you’re sitting or standing. Nothing in the Madison BRT plan will improve that. I’ll use it in exactly the same way I currently use the #8 and #11: as infrequently as possible, when the trip can’t be avoided and parking would be impractical.

      7. Unfortunately we only rebuild streets once in a few decades, so we are struck with Broadway for the time being.

        Portland once had a public market. It was demolished to make way for a massive expansion of Harbor Drive. This improved road proved to be a huge failure and caused awful traffic in downtown. Thus, it was also demolished after only a few years of existing in that form.

        If something doesn’t work in a severe fashion, it needs to be corrected.

      8. If you’re only on the bus for a few minutes it doesn’t really matter how bumpy the ride is. Plus, the downtown to 15th Ave portion is perfectly smooth; I frequently ride the 12 and have no problems whatsoever.

      9. I’ve only ridden the 12 a few times but haven’t found it bumpy. However, the bigger issue of trying to get on/off a bus on a steep incline remains. The San Francisco cable cars have flattened intersections and stops in the intersection. I’m not sure what else you can do short of that. I have a disabled relative, but they took the 2 to Virginia Mason at the top of the hill, so they didn’t experience the 12 on the side of the hill.

    4. If we do the CCC first and defer upper Broadway, maybe when we get back to it the public mindset will have changed enough to fix the signal priority. Or even move the cycletrack. If residents are now saying there’s too much parking, perhaps later they’ll demand better transit service and taller buildings.

      1. Yes – hopefully in the future the stakeholders will have more transit-friendly worldviews. Local residents & business will prefer transit lanes over parking, and cycle advocates will understand they need to compromise on cycletrack location (in this case, move it to a different street).

        I’d go so far that in a few years, we can start talking about removing through-traffic entirely from Broadway between John and Madison [for example], turning it into a woonerf – perhaps even banning cars completely some parts of the day & evening. (Basically, l’d still see a need for commercial deliveries)

    5. The North Broadway extension is about as parochial of a transit project as you get; the preponderence of its benefit accrues to the businesses adjacent the proposed stops. That even those businesses don’t think it’s worth the candle is a death sentence for the extension and a damning indictment of the whole thing.

      Bonus awfulness regarding the FHSC: sources tell me that SDOT gutted their spot improvement/bus speed & reliability program, and deferred Route 48 electrification to pay for the speed and reliability work they’re trying to do for the FHSC. An unfixable, high-profile flop is now actively taking money from effective, cheap transit programs. It has become the Sounder North of ST2.

      Fuck the First Hill Streetcar.

      1. ” preponderance of its benefit accrues to the businesses adjacent the proposed stops.” – I think that’s why the city was looking into funding it with a local improvement property tax (not the right tax term)

      2. Seems like an overkill to drop more tonnage on one struggling newborn streetcar line than every wave of the Lancaster bombers expended on the whole Strassebahn map in Berlin, Bruce.

        This country’s history already includes paving over thousands of miles of street rail that by all measures deserved to stay in place. So why not just keep working on this one awhile longer before we give it back to cars only? Fact that it’s got the only LINK station on Capitol Hill shows Broadway isn’t a mall parking lot.

        To me, there are enough storefronts to the north end of the Broadway business district to justify a ride from the International District to whole Broadway District without having to transfer to a 49 for a few more blocks. Seattle’s whole trend is for bigger Broadways everywhere. People will complain more, and longer, about leaving it unfinished than the cost of building it out.

        Final lane and signal adjustments to limit automobile interference should make FHS a better “ride” through a better Broadway. Meantime, based on some really creative advances in lying, next President’s media time could be really timely:

        Show Boris Johnson substituting “France” for FHS.


      3. +1

        It’s certainly possible to nitpick some of the Move Seattle RR corridors, but funneling any excess transit money we can get into improving any of them (or virtually any other bus route) makes a hell of a lot more sense than extending a pointless streetcar no one wants.

      4. There is nothing wrong with streetcars, there is a problem with how we design the alignments and routes here in Seattle. It should lower-cost small-scale light rail… its own dedicated lanes/right of way, place it in the center of the street, make it linear (not looping, not backtracking on itself) but also not overblown custom deluxe stations and not full building-face to building-face entire street rebuilds.

        My biggest issue with the FHSC extension north on Broadway is that it would continue the horrid street design elsewhere on Broadway. It needs dedicated transit lanes down the center with floating right door island stops that can be shared with buses.

