The Center City Connector, a streetcar on First Avenue with dedicated right of way, has an uncertain fate. Mayor Jenny Durkan halted construction of the streetcar at the end of March and ordered a project review by consulting and auditing firm KPMG. When Durkan first halted construction on the streetcar, transit advocates speculated that the pause and assessment might be a pretext for canceling the project. The delay in the report has deepened that impression.
Durkan’s office promised to make the report “available no later than June 19,” but, though a version of the report has been delivered, it has not been made public. According to Durkan’s staff, and a June 29 project update on an SDOT website, Durkan was “verbally briefed” on the project on June 19.
However, the mayor “asked for a further analysis on technical assumptions, ridership projections, operations and capital costs, and funding options, as well as more detailed information regarding additional alternatives for providing transit connections moving forward.” The review of KPMG’s findings will be conducted by city agencies including the City Budget Office, SDOT, Seattle City Light, and Seattle Public Utilities.
While the contents of the report remains unknown to the public, members of the transit policy community, who did not wish to be identified, believe that the report contains ridership projections higher than the estimates that accompanied the design stage of the CCC.
The review of the KPMG report will “verify updated ridership projections, material costs and labor, utility relocations and project timelines for a series of options to ensure the final report is accurate for taxpayers.” Sources believe the motivation behind the second round of auditing is to find policy reasons to cancel the project. When asked for an update on Durkan’s decision, the mayor’s staff directed STB to the June 29 statement.
If the project is cancelled, more than the 1st Avenue streetcar might be in jeopardy. Members of the transit community and the city’s D.C. lobbyist worry that turning down federal money for the streetcar could endanger federal funding for other regional transit projects.
Even if the streetcar is not built, the city will still have spent a substantial amount of money. The city has already paid for some utility work and is already on the hook for a total of $90 million of contracts, including an SDOT contract to purchase vehicles. Ironically, if the mayor chooses to cancel the project because of cost, a large amount money will have been spent for nothing.
95 Replies to “Fate of Center City Connector depends on Mayor’s delayed consultant report”
“The city has already paid for some utility work and is already on the hook for a total of $90 million of contracts, including an SDOT contract to purchase vehicles. Ironically, if the mayor chooses to cancel the project because of cost, a large amount money will have been spent for nothing.”
There is a corollary to the sunk cost fallacy – at this point we should be comparing the benefits of the line to the incremental cost above what has already been spent/committed. And I can guarantee that any headline numbers shopped to the Seattle Times panicking about costs will include everything that’s already been spent and everything that we’re already contractually obligated to pay even if the project is cancelled.
If we do follow though, there’s another ~$110M which needs to be spent to finish Of note, the Move Seattle Levy documentation in 2015 pegged C3 at $112M.
That said, much of the utility and street work being performed in Pioneer Square is badly needed and is not a waste of time/money.
Also, how much will the demobilization/remobilization of contractors and project staff cost. Can we take that out of Durkan’s pocket? Who is benefiting from canceling this project, and what do they have on or for Durkan?
Seattle Streetcar has a funding shortfall, resulting in a construction halt, possibly as a pretext for cancelation, to avoid “wasting money” or something.
King County Metro has extra funds sitting in the bank that can’t be used for service hours due to lack of staff.
Couldn’t we do the obvious and have King County Metro agree to fill the CCC funding gap with funds that it can’t use itself, in exchange for the mayor giving up her dream of canceling the streetcar?
I think KCM has an interest in this as it deleted route 99 (I think) in large part because of CCC construction, and the CCC can be seen as a logical successor to route 99.
This would never work, it makes too much sense.
That’s throwing good money after bad. Route 99 is a waterfront route. It’s been on First Avenue because of the construction on Alaskan Way. Now First Avenue will be under construction too. The 99 has been one of Metro’s lowest-ridership routes. I thought it was cancelled in the recession.
The money is sitting in a Seattle account.
The construction halt wasn’t due to a funding shortfall. It was due to a Seattle Times articles that suggested that the ridership projections were suspect. In fact, this is one of the few projects from sound move that had all the money and was ready to start construction.
According to this article, the new report came in with even higher ridership projections.
So the question is, if it’s cancelled, why is it REALLY being cancelled?
It’s even simpler than that, the “extra” funds are Seattle’s, via the Transportation Benefit District, not Metro’s.
If Durkan chooses to cancel this project, I would bet a lot of money that she will lose the next election. The transit and urbanist community is a major constituency in Seattle and cancelling a critical project such as this one based on faulty reasoning and (apparently) a predetermined report is not going to be taken lightly.
I think there are many that are transit-supportive and urbaniste-supportive that have doubts if not open contempt for this project. After all:
– It was developed before ST3 planning and adoption. This affects both its usefulness and demand.
– Other very dense areas near Downtown like Belltown and First Hill got nothing or little from ST3, while this project parallels both an existing and future ST3 transit tunnel.
Not every streetcar transit project is useful or productive.
I’m of the personal opinion that ST3 passage should throw this project into redefinition so that the plans are complementary and integrated, rather than duplicative. That points to reopening streetcar corridor investment dollars to better serving nearby highly-dense areas near Downtown that have been skipped.
Building the CCC lays the groundwork for running a Belltown streetcar down First.
The frequent, two-line operation proposed from SLU to the ID in the CCC project would make it almost impossible to add a Belltown branch unless a completely different operation is assumed.
The streetcar plan includes a potential future extension on 1st. The operational model can be changed. For instance, the First Hill line could continue north.
Al S., I should know better than to get hooked into this like a flounder, but in the Chihuahua (the province, not the dog) of next world I will not be able to look my old compadrae Pancho Villa in the eye if I do not insist on being justly called an UrbanisA! All the unrbanISTES mince around ParEEE with their little fingers sticking out from under a demiTASSE!
