Articulated Metro coach signed "18 North Beach"
Back when west-side local bus routes served First Avenue. Photo taken in 2009 by Andy Tucker.

“First and Yesler, Pioneer Square. James Street, Cherry Street, Pioneer Square Station, courthouse, Downtown Emergency Service Center.”

As my words rolled through the microphone and the rest of the slowing bus, competing as always with engine noise, I was already focused on the people waiting at the bus zone in question.  On this average May afternoon, I saw about thirty of them. Half were tourists, waiting in a tentative pack close to the bus stop sign. Sprawled on nearby benches were several regulars headed up to Bell, who might or might not have interesting beverages in their black plastic bags.  Standing farther back in the zone were a few early-departing commuters, focused intently on my signage, thankful to read “18 North Beach Via Ballard” at exactly the scheduled time. I threw open both doors, and they all clambered up the stairs. As usual, a couple tried intently to put bills into the farebox despite my hand in the way and the big green “Ride Free Area” sign. As I closed the doors, the last person through the front leaned over and asked “This bus goes to Pike’s Market, right?” Unable to resist a gentle correction, I said “Yes ma’am. For Pike Place Market, get off at Stewart Street.”

Pulling away just in time to make the green light at Cherry, I had about sixty people on board, which meant a few were in the aisle. More passengers got on at Marion, and more still at University. The big D60 coach started to feel a bit crowded as it climbed the steady grade of First, my right foot summoning equal parts motion and loudness. I knew the crowding would be brief.

“Stewart Street. Pine Street. Pike Place Market. Westlake. Westlake Station. Retail core.”

While making the announcement, I arrived at the zone, a bit less than a minute ahead of schedule. But I wasn’t worried about the technical violation of Metro rules. The departing stampede of both tourists and locals would use that minute and more, so I was in no danger of leaving early. Although the shelter was crowded with commuters waiting to get on, there would be plenty of seats for them once the “Pike’s Market” group had left.  As usual, those few First Avenue blocks would be the busiest part of my entire trip, even though it covered the length of the city from Arbor Heights to Loyal Heights.

Until 2011, routes 15, 18, 21, 22, and 56 together repeated this scene every ten to fifteen minutes, all day long. Frequent transit had run along First Avenue for decades, and the service directly connecting Pioneer Square with Pike Place Market was well-used by locals and tourists alike. The buses worked well most of the time, but there were specific reliability problems.  Service got very slow at the peak of afternoon rush hour, especially southbound. It failed entirely whenever there was a Mariners or Seahawks game, and during nightlife hours in Pioneer Square. On a Friday night with a Mariners game, it was perfectly normal for a southbound trip to take one hour between Seneca and Jackson, and for local service within West Seattle to break down entirely as a result.

Seeking to improve reliability, Metro consolidated all city routes onto Third Avenue in February 2011.  Since then, First has had very little transit.  Bus service “to Pioneer Square” means a few places peripheral to Pioneer Square, ranging from the challenging block of Third between Yesler and James (and the Link stop under it), to various windswept, poorly marked layover spaces near Second and Main, to stops that are actually in the International District. For tourists exploring the historic center of Pioneer Square on First, transit is often isolated, hard to find, and intimidating to reach.  Meanwhile, to “go to Pike’s Market,” riders actually must go to Westlake, and then walk through two to three of the city’s busiest and most chaotic blocks, themselves not always safe after dark. Another major destination along First, Colman Dock, is separated from most transit service by nearly 100 feet of very steep elevation. This is not how transit should serve Seattle’s best-known and most popular destinations. While transit cannot provide front-door service everywhere, it needs to serve major regional destinations in a convenient way, or people will reach them using private or rideshare cars instead.

And that is exactly what the Center City Connector would do—without the major reliability issues that plagued the bus service I drove. With its dedicated lanes downtown and in South Lake Union, the CCC would provide frequent and mostly reliable front-door service to Pike Place Market and Pioneer Square from much of central Seattle, and give users coming from other places an easy, legible connection to those destinations. It would seamlessly serve all the passengers who used to stand at First and Yesler, together with a new group headed to the International District, Westlake, and South Lake Union.