    6. Yes, the First Hill Streetcar is silly and broken. That is because it is a Seattle Streetcar. The obvious fix is to simply reroute it. Avoid the silly button hook. You wouldn’t even have to add any stops, That could be done tomorrow if … wait for it … it wasn’t a streetcar. Of course it would be even better if we ran the thing up Yesler. Why don’t we do that? We could, if … (you get the idea).

      The only advantage that a streetcar has over a bus is that it can carry more people. This is why Paris, for example, has added streetcars to their system. This is why some cities have what could easily be considered a streetcar (trains running on the surface right through town) although they call them “light rail”.

      The problem is, our streetcars aren’t as big as the ones in Toronto or Paris. They aren’t much bigger than our buses. Thus you have every disadvantage of a streetcar (inability to avoid obstacles, whether the obstacle is there for a few minutes or weeks; inability to go up steep hills; inability to easily change routing; hazard to bikes; extra associated cost) but none of the advantages (capacity). It is a horrible, stupid idea, especially in a city that has its share of hills.

      We should stop the stupid silly streetcar nonsense and build real, appropriate transit for the city. That means buses to go along with our subway.

      1. All true, but of course increased capacity on the FHSC cars would be utterly useless, since it’s got the ridership of a well below average bus route.

      2. Ross, you’re looking at this from the perspective of a transit system planner and failing to account for the perspective of a transit system *user*. You see flexibility as an advantage; I see it as a problem, because it means you can’t rely on a bus route. Never know when Metro will reorganize things and suddenly life will become less convenient – they can just reroute buses however they want. A streetcar, though? Moving a streetcar is a big project, so it probably won’t happen, which means I don’t have to waste my time keeping track of all the minutiae of Metro’s current timetables. And who wants to do that? Nobody who isn’t already a transit nerd, that’s who.

        Furthermore, you’re missing the fact that streetcars offer a much nicer ride. This matters, and this is half the reason I bother to comment here at all – y’all need to remember that we’re not just talking about lines on a map, we’re talking about the way people choose to spend their time. Comfort matters. How can I tell my friends they ought to use the bus when I don’t want to use it myself? And no matter how much you try to argue that the bus *ought* to be good enough, it just *isn’t*. The experience remains bad, and I remain unconvinced.

        My goal is simple: transit should be the default. Most people should use transit for most trips. Most people should not own cars. How can I work toward that goal if the only tools allowed in our toolbox are “too crappy” buses and “too expensive” light rail? We need streetcars because they’re nice enough and permanent enough that we can actually – honestly – try to convince people to change their lifestyles around them, and they’re cheap and simple enough that we can have some hope of building them – as a city – without having to depend on another goddamn regional vote and a 25-year wait.

      3. One of Portland’s streetcar lines went west on Burnside, south onto Vista Avenue, climbed continuously and reached 1,500 feet in elevation in only several miles. This is about twice the height of Queen Anne Hill. Much of TriMet’s 51 covers this former route, though it takes a steeper route for several blocks rather than taking Burnside.

        When I visited the area around the First Hill line, it didn’t seem to me that there was anything on the button hook cutoff route that was any more steep than what the Council Crest line did.

      4. Mars points out a key characteristic of a streetcar over a bus – permanence. This can be a feature or a big depending on what your goals are. Streetcars are used as development catalysts in other cities, often to great effect.
        Unfortunately, Cap and First Hill are not in need of development catalysts, so I think permance can seen as bug in this case.

        In contrast, the Tacoma Link is effectively a streetcar, and civic leaders there probably view the development potential of extending the line as a big feature.

        This is also an argument that streetcars are “nicer” than busses,but aside from a smoother ride that’s mostly branding and can be solved by good design of buses and bus stops

