First Hill Streetcar (Image: Atomic Taco)

Last evening, the Chair of the Seattle Council Budget Committee, CM Lisa Herbold, released her initial package of budget changes. This is a set of proposed amendments to the budget the Mayor proposed last month. The initial package reflects updated revenue assumptions and council member requests.

For transit advocates, the most notable elements are (a) the absence of any request to cut Center City Connector funding; (b) the statement of intent to consider speed and reliability improvements in South Lake Union and First Hill;  and (c) several pedestrian improvements. Without an amendment to reduce streetcar funding, that part of the mayor’s proposed budget moves forward.

Budget pressures were eased somewhat by $2 million in extra general fund revenues identified in the revenue update, mostly due to increased construction activity. There were also $2 million in other savings identified by staff across city operations. Those updates eased any pressure to seek new savings in the budget.

With a short timeline to finalize the budget, most attention is now on a controversial proposal for a “head tax” on employment at firms with more than $5 million in gross revenues to fund homeless services. Several council members prefer other revenue sources, and the mayor favors using new fees on short-term rentals.

Final approval of the 2018 budget is scheduled for November 20.

The complete list of proposed amendments to the SDOT budget

65 Replies to “Seattle Council proposes budget without further threats to CCC streetcar”

    1. Considering the negative reaction on Broadway, the indefinite shelving of streetcar expansion in Capital Hill, poor ridership and performance, and the apparent abandonment of the Streetcar Master Plan; I’m not entirely sure Seattle still wants streetcar. But, as groundbreaking is any day now, we’re kinda past the point of no return and with those defending streetcar investment labeling skeptics as anti-transit, it’s not really worth fighting. Bummer we couldn’t have come up with a better proposal years ago of how to use $170M to enhance transit city-wide rather than burning it on an “easy to understand” tourist train & development tool.

      1. Absolute agreement.

        Especially the part of, “Bummer we couldn’t have come up with a better proposal years ago of how to use $170M to enhance transit city-wide rather than burning it on an “easy to understand” tourist train & development tool.” Because guys like I from out of Seattle, when we choose the streetcar, we do so to spare a longer walk to South Lake Union destinations or to spend time eating Dick’s fast food.

      2. I really do think one can be a pretty big streetcar skeptic, and still think all things considered, given we a) we can’t undo the mistake of wasting money on SLU and FHSC and this makes them much better, b) this line, and probably this line alone, are done right with adequate priority, c) the feds are paying for a huge part of this, and d) this helps out the bus network by taking lots of short downtown trips off 3rd, this particular project is worth it.

        We should never be so fixated on general mode preferences, positive or negative, such that we’re always “for” or “against” a project based on that mode preference.

      3. “this helps out the bus network by taking lots of short downtown trips off 3rd”

        Do we have a problem with short downtown trips on 3rd? Whenever I take the 7/14/36 between Pine Street and Jackson Street I never have a problem with overcrowding. Likewise when I’m going north and take the 1/2/3/4/24/33. The problem on 3rd Avenue seems to be that it’s at bus capacity. Since all the bus routes go to unique places, the streetcar can’t replace any of them.

      4. Mike: for people on buses trying to travel through, or to the far side of, downtown on 3rd, the sheer volume of ons and offs are one of the many things that slows the journey down. The primary purpose of these buses is to get people too or from downtown. If a healthy portion of the short intra-downtown trips can go elsewhere, this could help reduce dwell times and keep 3rd ave moving better. This seems to me to be an underappreciated benefit of CCC. This isn’t the only reason the 3rd avenue slog takes as long as it does, but it’s clearly a part of the problem.

      5. This streetcar alignment makes sense especially since it connects two other lines and goes through the busiest parts of downtown and it’ll be more easily accessible than walking down to the bus tunnel. I’m excited for this.

        I love transit and even work at a transit agency…but even I don’t know exactly which buses I should ride for intra-downtown trips…and I almost always just rely on the bus tunnel to get me to places within downtown. A frequent downtown streetcar would be a more convenient option.

      6. What both Mike’s said. it doesn’t take the pressure off of buses. If anything, it makes it worse. The city is busy at work trying to figure out how to send buses somewhere besides the other end of downtown. The riders, of course, want the buses to go through downtown, but we simply have too many of those buses going through. Now imagine this wasn’t a streetcar. Would anyone in their right mind propose a brand new bus route from the edge of downtown to other side, and then curling around back to First Hill? Of course not. it is absurd as a bus route, but more to the point, it is moving the wrong direction. We have too many transit vehicles on the surface, not too few.