Agreed 100% with Ron. Especially since a single switch could take alternating trains straight north on First, headed for Lower Queen Anne. Maybe sharing positive wire with the trolley wire that used to continue past Virginia, reconnecting with existing wire past Broad. And a monorail station at, maybe, Bell Street. And return of buses to avenues besides Third. What ST-3 can’t pay for directly, its benefits can be shared out.
Ever think that the Connector will make two other streetcar lines a lot more productive? Favor: interview the Executive Director of the Pike Place Market Development Association and tell us what he thinks. Tell him he owes me one for dropping my Waterfront Line so he can get this one. But just to be on safe side on The Other Side:
Streetcar should be thrown into PERdition!
MarCO, not MarCEL!
I don’t mind the idea of a streetcar network connecting neighborhoods in and around the central core, though I’d prefer the Seattle Subway vision of an underground train system. The city of Prague (using as an example because I attended school there for a few months) integrates an expansive local streetcar system with three subway lines which act more as a regional transit system. Prague’s streetcar system was widely used and very punctual. That said, I’m inclined to think streetcar systems work better in Europe because more streets are either closed to car traffic or simply not convenient for driving and parking.
Not sure how it affects demand from ST3, which does not do a thing for 1st Ave. nor for regional ferry connections. If anything, it would seem to enhance the ST3 ridership boost since it expands the downtown congestion free (dedicated lane) network.
Exactly what Ron said.
You are completely wrong, Al. The overlapping headways will be five minutes, roughly. In a dedicated right of way streetcars can and do run at one minute headways in many places in the world.
Dustin, the CCC will be in reserved ROW from Stewart to Jackson. Adding reservation to the north would not be a problem. First Avenue does not narrow until it crosses Denny Way.
>> You are completely wrong, Al. The overlapping headways will be five minutes, roughly. In a dedicated right of way streetcars can and do run at one minute headways in many places in the world.
Irrelevant — this will not be in a dedicated right of way. OK, some of it will be, but not all of it. The First Hill streetcar (half of the overlap) will not be in a dedicated right of way, and will continue to suffer from delays caused by congestion, parked cars, debris in the road way, dead bike riders, etc. That means the promised five minute headways are a joke. Yes, on average there will be five minute headways, but it won’t be reliable, and will be considerably less frequent than buses on Third.
It really isn’t that complicated. Imagine the First Hill streetcar, scheduled to head north on First precisely five minutes after the South Lake Union streetcar started heading north. Sounds great, except the streetcar is, inevitably, delayed. It isn’t too hard to imagine it being delayed five minutes, or even six. What happens then? Does the South Lake Union streetcar just wait, until the other one arrives? Of course not — it just heads out, on schedule. This means a gap of around 10 minutes — right during rush hour — followed by back to back streetcars.
Why on earth would someone prefer that over just grabbing a bus on Third? Yes, Third is a mess — the buses deal with cars in the BAT lanes all the time. But there are a ton of them — in fact too many. You can expect to just walk to the bus stop, tap your ORCA card (next to the bus stop) and hop on a bus (using either door). The streetcar might go a little faster, but if you are just headed to the other end of downtown (the only place the streetcars go) than obviously the buses are better.
Overlapping five minute headways is not great. It is half-ass frequency, for a half-ass streetcar.
>> Building the CCC lays the groundwork for running a Belltown streetcar down First.
Then onto Aurora all the way up to Lynnwood.
Seriously though — Belltown has buses! It has very popular buses. Buses that get stuck in traffic. Send those buses down First Avenue — onto that same right of way — and people have a transit option that is more frequent, faster, and serves a lot more trips.
I’d also note that a Belltown branch would mean that the signals would have to accommodate streetcars in multiple directions crossing each other’s tracks — all at a signal that also has pedestrians needing countdown signals in addition to some auto traffic. Operationally, it doesn’t sound complex. In real-time, the operational reliability delays that RossB mentions would be even more complicated by the constant switching that would be required in the middle of signalized intersections with crosswalks.
Ross, who gives a crap whether the cars come with three minutes and then seven minutes between them, if they can run reliably in reserved right of way at one-minute headway. Al was implicitly saying “There’s no room for First Avenue cars”, which is not correct.
If I’m getting off the ferry and headed to somewhere in SLU I’d much prefer not to climb Marion to Third Avenue. But that’s just me I guess.
Al, do you know how streetcar switches operate? The traditional operation is similar to that of the miniature switches in the overhead for trolley buses. On the facing point (diverging) side, when a car approaches with power on the points typically take the diverging position. When a car approaches on drift, they take they line for straight through. There are a few systems these days which have sensors in the road which read a signal from the train as it approaches to identify its destination. I would expect that should the CCC be built and a First Avenue branch be added later it would have such a train sensor switching.
If having points moving within an intersection with crosswalks is considered a safety issue, even though it happens thousands of times daily throughout the world, then simply have the points in the middle of the preceding block within the protected right of way with gantlet track leading into the actual diversion.
The trailing point (converging) direction requires nothing more than spring points which move ONLY when a wheel from the less-traveled route is directly contacting the point and pushing it away. The points snap closed as the wheel moves past them. All this happens within the physical perimeter of the car itself as it passes. A person has to have been hit by the car already to be trapped by the closing point.
So you want to move the Magnolia buses over to First instead of having a streetcar? Or maybe the D Line? Whoever you choose will howl with indignation because most of the riders on those buses want to go to parts of downtown away from the waterfront. Yes, some want to go the waterfront/Market occasionally, of course. But more, especially from Magnolia, want to go to the financial district. And it’s a hell of a walk up from First Avenue on Madison or Marion. Yes, they can ride RRG, but most would rather ride a bus on Third, which is the place for the in-city buses that come from north of Denny.