Current bus service doesn’t do that, which is why commentary that the CCC is “duplicative” or would hurt current service is wrong and misses the point, and also why the CCC’s ridership estimates are so high. No bus service could accomplish it at all hours without the same dedicated lanes along First that are planned for the CCC. And those lanes are in the plan only because the CCC is a streetcar. Seattle has not once installed a dedicated bus lane the length of the CCC’s First Avenue segment without a major compromise: those few parking spots, or the cars allowed in at one intersection—of course, inevitably in the most delay-prone spot. Rail bias may irritate transit wonks, but it’s clearly responsible for the CCC’s dedicated lanes, and therefore for the CCC’s value and likelihood of success.

If the Mayor really wants “a more vibrant downtown with fewer cars, more transit, and less pollution,” it’s hard to imagine a better way to get there than to provide safe, convenient, and reliable access to downtown’s major attractions. And that’s what the CCC would bring—or, for the First Avenue segment, bring back. The Mayor should commit to the CCC and allow work on it to resume.

216 Replies to “The Center City Connector and the First and Yesler Stop”

  1. Amen.

    I was particularly struck by Licata’s horror at the prospect of some short-haul riders abandoning current bus service for the CCC, as if that would be a bad thing. Giving those riders faster and more direct service, while reducing the slowdown caused by intra-downtown trips slowing buses to to, from, or through downtown is the kind of “duplication” only a bean-counting bureaucrat would count as a negative.

    I still can’t quite process that Seattle has an anti-transit mayor. I never supported Durkan, but I thought many of her detractors were being too alarmist. They were right, I was wrong.

    1. An anti-transit mayor would cancel the RapidRide projects and the renovations on 65th and 35th BE, cancel Vision Zero, not expand the transit-only hours on 3rd. install a pro-car-and-parking SDOT director, and top it all off by diverting Move Seattle and Prop 1 money to parking garages downtown and SLU and Pioneer Square to make Seattle more “business-friendly”.

    2. One good thing about service being consolidated on 3rd is that, with a bus running literally every minute, people making intra-downtown trips can just take whatever comes first. This means that their load naturally spreads out amongst many buses, so the crowding impact on any particular bus is small.

      The story about 20 people all getting on at Pioneer Square just to go to Westlake was because fewer route went on 1st, so you didn’t have that kind of service consolidation.

      1. asdf2, do you even remember the the time David’s talking about- when all of Downtown’s avenues had bus service?

        Pulling service off every avenue besides Third was probably the most destructive thing Metro ever did. Take a stick and some rags and make a tourniquet. Cut off the circulation in both your arms and both your legs.

        Consider what’s left Third Avenue and leave it like that for five minutes. Let alone a couple of decades. Better hope Emergency at Harborview is still air conditioned.

        Budget problem, right? Was that the one Tim Eyman did? Life’s tough and unfair. Get it back on there starting rush hour today.

        Believe me- it’ll pay for itself in a month.

        Mark Dublin

      2. There was another reason the buses were moved to 3rd. It was partly to consolidate, partly because of construction around 1st and the waterfront, but also because riders pushed for it to be moved because they felt unsafe waiting on First Avenue. 1st and Pike was the center of prostitution and crime them, until the police drove the prostitutes out to Aurora and Pacific Highway and the new boutique towers on 1st went in (that construction on 1st).

      3. That was a long time ago, Mike – the first condo towers down in that area went up in the ’80s. Third Avenue is objectively the worst of Downtown’s 7 north-south avenues (counting Western and Alaskan Way) for pedestrians; even with the huge amount of bus traffic on Third the “eyes on the street” safety factor is minimal simply because of the relative lack of active buildings on Third. The Post Office (that thing needs to go), Macy’s frontage on Third, Benaroya, the parking garage across from Macy’s, the horrible wall that is the Century Link building at Seneca, the government buildings to the south – even the newer buildings like “Fourth and Madison” have almost no street activation. Combine that with the fact that Third and Pine has long been one of the worst corners in the entire city – so bad that for years the McDonald’s there played everything from country to classical to attempt to get the loiterers to leave, with little success – and you’ve really not improved things over what First was 30 years ago.