        To be clear, I think the idea of dedicated right of way on 1st is a great idea. It is quite possible that buses will be able to use it. But when they do, the streetcar will simply be in the way.

      7. Ross, buses can use it if they have custom left side doors, of which as I’m sure you are aware none in the fleet currently do. I was beating the drum to no avail during the planning and design of this line to have right door island platforms so normal buses could also use it and having these dedicated center lanes be shared bus-rail. Obviously there is a need for additional north-south bus capacity downtown and they could have shared this valuable dedicated right-of-way (and in turn with its frequency of transit vehicles improve headways and keep cars out).

      8. Broadway was a mistake, but it was not the City of Seattle’s mistake. It was Sound Transit’s unforced error. The right thing to do is to enhance the 12th and Jackson to SLU portion of the system which is a rational transit corridor and turn Broadway into some sort of non-critical shuttle for the hospitals.

        The way to maximize the investment in the core is to extend it southeast on Rainier to MBS and north along First to Seattle Center. Then add with a stub tail down to the stadiums on off-street right of way, probably next to Alaskan Way/SR99/Utah, possibly as far as Starbucks; there are a lot of new condos south of the stadiums which need service.

        Base service then becomes Seattle Center to MBS and SLU to “South Pioneer Square”. Both of those lines would have heavy all day ridership.

      9. “If a healthy portion of the short intra-downtown trips can go elsewhere, this could help reduce dwell times and keep 3rd ave moving better.”

        That’s the problem; I don’t think it will be that many people. Third Avenue is in the middle of where the bulk of people downtown are going or transfering; First Avenue is on the west edge. If I was going from Westlake to 2nd & Marion or 3rd & Marion, I wouldn’t take the streetcar because it’s out of the way and a steep walk uphill at the end. Only if you’re going to First, Western, or the waterfront would it make sense to take the streetcar.

        We’d also need a count of how many people are traveling within downtown compared to those going further. My impression is most riders are going further, so they aren’t going to move from 3rd Avenue unless their bus does.

        “for people on buses trying to travel through, or to the far side of, downtown on 3rd, the sheer volume of ons and offs are one of the many things that slows the journey down.”

        The speed problems are mostly because of traffic lights and the number of buses. When I’m at 3rd & Pine northbound I’ll often see my bus three blocks away, and then it takes five minutes to get to my stop. Part of that is people getting on/off at the previous stop, but most of them probably came from the south end or are going further than downtown. Then it spends just as much time waiting at stoplights before it gets to my stop.

      10. >> Ross, buses can use it if they have custom left side doors, of which as I’m sure you are aware none in the fleet currently do.

        Sure, but they will soon. Madison BRT will use them, and eventually others will likely follow.

        To be clear, I really have no idea whether it is worth running in the center or not for this section. That is a normal, fair trade-off. Center running is faster (no competition from turning cars) but limits the number of buses that can go there. The thing is, there is no shortage of *RapidRide* routes that could use this corridor (I count seven) and that is assuming that we don’t want to expand the program further. All of those buses could have doors on both sides quite easily.

        The point is, it is quite reasonable to argue as you do — that we shouldn’t bother running in the center. Again, that is a trade-off. But it is ridiculous to claim that a downtown circulator somehow takes the burden off of buses. The buses don’t go from one end of downtown to the other because we want to serve trips within downtown. They go from one end of downtown to the other because people start their trip outside downtown, and want to get to the far end.

  1. While I don’t love streetcars, or think Seattle’s network is particularly effective, I like them WAY more than the axe wielding activist wing on the council. So, “yeah”, I guess?

    I’m sort of confident that it can turn into something useful, and the current user experience and ride quality on the streetcar(s) is very good. I’m also confident that Sawant (especially) would strangle rail transit in the bathtub if her inner social justice warrior told her to do so.

    1. Well, Felsen, you’ve made my whole day. Especially for confirming oldest and most effective sales technique in the world. Give the customer a sample.

      Except don’t send them to court if they tap it too many times. True, on streetcar lines, system doesn’t care how many times you tap. Even though there is a Distance between every stop.

      Putting me back on the outs with Maggie Fimia. Buses are only better than LINK. Damn. Was supposed to Twitter that to my Base, and tell Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway.