However, all those condos and apartments west of First and north of Battery are perfect candidates for a streetcar which stays on First, because for those folks the trip downtown is not just to go to work; many of them may even walk for that. Back in the 1970’s when I lived on Upper Queen Anne and worked downtown I walked both ways most days, including the climb up the Third Avenue stairs.
But a First Avenue streetcar is perfect for trips to the stadia, Pioneer Square for entertainment (though they have their own in Belltown, too) and the Market for bringing back groceries.
Ross, who gives a crap whether the cars come with three minutes and then seven minutes between them,
Someone on First waiting for them does. Jeesh.
…if they can run reliably in reserved right of way at one-minute headway
That is meaningless *unless they actually run every minute*. Holy cow, man, that is like having a Ferrari and then driving it only in town. What is the point? So you can boast that your car can go 150 MPH, even though you never take it above 35? Seriously, why should anyone ever care if the streetcars can run every minute if they never do. If they run every five minutes or so (sometimes ten, sometimes bunched up) then that is what will matter.
So you want to move the Magnolia buses over to First instead of having a streetcar? Or maybe the D Line? Whoever you choose will howl with indignation because most of the riders on those buses want to go to parts of downtown away from the waterfront.
However, all those condos and apartments west of First and north of Battery are perfect candidates for a streetcar which stays on First ..
So, let me get this straight. The main value of this project is that it connects the two streetcar lines. The corridor is important, but not so important that people from other parts of town actually want to use it. Except, of course, for Belltown, which is not actually served by the project. Oh, and the stadiums are not served by it either, so I guess that would be another potential extension.
I hope no one gets hurt by the mental gymnastics used to justify this project. The whole thing is just absurd. Step back a bit and assume these were all bus runs. What would you do? Run a bus from Belltown to the stadiums? Send a different bus to down First instead? Either have merit — certainly. But guess what — this project will do neither. Instead it will run a bus on First, then Jackson, then 14th, then back to Broadway and end well before the commercial district of Broadway ends. Why? Because the bus is a streetcar, that’s why. No one in their right mind would propose this route if it wasn’t a streetcar.
Not only is this an inferior mode *for this routing* but the routing is inferior *because of this mode*.
There is a way to do streetcars right. In fact LInk, on Rainier Valley, is essentially a streetcar. Big trains running down the surface of the street, connecting to other, well thought out destinations. But our streetcars are tiny — no bigger than our buses — and the line was not well thought out. As Jarrett Walker said (http://humantransit.org/category/loops), you want long, straight routes, not short, squiggly and looping ones. Yet the streetcar route — if completed — will be short, squiggly and looping. Of course we could add on more and more streetcar additions — but it would be a lot cheaper (and provide better transit) if we just ran buses.
Ross, the discussion started about a future extension through Belltown to the Lower Queen Anne. Keep up. And actually I have previously proposed exactly extending the line down past the stadia to Starbucks using a one-way couplet on northbound on First South and southbound on Utah. So there’s that.
And for the 87,243 time, Seattle has a relatively small fleet of Inekon and Inekon-clone cars. Sell them! There is NOTHING stopping the City from extending the stations to serve the five-section trams used all over Europe.
Ross, people would definitely take the streetcar over walking up to third and back down to first if they are trying to get down first. Or between ID and Pike Place. Granted this may be a lot of tourists, but better then put them in Ubers. Note that the waterfront area is currently a construction zone but won’t be for much longer. Same reason people may take a bus on third instead of Link, it depends on where point A and point B are. Not to mention your average person in downtown doesn’t necessarily know which busses stop on which cross streets. Streetcar much easier to use.
As to the ROW, is it a dedicated lane all the way? No. Is it a dedicated lane where the thing would tend to get stuck in traffic and where it would be most politically difficult to change to transit only later? Yes! So what if it takes 7 minutes to come instead of 5 you easily make up that time by being in the dedicated lanes for the downtown stretch. Sometimes Link takes ten minutes to come peak hours when it should be six, too.
>> There is NOTHING stopping the City from extending the stations to serve the five-section trams used all over Europe.
My God, Richard, how many times must you be wrong on the same thread. If we ran bigger trains, then we would need bigger stations. That would cost more money (of course). It is unlikely that we will ever need that, especially for a line like this.
@B — I don’t think you get the point. First can be better served by buses. It is really that simple. But just for the exercise, I will address each point:
Is it a dedicated lane where the thing would tend to get stuck in traffic and where it would be most politically difficult to change to transit only later? Yes!
Absolute nonsense. The streetcar gets stuck on First Hill. Fixing Broadway would be damn near impossible (there just isn’t the room). That is my point. It effects headways on the entire system, even if part of it is not stuck in traffic.
As for being politically difficult, why would it be easier to give right of way to a mode that is less popular than buses? Seriously — have you noticed that no one is backtracking on the Madison project? The city council — and just about everyone with any sense in this town — supports it. The entire council. More right of way (in terms of absolute distance and percentage of the line) and yet it is going forward without a hitch.
So what if it takes 7 minutes to come instead of 5 you easily make up that time by being in the dedicated lanes for the downtown stretch.
Waiting a long time for a bus is not as good as waiting a short time. How is that complicated. Why would you prefer a bus that comes every 5 to 10 minutes, versus a bus that runs every minute or two, and gets there just as fast?
Do you really think that a streetcar is magic, and can somehow go faster than a bus? Put it this way — imagine you are on First, and they allow both buses and streetcars on it. Now imagine you’ve already tapped your ORCA card, and are ready to board one of the many buses there. Your friend says “Wait, the streetcar should be coming in about 7 minutes — we should wait for it — it will get us there faster”. I guess my reaction would be to laugh, because that is ridiculous. If the bus is running in the same lane, it will be just as fast. In fact, it would be faster. In case you haven’t noticed, our bus lanes aren’t completely separated — there is nothing stopping a driver from sticking out a few inches into the lane (i. e. blocking the box). In a bus, a driver can easily avoid the vehicle, by going over the center lane (towards the oncoming transit only traffic). A streetcar can’t do that. It is just stuck. Same with an accident, or debris in the roadway.