        There may well be other reasons to keep all the buses on Third (although I agree with David’s premise), but there’s no longer a compelling safety reason to not run transit on First so long as the right-of-way is dedicated. Living in Belltown now I’ll always walk on First or Second rather than Third to and from central downtown, without exception.

    3. Right, you’re not looking at what those people did after the 1st Avenue routes disappeared, and how much of a burden it was for them. Most of them probably switched to 3rd rather than driving or not making the trip, and it was a minor inconvenience rather than a catastrophe I used to go to Uptown and Belltown a lot when the 15 and 18 were on 1st, and I usually preferred 3rd because the wait would be shorter.

      That’s not to say there’s no merit to a frequent route on 1st, or 5-minute service with the streetcar. It’s just that the merit is moderate rather than huge.

      1. Don’t know about others, but it’s a huge burden for me. I’m forced to take Ubers, which I can barely afford. Also, that’s just one more car in the Pioneer Square area, adding to the congestion. If others are taking Ubers/Lyfts, that’s more cars.

        But go ahead, make everything for the able-bodied and forget everyone else. We should all move away and get jobs elsewhere, I guess. Seattle is only for able-bodied people making over $75K a year (or probably more like $100K a year) and if you didn’t have the foresight to not get older or have any kind of mobility problems or get a high-paying job, you don’t belong in Seattle.

    4. A truly anti-transit mayor would have opposed the Shoup reforms, and been the first to call for halting the CCC. But these exercises have shown us who the most anti-transit councilmember is, and that she is to the right of Mayor Durkan on the car warrior spectrum.

      This councilmember has also been pretty opportunistic in finding ways to stop private apartments from being built, as if that would somehow held with housing affordability.

      The 34th District Senate race has shown that there is no shortage of highly-qualified candidates to replace her.

    5. Considering what it looks like the Mayor found first time she clicked the lights on in her new office, would cut her some slack ’till the trucks come with those chutes for shoveling such results out the window.

      But think the Transit Lobby (like the NRA, most lobbies are a lot more internally fractured than transit) has an effective tactic. In front of cameras, demand five minutes personal conversation per week. And show up with shovels, volunteer, and head up the stairs for the tops of the chutes.

      Doesn’t look like anti-transit to me. More like somebody under max undeserved stress, for whom better manners toward valuable help will make her rubble-clearing duties easier. But in politics, tolerating disrespect doesn’t cure it. Anywhere in politics. Given the Mayor’s background….is there a really obnoxious Public Defender on the STB staff?

      Mark Dublin

  2. I still don’t buy the argument that getting people two blocks closer to Colman Dock and Pike Place Market is worth $100 million. There are so many buses going up and down 3rd Ave., not to mention the light rail underneath 3rd. There should probably be at least some bus west of 3rd – but a waterfront shuttle every 15 minutes is sufficient – we don’t need a streetcar.

    At the same time, the city of Seattle has plenty of pressing transit needs, but getting from one end of downtown to the other end isn’t one of them. There are so many places all over the city where deficiencies in transit can’t be bypassed simply by walking a couple of blocks.

    It is well known that Move Seattle is short on funds, and using the CCC money to backfill it, to allow more transit projects to get done more quickly than would otherwise be possible, makes a lot of sense.

    1. As a occasional tourist who doesn’t pay property taxes in Seattle, it would definitely be worth it for me.

      But really, the streetcar down here in Portland is great for tourists and people that live along the line. I basically never use it, but I see the value.

      1. I use it all the time and I can’t imagine Portland without it.
        I know I would avoid multi-stop trips if it didn’t exist.