      Hope FBI doesn’t find out that I promised Vladimir Putin he can drive the Connector in return for Russian mob help extending the Route 7 to Ellensburg, stewardess and all. From the looks of her, Rainier Valley should become trouble-free.

      (I know, but it’s important!) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6792nwi8hQ

      For public works, there’s a context that’s unfairly hard to grasp for the people whose support is most important. The ones young enough to have the energy to build it, and enough life ahead of them to pay the project off.

      Compare our streetcar situation with only Seattle’s street grid. If car travel had only the transit lanes of SLU and FHS, everyone would know cars are useless. Which when the first ones appeared, everybody actually did think. Including real danger from scared horses.

      Paved streets were grudgingly granted on the angry demands of bicyclists who …..come on, think about biking on streets organically paved for horses. So keep ragging on bike lanes and the cyclists will drop their support for pavement. Word to the wise.

      But politically, it’s really important to attribute correctly. It’s right wing activist Grover Norquist who wants to ring bathtubs with drowned Governments. You have to remember that being from India, Kshama comes out of the British parliamentary tradition of floor debate.

      That appreciates speculation about whether one’s opponent’s death certificate will list cause of death as the Governor’s signature or their own love life. Really would give Seattle some overdue Upstairs-Downstairs cred if council members would respond with either “Hear, hear!!!” or “Treason!”

      Serious caution, though. Pertinent Hindu deity, Kali Mata, is a policewoman with six arms, a curvy dagger in each hand, and fresh blood dripping off her tongue. And a necklace of shiny new skulls. Fare Inspection hires her and I’ll buy a thousand ORCA cards and grow enough arms that at least one set of taps will be right.

      Welcome aboard, Felsen.

      Mark Dublin

      1. Give the customer a sample.

        Also works for crack. Maybe some on the council should get treatment for their streetcar addiction, instead of just feeding it.

    2. [Ah] Perhaps she though the money would be better spent than on this dead dog of a transit project, considering its faster to walk than take the FHSC. [ah]

  2. I’m more disappointed that the Council has not asked for a new study to find out how much money they are committing us Seattle taxpayers to pay for the CCC, since the operating cost assumptions look improbable (assumed 50% increase in operating costs for twice as many stops and distance) as well as a lowered ridership estimate now that additional transit services are provided in the corridor.

    It’s offensive this day in age to assume that every transit project is “justified” while ignoring the questionable data assumptions behind them. It’s clear that there is a behind-the-scenes factor here and I’d be curious which corporate and developer interests are involved.

    1. I agree. The assumptions are indeed questionable and warrant a new analysis. Additionally, since the 2014 analysis was done, the cost of the project has bloated from $115 million (2017$) to $166 million not including the utilities work.

      Yes, I too am very disappointed that the city is choosing to move ahead anyway. The lure of the $75 million federal grant must be too much.

      1. And since 2014, anticipated ridership has dropped from 30,000 to 22,000 for C3’s opening year and 34,500 to 30,000 in 2035.

    2. The SDOT documentation has a range of numbers. One can extrapolate to alternative financial scenarios from any ridership estimate one wishes to assume.

      1. That’s not a good enough answer. These are our taxpayer dollars being spent with plenty of opportunity cost at stake, especially if this thing falls short the Feds will ask what’s going on here then look at everything we with more scrutiny. We deserve to know why costs have increased $60M (50%) and why ridership estimates have decreased 25% despite all other regional transit gains and streetcar investments. By comparison, Madison BRT’s costs and ridership estimates have remained relatively steady throughout the project.

  3. I am just surprised that Seattle is interested in a streetcar run in mixed traffic. Is there any possibility in closing some of those streets to automobile traffic? Or truncating some of the incoming bus lines (49 & 70?) at the terminus to save bus hours and re-allocate hours to other routes in the city in need of improvement? Just curious what the long-range plan is.

    1. The project is mostly exclusive lanes. It might have been harder to pass without that. There are no definite plans for mixed-lane extensions beyond the older Denny-Roy project which is now on hold because the local businesses don’t want to pay for it. The plan has a possible future phase to Seattle Center but no timeline or street configuration decided. When the streetcars laid out in McGinn’s 2014 Transit Master Plan there were a half-dozen lines including extending SLU to the U-District/Northgate, Ballard, and north Rainier. These were canceled under Murray in favor of Roosevelt RapidRide, 40 RapidRide, 7 RapidRide, and Ballard Link. Roosevelt RapidRide is the 70.

