Seattle is planning to expand the streetcar system in a project called the City Center Connector, or CCC. Like all of our streetcar projects, there are bold promises of very high ridership. Not only are the ridership claims likely to fall short (as they have before) but we would get a much higher level of service, and higher ridership, if we put the money into improving the bus system. We should follow the lead of other cities, like Providence, Rhode Island, and switch to making bus improvements.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Streetcars
Every transit mode has its advantages and disadvantages. Streetcars are no different. Unfortunately, our streetcars have all the disadvantages, but none of the advantages of other streetcars.
Jarrett Walker did an excellent job of summarizing the two advantages of streetcars:
1) They can leverage existing railways.
2) Streetcars often have a lot of capacity.
Unfortunately, neither applies in Seattle. The streetcars won’t run on existing tracks (we will instead lay new rail). Thus it will cost significantly more to enable streetcar running instead of buses.
Nor are the streetcars significantly bigger than our buses. Our articulated buses are very large, and our streetcars are very small. Even if we needed the extra capacity of a train along this route (which is doubtful) these streetcars can’t offer it. Our streetcars offer no advantages over our buses.
1) Expense. This streetcar line is expensive to build and operate. The small, 1.2 mile expansion will cost $177 million, or more than the entire budget for the Move Seattle RapidRide+ projects (which are listed as “Corridor Mobility Improvements” in the proposal). Operating this streetcar costs $242 an hour, while operating a bus costs $163 an hour.
2) Inflexible routing. It is pretty common and pretty cheap to change a bus route (several changes were made just last month). But making even a minor change to a streetcar line is extremely expensive. For the Roosevelt HCT project, they have budgeted $7 million just to move a streetcar stop a couple blocks.
Since it is expensive to change a streetcars routing, it doesn’t happen. We will continue to endure the mistakes that have lead to slow running, inconsistent headways and low overall ridership.
3) Limited routing. A bus route may run on a busway or bus lanes for its entire route, but it doesn’t have to. It is common for a bus to serve a neighborhood with regular service, then run congestion free where it matters most (downtown). You can’t do that with a streetcar. We see this with the current plans. The streetcars will travel a very short distance, and stop well before a bus would stop. In contrast, the 40 and 70 will be turned into RapidRide bus routes, and they will not only connect South Lake Union with downtown, but connect to other very popular areas.
4) They are a hazard to bicycles. Even with our very short streetcar lines, we have seen several accidents, at least one of which was fatal. We are not alone. All streetcars are a hazard, and different cities mitigate the hazard in different ways. This isn’t just a matter of education, either. Toronto has had streetcars for generations, yet they still has plenty of accidents. Researchers found that 32% of injured cyclists had crashes that directly involved tracks. According to UBC researcher Kay Teschke, a three-fold increased risk of injury was observed when cycling on routes with streetcar or train tracks.
Work can be done to make the streetcars safer but that is often expensive and difficult. You need to both isolate the bike paths and provide for 90 degree crossings. These are common in Amsterdam, but rare in North America.
5) Since they are a hazard to bicycles, a streetcar routing is often less than optimal. It is unlikely that we will be able to produce a relatively safe system, such as the one in Amsterdam. We have trouble converting a general purpose or parking lane into a transit lane so it is unrealistic to think we will also set aside a lane as a buffer for bikes as well (as in this photo). But the routing will have to deal with the fact that surface rail is a hazard to bike riders. In this article, the author points out the hazards that the proposed streetcar routing would create. This sort of criticism is valid, and will likely result in a different routing. Thus the ideal route is replaced by something worse, and only because this is a streetcar, not a bus.
6) Streetcars can’t avoid obstacles. This means that an accident, a parked car or just a bit of debris in the roadway 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 to the other lane. 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.