It really isn’t that complicated. Everyone is basically arguing that we should have service on First. I agree. Folks want the right of way. I agree as well. But there is no reason that service can’t come in the form of a bus and the right of way given over to it.
>> “Seattle has a relatively small fleet of Inekon and Inekon-clone cars. Sell them! There is NOTHING stopping the City from extending the stations to serve the five-section trams used all over Europe.”
That’s not as easy as selling on streetcar and buying another. What you’re suggesting is like selling a minivan and buying a bus! These are many possible issues: The end track at Capitol Hill station is not long enough. Longer cars would require longer storage tracks. There likely would be issues with power supply, distances between switches and rail signal controls, distances between signalized intersections and longer station platforms .. just to name a few. That’s on top of the one-way power supply spec that delayed the FHSC in the first place!
For heaven’s sake, Ross, you quoted (not just misread) a sentence in which I said “extend the stations” and then tell me, “Oh my God, if we buy longer trains we’d need longer stations!”
Hello, “extend” means “make longer” last time I looked.
Al, yes, First Hill would need traction in both directions. So far as train storage, if the CCC is built they’ll need more anyway. The barn in the International District is only four blocks straight down Eighth South from Central Base. A couple of rows of buses could become train storage.
Dorkan risk adding another failure to go with her failed head tax effort. One can only imagine how she would have reacted to the Bertha episode; she would still be studying the damn thing and spending additional taxpayer money and putting small businesses out of business.
les, and everybody else, maybe it’s be cause I’m no longer among her electorate, but has the Mayor of Seattle started her term as proudly-walled-off-with-the-door-locked-from-the-inside as she looks from Olympia?
Bad enough when, say, CEO’s of DSTT-operating agencies pay a consultant to deliver the FAKE FINDINGS! that the 41 and the 550 can use their fareboxes at rush hour without any delays. But if a Mayor thinks a public project is off its rails, it’s her call, and anybody doesn’t like it, they can vote for Nikkita Oliver next election. Wonder if I can claim absentee.
In her previous career, Mayor Durkan would’ve torn a public defender to weasel-food for less. Not going to ask where the City Council is. After what she did to my young neighbors for refusing to snitch, they’re not going to defend the CCC, because they know that Angle Lake Annex is already full. But (word to the wise, maybe) “Dorkan” does an injustice to many whose glasses are taped because new frames cost $500.
At least a Nerd knows their condition and appreciates how much more money it earns them than all their cool high school tormentors get in a long lifetime . But since by definition a Dork just uses a paper clip because they can’t find the Scotch tape- frame monopoly wins again! So learn to use google:
Her name means “Pessimist”, maybe because that’s what they turned other clans into. Her 79 AD lady forebears made prosciutto out of Roman soldiers. They were also tattooed from head to foot. But better just take http:www’s word for it.
@les — You are saying the SR 99 tunnel is a worthy project? Seriously? No ramps for Western, billions of dollars for a tunnel that has no HOV lanes and *fewer* lanes than the existing viaduct, and you think it is great? Seriously? I’m pretty sure you are in the minority here (and on every blog).
We can only fantasize that someone like the current mayor stopped the SR 99 tunnel — instead we had an overzealous mayor whose vision didn’t match the financial reality of the state, an unqualified mayor who had no idea what to do and a feckless mayor who couldn’t possibly rethink previous decisions. Pretty soon we will have more traffic on the waterfront, more traffic in Fremont and Mercer, and nothing in the way of transit to compensate.
>If Durkan chooses to cancel this project, I would bet a lot of money that she will lose the next election.
I disagree. However, I do think that the response of her and her administration to the KPMG review is likely to have a significant impact on Durkan’s reputation and political future in Seattle, especially now that the outcome of the review has been delayed. I think it’s safe to say Seattle is expecting a prudent decision, backed by hard information, from Durkan. If the project is canceled for the right reasons (ie. future project costs related to ridership projections and the city’s larger scale public transportation goals) after an effective review of the project scope and costs, that would bode well for Durkan’s re-election. What Durkan can’t afford at this point, with a delayed review and under heavy scrutiny of tax payers and transit supporters, is a bungled response resulting in cancellation that’s not actually supported by the findings of the KPMG review.
Why assume that Jenny is going to run again? If the administration changes in 2020 I can easily see her taking a federal job.
Because Durkan running for re-election was the premise of the original argument. But yes, Durkan not running for re-election would make her re-election prospects a moot point.
I can’t believe Durkin’s reelection will hinge on the streetcar. It’s not an automobile tunnel or a snowstorm, the only two issues that could have plausibly decided mayoral races in the past. People care more about zoning and parking than about a 1st Avenue streetcar.
I feel like Greg Nickels took significant political damage resulting from his creation of the South Lake Union streetcar and the related perception of being too subservient to Vulcan. Searching on these terms it is easy to find a retrospective Seattle Times article that references this as part of his downfall. It was certainly part of my own poor perception of Nickels at the time.
In hindsight I’d say any damage was well-deserved as SLU transportation is a mess and the SLU streetcar an expensive distraction of very little value, that has injured many people.
@Jonathan — Agreed. I would also add the monorail to that list. It’s failure alienated The Stranger, which certainly cost him some votes.
What is it about Seattle bike riders that makes them uniquely adept at getting stuck in railroad tracks and doing a header? There are tram tracks all over Amsterdam and bikes cross them thousands — probably tens of thousands — of times a day.
@Richard — What it is about STB commenters that make them so incapable of doing even basic research on a subject, yet pontificating like they have?