      The 49 in Metro’s 2025 plan becomes a UDist-10th-Bwy-Denny-12th-Beacon-Othello stn route. The 2 moves to Pike/Pine-12th-Union to replace the 49 and 11. I assume it will be 7-minute frequency to match earlier proposals for the 2S and 3S. The 8 is split to a Mercer-5th-Harrison-Fairview-Mercer-Denny-John-Madison route, a Denny-Boren-Rainier-MLK-RB-Prentice route (all Frequent), and a Madison/MLK-MLK-Jackson-23rd-Walker-Beacon Hill stn route (Local). Terminating the 49, 60, or any other east Seattle route at the streetcar wouldn’t work because the streetcar’s Broadway segment is too short: it’s not worth forcing a transfer for just a half-mile in a straight line.

      Closing streets, hahah. That’s a good one. Not Jackson or Broadway or Westlake, nosiree. But the “speed and reliability improvements” for SLU and First Hill must mean priority lanes if it means anything at all. It remains to be seen whether the city will really consider it, or even do it. Maybe the performance of the streetcars will prod them closer to the CCC’s opening.

    2. Just to add on to what Mike said, a lot of the details are pretty vague. Metro’s Long Range plan makes very clear that while the maps are interesting, the routes are simply ideas. They are not concrete proposals, let alone agreed upon ones.

      Same with the RapidRide+ projects that are part of Move Seattle (https://seattletransitblog.com/2015/12/21/rapidride-the-corridors/). There is a great deal of flexibility in them, and we’ve seen that already. Roosevelt RapidRide (that is the official name now) has a pretty clear route until it gets into downtown. Then it basically stops, with a big “TBD”. They aren’t really sure where they want to send the buses through downtown, and projects like this effect the thinking. It sure seems like they want to pair the 70 with a truncated 7 (which ends at Mount Baker Station). Connecting them via First (on this exact pathway) would make a lot of sense. Both routes will have buses with doors on both doors, which means they can take advantage of center running platforms. There is also talk about running both the streetcar and the RapidRide 7 in the middle Jackson.

      But I could also see several other buses that could run on First. The C, D, E, 40 and 120 (which will be converted to RapidRide) would all make good candidates. That is seven possible candidates for center running (left side platform). There will likely be some pairing, but that is still a lot of buses, and running some of them on First just makes a lot of sense.

      1. Ross, you’re robbing Peter to pay Paul by moving all the RR’s to First Avenue. You then end up with NO buses running the length of Third Avenue. All the trollies turn up the hill at some point on Third. That would be a big mistake. .

        I’d go for the 40 and 120, because they serve outlying parts of the city that the current C and D lines also serve, giving people a choice of paths through downtown. But ALL the RR’s? No. Third Avenue is much more important than First as the system backbone because it’s in the middle of the service area.

      2. “Metro’s Long Range plan makes very clear that while the maps are interesting, the routes are simply ideas. They are not concrete proposals, let alone agreed upon ones.”

        They’re what Metro planners think is best. They’re the closest thing we have to a concrete proposal. They have more clout than our amateur networks, because one of the major parties (Metro) has endorsed them. They show the corridors Metro thinks need to be served, and show that conflicts that have been dodged since 2012 will be coming for certain: whether to move the 2, split the 7, whether an 8-Madison will fly over the 11, whether the 62 will be straightened out in the middle, and whether it should be split, etc. It’s the default scenario as far as we can predict at this time.

      3. Sorry if I wasn’t clear, Richard. I sure as hell wouldn’t move *all* the RapidRide buses to First. I am saying I would move *some* of the RapidRide buses to first (and I can think of seven decent candidates).

        As for which ones to pick, let me first start by using Metro names (it is much simpler). I like your idea (120 and 40) and I would also add the 7 and 70, assuming they can be paired. That would give you very good combined headways from South Lake Union to the south end of downtown, as well as serving Jackson really well. Both the 7 and 70 get close to Link, which is another alternate path to serve downtown. For a bus like the 7, some people would prefer the current slog, but others would embrace the faster speed and consistency that would come from running pretty much congestion free the whole way.

        But that really is a discussion for another day. The point is — it is pretty easy to think of buses that make good candidates for running on First Avenue (especially if it is significantly faster than the alternative). Once you do that, buses that run on First run a lot faster, too (and there will be a lot of them, both regular and RapidRide).