Much has been made of the fact that for part of this route, the streetcars will have their own lane. This is great, and should greatly improve average speeds along part of the route. But for much of the way, there will still be congestion, and a streetcar (unlike a bus) has a tough time avoiding it. But even for the parts of this route that include a transit lane, there are disadvantages for a streetcar. The pathway may be clear most of the time, but if someone sticks out even an inch into the transit lane, the streetcar has to wait. A bus would simply slide over to the general purpose lane, and be on its way. But a streetcar, and all its passengers, will be stuck.
The good news is that there is an alternative, and Providence has already provided it. We simply take the street improvements we would have given to the streetcar, and give it to buses. That would be a better value, whether the bus routes that take advantage of it are BRT or just regular buses. For far less money, we can provide a much better transit system.
Please contact your city council representative and let them know that you want to see the streetcar money be put into bus lanes, and other bus improvements.
27 Replies to “Replace the CCC with Better Bus Service”
“They can leverage existing railways.” – what about leveraging the existing SLU and First Hill rail? If those didn’t exist, then yes I would definitely agree the CCC should just be a local, center running bus. But I think greatly enhancing the utility of our existing streetcars is enough to cover for the additional cost.
Also, your argument doesn’t acknowledge the federal grants. Would building the CCC as a bus routing be cheaper? Sure. Would the savings more than offset the $75M in federal grants? I don’t know, but that’s the more relevant question. Unfortunately, much of the CCC budget is not fungible.
Finally, I don’t get your point about limited routing. The CCC fully connects to both streetcar lines. Where else would it go? Whether or not we should, say, extend the broadway streetcar a few blocks is irrelevant to the CCC. If we want to add additional routes to the CCC alignment (say, a QA-Belltown-Downtown route), the CCC will be fully compatible with center-running buses.
(great post. Just continuing the argument)
There is a difference between leveraging an existing railway, or extending a streetcar line. The biggest difference is cost. An existing railway (like in Vancouver) means the rail is already there. You can just run the streetcar on it. To run a bus you have to pull up the rail and put down cement. It is the opposite of a typical streetcar project, in that it is *cheaper* to run a streetcar than a bus. That isn’t the case here, obviously, and explains the very high price tag for the very short line.
As far as connecting to the existing lines go, that is a sunk cost. Those segments are flawed, and aren’t magically made better with the addition of more rail. The First Hill routing is especially bad, but both ends will cause this piece to be unreliable. It is nice to have the right of way, but if a streetcar is stuck upstream, then it won’t matter.
Besides, a bus line has the same capability, and then some. Build this streetcar line, and it connects an extra mile or so on both ends, but only on the specified, existing path. Build bus lanes and it can connect anywhere. It could connect the C and the D, or E and the 7.Or you could do something more interesting, by extending a line up Belltown, then up Cedar to 5th Avenue North (like the 3/4) then over Aurora on Thomas once the SR 99 project is done (and Thomas has bus lanes*). You have far more flexibility.
As far as the grants go, that is the point of bringing up Providence. They were able to switch the grants. In my opinion, regardless of the grant money, this project isn’t worth it. If someone chips in to buy a white elephant, that doesn’t make it a bargain.
As far as the routing goes, what is planned is probably best for connecting the *existing streetcar* to the *existing streetcar*. But that doesn’t mean that it is the best possible routing for connecting transit. Nor does it mean that it will the final routing. As the bike blog article pointed out, no mitigation for bike dangers was even studied in the draft environmental assessment. This means that it is quite possible that the routing will be altered considerably, which would make for a weaker route. It is also quite possible that a lot more money will be spent to make the line marginally safer for bikes, even though it won’t be as safe as a bus.
Yes, the right of way can be leveraged by other bus routes. But the added expense, the safety issues and the lack of reliability involving street rail make this a poor value. We should simply focus on getting the right of way so that better, more productive bus routes can leverage it.
* I forget if it is Thomas or Harrison that is slated for bus lanes once the SR 99 project is complete.
Um, er, ah, Seattle Prop 1 just paid to separate the C and D, and you want to rejoin them. And if you’re worried about reliability, a line from Aurora Village to 62nd and Prentice does not come to mind as a sterling example of it.