      5. The permanence and comfort of a streetcar are important but you also have to look at the particular streetcar implementation. Is there high demand for Broadway-Jackson transit? Clearly not or the streetcar would be full and we’d have to expand it. Instead it has free days like super sales at a store to drum up ridership. A trolleybus in this particular corridor would be adequate, and we could save streetcars for a higher-volume corridor like Jackson-Rainier. Part of the problem is that the transit market is cut in half. The streetcar doesn’t go south from Broadway to Rainier or Bracon so you have to take the 9 or 60, and both of them also go further north where you’re probably starting from. The streetcar also doesn’t go east to 23rd or MLK so you have to take the 14. Both of these are higher-volume grid corridors with long-proven passenger demand. A Broadway-Jackson route has a niche but a small one. I sometimes take it from the produce markets on Jackson. And when Yesler Terrace is rebuilt it will have a larger market there, But its other main purpose is for Sounder riders going to First Hill. That again is a smallish market I thing, and could be served by trolleybuses. But many of those people are within the walkshed of Capitol Hill Station, or will walk from it to Swedish or Seattle U to avoid dealing with the streetcar. So how strong is its primary transit market? Seattle should just stop running the streetcar and put on a replacement bus for now. It won’t because it doesn’t want to call it a failure, But if Capitol Hill and First Hill residents consistently tell the city to get rid of it, the idea might gain traction in a few years under the next mayor/council. The First Hill Streetcar was a misguided idea with dubious goals; it’s not going to become wonderful or even reach its goals without major renovation. If the city wants a better streetcar route, consider SLU – 1st Ave – Jackson – Rainier – Mt Baker.

      6. Although the streetcar definitely sucks, I don’t think scrapping after $100+ million in investment is the right approach. Soon the CCC will be built, and after the RR+ corridors are built out the city might have the funds to expand the streetcar network into something more useful. I could definitely imagine a 2024 Move Seattle type levy or an ST4 early deliverable that funds useful streetcar extensions.

      7. Mars Saxman,

        First, let’s not downplay the importance of the perspective of the transit planner. Transit lines only work because transit planners were able to make them work. And passenger experience are part of what transit planners have to consider. What people want is a bus directly from their doorstep to where they work, to where they shop, and to where they go for entertainment. It’s the planners that are responsible for getting as close to that as possible for everyone with as little inconvenience as possible for everyone.

        So you can’t rely on a bus route? Well, I got news. You can’t rely on the streetcar either. I actually just took the streetcar today, and it was 7 minutes late, which is around a typical bus delay. The myth that streetcars are never late because they’re magic streetcars is nonsense. And the lack of track flexibility makes them more prone to reliability issues. The only reliability advantage that a streetcar could have is right-of-way separation. Which leads to…

        What if you could have a bus that runs the same route that is faster? Would that qualify as a better experience? Remember, big heavy streetcar vehicles take a long time to start and stop, and they stop at every stop (unlike a bus which stops on request). Could a bus run the same route as the FHSC and be faster? Absolutely, even before adding real signal priority. Plus, it would be very easy to extend it to Roy street. But of course, that’s just transit planning nerdiness. Extending it to Roy street doesn’t actually help riders if it’s a fast bus that takes 1 month to extend. It only helps actual riders if it’s a slow streetcar that takes 5 planned (and 7 actual) years to extend, after closing the entire street for 6 months.

        And permanence? You say a bus route can’t be permanent? How about RapidRide? That’s mostly permanent. The only recent major changes to a RapidRide line was extending the C and D lines, and the only way I’m sure most people know anything changed is that they all of a sudden started running more on time. Couldn’t we have had a first hill RapidRide line instead of a streetcar? It would have been awesome.

      8. What is permanence really? Seattle’s original streetcar system was replaced with trolleybuses in 1940 and the Waterfront Streetcar was mothballed in 2005 until the most of streetcars were sold away earlier this year. A vast majority of central Seattle bus routes were streetcar routes. Even the Ballard and West Seattle RapidRides were streetcars.

        If we restored the streetcar network that we used to have, which is essentially the present day bus network, rerouting streetcars can be as easy as rerouting a bus.

      9. @Mike Orr: To your point, it’s telling that while many transit system plans and concepts have considered Broadway and Jackson to be important corridors, none have really considered a Broadway-Jackson route as a centerpiece. It actually sort of works against other ideas of how to build the network as a whole. Even in the old days when there were tons of streetcars (and not much network planning) none of them did that (though I think there was a Yesler-Broadway route?). This route was all about taking an easy grade to First Hill — that might sound like a value move, but this thing wasn’t exactly built on the cheap. In the old days we just ran straight up the hills (James, Madison, Yesler, etc.) using the necessary technology.

      10. >> Ross, you’re looking at this from the perspective of a transit system planner and failing to account for the perspective of a transit system *user*.