      4. To quote the long range plan map:

        This map is not a service change proposal, but a long range vision developed for the purpose of generating representative costs and benefits. Final decisions on project elements or alignments will require additional outreach, analysis, engineering and appropriate council or board approval. Elements on this map should not be construed as a commitment that all representative features will be included in the final projects.

        There is nothing in that paragraph that suggest to me that they think this is the best possible approach. Quite the opposite. These are ideas, and like all ideas, are likely to change, based on feedback, as well as changes on the ground. If no one likes a particular route, then it won’t be implemented. Even when Metro came out with a concrete proposal (like the restructure in the north end or Capitol Hill) the proposal changed significantly once they got feedback.

      5. When you have not been able to do a long-range plan for a decade and there are things you’ve been wanting to do, why wouldn’t you put your best ideas in the best and possibly only chance you have?

    3. I hadn’t thought of putting RapidRide routes on First because I thought it was a foregone conclusion they’d all be on Third. Three of them already are, and the three to be upgraded are also on Third. There’s a general division of routes with Seattle ones being on Third and suburban ones on Second and Fourth. Splitting some of the RapidRide lines to First would make it harder to transfer between them or to take whichever route is going in your direction. (Especially the 40, which overlaps with the D for some destinations and with the 62 for others.)

      Also if SDOT had any ideas about putting lines on First, you’d think they’d have mentioned it in the past three years. They said, “The exclusive lanes will be available for possible bus routes,” but they implied there were no routes in the foreseeable future (except for the Madison shared station). Why didn’t they say, “We’re planning one or more RapidRide lines in the lanes.” That would have have been a major plus for the streetcar investment because it would serve two purposes.

      The most suitable route for First would be the C because it comes from the southwest, and it will have to move anyway when the viaduct comes down. But oh dear, it would overlap with the streetcar from 1st & Columbia (or 1st & Jackson) to SLU, which would raise a big issue of why keep the streetcar.

      1. >> Splitting some of the RapidRide lines to First would make it harder to transfer between them or to take whichever route is going in your direction.

        Not much harder. There are a lot of RapidRide buses that would cross this route. For example, if the 7 and 70 were paired and ran on First, they would still have to cross Third to get there, where someone would make the transfer. It is only if you basically “hugged the edge” (e. g. ran the D along First) that you would lose that easy connection.

        SDOT, saying “The exclusive lanes will be available for possible bus routes,” means just that. They have no concrete plans because the streetcar (and those lanes) are still up in the air. Roosevelt RapidRide — the north-south project that has advanced the furthest in terms of planning — has simply left out the heart of downtown. They have made quite clear that they don’t know, because the situation for downtown is in flux. One Center City improvements are an issue, as is this streetcar. To put it another way — if you are so sure that they want to run all of these on Third, why has SDOT not committed Roosevelt RapidRide to Third? Isn’t it possible that politics is playing a part? For example, why haven’t the ridership numbers been updated, to reflect the new reality on the ground (the C)? Maybe fans of the streetcar (or just fans of the status quo) don’t want to talk too much about running buses there, because they know that would weaken the argument for the streetcar. Once construction starts, everything changes. The rosy projections will be meaningless, and folks will get down to building the best possible transit system for the money. That means running buses on First, even if they eat into the ridership of the streetcar. Otherwise, we are basically committing ourselves to an inferior transit system, instead of admitting we were wrong about the streetcar.

  4. As mentioned by other posters, “For transit advocates” is misleading. It should be much more narrow, as “For Center City Connector Streetcar advocates”. The 1st Avenue right of way and local capital funds could be much better used on better transit or transportation projects. For some the FTA funds are not sufficient to use the scarce right of way and local capital on such a weak and risky project. Other posters have mentioned the risk of not covering the higher operating cost through the farebox. The utility work on 1st Avenue has begun.

    1. I think the news is “notable” “for transit advocates” either way. Just emphasizing what we care about, not taking a position on this occasion.

    2. The 1st Avenue right of way and local capital funds could be much better used on better transit

      This pretends the right of way is mode-fungible, but there’s no good reason to think it is. We live in a world where mode bias is real. There’s no good reason to think transit on rubber tires would have any meaningful chance of being granted the right of way the CCC will be.

      The right of way is the thing. The mode is secondary.