I don’t necessarily want to join them. I just think it is an option. If it turns out that the reliability problems have more to do with the other part of the line, than so be it. I really don’t care.
The thing is, that doesn’t change the dynamic. If anything, it makes the case for bus lanes even stronger. It isn’t like these buses just stop at the end of downtown. They both go all the way through downtown, which means that if they aren’t joined, you have two bus lines competing for space, not one. Making the line faster saves a lot of money and improves the ride for many. Again, I’m not trying to say I have it all mapped out, and know exactly which buses will be joined with other buses, or which ones should go on 1st versus 3rd. But with the C, D, E, along with future RapidRide versions of the 40, 7, 70 and 120 doing the same, that is a lot of frequent buses going through downtown (not to mention the regular ones). It is more than enough to both serve downtown, as well connect to neighborhoods outside of it. The streetcar not only becomes redundant at some point, but actually just gets the way. It would be like running a bus from one end of the bus tunnel to the other — not exactly what we need right now.
A major factor about increased operating costs for streetcars is that most are single vehicles. Unless there is enough demand to require two vehicles, it’s almost not ever cost-effective to operate as buses — even if track exists.
The biggest problem with the CCC is that it is now going to be redindant, as well as slower than other services.
Since 2014, we’ve added bus service.
Since 2014, we’ve extended RapidRide C to SLU and create transit-only lanes. That took away a huge percentage of the SLU riders.
Since 2014, we opened Link tp Capitol Hill and UW, making the FHSC less important except for a few places on First Hill.
Since 2014, we’ve agreed to fund a subway between ID to Westlake and through SLU.
Since 2014, we’ve agreed to pursue a Madison BRT.
In sum, the CCC project is no longer able to generate the benefit it did in 2014. At the very least, new analysis is needed.
I think the only possible reasons to hold onto the project at this point are vanity by SDOT staff or backroom promises made to interests in the corridor.
A combination of bus operations strategies (like connecting Pike Place to Madison BRT) and more pedestrian tunnels for Link stations would seem to be the most effective solution to me. For example, shouldn’t we fund a one-block pedestrian tunnel under Fifth Avenue to the terminus of the SLU streetcar instead?
The difference between Amsterdam and Seattle is that the bikes in Amsterdam are on the sidewalk. Almost everywhere it’s the pedestrians who have to worry about the cyclists, rather than the cyclists having to worry about the cars. There are red lanes right down the middle of the sidewalk in most downtown Amsterdam streets.
It takes a while for visitors to get used to the system, but eventually you’ll stop being yelled at.
Quit the pedantry and just “I hate streetcars” and leave it at that.
Orthogonal to this argument, but Amsterdam largely has separate bike paths, with curbs, not shared pedestrian / bike paths. The pedestrian sidewalk is also separate. When I lived there, it took me a few weeks to stop walking in the bike paths. Those polite little bells were occasionally reinforced by a barked “Stomme” or even “Klootzak.” Natives have no difficulty with the arrangements.
Yeah, in Amsterdam you had several lanes to cross. Bike, cars, tram. As you said, you get uses to it.
While the CCC technically “connects the existing lines”, nobody in their right mind is going to ride the streetcar all the way around from SLU to Capitol Hill via the International District. Almost any other option would be faster under almost any traffic condition, including transferring from streetcar to Link at Westlake, riding the 8, or even just simply walking down Denny.
So, what other trips is the CCC going to be good for? I suppose someone could use it to go from SLU to Pike Place Market or Pioneer Square, but the C-line and 40 both already do that, while running (combined) much more frequently than the streetcar does. How about the south end? First Hill to Pike Place Market or the ferry terminal is faster on almost any bus (e.g. 2, 3, 4, 12, etc.), or just plain walking. Jackson/Boren to Pike Place Market has the #7 and 36 buses, which, combined, run much more frequently than the streetcar. I suppose the streetcar could save two blocks of walking for some trips by running on 1st instead of 3rd, but that hardly justifies the cost of building the streetcar. Heck, for much less than what this streetcar costs, we could build a moving sidewalk down Pine St. between 1st and 3rd (not that that would be a great use of money either).