    2. Think of it this way: 3rd is full. Completely. If you want to move more people north/south through downtown, you have to pick another street. 1st Ave is a logical choice because the ridership is there. the CCC is also a logical choice because it will move more people than adding buses, and it will create a connected streetcar network which will boost overall ridership. So, a it’s a win-win-win, right?

      1. 1st may be a logical choice for more tranist, but not a streetcar.

        In fact, a streetcar is NEVER a logical transit choice.

        For the cost of a streetcar you can dedicate the same right-of-way and run buses on it – buses you already have in your fleet, buses that can detour as needed, buses that don’t run on expenisve rails that endanger cyclists.

        How will a streetcar “move more people than adding buses?” One streetcar can move more people than one bus; but for the cost of each streetcar you can buy several buses – and run them more frequently, enhancing service.

        And the benefit of a “connected streetcar network” is a fallacy. It’s a feeble attempt to salvage bad investments in the two existing streetcar lines. Dumb, dumber, dumbest.

      2. the CCC is also a logical choice because it will move more people than adding buses…

        *Citation needed*

      3. How is a streetcar “never a logical choice” when 1) we already have built two thirds of the system? and 2) the political reality is we don’t get *fully* dedicated transit lanes *anywhere in downtown* in the foreseeable future without it?

      4. “a streetcar is NEVER a logical transit choice.”

        Only because Seattle, Portland, and the US have redefined the word streetcar to mean rail that’s so watered down that other countries wouldn’t build it. The historical meaning of streetcar is any surface train, so it includes not only the SLU slowpoke but also MAX running at full speed on Burnside, San Jose VTA running next to the road, MUNI Metro with a downtown tunnel and a few off-street segments. We have set the distinction between light rail and streetcar at the distinction between effectifve and ineffective transit (meaning faster than alternatives or not). Germany built a lot of light rail lines starting in the 1980s in cities down to the size of Spokane, and they generally have exclusive lanes outside downtown and a tunnel downtown. They’re trying to move people more effectively on transit, not lose the competition with cars.

      5. “we already have built two thirds of the system?”

        It was never thought of as a system until recently. The SLU streetcar was a one-off pushed by Paul Allen because he admired the Portland streetcar and wanted to attract high-end businesses and shoppers to SLU. The First Hill streetcar was in compensation for deleting the First Hill light rail station. It wasn’t until the 2012 Transit Master Plan that the idea of a City Center Connector and a combined SLU-Broadway streetcar emerged. So it’s the last third of that project, but it’s not at all why the SLU and First Hill streetcars were built. If they had intended a unified corridor from the beginning they might have designed it differently, like on 5th. We can’t assume they would have put the outer two segments in exactly the same location.

      6. Right. people keep ignoring the benefit of getting excess short-haul riders off third. I have a hard time believing these are actual Seattle transit users!

      7. Do you want us to eliminate the hill? Flatten intersections? Move the hospitals? San Francisco streets were built with flat intersections for the cable cars to stop in, but Seattle wasn’t built like that.

      8. CCC will move more people than a bus on first because:

        1. You’ll never get a dedicated transit lane for a bus on 1st
        2. Streetcars attract more riders (generally, first hill is the exception)
        3. The network effect of a streetcar network that extends from Pioneer Square to SLU will add trips

      9. CCC will move more people than a bus on first because:

        1. You’ll never get a dedicated transit lane for a bus on 1st

        Nonsense. History has shown that we are more likely to get dedicated transit lanes if it is for a bus. From the bus tunnel to the Madison BRT, more space is initially allocated for buses than for trains. Oh, sure, Link came along later — but it leveraged what was already initially built for buses (it isn’t hard to imagine Link consisting of surface transit all the way from Rainier Valley up to Eastlake if it wasn’t for the fact that we had already built the bus tunnel).

        If the plan was to run buses on First Avenue (in their own lane) we wouldn’t be having this discussion. It would be running by now.