      1. In Seattle, we’ve proven we’ll go all sorts of ways to providing dedicated right-of-way to various modes of transit. Turning your fungible argument on it’s head, clearly our two previous streetcar investments didn’t have a meaningful chance of being granted right of way on their own. After sinking $200M on rail with almost no dedicated ROW, SLU Line finally got some dedicated space after the rubber-tired C Line was being extended. It’s worth noting Madison BRT is getting some pretty serious dedicated ROW right off the bat while costing us half as much per mile.

        As for mode bias around here, with streetcar ridership not doing so well for the last few years despite ridiculous growth along each line and opposition to Broadway Extension, I’d be careful using that as a pro-argument.

      2. What Mike said. The argument is just absurd. If people simply prefer a streetcar then why is ridership so low? If it is politically impossible to deliver right of way for buses, how do you explain the Madison BRT project, which will have a much higher percentage of *center running* lanes as well as BAT lanes? If anything, it is easier to make the opposite argument: People prefer riding buses, and it is easier to get the critical right of way with a bus, rather than a streetcar.

      3. If people simply prefer a streetcar then why is ridership so low?

        Look, on their own the current lines are terrible. This one is much better. Obviously, if I’m suggesting the only way we’re getting exclusive ROW on 1st ave is with a streetcar rather than buses (and this seems pretty inarguable; if it was easy to get ROW for buses through downtown, 3rd would be less of a mess than it is), I’m not defending the previous lines on their own. We can recognize that the previous lines were a terrible choice, and still make assessments in the world we live in, where we’re stuck with them, rather than re-litigate that bad choice.

        Look, obviously the current streetcar lines were a mistake, given limited resources. But there’s no sense in re-litigating that; we’ve got them now. This is useful in its own right, and it makes the other lines less useless.If it were possible to get surface N-S downtown exclusive ROW for buses, why wouldn’t it have happened by now?

      4. “If it is politically impossible to deliver right of way for buses, how do you explain the Madison BRT project.”

        That is the only corridor where this is happening. And Madison has a lot of sympathy because it lost the First Hill Link station. The same thing is happening with Ballard and West Seattle. They lost the monorail and that was half the impetus to get Link there in the next phase. Because we had already decided they needed more than regular buses. The difference between Ballard and Lake City in this regard is, while you say Lake City is highly deserving of rail, Seattle as a whole hasn’t said that and hasn’t voted for it, while they did vote for it in Ballard, West Seattle, and Madison. And by “rail” I don’t mean the First Hill Streetcar, because it’s obvious to almost everybody that it’s pathetic and hardly addresses the neighborhood’s transit needs at all.

      5. “If it is politically impossible to deliver right of way for buses, how do you explain the Madison BRT project.”

        That is the only corridor where this is happening.

        Again, simply not true. Madison is simply the first one. Even if it was the only one, it disproves the claim. This streetcar will only have *some* exclusive right of way. Most of it will still be stuck in traffic, as before. Big deal. So far, *all* of the BRT plans include *some* exclusive right of way. Even Roosevelt has stretches of bus only lane. The streetcar will have more than Roosevelt, but less than Madison. It will also likely have less than the 7. Just read about Corridor 3:

        Jackson and Rainier are often congested here, so it’s good news that, for just $4.4m/mi., SDOT is proposing transit-only lanes for the entire corridor.

        Then there is this:

        The TMP also includes this nugget: “evaluate tradeoffs of converting First Hill Streetcar running way on Jackson Street to center-running transit-only lanes to allow for shared RapidRide/streetcar operations and Japantown, Chinatown, and Little Saigon center-platform stations.” The result would be an impressive 33% travel time savings through the corridor.

        Got that? The plan is to run with transit lanes for the entire corridor, with the possible exception of where it intersects with the streetcar! They need to evaluate that part, to see if it is worth it. If there really was a strong preference for favoring the streetcar, don’t you think it would be the other way around — they would start by improving the streetcar section, and then worry about Rainier later. But that isn’t the case. Instead they are focused on the 7 (which is more important) and the streetcar may get lucky, and get improved in the process.

        The premise is absurd, and no one has shown a shred of evidence to support it, while there is example after example of the opposite. When it comes to right of way, city planners have been willing to give it to buses, and deny it to the streetcar.

    3. The local capitol would be sufficient to buy as much exclusive ROW any where else in the city for any other mode (e.g., bus)? Yep, I didn’t think so.