Sometimes, a project is bad enough that, even with somebody else subsidizing the cost, it’s a bad deal. On an individual level, the world is full of promotions for 50-75% off this or that product you don’t need. For instance, I’ve turned down multiple $50-drive-day promotions from Car2Go, even though it was 40% off the regular rate, because I didn’t need a car on that day for a purpose important enough to justify $50 (plus tax, of course). It’s the same thing here. Federal subsidy or not federal subsidy, if the project isn’t worth the city’s share of the cost, it should not be funded. And that’s not even getting into the risk that the feds could pull out once construction is already on the ground, leaving the city taxpayers stuck with the entire bill to finish it.
First Avenue and the waterfront is going to become a fast developing neighborhood once the Viaduct is removed. Currently there isn’t much apparent demand for a 1st Avenue to SLU/Jackson Street connector, but that should change once the viaduct project is finished and new real estate development begins.
First Avenue is already fast developed. They aren’t going to knock down the luxury towers built since the 1990s.
Aye, but there are a few large lots west of 1st that will get built out once the viaduct comes down. And even without new construction, the new waterfront should draw significantly more people throughout the day to enjoy the amenities.
Very good point. The route just doesn’t make sense for any vehicle, whether a bus or a streetcar. There are, and will be, lots and lots of buses going through downtown. So many, in fact, that we are struggling with capacity problems. We are talking about truncating service, or sending some buses up to First Hill, when most of the riders would rather have the bus just continue to go through downtown. So building a transit line that essentially just goes through downtown becomes silly. It is quite likely that the streetcar will simply get in the way of the buses.
The only unique segment or this combined line is the one up to First Hill. But that is not very popular, will not be extended, and will not be made better by this addition.
So this is basically an argument that we don’t need north-south service anywhere downtown west of 3rd Ave because 3rd is adequate for all downtown trips. If that’s your argument, then sure you’d oppose the CCC – the whole point of the CCC is to provide service along 1st Ave specifically, not to help out with anything along 3rd. It’s also to move people around the downtown area, not move people in & out of downtown like most routes on 3rd. Any argument in favor of the CCC assumes 1st Ave is worth serving.
One advantage of streetcars that could be potentially useful in Seattle (as they are in San Francisco) is that they can be designed to work well going up hill. Unfortunately, not only is this not the case, but the FHSC is routed around pretty much the flattest way to First Hill, and has issues with even the slope it does have (remember the March 1st brake failure that permanently limits the streetcar speed now?).
I think a potentially worthwhile pursuit would have been a streetcar up Madison street to Madison Park specially designed to tackle the urban slopes of Madison street all the way to Lake Washington (superseding Madison BRT and part of route 11). Then replace the streetcar route with frequent service on route 9 (like a GRID! What a concept?)
This streetcar would then at least be competitive with walking, which is more than what I can say for the current FHSC. Especially with how slow it accelerates at stops. This is what really puts FHSC in the “slower than a bus” category even with stop consolidation.
I’m not really sure if the CCC is a great idea. I think at this point, it’s probably only worth doing (if it is at all) to actually make the current streetcars a little less useless. I hope they work on technology to increase the acceleration speed, and some signal priority. And RapidRide stop spacing. My fear is that stops every 3 blocks and slow acceleration will make the CCC a 2 mile-per-hour average ride that no one finds useful.
in fact, without assistance, streetcars cannot climb steep hills. In SF, cable cars are used. In Seattle, before 1940, Queen Anne had a counter balance and Madison Street and Yesler Way had cables. You can see a wheel for a cable in the south mezzanine of the Pioneer Square Station. Electric trolley buses can climb steep hills; see roues 2, 3, 4, 12, 13, and 44. Routes 1, 7, 14, 36, 47, and 49 and routes 3 and 4 on QA serve former streetcar pathways that are less steep.
