Center City Connector Route
Center City Connector Route

The fate of the Center City Connector (CCC) is still undecided, but Mayor Jenny Durkan may have tipped her hand towards canceling the project.

A release sent out by Durkan’s office last week explained why the mayor’s decision has been delayed. An analysis of the project by consulting firm KPMG has yet to be completed, despite an initial deadline for delivery in late June. The release follows a similarly skeptical note written by Councilmember Lisa Herbold, a longtime CCC critic, in her weekly constituent letter. 

“In August, it is hoped that KPMG will finalize their report to provide their independent analysis of the project,” the release said. The mayor will presumably make a final decision at that point. The release also suggests that the mayor could reopen the yearslong Center City Connector project design phase that selected a streetcar in the first place:

“Mayor Durkan believes we need better transit options along First Avenue and is committed to transit mobility and connectivity in this critical corridor. She has also asked SDOT to evaluate additional mobility alternatives in order to understand the transportation benefits that would accrue from either a streetcar or an alternative mode of transit.”

The release raised several critiques of the streetcar project, most notably about the size and operability of the tram vehicles that SDOT intends to procure for the project.

The mayor’s office wrote in a release that the much delayed, still unseen audit of the project by consulting firm KPMG “was much more complex than initially expected” as it required “the review of thousands of estimates, design materials and correspondence.”

At the same time, the release says that “concurrently with KPMG’s review, the Durkan Administration has also learned that the streetcar vehicles procured for the C3 are heavier, longer and wider than the existing SLU and First Hill streetcars.”

A low floor tram in service in Helsinki. Credit: LHOON.

However, the size of the vehicles is easily explained: they’re low floor vehicles designed to help people with disabilities load. That feature makes vehicles them inherently heavier than the vehicles currently on the streetcar network; the vehicles are increasingly common rolling stock for tram systems across the world. The release also raises the question of whether the vehicles have the correct gauge. As best as anyone can tell from the contracts SDOT executed for the vehicles, the vehicles should fit the track.

SDOT’s Director of Transit and Mobility, Andrew Glass Hastings, declined to comment on the mayor’s concerns.

Downtown groups who supported the mayor during her election campaign, like the Downtown Seattle Association and Alliance for Pioneer Square, are growing increasingly restive over the delayed project.

Transit and streetcar advocates have said that the concerns raised in the release are overblown. They argue that the questions about vehicle size are routine concerns that are typically addressed in the engineering phase of construction, and that the mayor is essentially engaging in concern trolling. 

“A connected streetcar network remains a critical investment for our center city—which in the last year alone absorbed 20% of all business district development in the United States and continues to absorb the lion’s share of Seattle’s new residents,” said Don Blakeney, the Downtown Seattle Association’s VP of advocacy.

“We’ve heard concerns from the Mayor about streetcar hardware and project costs. These are issues that call out for engineering solutions and not shelving the streetcar altogether. As a part of a coalition of community leaders, we remain committed to helping the Mayor find solutions to get this critical connection completed.”

100 Replies to “Mayor raises dubious engineering concerns for Center City Connector”

  1. Back when Mayor McGinn was trying to cancel another transportation project, the city council stepped in to force his hand and continue with that project. Of course that was also a WSDOT project, but if they wanted to, can’t the council step in on this issue as well? Putting pressure on the mayor here seems like a lost cause, so shouldn’t CCC advocates focus on the council at this point?

    1. I doubt there are many on the council who want to rush this. Even supporters would be risking a lot. What if the report is published and it says we need to spend an extra 20 million to build the thing? What if (far more likely) it makes clear that bus alternatives would lead to better service and higher ridership? Would you want to be a council member and see a bunch of articles in the Seattle Times talking about what a waste of money this is, after you rushed this project through? The mayor would come out smelling like a rose, while every council member who supported the streetcar would look like an idiot.

      1. IF the bus alternative were to be built with “light rail on wheels” equivalence to the streetcar, and that’s a *yuge*, 24 point font IF. That solution is not very cheap either.

      2. But they just won’t Ross. There is no way in hell that two lanes of First Avenue are going to be dedicated to buses. It simply will not happen.

        And, as I’ve said before, your advocacy for rerouting some RapidRides off Third Avenue won’t fly because the daily commuters who are their bread and butter do not want to go the First Avenue and climb the hills to their offices. They just don’t.

        It sounds like you weren’t in Seattle when the 15 and 18 were moved to Third Avenue. You could hear the roar of yoyful approval from Ballardonians and West Seattleites in Spokane.

      3. B, the problem with that is that you can’t reliably exclude vehicles from the busway. They intrude wherever there is flat pavement. With a streetcar you can use cobbles or even expose the ties intermittently.

      4. Rich, I always thought it would be neat to have one of those European style tram lines that run in strips of grass. Good luck driving a car on that!

      5. Red paint is cheap. Durkin’s alternatives could include dedicated lanes for a bus route. Raised bumps can be installed so that car drives can feel that they’re moving into an unusual lane without outright preventing it.

      6. Mike, “could include” is the favorite phrase of rogues and suckers.

      7. With a streetcar you [could include] cobbles or even expose the ties intermittently.

        Mike, “could include” is the favorite phrase of rogues and suckers.

        What exactly are you trying to say, Richard?

      8. Whatever. The point is that her plan, whenever she reveals it, could be better or worse than expected, and we shouldn’t assume based on insufficient knowledge.

      9. @RossB – I took it to mean “could include” means they won’t. Kind of like Kemper Freeman being a proponent of BRT. He is only because he wanted to kill light rail.