      1. Who says you have to get the ROW anywhere else? Just run buses on that right of way. We have more than a half dozen future RapidRide+ buses (bused equipped with doors on both sides) that could use right of way on First: The C, D, E, Roosevelt, 7 (truncated to MBS), 40 and 120. If you just get the right of way, you save money (no need to lay rail) and free up the space for much more useful transit routes. Do that and you have every advantage of this proposal, without any of the disadvantages.

  5. Good. While I think the SLU and First Hill streetcars were a waste, they’ve been built, and the CCC offers some plausible hope of turning those two segments into a useful line overall. After it’s done, I don’t think there should be any more streetcar expansion plans for a good while at least. Let what’s been built prove its worth.

    1. Actually, since Link will not cover Belltown, I think extending the streetcar along 1st Ave through Belltown and up to the future LQA station on Mercer is perhaps the one streetcar line that does make sense. That way, if someone is in Pioneer Square and wants to get to the far side of Belltown (a fairly common trip) they can take the streetcar.

      1. If only, right? It’s too bad we’re so invested in SLU. Even the maintenance barn is there. A Jackson-1st route all the way from the Central District to Lower Queen Anne, with significant reliability improvements over today’s service, could do a lot of good things. It would be a great complement to a route connecting Capitol Hill and First Hill to either Beacon or Rainier, and those things, along with RR C’s SLU extension and Madison BRT (though maybe it should have gone down East Union), would make great complements to ST’s regional network, as key corridors for city-scaled trips.

        Then if the Jackson-1st route was a trolley bus it could go up the counterbalance, and we wouldn’t be stuck with the awfulness of Jackson/14th/Boren/Rainier forever. And almost every part of the SLUSC and FHSC follies would be gone and hardly missed.

    2. In economic terms they call that a sunk cost. The informal saying for it is “Don’t put good money after bad”.

      When this is all done, we will be left with a streetcar line that is hobbled for two reasons. First, because it is an inferior implementation of a mode — the streetcar is no bigger than a bus, thus negating the primary advantage of a streetcar. Second, because the route is horrible. Would anyone here think this is a great route if was a bus? Of course not.

      It would have been much easier to simply ignore the streetcars, and give the right of way to the buses. There is more than enough demand for cross downtown bus service — we just have to give the buses the right of way.

    3. I’d like to see the Westlake/SLU streetcar go to Fremont on a re-built Westlake (north of Mercer) with dedicated lanes. Fremont would replace the Wooden Boats & Fred Hutch/Eastlake portion.

      1. Why? That’d just duplicate part of the 40 with lower capacity and worse chance of detouring around turning traffic.

  6. Good decision by the SCC. It was always a bit of a joke having two disconnected pieces of SC that didn’t connect where most people actually want to go. This at least moves us in a more thoughtful direction toward some sort of integrated SC system.

    Yep. Build the CCC, connect the two segments of SC we already have, make some operational tweaks and let’s see where we are. If things are working out and people want more SC then we can have that discussion then.

    SC will never replace LR, but that isn’t its goal. It’s goal is to fill a niche between buses and LR, and it certainly can do that. But let’s let the data guide us.

    1. What niche does this fill between LR and buses? Seriously, what niche?

      Maybe you mean all the disadvantages of a bus along with all the disadvantages of a train, but that really isn’t a niche. That is a poorly thought out project, meant to appeal to those who prefer symbolism over substance.

      1. That is pretty vague — again, what exactly do you mean by “quality”. What makes this a higher quality experience than a RapidRide bus? Oh, and you do realize that the streetcars aren’t really “selling” — ridership is extremely low for these routes.

      2. I question whether it fills a quality niche that (say) the newer trolleybuses and RapidRides don’t. Unless you automatically assume buses are of lower-quality, in which case…this is rather expensive (and underperforming) “quality”.

  7. Well, this will go down as another stupid Seattle transportation project. It is basically the transit version of the SR 99 tunnel. Sure, there is some good stuff with it, but it will become fairly obvious to everyone fairly soon that the project wasn’t worth the money.

    I would break the project down like so:

    1) Some right of way on First Avenue.

    2) A transit route from South Lake Union south to Jackson, then east to 14th, then back to Broadway, and then up to Capitol Hill (making a ‘U’ as drawn by a nervous 3 year old).

    3) Choosing a tiny streetcar as the mode of travel for this route.