Consider a decision tree.
On one branch Seattle goes forward and accepts the FTA funds, $50 to 75 million, spends $52 to 77 million in local capital, risks the operating budget if the farebox revenues do not cover the new operating costs, and uses one-half the capacity of 1st Avenue on local circulation, while the end to joint operations in the transit tunnel requires other expenditures and slows transit travel in downtown (see OCC).
On the other branch, Seattle postpones the CCC streetcar, and uses its $52 to 77 million on better projects, uses the 1st Avenue capacity to improve transit flow for many more riders, and does not face the CCC streetcar operating burden and risk.
The CCC streetcar was never a sound project. But three changes have made it worse: 45 is president and the FTA small starts program is at risk; this makes Seattle local capital more important for the Move Seattle programs; the FHSC was late due to the cars being late; this leads to an overlap in time and space between the CCC streetcar construction and operation with the interim pathway for SR-99 routes; and, the county has decided to end bus operations in the DSTT in fall 2019 before ST has more Link cars during the period of maximum transit capacity constraint.
The cumulative impacts from the deep bore tolling, the CCC streetcar, and the end to bus operations in the tunnel all divert traffic and transit to 2nd and 4th avenues. They will probably break down more and stall.
The proposed RIPTA Downtown Transit Connector will be served by 6 or 7 routes that will come from all over the region on a coordinated schedule to provide frequent service along the downtown corridor. The corridor serves a very busy Amtrak station, a downtown transit center and continues over to the hospital district. It promises that many rider-friendly amenities will be “considered” and “may” be included in the final plan. The plan looks good on paper but buses don’t run on paper. Traffic conditions in Woonsocket and Warwick will create as many bus delays in downtown Providence as a poorly parked car would delay a streetcar. But, oh well, at least it’s not going to be another damned streetcar.
I’m fairly well acquainted with Providence RI and I don’t think there is much commonality between what Providence needs and what Seattle needs. A streetcar line may be over-reaching for RIPTA but Seattle has different needs and more resources than Providence. I think we need to take a good look at what is meant by “Better Bus Service” for downtown Seattle. I’m not willing to drop the CCC for vague and unspecified promises of “Better Bus Service”. What does that actually mean? What routes would be moved to 1st Avenue, what would the service plan look like, how would service improve and why would the bus plan be better than the streetcar?
Converting to BRT would require designating a bus route. Ii would have to be a new route since it would be out of the way for existing routes. If we can’t think of a new route that’s necessary, then why are we building a new streetcar route? The SLU streetcar has not won any ridership awards; it could have easily been served by a trolleybus, although even that is questionable since there are already a lot of buses on Jackson and more will come to lower Broadway.
But if you’re looking for a bus route that could plausably serve 1st Avenue, one would be from SODO to Uptown. That would serve the underserved 1st Avenue S and Belltown areas. Another would be SODO to SLU, following the SLU streetcar route. Another could be from 23rd & Jackson to 1st, then up to Uptown or SLU. You could even reroute the 14 from Mt Baker to use 1st instead of 3rd. The 14 and 1 happen to be interlined, so it could continue on Mt Baker – Kinnear with just a change downtown.
A streetcar line may be over-reaching for RIPTA but Seattle has different needs
All of which can be met better with a bus instead of a streetcar. That is the key point. This is not a big train that is capable of carrying way more people that a bus. This is a streetcar that is no bigger than our buses.
Seattle, of course, has different needs than Providence. I was simply saying that if Providence can move money from streetcars to bus lines, we can do the same. For starters, we should simply get the same right of way on first that we were going to get for the streetcar. Then we simply put buses on it. I don’t really care which ones, but there are several within our system that would be good candidates. You have the existing RapidRide, along with the future “RapidRide+” routes. So that means the C, D, E, 7, 70, 40 and 120. Some of those can run on 1st, while others run on 3rd. What is clear is that we have *more* than enough buses running downtown to meet the needs of people taking trips within downtown. That is why we are looking at sending buses *away* from downtown, instead of through it. It just makes more sense to spend money getting right of way, and then sending some of the the buses on it.