Studies like this one (https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-016-3242-3) have shown that rider education only goes so far. Here, let me copy the conclusion:
Although it may be possible to reach a broader audience with continued advice about how to avoid track crashes, the persistence and frequency of these crashes and their unpredictable circumstances indicates that other solutions are needed. Using tires wider than streetcar or train flangeways could prevent some crashes, though there are other considerations that lead many cyclists to have narrower tires. To prevent the majority of track-involved injuries, route design measures including dedicated rail rights of way, cycle tracks (physically separated bike lanes), and protected intersections would be the best strategy.
Got it? It isn’t about poor biking, it is about poor infrastructure. The reason they don’t have as many accidents in Amsterdam is because they have better bike and tram infrastructure. Basically, they isolate the two. To quote from this article (https://www.treehugger.com/bikes/cyclists-and-streetcar-tracks-dont-mix.html):
Here in Toronto it is common to ride alongside streetcar tracks … The Dutch largely ensure this won’t happen because they provide bike lanes that keep cyclists safely away from streetcar tracks.
Doing so costs money, of course, and requires extra street space. Space that isn’t needed with a bus.
Because of course no bus has ever run over a cyclist. They all have advanced avoidance technology.
>> What is it about Seattle bike riders that makes them uniquely adept at getting stuck in railroad tracks and doing a header?
Thinking past your trolly suggestion that Seattle cyclists are somehow uniquely inferior, the issue must have something to do with our infrastructure. Most places don’t require cyclists to navigate tracks and mixed traffic at the same time; usually the streetcar, the bikes, or both have a dedicated ROW. Often the issue is a combination of the tracks and an aggressive/dangerous motorist that forces a cyclist to shift position unexpectedly such that they are not prepared to cross the tracks at an appropriate angle. Our long hills also allow cyclists to achieve higher speeds with higher consequences.
>> Because of course no bus has ever run over a cyclist. They all have advanced avoidance technology.
Sure, buses have run over cyclists but their skid marks rarely cause trouble. The streetcar TRACKS are the danger and they are present 24 hrs/day even when the streetcar is nowhere in sight.
Actually, the only time I’ve gone down on tracks in Seattle was years ago on the long-defunct set left in the ground next to the viaduct. Luckily I was moving very slowly but my hip still hurt for a week.
is very different from this,
@Richard – It is a misperception that Dutch cyclists handle tracks with no difficulty. One study indicates what happens in a Dutch city with many streetcars and many bikes. In 1 year at a single level 1 trauma center, they counted 10 patients admitted for bike crashes induced by streetcar tracks:
“Six patients required surgery: four due to injuries to the extremities, two due to neurotrauma or maxillofacial injuries. Five patients had brain injury, of which two were severe. Mean duration of admission was four days, ranging from one to fifteen days. … One patient died as a result of the injuries sustained.”
Also see this study from Toronto reporting that streetcar tracks caused 32% of the bike accidents requiring emergency room care:
So not just a Seattle thing.
Ross, those shared bus/bike lanes don’t get actually get much use from bikes, and for good reason. You could put markings on the pavement to share with cars if you don’t want to allocate the street space for bikes–those are called sharrows. A safe bike infrastructure network like the 2nd Ave. and (parts of) Pike/Pine is the future, not bikes sharing lanes with busses.
Because of course no bus has ever run over a cyclist. They all have advanced avoidance technology.
Good God, man, I am talking the tracks, not the streetcar (or bus). The TRACKS.
@B — I’m not talking about bike lanes, sharrows, or shared bus/bike lanes. I am talking about TRACKS. TRACKS are a hazard, as the studies (and just common sense) have shown. They are an unneeded hazard, that serves no purpose, because the train that runs on the tracks is not faster, nor can it carry more riders than a bus. If you simply paint a transit lane on First — which is the plan — but runs buses there instead, you have every single benefit from running the streetcar, but avoid the hazard.
It seems to me that the bigger issue here is that the city should require flange fillers in all tracks that cross or run on a public street.
I don’t think it’s practical to hold back the development of a streetcar system for the purposes of protecting cyclists – aside from the fact that Seattle isn’t a great cycling city (probably related to its sprawl and hills), a streetcar system is a faster and more practical transportation for most citizens than cycling. Also, there are workarounds to the problem of cyclist safety around streetcar tracks: cyclists can learn to safely cross the tracks by keeping their wheels perpendicular, and/or the tracks could be constructed in a way that allows some kind of bike bypass where they cross dedicated bike lanes. Since we already have streetcars running on Westlake and Broadway, it would be worthwhile to look at how these tracks have impacted cycling in these areas, and how cyclists who need to cross these tracks are interacting with them.
Many in the transit and cycling communities are opposed to the CCC streetcar project for the same reason we opposed the FHSC. They serve Seattle citizens poorly; ridership numbers are terrible; zero operational flexibility; and a proven, deadly danger to cyclists.
Our transit dollars will be better spent elsewhere.
But it’s not the same as the FHSC for many reasons – it’s a direct route that has full ROW in a congested corridor through a dense area and hits several of the city’s top attractions. FHSC does not have ROW, is an unnecessarily circuitous route, and does not serve a particularly high demand set of O/D points. Moreso, the CCC sets up well for a much needed streetcar with its own ROW through Belltown.
Tom nailed it. To say that the transit community is split on the streetcar is like saying LeBron James is a good basketball player. Even the most ardent fan of the streetcar thinks it is flawed. But they point to the federal money and the dedicated lanes as reason to support it. The assumption being that is the best we can get. Better a rotten apple than no fruit at all.
@James — But it’s not the same as the FHSC for many reasons
Sorry, but it has the same essential flaws. It is simply a pig with better lipstick.
it’s a direct route that has full ROW in a congested corridor through a dense area and hits several of the city’s top attractions.