      10. If she has a plan besides killing it, she needs to release it yesterday. Actually, even if her plan is killing it, this extended bullshit is doing no one any good.

      11. I misinterpreted the article a bit. It says she asked SDOT to study alternatives. I read that as she has particular alternatives, and then I called them a “plan” which implies a single one and a detailed one. Whereas it actually says she’s asking SDOT for its alternatives. Which doesn’t necessarily mean it has any.

      12. There’s the assumption here that the Mayor is acting in good faith. That in fact she actually wants some sort of moderately high capacity surface transit on First Avenue.

        Where’s the beef?

        Ross, I guess the difference, though small, is that I was using it as an example of a proven technology for excluding private vehicles from a transitway, whereas Mike was using it speculatively.

      13. I should have said “can include” more properly since can is an active verb rather than “could include” which is by nature passive and speculative.

      14. The point I’m making is that it is all speculation. It is possible that the city could do things to make it harder to access the streetcar lane on First. But as Mike points out, the city could do things to make it harder to access the bus lane on First as well. There are numerous examples of both throughout the world.

      15. And, as I’ve said before, your advocacy for rerouting some RapidRides off Third Avenue won’t fly because the daily commuters who are their bread and butter do not want to go the First Avenue and climb the hills to their offices. They just don’t.

        I don’t know where you get this idea that all of downtown is contained within a small area next to Third and Madison, or that all buses serve it. There are plenty of buses (10,11, 49) that go downtown, but never go south of Pike.

        Downtown is big, and all of it is popular. Places like Belltown and South Lake Union were sleepy little areas twenty years ago, but now they are bustling major employment centers. Yet to reach them, a lot of riders have to transfer or walk quite a ways. That is just the nature of just about every downtown and every transit system designed to serve it.

        I would start by running the 7 and 70 on First (once they become RapidRide). In both cases, they would cross Third, which means that accessing somewhere on Third would be trivial. Just hop off one bus, and hop onto another. You won’t even need to pay for the second ride! That is because Third Avenue is going to a complete off-board, all-door boarding system. Since you’ve already paid to get on the 7 or 70, no need to tap the card again. Meanwhile, the buses will cross Link four times. That means that if someone wants to get to Third (which is pretty well served by Link) they will have plenty of opportunities.

        I would also consider moving the 40 over there (when it becomes RapidRide). I would modify the route slightly to follow the CCC route to get from Westlake to First (instead of using Blanchard and Lenora). That way, Fairview as well as Westlake would be connected to First.

        This is where you could have some grumbling from people who prefer Third. But as with the other bus routes, you have other options. The tail of the C covers everything south of the lake. From Fremont, you can take the 62. From Leary, the 28. From 15th, the D. From 24th Avenue, during rush hour (the time you consider critical) riders would of course take the much faster 18. As with the 7 and 70, the modified RapidRide 40 would cross Third, where someone could just hop off their bus and be riding down Third in less than a minute. That is because even after three buses are moved off of Third, there will still be plenty of buses on that busy corridor.

      16. “Since you’ve already paid to get on the 7 or 70, no need to tap the card again.”

        Depending on what the rules are.

      17. @Mike — I think it only matters what bus you get on. If you get on another Metro bus, then it doesn’t matter. It is no different than the old days, when you flashed your transfer to the driver. They are the same agency, and don’t really care.

        But if you switched to a Sound Transit bus it could matter. But there aren’t that many Sound Transit buses that run on Third. I think the 550 is the only one. That will surely be truncated (or just eliminated) once Link gets to Bellevue. In general, i don’t think there will be that many Sound Transit buses downtown in a few years. The north end buses will truncate at Northgate. The 522 will truncate at Roosevelt or the U-District. (Eventually those buses truncate at Lynnwood and 145th). East side buses will truncate at the UW, Bellevue or Mercer Island. That leaves the south end buses like the 577, 578, 590, 592, etc. None of those buses runs on Third. So someone who gets off a Metro bus (having already paid) could just hop on a bus on Third (because it would also be a Metro bus).

      18. @Ross – truncating the 522 at Roosevelt makes sense prior to 145th opening, but I’d be stunned if that actually happened. There will be such hue and cry from the one-seat only brigade that the politically easiest thing for ST to do will be to just say “meh…we’ll just keep running the buses downtown until the extension is built.” I think during peak hours and maybe more it would be faster to transfer at Roosevelt – certainly as traffic continues to get worse – but there is a huge mental barrier to transferring particularly amongst those who have never had to before. I don’t see the 522 ever serving the U District as that would take a lot of service hours to serve not a whole lot between the Roosevelt walkshed and the U District one; of course for anyone headed to campus they could still take the 372 from LC and north and not need the 522.

        Frankly, I’ve always thought that real BRT should run from Kenmore/Bothell down LCW to Roosevelt in order to create a NE line “extension” of the system through a reasonably dense – and growing denser – Lake City, but that battle was lost and the service avoids Seattle altogether. Seattle/Metro will need to provide that service as far as the city limits, both down LCW to Roosevelt Station and crosstown from LC via 125th/130th to Bitter Lake or beyond. ST gives no help whatsoever to Lake City residents or anyone east of the ridge above LCW after the 522 is routed to avoid them.

      19. Actually, if you move the Rainier, Delridge, and Fauntleroy RapidRides to First as you have proposed in the past, exactly which buses will go north on Third from Jackson to make that transfer? The 14 is the only that will be there after the 31 starts running through First Hill.