        2. Streetcars attract more riders (generally, first hill is the exception)

        Evidence please. Ridership is driven by speed, frequency and destinations. Link is fast, frequent and ridership has skyrocketed as they’ve added more popular destinations. The E is our most popular bus because it is fast, frequent, and serves a popular corridor. The streetcar isn’t popular because it follows a poor route.

        3. The network effect of a streetcar network that extends from Pioneer Square to SLU will add trips.

        Not nearly as much as the network effect of an average set of bus routes. Again, this is due to the overall weakness of the proposed streetcar route (arguably the worst route in our system, if built). The route is short, squiggly and looping — a textbook example of how not to design a route. The weakness with such bad routing is that very few trips of even an average distance make sense. Every stop between Yesler and CHS (the eastern terminus) has better alternatives if your destination is somewhere on First Avenue (Link, 10, 11, 49, 2, 12, Madison BRT, 3, 4, etc.). You really don’t add much to the First Hill Streetcar by extending it back up north (you do some to the South Lake Union Streetcar).

        In contrast, consider something simple, like connecting the 7 and 70 via First Avenue. Now you have trips to Eastlake, Rainier Avenue — even the U-District if you don’t want to transfer. The result would be faster, more frequent trips to more places.

      10. >> In fact, a streetcar is NEVER a logical transit choice.

        There are places in the world where a streetcar is a logical choice. However, I just don’t see that for Seattle. A streetcar makes sense if you have a massive, stand-alone corridor. Some place that has lots of people and thus lots of rides. Seattle has corridors that might qualify (e. g. Third Avenue) but they aren’t stand-alone. They are simply part of a larger network of buses that funnel into the area. What is true of Third is true of every numbered avenue west of the freeway. That is why the obvious answer is to shift a few buses over to First Avenue, rather than create a short haul bus route from Jackson to South Lake Union (which is essentially what the CCC is).

        So that leaves other routes, like Madison. Madison might have sufficient demand to justify a streetcar, but makes no sense because of the steep hill. That is the case with other east-west streets. Madison would also be a challenge because it is a diagonal, and diagonal rail lines are a huge hazard. That brings up another point — the vibrant biking community in this city. Either you simply discard their concerns (and live with the unnecessary injuries and occasional deaths that occur) or you spend a lot of money and space making it safe. I’m not convinced there is even enough space on Madison to do that. What is true of Madison is true of most of the city.

        One possibility would be to run a streetcar from downtown to the UW (via Eastlake). But ST didn’t do that. That is the other issue — for the most part Link consists of tunnels and elevated railways (which are a good thing). So that eliminates some of the obvious possibilities. You could replace the 70 with a streetcar, but you would never have the ridership to justify a big one, since a lot of the potential riders will simply ride Link.

        The E is another possibility, but that would be extremely expensive. It just doesn’t add up in Seattle — there just aren’t any stand-alone corridors that could justify a streetcar given our overall transit system.

      11. 2) the political reality is we don’t get *fully* dedicated transit lanes *anywhere in downtown* in the foreseeable future without it?

        How many times will that lie be repeated. It is just false.

        First of all, the transit tunnel was initially built solely for buses.

        Second of all, Madison BRT will have more *fully* dedicated transit lanes than the streetcar. Most of it will be *fully* dedicated transit lanes, while very little of the streetcar will have dedicated lanes. 100% of *downtown* will be *fully* dedicated transit lanes for the bus, while only a small part of the streetcar line will have fully dedicated lanes. Hell, even in the *exact same part of town* the streetcar will be stuck in traffic, but the bus will run in *fully* dedicated transit lanes.

        I don’t think you get it. The main reason this project is controversial is because it is a streetcar! Look at all the editorials in opposition. Not only blogs like this, but by city council members, past and present. Not a single one has objected to the dedicated lanes. Not Herbolt, not Sawant, not Licata. Their objection is to this *as a streetcar*. My God, the contrast between this and Madison BRT is striking, yet you choose to ignore it, to support your unsupported narrative (that people love streetcars). Madison BRT was designed without opposition. Go ahead, find me all the council members and editorials in opposition. There aren’t any! That is because everyone with any sense likes buses — we are a freaking bus city!