As Mike’s note clearly points out, we have no shortage of possibilities, because we have no shortage of bus routes going through downtown. Building a short little downtown circulator in the heart of our hourglass, where so many buses converge is just not a good idea.
With the current service pattern in downtown Seattle a rider who is making a transfer rarely has to walk more than 1 block to catch the next bus. Moving existing routes to 1st Avenue will create a situation where some riders may have to walk from 1st Avenue to 4th Avenue to catch a bus.
One advantage that streetcars have over buses is that the streetcar can more efficiently handle wheelchair riders. Even with level boarding on a bus platform a wheelchair creates a delay that is usually measured in minutes. The delay is also multiplied by the number of buses that are idling behind the bus that is handling the wheelchair rider. With a streetcar, the delay for serving wheelchair riders is minimal, at most a few additional seconds.
So, if the service plan for 1st Avenue is to have a number of routes arriving on a coordinated schedule to provide service every 5 minutes and if any one of the buses is delayed outside of downtown by a wheelchair rider, a traffic accident or poky traffic, then the entire service schedule on 1st Avenue deteriorates into a series of long gaps followed by bunched buses. If 1st Avenue is served by one streetcar line, yes, there will be times when service is interrupted by a mis-parked car, a fender bender or police activity but there will be redundancy on 2nd, 3rd or 4th Avenue. The question becomes: would you rather have the occasional disruption that comes with streetcars or would you rather go with a pretty constant pattern of bunches and gaps that buses coming from a variety of locations would provide?
Even with level boarding on a bus platform a wheelchair creates a delay that is usually measured in minutes.
Nonsense. Level boarding is level boarding. The bus doesn’t do anything special, because it doesn’t need to — it operates just like a train.
The question becomes: would you rather have the occasional disruption that comes with streetcars or would you rather go with a pretty constant pattern of bunches and gaps that buses coming from a variety of locations would provide?
OK, so assume that the former is what we want. The central core is so essential that we want to isolate it from outside traffic. No sense trying to make buses like the C, D, E, 7 or 70 run unimpeded, what is important is that bus service from South Lake Union to Jackson (mostly on First) run like clockwork. Fair enough.
So why on earth are you mucking it up with a run up to First Hill? The new 7 will of course be more reliable than the First Hill streetcar, even if it was a bus. Speaking of which, if you really want to keep a central core circulator reliable, why not run it as a bus? Run a bus from Westlake to Jackson (the only part that will be reliable) as a bus. It will be way more reliable than a streetcar, and way more reliable than a bus that serves areas outside it.
It is ridiculous to assume that streetcars will run every five minutes. They won’t. There will be bunches, caused by traffic on First Hill and South Lake Union, along with delays unique to streetcars (e. g. someone sticking out a few inches into the transit lane).
One positive aspect of streetcars over busses is better ride quality. Second is we don’t (yet?) do offboard payment and all door boarding on busses. In fact for every way a streetcar can get delayed, there are likely two or three ways a bus can get delayed. Streetcars don’t move out the way–the point is they don’t *have* to! Running in the center of the street it’s very unlikely construction would block them for any significant period of time, and while a bus *could* just be re-routed, it’s likely the alternative route is gummed up by congestion! So IMHO the cost of the CCC is a worthwhile investment. Which needs to be protected by fixing the valid issues we have with the current system. Signal priority for one, and getting thru traffic out of the streetcar lanes on Broadway and Jackson. Parked cars can be towed within the frequency headway of the current streetcar system. And more cycling routes, off street if needed, that don’t conflict with the streetcar tracks. Bike routes crossing streetcar tracks at anything other than a right angle are not a good idea. In a sense, bicyclists are kind of forced into choosing between dealing with streetcar tracks or heavy car traffic because we haven’t built out a comprehensive bicycle network (sorry, but sharrows and bike lanes in only one direction don’t count!!!).