        The north end transfer works, of course, because there are plenty of trolleys on Third.

        But what an irritation for folks to transfer to go four blocks down Third.

        Also, will there BE a 70 when Roosevelt RR begins? I suggested several times that Eastlake is a LOT more connected to Campus midday than it is to the Roosevelt corridor and got the usual patronizing scorn from you and Mike. “People can walk” I was told.

  2. Given the history of the project, I think it is reasonable that she is concerned. Original ridership estimates (for both streetcars) were way above current ridership. Operating the thing will likely cost almost twice as much as they originally said ( The latter is not a matter of a bad estimate, but bad management. SDOT ignored the information it got from Metro, which suggests that either the agency really doesn’t know what it is doing, or was simply padding the numbers to get the grants (and keep the project moving).

    Given all that, would it really shock anyone if the new streetcars didn’t fit in the old barns? Sure, it is unlikely, but if an agency has repeatedly failed to operate with proper professionalism with regards to this project, then it is quite reasonable for the new mayor to assume the worst. Most likely, the new streetcars won’t be a problem. But the last thing she wants is to actually approve the thing, then come back and say “Oh, we need a few million more to handle the new streetcars”.

    In any event, the key paragraph is the one you quoted. We need to evaluate whether it is better to serve First with a streetcar or an alternative mode of transit. We should have done that years ago (before this project got this far along) but better late than never. Hopefully they will do a thorough analysis and consider serving First with various bus routes. If they do that, I have no doubt that other options will be superior, as there is nothing special at all about the proposed route (it is worse than most). What the mayor does with that information is another matter.

    1. “Concern” is one thing, but “concern trolling” is another. She’s pushing out half-baked half-truths in order to deliberately muddy the political waters so that she has cover for canceling the project.

      It’s irresponsible to put out press releases full of “potential” “concerns” yet still withhold the actual study itself.

      Why leak only the “potential” bad news (which seems easily disproven, get a measuring tape FFS), unless you’re intentionally trying to create political cover for your eventual decision? Probably because you’re acting in BAD FAITH regarding the project, itself.

    2. “Better late than never” has a limit. Like when you’ve already built two thirds of the network and obtained federal grants and broken ground on the final third. There is a time and place for planning and debating modes, but now it is time to Get. It. DONE.

      1. There was a time and place for debating modes, and it was in the initial alternatives analysis to select a locally-preferred alternative.

        “Public and stakeholder comments emphasized the importance of selecting a mode that enables a seamless connection to both the South Lake Union Streetcar and First Hill Streetcar lines, which was stated in the Project purpose. Public input also emphasized the importance of speed and reliability in order to make the Center City Connector attractive and competitive with other modes. Although there was a small amount of support for an enhanced bus alternative due to the lower Project cost, the majority of respondents indicated that the benefits of modern streetcar outweigh potential

        I don’t see how giving $80 million back to Trump is a win for anyone.

      2. BEL, it is a win for the Seattle Times Internet Comment Section, because if Jenny Durkan cancels this project, nobody in Seattle will never, ever again question her steadfast commitment to cutting back on wasteful government spending on stupid, wasteful projects that nobody uses!!!

        Oh… wait …

        When push comes to shove, Jenny Durkan will ALWAYS immediately throw transit and cycling plans immediately into the incinerator because she fundamentally believes that they are liberal vanity projects that frivolously waste money that could otherwise be spent on cars. Probably because she reads the Seattle Times Internet Comment Section, and that’s what they say.

      3. “There was a time and place for debating modes, and it was in the initial alternatives analysis to select a locally-preferred alternative.”

        What are we to do then when the city makes a less-than-sound decision based on a less-than-sound understanding of the facts? Just act like it never happened? Even if it could cause further preventable trouble down the road? I’m not saying that we must cancel the streetcar now and I’m going to lie down in front of it until they do. I’m willing to go along with whatever the city and the majority of constiuents want. But we should have a balanced and factual understanding of what we’re doing. In this context the debate is too heavily biased on one side so I’m defending the other side to try to get it back into balance.

      4. Exactly, Mike. I can understand why someone favors one approach over the other. But jumping to a decision without having all the facts is a stupid way to govern.

    3. it’s important to remind folks that the entire project was justified before the C/D RapidRide changes. That has affected ridership on the SLU line.and it reduces the project’s systems benefit.

      As some have previously suggested, a Madison-First RapidRide project could be more attractive. It would allow for stops on a more level slope Downtown at Pike-Pine for Madison riders, and could easily be extended to serve Belltown.

      One could also make a lesser case for extending the Pioneer Square line terminus to Colman Dock.

      Finally, I am amazed about the vehicle procurements. That really deserved more public discussion. For example, the open air F-line streetcars in San Francisco are quite popular; removable “outdoor” cars could be popular here. Similarly, slightly longer streetcars is silly; they should be significantly longer.

      This mess just demonstrates how SDOT should not be in the transit operations business. It should be left to Metro and ST. Exactly how many rail operators do streetcar advocates want?

      1. I don’t think it’s a good idea to judge the streetcar’s benefit on the C going to SLU, since current plans have it becoming a West Seattle and points south only RapidRide after West Seattle Link comes in. True, that’s quite a ways in the future, but it shouldn’t be discounted.

        I’m sure open-air cars are wonderful in San Francisco, but they don’t have our rain.

        I’d definitely agree that the control and operations should be turned over to Metro, if they’ll have it. Funding still coming from where it does now, of course.