        Nonsense. I’m thinking of someone, who, for example, gets on the streetcar on Broadway, expecting to quickly get down the road a ways, only to have the thing get stuck because a car is inches into its path. Or maybe they are on 5th and Jackson, figuring they want to get up the hill, but the thing takes forever as it does the 14th Ave button hook. As to your point, Glenn, it goes that way only because they decided to send it that way. The hill isn’t that steep there (unlike the choice of Jackson instead of Yesler). So it could be changed to avoid that hook and in doing so be significantly faster. But consider what that would entail. First you have to tear up the street and add rail. Then you probably fill in or remove the other rail (because it is a hazard for bikes). The whole thing would likely cost tens of millions of dollars, just as it will with the SLUS as part of the Roosevelt HCT project. If this was a bus, at worst you simply move the bus stops. It isn’t always cheap to move a bus route, but compared to a streetcar the savings are substantial.

        As to streetcars being smoother, that is simply the result of these trains being very slow. Anyone who has ridden the most popular subway system in North America knows that the New York subway ride is not smooth. But it gets people to where they want to go. Go ahead and ask a typical New Yorker if they would prefer the system go a lot slower to provide a smoother ride.

        But that smoothness argument has way more merit than idea that permanence is an advantage. That is ridiculous. Sorry, but there simply is no advantage to lack of flexibility. You may pay too much for flexibility — you never take advantage of it — but it is never bad that you have it.

        If you don’t like a change, then petition to keep the routes exactly the same. It is not like Metro (or any other agency) likes doing the extra work involved in changing the routes. But they do it so that more people can get to where they want to go faster.

        Just follow your argument to its logical conclusion. Let’s say that they want to move a transit route. They hold an election, and 90% of the people want to see it moved. With a streetcar, we either don’t move it, or pay a huge extra penalty if we do. That is essentially what you are arguing is a benefit.

      11. If streetcars can’t be moved or we reinstated the old lines, we’d end up with the curlycue/zigzag routing of the 3N and 30 forever. The city was very different a hundred years ago. It was a lot smaller and more downtown-centric, so everybody traveled a shorter distance and wanted to go downtown, and there was little crosstown to go to. Stopping every couple blocks was more acceptable because it was competing with walking not driving, and ridership was much higher because 90% of families could not afford a car. So people’s needs evolve over time and a streetcar network has to evolve with them.

    7. Amen, Brother (ref the blast from the past to follow)

      mic says
      May 11, 2013 at 3:40 am
      d.p. has articulated a caution about transit improvements that should be taken to heart. Every dollar wasted on unproductive services or projects that will never pencil out to be efficient, robs transit from providing needed services and facilities where more bang for the buck is warranted.
      When times were good, the waste could be ignored. Now that transit agencies are shrinking in size and service, this becomes a really big deal for real transit supporters.
      All three stops in Bellevue will only have about 8,000 daily boardings by 2030. That’s hardly a great bus route’s worth.
      Could that billion dollars be better spent on gaining many more new riders doing something else? RR-F is another example of good intentions, and what will turn out to be vastly more expensive than current service. North Sounder? FHSC? Duplicate service from DSTT to Udist on Link and maybe SLUT too? The list keeps growing, outpacing overall transit ridership gains compared to operating costs, and still remains below 10% of mode share.
      Having all these Caddies in the front yard on blocks does not impress the neighbors.
      (end of blast)

      d.p. finally had to resort to swearing here to get any traction, but his cautions about unproductive transit services along with mine fell on deaf ears. Guys like John Niles are routinely vilified here for speaking up for services that actually pencil out and do more good than harm.
      The FHSC should stand as a reminder that ‘Shiny New Toys’ for politicians should not be confused for transit improvements that actually move more people at lower unit costs.
      I see no mention in this entire thread about the anemic ridership of the FHSC and it’s outrageous operating cost and subsidy that will go for years.
      Some things never change.

  5. I don’t get a chance to see into the streetcar on my daily ride down Jackson; like everything else I’m going much faster than the streetcar after all. But I do have ample opportunity to peer inside as I pace alongside the trolley while climbing back up in the evening.

    There are very few passengers.

  6. I rode the streetcar the other night to Capitol Hill from Pioneer Square. All the upper level seating was taken and there were a few standing passengers. It also moved us up there in a blazingly quick (relatively) 25ish minute ride, which was by far the fastest I’ve ever ridden on the streetcar ;)

    I still think it’s a fun, attractive, and sometimes useful tool for our city. I like having transit options. Sometimes I’m not in a rush to get somewhere and just want to enjoy my time.