While I (and others) agree that streetcars in general have advantages, the point that is up for discussion in this situation is whether it is still worthwhile.
It’s no longer 2014 and we’ve made many other improvements to transit that seem to have made the demand estimates on the streetcar overly optimistic. SDOT has failed to take these many changes into account, and continues to roll out the 2014 forecasts as justification for the project. Further, the transit lanes that the streetcar will use will work against some of the improvements that we have made like taking RapidRide C into South Lake Union.
“we don’t (yet?) do offboard payment and all door boarding on busses”
If we wanted to, we could for less than building the streetcar costs.
“Signal priority for one”
As I’ve mentioned in past comments, signal priority is a zero-sum game, and any signal changes that help the streetcar will come at the expense of bus routes that cross the streetcar line (e.g. 2, 3, 4, 12, 49, Madison BRT), which carry many more people than the streetcar does.
“and getting thru traffic out of the streetcar lanes on Broadway and Jackson.” Then, where does the traffic go? The street isn’t wide enough for separate transit/car lanes. At best, you could get rid of parking on both sides of the street to get a transit-exclusive lane on one side of the street (since a parking lane is narrower than a travel lane). Even then, turning cars would still need to cross the streetcar tracks (or you spend many millions of dollars moving the streetcar tracks from the side to the center of the street).
“And more cycling routes, off street if needed, that don’t conflict with the streetcar tracks. ” You can’t just ban bikes on Broadway because Broadway is the main thoroughfare, and the direct route to most destinations. The problem with the existing Broadway bike path is that it doesn’t go far enough north, and it doesn’t connect with any east/west protected bike lanes, so it’s basically an island.
Better ride quality is debatable. The main reason these streetcars are so smooth is because they are so slow. Anyone who has ridden an old subway (like in New York) can attest to the fact that rail is not necessarily smooth. If a bus went that slow, it would be smooth, too.
As far off board payment, Madison BRT will be 100% off board payment. Other RapidRide routes will also be off board payment, and existing routes will convert to off board payment.
In fact for every way a streetcar can get delayed, there are likely two or three ways a bus can get delayed. Streetcars don’t move out the way–the point is they don’t *have* to!
That is simply not true. It is quite common for our streetcars to encounter traffic and congestion. A bus would have to deal with the same thing, but a bus can deal with it better.
You seem to think that there is something magical about our streetcars. They will have off board payment, they will be center running (for part of the route) and run frequently.
Except that is exactly what Madison BRT will do! Just look at it. Madison BRT will be 100% off board payment. It will run down the center of the street, in its own lane, from downtown through First Hill. The streetcar won’t even be in its own lane — let alone its own center lane — for most of its route! You can stand on Madison and Broadway, watch the bus travel in its lane, and then turn your head and see the streetcar stuck in traffic.
Meanwhile, you are missing the point about the streetcars. Neither our RapidRide+ routes, nor the streetcar will be 100% grade separated. That means there are two places where they could encounter a car (or another obstacle). One is on the section that has no special treatment. This makes up a very small part of the Madison BRT line, but most of the streetcar line. Either way, a bus can deal with traffic better. It just moves around the car that is blocking the way — this happens every day. But even in the area that will have center running transit lanes, a vehicle occasionally will get in the way. It happens all the time — a truck or a car extends into the lane. (Ask someone who rides a bike if cars ever stick out into the bike lane). Again, a bus simply moves around the car — going into the other lane (with oncoming buses) if necessary. Then there are accidents. I have seen this happen in Toronto — the entire line shut down because of an accident — and I was only there a few days. It was obvious by the look of the locals that this was nothing new, and they quickly found other ways to get around. A bus would have simply gone around the mess.
In short, anything *our* streetcars can do, *our* buses can do better. That isn’t true of all streetcars (some streetcars are the same size as our trains) but it is true of our streetcars, which is why they simply don’t make sense.
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