      2. Even removable or operable windows on the streetcar would be nice. If it will have any benefit, it needs to be more interactive with Street life.

        Duck boats have been very popular in Seattle, despite their horribly dangerous design. That suggests to me that a more outdoorsy streetcar vehicle could attract excursion riders.

    4. The proponents are also propagating half truths.

      “A connected streetcar network remains a critical investment for our center city—which in the last year alone absorbed 20% of all business district development in the United States and continues to absorb the lion’s share of Seattle’s new residents.”

      If there’s a lot of development on Broadway it doesn’t mean that increasing bus service on 15th Avenue East will serve them. There’s a lot of development in downtown and SLU in general, most of it between 4th and 7th Avenues. First Avenue is not where most of it is. There may be underservice between Westlake and First Avenue or along First Avenue, but the proponents have never shown this specifically. Of course SLU needs more transit, but this will not provide it.

      1. It is admittedly a bit speculative at this point, but once the viaduct comes down in a few months and the new waterfront is finished in a few years, the whole Pioneer Square and West End area starts to look a lot better for development/redevelopment, in addition to being a major tourism corridor.

        This is perhaps a case where the streetscape improvements may be just as valuable as the transit itself. Rapid Ride doesn’t get that level of streetscape improvements, though parts of the planned Madison RR look good. At least one major project I’ve heard of planned for the Pike Place vicinity.

        It is true, though, that 1st Ave. up to this point hasn’t been a major focus of development compared to other parts of the city center.

  3. I’d love the local share go for new access improvements to Link stations. A level tunnel walkway from a mezzanine toward the Sound (entrance near Second)? A down escalator?

    It seems so logical and cheaper to fix access to existing stations than to add more track but leave the existing unfriendly access problems alone.

    1. Good luck doing on of these from Westlake to Pike Place. The Pike Place station and the station in the heart of Pioneer Square in and of itself makes the 1st Ave. streetcar line worthwhile, especially during tourist season and stadium games/events. Get the tourists out of Ubers!

  4. It looks like Durkan is adopting the incredibly frustrating, incredibly pointless “feckless centrist” method of governing.

    She knows that bike lanes, road diets and the streetcar are super unpopular in Seattle Times internet comment sections, so she’s trying to sacrifice various multi-modal projects to the Centrism Gods, in an effort to make it look like she’s not some crazy leftist who is spending taxpayer money into oblivion.

    It doesn’t matter what the KPMG report or any other “study” says, Durkan has already made up her mind about the Central City Connector: she wants it canceled so she can show the Seattle Times Internet Comment Section that she is being “fiscally responsible” with what she thinks are easy targets for “wasteful spending.”

    When is Jenny Durkan going to realize that the Seattle Times Internet Comment Section will NEVER VOTE FOR HER ANYWAY.

    In any case, I’m sure glad her intentional and reckless efforts to sow fear and doubt over this project made top news over at Fox News the other day. Does she REALLY think that this is a path to political success? She’s managing to piss off just about every voter coalition in the city with this absolutely useless and ridiculous centrist bullcrap.

    This is a stupid, stupid game she’s playing, and she knows god damn well that she’s playing a game.

    1. When is Jenny Durkan going to realize that the Seattle Times Internet Comment Section will NEVER VOTE FOR HER ANYWAY?


    2. My question would be: how many of those commenters on the Times *actually live in Seattle?* How many of them *actually go to first ave*. I suspect it’s a small fraction compared to drive everywhere advocate trolls who will oppose any transit project. Including setting aside an inch of 1st Ave. road space as dedicated bus lanes!

      All I can say is, I’m glad my daily work commute no longer brings me through downtown.

      1. Of course they don’t live in Seattle; there are far too many “hippies”, “druggies”, “homeless”, and “tech bros” living in Seattle for such dainty sensibilities as theirs.

        And the only reason they’d go to First Avenue to patronize the ShowBox.

      2. It’s rather arrogant to assume that just because people disagree with you, that they must not be Seattle residents. I’m sure there are a lot of people who comment there who don’t live in the city, but I can also tell you that I know plenty of Seattle residents who are growing increasingly tired of transit cost overruns and inadequate oversight of how their tax dollars are being spent due to one-party municipal government. If you think that certain road diets and bike lanes aren’t opposed by a substantial number in the neighborhoods affected by them, then you aren’t paying attention. For too long, the government’s response to our transit and homeless crisis has just been “just keep sending us any amount of money we tell you to, and don’t question how we spend it.” If you do question it, you are labeled a NIMBY. Not all opponents of the City Council comment online after reading Times articles, but they exist. Durkan’s obviously listening to the them, unlike Murray, but isn’t necessarily kowtowing to them. They are a key constituency for her. And I sincerely doubt that she spends her time at City Hall in search of trolls in Times comment threads.

      3. Well taken, Charlie, Seattle residents don’t all have the same opinions about stuff. Heck, transit advocates don’t have the same opinions about transit stuff! And you have to listen to both sides as a public servant. That said, there is a fundamental difference between hashing out generalized, politicized, often blatantly inaccurate talking points versus constructively debating the merits and demerits of a particular project for a particular location and user base.

      4. Charlie R,

        There ARE no “transit cost overruns” within the City of Seattle, at least, not since the fiasco of the original system back-of-the-envelope estimates. The transit-haters latched onto those estimates as if they were a “promise” and haven’t let it lie since. The current expected over-runs on Lynnwood and Federal Way Link are outside the city, in different sub-areas, and will cost Seattle voters not one red cent. They might result in some smart truncations in the West Side line, but everything south of Northgate is built except the interiors of the stations. However, I believe that the contracts for those jobs have long been let and North Link is still way under the formal approved budget of ST2.