Right, and you could achieve the exact same thing — for less money — if you simply ran buses there.
FHSC does not have ROW, is an unnecessarily circuitous route, and does not serve a particularly high demand set of O/D points.
Except that it will connect to the other streetcar, and thus suffer reliability problems because of it. Furthermore, the tight loop also means that no one will take the streetcar very far. On Madison and want to get to First Hill? Just take the Madison BRT. On James? Take the 3 or 4. Yesler? Take the 27. Pike, Pine? Take Link, or any number of buses. There are very few *new trips* added, which just shows what a terrible routing this is. Take just about any bus and extend it a bit and you get a lot more trips. Not so with the streetcar.
Moreso, the CCC sets up well for a much needed streetcar with its own ROW through Belltown.
It would be much easier to just run a Belltown bus — or any bus that serves Belltown — onto bus lanes on First. That would mean better frequency, a faster ride and more trips served.
The only advantage of a streetcar is that it can carry more people. Except, of course, the ones we have. They are no bigger than our buses.
FH streetcar isn’t much of a hazard for bicyclists because they use the two lane cycle track that parallels the tracks. Jackson St. stretch is trickier, but really the risk from the cars and busses is the much greater concern. If I’m not mistaken, most of the streetcar hazard for bikes has been on the SLU line, lessons that SDOT has already learned?
In the end, we transit fans will probably complain about any mode of transit the same way a home buyer will complain about any house in their price range. Get over it. At some point you have to get something done. We’ve already built two thirds of the streetcar and started on the last third.
If I’m not mistaken, most of the streetcar hazard for bikes has been on the SLU line, lessons that SDOT has already learned?
Don’t bet on it: https://www.seattlebikeblog.com/2016/06/23/downtown-streetcar-plans-would-make-1st-ave-stewart-more-dangerous-for-biking/
It amazes me that people are OK with buying a clearly inferior mode for First, and then saying “well, it won’t be as bad as the other part”. Just as long as we do something, right?
Nonsense. The whole reason the mayor wants to look at more detail is to study alternatives. The obvious alternatives are the exact same center lane (serving only dual sided buses) or BAT lanes (serving any bus). Either would be a better value. The former would clearly be better than running a streetcar, while the latter would still likely be better more often than not.
I’m not sure The Mayor can cancel this project and not face a possible impeachment by the council. The CCC was the crown jewel of the Move Seattle Levy, a voter approved tax on transit improvements.
Since we voted for this, the mayor really should see it through. There’s no question it’s needed — the feds scored the line incredibly high on ridership and capacity. If The Mayor can’t figure out how to pencil out a popular line, The Mayor has the problem, not the streetcar.
If the project is cancelled and you’re pissed about it, politic your council reps to impeach due to ignorance of voter will, and general incompetence.
A couple things have changed since Move Seattle was approved in 2015.
1) First Hill Line still wasn’t open and SLU Line wasn’t doing too well. Now, three years later, FHSC is performing poorly and FH Line is doing even worse. This inability to perform as projected doesn’t bode well for C3’s potential ridership estimates, regardless of how the Feds scored it, which is based on Seattle’s now decade-old ridership analysis.
2) The project’s cost according to the 2015 Levy was to be $112M. Now it’s well over $200M with annual operating costs to be 2x what was originally estimated. That’s a serious problem.
Of note, this all happened before Mayor Durkan came to office and she’s now picking up the pieces. Based on what happened to the Broadway Extension, being killed by the community, I’d bet our city’s attitude towards streetcar has continued to sour.
Of course the discontinuous segments will do poorly, nobody ever doubted that and prognosticators had to over sell the potential to get them built. as was the case with Portland’s incomplete line, it was only after finishing up the network was the ridership potential reached.
The FHSC segment is projected to continue doing poorly. The CCC won’t add materially to ridership beyond 14th and Washington.
Where SDOT expects the CCC to be successful is new ridership through downtown and increased ridership through SLU (that segment becoming more useful because it extends beyond Westlake).
Why would a transit rider hop on a Streetcar from Denny and Westlake to get to destinations in the ID requiring a 15 or 20 minute ride when they will be able to take a direct subway to the ID and get there in about 7 to 8 minutes after 2035?
Is it really fair to compare ridership on the incomplete system with projected ridership on a completed system? Could you blame Route 7 if it went, say, from downtown to Little Saigon and then had a gap most of the way through the Rainier Valley before it picked up again?
Because they want to go before 2035?
Today, RapidRide C makes pretty much the same trip at the CCC would between Pioneer Square and South Lake Union. Riders have a faster alternative even today. A transit rider doesn’t have to wait until 2035 to make most of the trips that the streetcar would serve. There are options today. BTW, the RapidRide C extension to SLU was NOT assumed in the original CCC planning either.
I appears to me that the only additional major destination on the CCC that gets served by an additional walk further than 500 feet (distance between First and Third) is the ferry terminal. If that’s so important, where are the WSF funds to pay for the streetcar? If serving the ferry is the objective, why build the CCC to still stop a block away?
Because there’s already a grade-seperated, flat pedestrian walkway between the ferry terminal and First?
>> Of course the discontinuous segments will do poorly, nobody ever doubted that and prognosticators had to over sell the potential to get them built.
But they wouldn’t possibly oversell a different streetcar that would be less reliable and have much worse headways than buses a couple blocks over, right? Right?
Look, the whole premise with a streetcar — the whole reason that it was chosen as a *mode* (not a route) is that people prefer streetcars over buses. That simply isn’t the case with either streetcar. People (in this town, anyway) just want transit that runs well. They like the buses when they run in a tunnel and they love the train. But they aren’t thrilled with the streetcar, because it offers no advantages over a bus.