    The right of way on First is a good thing. It is highly likely that it will eventually be used by lots of buses. Currently we have way too many buses trying to go through downtown. So much so, that we are trying to talk riders into accepting changes that would involve sending their buses elsewhere (ironically, First Hill). So there will be no shortage of ways to get from one side of downtown to the other. What remains to be seen as how many buses we can cram in there. There are plenty of buses that can use this particular right of way, which is in the center of the road. Any of the current RapidRide routes, as well as many of the future RapidRide+ routes (https://seattletransitblog.com/2015/12/21/rapidride-the-corridors/) could use it. Current RapidRide routes include the C, D, and E, which all go from one end of downtown to the other. The new RapidRide+ routes are numbered (see website), and the ones that go downtown are Corridor 2 (Metro 120), Corridor 3 (truncated 7), Corridor 6 (40), and Corridor 7 (Roosevelt). That is seven routes that could all use a faster way to get from one end of downtown to the other, especially if it involves center running. Having this right of way would make the ride faster and save money. This would then create the typical virtuous circle of better headways and increased ridership. At that point, with buses running quickly and frequently on First, it is quite possible that you wouldn’t need the streetcar, since it is largely a subset of the service.

    The streetcar could become the Stone Soup of Seattle transit. An expensive stone, but some tasty soup.

    The route of the streetcar is part of the problem. No one would dream of running this route if it was a bus. It would have been altered or replaced years ago with something more functional. But because this is a streetcar, changing the route is extremely expensive.

    Which gets me to the last point, which is the mode. The route is terrible, but the implementation of this mode is worse. The streetcar is no bigger than a bus, which means it completely misses the point of the vehicle. It is like buying a Hummer that you can’t take off road. It makes the whole project silly — https://seattletransitblog.com/2017/10/19/replace-ccc-better-bus-service/ — and I would find the whole thing hilarious except that it will cost us a huge amount of money we could have used elsewhere.

    1. Dammit, Ross, will you at least acknowledge that there are five-section trams that can fit in a Seattle north-south block and will carry roughly two and a half times the standing loads that the largest articulated buses can?

      Just QUIT this carping about the current cars’ size. They can be replaced by trams when necessary. This is a good argument for the Holladay Street solution (e.g. laying the tracks along the west side of First Avenue), but that ship has apparently sailed, unfortunately.

      1. If Seattle would buy some of those five-section trams, or lay out a timetable for buying them in the future, I’m not Ross but I’d consider that. As it is, I don’t think they’d even fit in the car barns.

    2. And it’s not “the route” There are two routes sharing one right of way in the center of a longer trackway.

    3. Longer trains would require longer stations, possibly moving stations, and I don’t know what else.

      1. Exactly. I could make a pretty good case that this tram still isn’t worth it, even if it was bigger than a bus, but that point is moot. This isn’t being built to serve large trams, and it isn’t simply a matter of buying a different type of vehicle. That is like arguing we should just switch to heavy rail (and not bother with a second tunnel). It just isn’t that simple.

  8. The Capitol Hill Streetcar gets used daily by me, my girlfriend, and hundreds of other folks. I’ve ridden the thing a dozen times in the past couple of weeks – I love it! Makes it easy to get to/from the ferries, makes it super easy to get home from work on cold days for my GF, and sometimes it is SRO on the darn things.

    Instead of just being the typical naysayers on transit that 95% of the people on here and My Northwest seem to be, maybe we could allow new forms of transit like this to ‘mature’ a bit, and for people to get used to where they go.

    I will say, the street car on Capitol Hill is a fine use of my tax dollars, and I do not wish for it to go away just because a bunch of people out in the sticks don’t like it. No one told you to live out in the boonies!

    1. Representative Sawant is opposed to this project — she hardly lives in the boonies (nor do most of the people opposed to this).

      The reason we are opposed to it is simple — a streetcar this size offers no advantages (and lots of disadvantages) to a bus. Everything you say about that trip could be done with a bus. It isn’t a matter of the technology maturing (streetcars are pretty mature). It is simply building the right tool for the job.

      As Jarrett Walker wrote*, streetcars have few advantages. In this case, the only possible one is capacity. A streetcar *could* handle very big loads. Except this streetcar can’t. So even if we accept the premise that we need the capacity of a streetcar for this route (and I most certainly do not) the issue is moot. It doesn’t matter, since our buses can carry just as many people as our streetcars.

      * http://humantransit.org/2009/07/streetcars-an-inconvenient-truth.html

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