        In fact, the original Downtown Transit Tunnel came in under budget years ago. Central Link to the Airport came in under the final adopted budget, and U-Link came is about a half a Billion under the final adopted budget. True, that was because of the financial crisis but if your party is going to yammer on about cost overruns due to extrinsic circumstances you should also admit the cost underruns due to extrinsic circumstances.

        And of course, if you find the “libruls” so annoying and oppressive there is always the opportunity to “sell at the top” and move to RedLandia where people are sane — and reassuringly European-American to boot. Aren’t you in your heart of hears expecting Seattle to go into a spinning crash any week now? Better get out now before you lose your shirt!

    3. I think that comparing those who don’t believe in the streetcar to Seattle Times commenters is unfair. One can disagree on the merits of a streetcar without being an idiot.

      That said, Mayor Durkan has been shady in her obvious attempts to stop the streetcar. But what’s her angle? Even downtown businesses want it.

      1. Are there any other items with similar cost overruns and appearances of a cover-up that she hasn’t gone after?

      2. Her angle is that she took over an ill-conceived, poorly planned project with significant cost overruns due to irresponsible management. She now wants to study it in more detail because obviously the previous administration(s) did not. I realize in this era of demagoguery and extremism we aren’t used to seeing such things. It is called responsible governing.

  5. The “gauge” issue is probably a difference between loading gauge and track gauge.

    Loading gauge refers to the overall height and width of the cars. Track gauge is the inside distance between the rails.

    The reality is that most European models of tram may be ordered with any of a variety of widths as an option as there are several different car widths used on the various systems. Pretty much any new system orders the same width cars as what Link uses. In some cases that isn’t possible, such as going through 500 year old brick city gates, etc. that are world heritage landmarks or similar, and in those cases they would use the extra-narrow type of car that was used on the Portland Streetcar, Tacoma Link and the Seattle Streetcar lines.

    There is a lot to be said for moving to a wider car design, as there may very well be situations where a streetcar line would want to use, for example, a segment of Link track along ML King or other location. There really isn’t any reason in Seattle (or Portland) to go with a narrower car design. MAX fits city street lanes just fine, as would Link if it ran in the street. If the streetcars were built that wide just about the only issue would be it being easier for poorly parked cars to block the tracks, but the solution there is to not have parking that is able to block the tracks in the first place.

    As to the ease with which both car widths could be used on the same line, that would depend on the difference. MAX has two different width cars in use and it works OKish.

    1. Isn’t having different widths (and heights?) of cars going to be a problem. IIRC the new line up Broadway has platforms built to match the existing cars. And, I’d note, people in wheelchairs, baby strollers and those that need assistance are able to board easily. So, why the change? OTOH, if the track gage is wrong that would be major egg on the face of SDOT.

      1. Depends on what they ordered and why.

        Was there a plan to adapt the system to take both width cars? You can use bridge plates.

        Is the difference only a matter of an inch or is it more like 8 inches?

        Portland recently purchased two streetcars at the price of $5 million each. SoundTransit just purchased light rail cars at $1 million each.

        You could spend a lot of money adopting the line to fit wider cars and save money in the end if you don’t need to buy special custom narrow width cars that cost 5x that of a light rail car.

      2. Thanks Glenn. So basically what you are saying is the same thing the mayor said. Because we ordered different streetcars, we might need to spend a little bit extra to make it all work.

        That makes a lot more sense. My guess is this is what the consultants (KPMG) were saying. They were bringing up issues that needed more research.

      3. Might. or might not.

        MAX type 1, 2 and 3 are listed at 8.5 feet wide. Type 4 and 5 are 8.7 feet wide. They work at the same platforms.

      4. How large are the train-platform gaps on MAX and what did TriMet do, if anything, to handle different width cars? Link can’t do what MAX does because it has practically no gap between the train and the platform. The roadbed/trackway in the downtown tunnel was lowered to enable full level boarding onto Link trains. As for the streetcars, they already use mini ramps for accessibility.

      5. The type 1s are the ones I notice have the gap. It’s about an inch but those are the old cars with stairs so people have to make a step anyway when boarding.

        All of the Siemens cars have ramps that fold outward as well as downward, so the car can actually overhang the platform somewhat. I’m not sure if that is a standard Siemens feature or just a solution for customers with a platform originally designed for narrower cars.

      6. The width of the bodies is equal to five millimeters. It’s the length that may be a problem and conceivably the height.

      7. Bernie, nobody is going to order, much less build light rail vehicles for North America to any track gauge other than four feet eight and one half inches (1.435 meters). The folks in Europe are not idiots; if they saw an order spec for anything else they’d immediately question it.

      8. Actually, these are not being built in Europe. So even more certainly if the track gauge is anything other than “standard” someone is going to have a jaw-hits-the-floor experience.

  6. I have put in public disclosure requests to both SDOT and KCMetro asking for data on boardings per revenue hour for each of the two Seattle streetcar lines. That’s a much better indicator of ridership and efficiency than overall riders per month.

    Thus far no response from either agency.

    1. They have 5 business days to respond, and then can give you a “reasonable estimate” of when they can get you the records you’ve requested. Good luck getting anything by Labor Day.

    2. Check the national transit database. Should have something there. Last I checked it was under City of Seattle and not Metro.