Well the same is true with this. Run buses on First — in their own lane — and people would use it. Hell, you could do it at the same time, and hardly anyone would ride the streetcar. Do you really think someone would see a bus, and go “Oh, shucks, the bus goes to the exact same spot, but I would rather wait several minutes for that streetcar”. Of course not.
I don’t think the CCC was ever in the Move Seattle Levy. I remember that there were other named projects such as Fauntleroy but I don’t think the CCC was one of those. I did a quick search for the election materials and found this: https://www.seattle.gov/Documents/Departments/SDOT/About/DocumentLibrary/Levy/LevyFactSheet62915.pdf. It does not mention the streetcar anywhere.
The RapidRide lines were the crown jewel of the Move Seattle levy.
The CCC, along with any other streetcar plans (e.g. the Broadway extension), was not a part of the Levy to Move Seattle.
The literature I saw with Move Seattle stated the funds would be used to build the streetcar.
Streetcars were in early drafts of the Move Seattle legislation but were later removed. There are no streetcar projects in the final Levy materials. The final legislation, which has an attachment listing how all of the money will be spent, has the word “streetcar” in it one time:
Section 8. Use of Funds. Any proposal to use Levy Proceeds to build or operate streetcars must be accompanied by a narrative presented to the appropriate Council committee evaluating the proposal’s geographic value, productivity, and effect relative to race and social justice implications. The narrative shall describe findings from applying the Racial Equity Toolkit (or the successor thereto).
Complete nonsense. The Move Seattle people bent over backwards to say that the money wouldn’t go to the streetcar. I hate to break it to you folks, but there are a lot of people who think the streetcar is stupid. It offers no advantages over a bus, and a boatload of disadvantages.
Impeachment? Absurd. She will be *more* popular is she ends this boondoggle, not less. Sure, the streetcar fanboys will cry boo-hoo. But ultimately, assuming the city actually adds the transit lanes, then folks will embrace her decision.
Holy cow, this whole think is just insane. Here we are, about to send buses out of the tunnel. The city is wringing its hands, wondering how it can possibly accommodate all of those buses that go from one end of downtown to the other. At the same time, someone is suggesting we build a bus line that *only* goes from one end of downtown to the other.
Just paint First Avenue, run some buses on there, and call it a day. Third Avenue — all of Third — is about to have off board payment. There is no reason we can’t do the same with First.
No one is doing shit. At least the CCC got off the drawing board.
More likely than not, if the streetcar gets canceled, you won’t get red painted lanes, you’ll get poles with bus stop signs and red painted curbs for no parking. Remember most of the opposition outside the transit community is not about the transit mode it is about the parking space and driving lanes. This constituency isn’t going away.
The only upside perhaps is the viaduct is coming down so busses wouldn’t get stuck behind the cars queuing to get on to the viaduct. Of course, most of those cars will be trying to get to I-5.
Remember most of the opposition outside the transit community is not about the transit mode it is about the parking space and driving lanes.
Citation, please. The opposition from the city council as well as much of the public has been on cost/benefit grounds. The streetcar — not the right of way — is too expensive. You also have the biking community, that opposes it for safety reasons.
Again, you can see that folks haven’t opposed the Madison BRT, despite the fact that it will have more right-of-way (in both absolute distance and percentages) than the streetcar. The Roosevelt project had no problem taking parking — it was the desire for more bike lanes that ended up watering down that project. People don’t care about the loss of parking — what they care about is wasting money on an inferior mode.
What’s the best channel for having our voices heard? Is there a good channel for telling the mayor that this would be a big mistake?
“While the contents of the report remains unknown to the public, members of the transit policy community, who did not wish to be identified, believe that the report contains ridership projections higher than the estimates that accompanied the design stage of the CCC. ”
The whole reason this project was halted was because the original ridership projections came into question via a Seattle Times article. If the ridership numbers have been now verified by a third party, what’s the hold up?
I was skeptical of the CCC, but IF it delivers the ridership numbers they claimed (20,000+ a day if I recall), it’s definitely worth it. Since the people who have actually studied it are confirming… I think skepticism is no longer warranted.
As for costs going up… Every major project has seen cost estimates go up as Seattle has gotten more expensive. We can’t build anything if the requirement is that there are no overruns at all.
Wasn’t the Times article more focused on the discrepancy between SDOT and Sound Transit on the operating costs, in particular labor costs? The relatively low ridership is more of an ongoing thing the Times and other news outlets use to pick on the streetcar in general. If the goal of the study was simply “give me a better idea of how much staff we’re going to need,” that would seem to be a simple study. Obviously, that was not the goal.
Yes that was the main concern. SDOT put estimates in that KC Metro said were incorrect regarding operating costs, basically SDOT ignored metro and put in low estimates.
was skeptical of the CCC, but IF it delivers the ridership numbers they claimed (20,000+ a day if I recall), it’s definitely worth it. Since the people who have actually studied it are confirming… I think skepticism is no longer warranted.
Because she wants to look at alternatives. It really isn’t that complicated.
Here, imagine this scenario — instead of having overlapping buses on Third, we just end the buses on each end. So that means north end buses like the 40, the E, the D all end at Denny, while south end buses like the C the 7, the 120 all just end at Jackson. At the same time, build a streetcar for Third, to carry people from one end to the other. Guess what? That streetcar carries a bunch of people! Surprise! Let’s do it folks — we have a winner!
The current plan is to build right of way for First, and *only* run the streetcar. Of course you would expect decent ridership. But that doesn’t mean it is the best option. Send a few buses *on that same right of way* and you have much better headways and a lot more useful trips. As a result, you would have better ridership.
FWIW, the Madison RR is supposed to share a stop with the streetcar. Does this happen if there is no streetcar stop to speak of? Making those turns in traffic has got to affect Madison RR reliability. Of course, if it is really *on that same right of way* this is a moot point (beyond needing to acquire more busses with left doors), but it’s probably not going to be the same ROW. Think how much of the cost is reconfiguring the street and trolley wires, independent of the actual track work. Since we’re motivated by costs, there will be real pressure to eliminate *all* of these costs not just the track work.