    1. >> Sometimes I’m not in a rush to get somewhere and just want to enjoy my time.

      You should take the 8.

  7. Seattle Bike Blog posted about a SDOT project on Fremont Ave. just North of the bridge that would widen sidewalks to reduce pedestrian congestion around bus stops. It also attempts to improve safety for cyclists but given current assumptions and constraints from SDOT it may make things worse, possibly creating pedestrian/cyclist conflicts at the bus stops.

    I’d recommend taking a look at SDOT’s current designs and sending comments. I’m really worried that there isn’t room for protected bike lanes, half-assed bike lanes aren’t an improvement, and poorly designed bike lanes aren’t going to be a priority for improvement once they are built.

  8. Whats the status of the Gillig ETBs being retired? I live on Capitol Hill and work downtown and haven’t seen or ridden one for quite some time.

    1. They were retired at the end of November.

      I believe 4195 is being preserved by MEHVA, and 4123 previously went to the Illinois Railway Museum.

      1. There was an event for the Bredas (4200s), but the Gillig ETBs (4100s) were retired without ceremony.

  9. One bright spot with today’s transit mess in Portland: the arial tram will be running until midnight due to issues with all bus routes going up the hill.

    1. Continued road messes mean that they will be running the Portland Arial Tram until 1 am.

      Lots of overtime during this weather event down here.

  10. The Seattle Times (!) produces a tourist guide focused on using light rail

    And Martin praises them for using a three car train.

  11. What makes a transit line permanent (long term really) is demand, not steel rails. There are lots of transit bus lines in this country that have been around since the early 20th Century. And of course there are many streetcar routes that are no longer served by transit of any kind. If you want a streetcar somewhere, make that argument on whatever grounds, but supposed permanence isn’t valid.

    Complete streets is a better idea than the old streets for cars, not for people. But often streets get overloaded trying to serve too many modes, and don’t serve any of them well. If you have “complete corridors” of parallel streets often called “layered networks” you can frequently get a better result. It’s not seamless, but I think of the Mission District of San Francisco, where Mission Street prioritizes transit, neighboring Valencia Street prioritizes bikes, and Guerrero Street–one more block over–provides a fast route for cars.

  12. What makes a transit line permanent (long term really) is demand, not steel rails.


    Here in Portland, what is now bus route #15 has been a transit route since the days of the Mount Tabor Steam Motor Line. It predated the common availability of electric traction for streetcars, so small enclosed steam locomotives were used.

    Philadelphia had a massive number of streetcar track miles until the early 1980s. Even in 1981 there were more streetcar miles in Philadelphia than New York City had subway. Some of that was converted to light rail and a very little of it remains as streetcar. Much of it is gone. Even at that late date, if something was too expensive to maintain and could no longer be justified due to its constraints and cost, it was shut down.

    I fear that lacking sufficient effort to improve modern streetcars to the point where they have worthwhile ridership will ultimately lead these lines to a similar fate.

    1. Efforts to improve streetcars have continued in Europe, so state-of the-are cars and network plans are available, the US have to use them.

      San Francisco has vintage streetcars from around the world on its F line. I rode three or four of them from the 1880s, 1920s, and 1950s. I think there were two 1950s streetcars, oner from Philadelphia and one from San Francisco. The oldest streetcar was wooden and bumpy and loud; I think it was the one from Milan. The second one was also bumpy. But the latest 1950s streetcar amazed me –it was as smooth and quiet as the modern streetcars in Seattle and Portland! So the US had the technology to make good streetcars, and if it had kept making them and using them they would have become excellent by now.

    2. A number of these Philly lines even still have much of the wire and track still intact despite not seeing a streetcar in 20-25 years.

  13. Martin wrote “future progress in doubt” regarding the Broadway Extension of the First Hill Streetcar. Of course, canceling the stupid project is progress. It would have $24 million in capital, including an additional streetcar, and about $1 million annually in additional service subsidy. SDOT is lacking about $10 million in local funds. The local capital and local service funds could be much better spent elsewhere. After the Capitol Hill station has opened in exactly the wrong time to tear up Broadway again. The extension is redundant to existing service and would not help the network much, if at all. The arterial is too constrained for two electrical overhead systems. Seattle should be considering how to redeploy the grant funds they have in hand.

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