  7. One thing about this project that never gets discussed is that it is adding a route rather than replacing a route. Other cities — such as San Francisco — created streetcar routes to replace bus routes. That’s true for the F-line (formerly Route 8 trolleybus) and the E-line (formerly Route 22? bus).

    Had this CCC been planned as a replacement service, its merits would likely be much greater. As it is now planned, it’s a very expensive and relatively infrequent (compared to combined Third Ave bus frequency) new service that provides little benefit for a citywide transit network.

    1. Not necessarily. The real question is whether it improves overall mobility for the most people. Sometimes that means replacing the highest-volume bus line with a high-capacity service. Other times it means a new line that complements the existing ones and fills in a hole in the transit network. First Avenue is clearly underserved, and there’s some value in connecting Pike Place and Westlake for tourists, and perhaps a crossover line for SLU-1st Avenue trips. The issue is whether that need is large enough for a streetcar, and whether we’re neglecting more critical holes in our transit network.

    2. “Isn’t it sort of replacing the 99, which was cancelled last year?”

      No. The 99 was a replacement for the Waterfront Streetcar, which was a coverage service. It was temporarily displaced to 1st Avenue because of construction on Alaskan Way. On First it had less ridership because parallel routes are nearby and more frequent. Its ridership was so low that it was at the bottom of Metro’s performance report. It finally settled into all-day service in the summer for the tourist crowd, and peak-only service in the winter for commters. Then the budget cuts came and it got the axe.

      Going forward, there will need to be a waterfront line when the construction is finished. There’s value in a 1st Avenue line from Pioneer Square to Belltown and Seattle Center, which other countries would have, and Seattle would have too if transit had a higher priority in this region. It probably will happen someday. A line from Pioneer Square that turns east at Pike Place might also have some value, but it’s kind of the way the DSTT goes north through half of downtown and then turns east, rather than continuing north to Mercer Street so that it could serve Belltown and Uptown and the D and E. We’re kind of doing that again in a way.

      1. I can’t vouch for anyone else, but I never took it when it was on 1st because:

        + It was so infrequent that it had always just gone past.

        + I had a terrible time finding the stops. I never did figure out where the one by Pike Pkace Market was supposed to be.

        + With the steep hills and dangerous intersections, it was difficult and time consuming to get to it from Alaskan Way.

    3. There is no “E” line in San Francisco, at least, not since the Geary streetcar was taken up to make the Boulevard. The 22 Fillmore ETB line runs next to the J Church for six blocks or so between Duboce and 16th Avenue, but it certainly has not been replaced by a streetcar.

      Nor could it; it climbs Russian Hill.

      1. Oran is correct.

        I also dug into the online archives and determined that the E-Embarcadero Line follows the former Muni Route 32.

  8. I think it is just Dorkin trying to extort more tax revenue from the business community. The business community’s push back over the head-tax made her look bad and now she’s out to make them pay more for the CCC. With this ridiculous threat of cancelling the line she’s going to rattle them until she gets some concessions.

  9. I thought the issues was giving 75 million back to the feds for not completing the line or spending an additional 20 million to complete the line with 90 million of the original 150 million already spent. which means she will have to come up with 15 million in discretionary to cancel it or 20 million to finish it. Either way she ran on a ticket of fiscal responsibility and she is about to blow a huge hole in budget.

    1. Is this true? What are your sources?

      If these numbers are true, it’s foolish not to move forward with the streetcar.

  10. Perhaps STB could interview Durkin and ask her why she’s pushing this, what other alternatives she’s thinking of, what would change her mind about the CCC streetcar, and whether she understands that refusing a federal grant could jepordize all future transit grants for Seattle and the region.

  11. If this City Center Connector is not completed, the usefulness of a complete through-line service in this corridor doesn’t go away. If the two stub-end streetcar lines can’t be tied together with streetcars, then they ought to get paved over and the overhead converted to trolleybus lines. Get some nice European multi-door trolleybuses to operate the service end to end, South Lake Union to Broadway/Capitol Hill.

    1. Connecting the streetcar lines looks good superficially, but the connection is going to be so slow and circuitous, it’s almost never going to be worth actually traveling that way. The combination of the jog west to 1st, east to 14th, stoplights every block, station stop every two blocks, really adds up, even with an exclusive lane on 1st.

      I am also not thrilled about the propsect of more streetcar tracks rendering Stewart and 1st nearly impassible on a bike, like they did for Westlake Ave.

      There are numerous ways the streetcar money (even just the city’s share) could improve transit in ways that are more useful than the streetcar. For instance, more bus service, transit signal priority, off-board fare payment at more locations – even eliminating the $5 Orca card fee. The list goes on and on.

      1. Exactly. The benefits from connecting the other two lines are overrated. It will definitely help the South Lake Union line, but it won’t do much of anything for the First Hill line, given the circuitous nature of that route.

        On the other hand, imagine connecting the 7 and 70 via First Avenue. Now First Avenue is connected to a lot more places, while the other buses still allow fast access to Third (just hop off your bus and onto a bus on Third).

        Meanwhile, if we are going to create a new transit route to help First Hill, we should have an all day bus that goes from South Lake Union to First Hill via Boren. Have it go all the way down to Mount Baker Station (thus connection to Link in two places).

        The only reason that we connect these two routes is because this is a streetcar. Would anyone seriously consider this route if it wasn’t? Of course not. It is pretty easy to think of other routes that can be modified or extended to serve First that would benefit those other routes and First Avenue a lot more.