In the end the streetcar is not so much about regional transportation to/from downtown, its user base is more people who are already on foot in downtown and aren’t going very far (and many quite possibly turned off by having to figure out which bus to take). WS ferries carry upwards of 60k per day plus tourists/visitors/convention goers plus sports/concerts plus a new waterfront, is it really that difficult to imagine daily ridership reaching 20k?
FWIW, the Madison RR is supposed to share a stop with the streetcar. Does this happen if there is no streetcar stop to speak of?
Of course it does. Of course there is a stop on First.
Of course, if it is really *on that same right of way* this is a moot point (beyond needing to acquire more busses with left doors), but it’s probably not going to be the same ROW.
I don’t know why you assume that. We are buying plenty of dual sided buses, many of which will be running on Third (not using their left side doors). It would be easy to send them down First. That would mean connect the RapidRide version of the 7 and 70, which would be easy.
But even with BAT lanes it would likely be fine. Yes, cars turning right would screw it up — but we are talking about a bus here — a bus that can avoid someone who blocks the box (unlike a streetcar, which can’t do a thing). As folks have noted, none of these trips will be very long. You can easily make up for the slight delay of BAT versus center lanes by more frequency. In other words, it really doesn’t matter if your bus takes two minutes longer to get from one end to the other if it gets to your stop two minutes sooner.
All of these arguments are political — as if we have no choice but to embrace a wasteful, inferior mode of a project because of decisions made some time in the distant past. Then what? We live with crap for the next fifty years? We build around it, and the streetcar is just ignored (as they are today)? What a ridiculous position. Either we continue to grow and transit demand (along with funding) goes along with it, and we build sensible, beneficial projects, or we don’t. We hit a recession, and find that we can’t afford the type of transit that most of us on this blog want. Either way we will wonder why the hell we built a streetcar, for the same reason most of us wonder why we built both of the existing streetcars.
“Verbally briefed” sounds a lot like finding out what the report said without creating a paper trail subject to public disclosure requests.
I appreciate the author’s speculation that Durkin delayed release of the KPMG report because her “motivation behind the second round of auditing is to find policy reasons to cancel the project”. I feel like this is the only answer. Is there a way to file a public records request to release the report to he public?
I appreciate the author’s speculation that Durkin delayed release of the KPMG report because her “motivation behind the second round of auditing is to find policy reasons to cancel the project”. I feel like this is the only answer.
As opposed to a responsible professional actually doing her job? Holy cow, she has simply asked to look at alternatives. That wasn’t part of the original study. Don’t you think it the more responsible thing to do? Are you really saying that we shouldn’t look at alternatives when it comes to public spending?
There is a time and a place to study alternatives. That time and place is not when two thirds of the system has already been built and priority improved and work on the last third has already begun, street is already ripped up disrupting traffic and business.
Durkin is trying to build a reputation as somebody who scrutinizes projects closely to ensure they provide sufficient taxpayer value. Everybody who knows anything about streetcars knows they’re a poor value, and this project in particular doesn’t address any of Seattle’s biggest mobility needs but is simply an attempt to redeem two legacy streetcar lines. That’s throwing good money after bad. A list of Seattle’s top ten transit needs would not include Jackson to 1st Avenue to Westlake. `When the SLU and First Hill streetcars were approved there was no plan or expectation that they would ever be connected. So you can’t say “This is the last third of the system” because there was no system, just ad hoc projects.
Lets stop and reassess the viaduct alternatives while were at it.
Being “a responsible professional actually doing her job” is one thing, sitting on a crucial report for no apparent reason despite promising to release it is quite another. Ordering the audit is at least defensible, hiding it from the public is not.
Very surprised to see seattle times endorse its completion:
the funds and two existing lines are sunk costs. the city needs to compare the costs and benefits of future streams of capital and operating funds. trust the grid; the two existing and unreliable lines are already connected by the Link and bus grid. the CCC Streetcar would be costly and duplicative.
we have a shortage of transit capacity in downtown Seattle between today and the Link buildout. Let’s use half the capacity of 1st Avenue for 50 bus trips per hour rather than 12 streetcar trips per hour. the bus trips are already funded and need a pathway with the DSTT changing in March 2019.
the CCC streetcar is in the way of the routes now on the SR-99 AWV; its to be taken down late in the year.
Given that the extension of bus-only hours on Third Avenue is still only “supported” and not “approved”, and that drivers violate the Battery Street lane with gay abandon, “just paint First Avenue” for bus lines which do not exist is a Fool’s Paradise of a policy.
By “do not exist” I mean that none of West Seattle, Ballard and Magnolia want the downtown collection/distribution of their buses to be performed on First Avenue, 250 vertical feet from their offices on Fourth and Fifth Avenues.
So, from where are these “50 buses per hour” to come?
Frank, we need a “block” capability.
I’m happy to be a “blocked” by anyone if I can aldo be a “blocker.
Portland’s overall transit ridership is down the last year.
Yet streetcar ridership is up and this with the addition of 0 stops.
Bus average of 192,840 weekday, 105,899 Saturday and 83,506 Sunday boardings in May.
Bus ridership decreased 3.6% during weekday peak time periods and 3.7% during weekday
off-peak time periods, resulting in a 3.7% decrease in weekday bus ridership.
Weekday Streetcar boardings averaged 3,771 on A-Loop, 3,211 on B-Loop and 8,369 on
North South (NS) line in May. The weekday boardings increased 10.1%, 2.9% and 1.8%
respectively compared to last May.
Max buses are running at just under $4.00 per ride subsidies whereas max rail are at about 3.00
Portland bus ridership decreasing in-spite of the introduction of several new lines:
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