    2. This isn’t a complete through-line service. It’s an S-shaped corridor. That’s one of the main reasons people have reservations about it. It’s OK if you’re going around one bend, but if you go around two or more bends then there’s a more direct alternative. That’s a problem when the longest distance between bends is less than a mile. An efficient service goes straight for a long distance. We already have two straight north-south corridors: 3rd Avenue and the DSTT south of Westlake. They’re also closer to where the center of the population and destinations are, so we should focus on improving them rather than putting an expensive sideshow on First Avenue, or worse, an S-shaped line.

    3. C’mon folks, not every transit route has to provide line haul service. The connected streetcar line would be a Local Circulator!

      1. But the only trips where the streetcar would provide a more direct alternative than buses are trips which are so short, you may as well just walk. And, after accounting for wait time, the streetcar will be just barely faster (if not slower) than walking for these trips.

      2. So promote it for what it is, a minor, expensive addition, that we might as well finish because we’ve started it. Don’t act like it’s the biggest thing that will solve downtown’s mobility problems. If people really believe that, they’ll be disappointed. And it will be one more transit non-solution that Seattle and the US are so adept at… like the First Hill Streetcar.

      3. I don’t mean you’re doing that, but some of its proponents are. It’s really frustrating, because we need real mobility solutions, citywide, not more non-solutions.

      4. Need to finish to maximize benefit of 2 current stubs. Left dangling utility potential of 2 are squandered. Similar to any system, the increased nodes on a network always maximizises given segments usefulness and hence ridership. I doubt 1st hill line will ever shutdown regardless of what happens to ccc hence lost opportunity to increase its value.

      5. C’mon folks, not every transit route has to provide line haul service. The connected streetcar line would be a Local Circulator!

        Generally speaking, circulators aren’t a good idea.* That is the point we are making. There is no reason why a “long haul” service can’t also work for the short haul. That happens all the time downtown. There are thousands and thousands of people who take a bus from one end of Third to other because it is so easy (and it is about to get a lot easier). The buses come so often, you wouldn’t bother chasing one. There are also thousands of people who go down into the tunnel, and then take the train only a few stops (e. g. Pioneer Square to Westlake). It isn’t that a circulator wouldn’t do well, it is just that it is simply not the best approach for a city with a robust transit network like Seattle.


        Walker also mentions routes that are “short, squiggly and looping” (which is exactly what this streetcar route would be):

      6. I doubt 1st hill line will ever shutdown regardless of what happens to ccc hence lost opportunity to increase its value.

        Except that this won’t actually increase its value. it will increase the value of the South Lake Union line certainly, but it won’t do a thing for First Hill. The route is to slow and too circuitous to provide much benefit. For just about every street, you have a bus that goes that way. From Pike/Pine you have the 10/11 and 49. From Seneca, you have the 2. From Madison you will soon have the RapidRide G, from James you have the 3/4 and from Yesler you have the 27. In every case the bus would be faster.

        Besides, that is a sunk cost argument. Just because we built two poorly performing street car lines (that never came close to meeting the ridership estimates) is no reason to spend a bundle making them better. The 47 doesn’t perform well — should we send it down First to increase its ridership? The streetcar connection should be judged on the basis of how it actually improves overall transit mobility compared to the alternatives, not whether it helps a particular route (or two).

      7. RossB: amen. Roger: the CCC would be an overly costly circulator; many bus routes and Link provide circulation. the Mayor has to consider the high opportunity costs: of the 1st Avenue right of way in the context of the SR-99 deep bore and the closure of the DSTT to buses in March 2019; of the local capital, now $20 more than during the 2017 budget; of the higher operating cost, if the Metro rail division is correct; and, the operating deficit, if the farebox revenue does not cover the operating cost, as in the SDOT plan. SDOT has many other projects to fund.

  12. Snark-free here: Can somebody remind us who approved those cars-and what stage their acquisition is at? Seem to remember another vehicle fleet whose weight was almost as bad a problem as everything else about it. Which we kept a couple decades anyhow. Any similarity, better to learn our lesson and send them back. BTW: What Factual Accuracy bait do our trollers use off Alaska right now? Pickled snark?

    No question, the railcar part of the Connector could take longer to build than planned. But even less question that those other two car-lines are going to get Connected by a vehicle that can if necessary be coupled to an FHS or an SLU car, or both. Sooner or later.

    But reason I see no rush or recrimination is how much connection-oriented work an get done in the meantime. Glenn, didn’t MAX only use those razor-edged volcanic bombs for track-ballast because that was the only material Mt. St, Helens could deliver by air?

    And here’s actual proof (flash-bulbs made of gunpowder tough on surveillance) that not only can steel and rubber-covered wheels can share Gentriably-Certified(tm) dual use old-looking brick pavement. And also that any car older than 1925 can legally steal passengers from bus zones. “Jitney” probably an Irish motorman’s term for either “Potato Famine” or England.

    Bet existing tarmac pavement could come off the bricks and tracks with a flat shovel. Nice try covering up the facts, just to de-fang scandal that exploded when the transit world discovered that disused streetcars could not be sold for dog food.

    Also Rudyard Kipling always knew that while “East is generally East and West can be temporarily used as West” streetcars and trolleybuses could always both share positive wire at least in same subarea as the Judgment Seat.

    Please, somebody, refresh my memory, but isn’t First Avenue wired for trolleybus between Jackson and Pine? So there’s less than no reason in the world to consider the Connector either impossible or dead. Taking longer time than planned, or sending wrong vehicles back (like we should’ve done with the Breda fleet) just not the same thing. In Seattle….just seems like it is.

    Mark Dublin

  13. One thing I think is missing in this discussion is any idea of what everybody on the project can be expected to to know. Including what they can’t know for certain until the metal hits the mud. And sinks with a big loud gurgle. Pioneer Square is a very old part of a city where waterfront toilets used to explode at high tide.

    Flush handles were invented later, over objections that Elliott Bay worked better. Exactly like elevators except a lot more expensive, every streetcar and what-all it runs on is a one-off-nowhere near mass-produced. Finland has one of the world’s finest records in industrial design.

    But designers in Helsinki told me that they were having considerable trouble fitting their last cars to their oldest track, which probably included the whole network.

    Have also been told that we might’ve miscalculated the loads and specked out our elevators accordingly. At this very early stage or re-learning electric rail, very often the right answer has to be the accidental correct result behind the equal sign at the end of a long string of wrong ones.

    Found a couple of things online when I googled “Last PCC Streetcar”.

    There’s one course of action that I think can put our own transit design far ahead very simply. Start designing, building, and operating PCC streetcars where we left off. Not where we”finished.” Bullet trains and their tracks are designed together as parts of the same machinery.

    So maybe the just to settle up, the Finns will put some of us in trade school over there so we can do thirteen blocks of First Avenue for our final exam. Just to get the idea, the habit, and the reputation. Like it says on the hat: “Again.”

    Mark Dublin


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      1. Aw, c’mon, give the guy some ad space! How d’ya tink we’re financin’ ST-3? Besides, dat bridge presently in Brooklyn is on its way out here. Gotta lay off BN about delivery speed, ’cause there’s lot of pieces!

        An’ a bridge ta Bremerton don’ come rollin’ down First Avenue on a streetcar every Tuesday! Ya just gotta be patient! But also pick up some o’ dose bicycles we have left deposited where somebody carryin’ a bridge girder can retire on what falling over one gets him minus his distinguished counsel’s emolument!

        Somebody paint the letters SHEESH someplace prominent, just as a general ongoing assessment. Also to distract attention from all that long-standing other graffiti on the tile by the escalator at IDS!


        His Honor Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia’s Charming Lady Re-incarnation and her admirer Marco!

  15. Earnest question:
    Is it feasible to say “fine, don’t buy the cars! But let’s use the $75M & current street work to lay the tracks, then reconsider the cars.” That way, we won’t have quite so much sunk-lost cost, and when we have a sensible mayor & political climate, we’d just have to buy the cars and run the power?

  16. Did I just read here that the “simple explanation” is that these are low-floor vehicles? Yes, low floor vehicles are industry standard, but the two lines these vehicles will operate on have high platforms. How will that work? Does this person have a clue what they’re talking about?

    Speaking of having a clue what they’re talking about, do the managers of this program at SDOT have the transit and engineering qualifications to manage a rail capital project of this complexity? That’s what the mayor has to be asking at this juncture. When cost estimates for a project like this (and for the entire Moving Seattle program) are so dramatically wrong, when communications show that Metro (the operator)’s comments were ignored or denied, and when simple questions about compatibility with tracks and garages are in question, if you’re the mayor and you don’t stop and take stock you’re insane. This isn’t about whether a streetcar makes sense, and it’s not a time for faith over reality.

    1. It’s still a fact that she’s snubbing proponents of the extension while practically having an open door for opponents.

      1. What point is there in meeting if she won’t make a decision until after she finishes reading the report? The folks in favor have a simple plan — just build it. The opposition, on the other hand, want something else. It makes sense for her to consider those other options (to make sure they are researched as part of the report). After all the work has been done, then she can look at the various options, listen to the various groups and then make her decision.

      2. So you’re saying it’s perfectly ok for a public official to only talk to one side of an issue she’s deciding on for weeks/months? Nah. If she wants to hold her cards until the report is released, fine, she shouldn’t be meeting *anyone* until then. Both or neither.

      3. She isn’t deciding anything now — that’s the point. She is gathering information. That includes information from the research firm as well as other sources. I’m not sure what information she can gather from supporters of the streetcar, but it is obvious what information she can gather from opponents. Opponents can suggest alternatives or raise concerns, but supporters can’t. Seriously, what information would supporters be able to convey at this point of the investigation? That is will help their business? It will move a lot of people? All that information is already in the original report, and will certainly be in the revised report. But alternatives and concerns are literally infinite, and thus can’t be assumed to be in a new report.

        This is why, for example, letters of support are usually meaningless with an EIS (or the statewide equivalent). During that period when the public can comment, what matters are areas of concern — things that can stop a project, not things that can keep it going.

        Once the report is done, things change. That is when she needs to weigh all the information, and make a decision. That is when it makes sense to listen to supporters and opponents to see if moving ahead makes sense, or if one of the alternatives is OK. It would be silly to do that now. How can she discuss alternatives with the supporters of this project, when she doesn’t even know what they are?

  17. I knew it. Mayor and council are getting even for head tax defeat. They are taking money from CCC and now Safeco upgrades to fund homeless..

    “King County Council member abruptly pulls support for $180 million in public funding for Safeco Field”

    “We remain committed to working with all parties to find solutions that preserve Safeco Field as a vital publicly-owned asset and address our region’s homelessness crisis,”

    1. I mean I personally prefer that we don’t spend millions on a stadium for a team whose owners could easy foot the bill themselves. That’s a gigantic subsidy to the rich that under no circumstances do they need.

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