        Take the lanes, run buses on it, and it would be done by now. No one would object to it, just as no one has objected to Madison BRT. You really have it backwards — politically, transit lanes are much, much easier to get than getting anything for streetcars.

    3. That’s not how it works.

      Seattle would have to give back all Federal funds. We’d have to pay off contractors. And of course all spent money is already spent.

      Added all together the actual cost of completing the project is likely much closer to $15-30m.

      How much is 1.3 miles of center lane exclusive ROW running through the heart of the city worth to you?

    4. “Added all together the actual cost of completing the project is likely much closer to $15-30m.”

      That’s what we want to know. Will the city please tell us how much it would cost if the grant doesn’t come through and any expenses for wrong-gauge trains etc? Where will the money come from? Will it come out of other Move Seattle projects because the CCC is the city’s highest priority? We can’t change past expenditures, and sometimes you have to accept that past money was wasted on nothing, but we can question future expenditures and evaluate how worthwhile they are.

      1. Think a bus can deliver service on a crowded arterial as well or better than a streetcar? Go someplace where you can ride through PM rush, a month on each mode. Packed standing load. Then let’s hear your report.

        Mark Dublin

      2. “Added all together the actual cost of completing the project is likely much closer to $15-30m.”

        That’s what we want to know. Will the city please tell us how much it would cost if the grant doesn’t come through and any expenses for wrong-gauge trains etc?

        I assume that is what is being studied. How much will this actually cost us, and what are the alternatives.

      3. The trains aren’t “wrong gauge”. Jesus, Mike, you are way too well-informed to fall that that bullshit. From what I understand, the cars are too long and perhaps too high to fit into the maintenance barn, but nobody — nobody, NOBODY, NOBODY — is going to build a streetcar for any North American city other than New Orleans that isn’t 4′ 8-1/2″ gauge.

        On first reading of the specs the builders would have said “WHAT the *@#%!?!?!?” and it would have been fixed.

      4. I’m not an engineer. I haven’t seen SDOT’s specs or know how to interpret them. I only know what people say here and other places.

      5. My understanding (from Glen in Portland, I think) is that the gauge referred to is not the track gauge – which as Richard points out somewhat acerbically would almost never be built for any transit in this country outside of BART – but something else called “loading gauge” which indicates clearance of the cars themselves or maximum height/width into which the cars must fit. It’s far more likely this is the issue, not the track gauge.

        That said, the media reports just stating “gauge” are misleading at best as the layperson would always think “track gauge” when the word “gauge” is used relating to rail. Explanation of what exactly was allegedly wrong with the new cars would have been far more useful and far less confusing. People can readily understand if the cars are too big for the maintenance facilities, or can’t get under a bridge, etc. and such things are far easier mistakes to make (albeit still mistakes) than actually buying something you’d have to specially order to get wrong such as non-standard track gauge.

    5. We need buses that go from 1st (or the waterfront) to 3rd. Not everyone can handle that hill. Why is that so difficult for people to understand? I say buses. Not necessarily streetcars.

      This city is getting to be more and more only accessible for people without mobility problems. Anyone with mobility problems is supposed to move out, and get jobs elsewhere, I guess.

      1. No, I didn’t put my full first name because it’s an unusual spelling and i didn’t want anyone from work to see this, but this is the same person who usually complains about this.

      2. I agree. I think everyone agrees that we should have service on First Avenue. What we disagree on is whether it makes sense to complete the streetcar. To me the strongest argument is that we are mostly done. I find that a weak argument, and telling. No one is saying that the streetcar route is a great one. Because it isn’t. Can anyone imagine if Metro had a major restructure that had a bus route like that? A route that started by CHS, went south on Broadway, then went east before heading west before heading back north again? It is a crazy, senseless route. Planners would guess they were getting pranked (“OK, who proposed the blue route — was that you Joe — ha, funny — come on folks, let’s get back to work”). Yet here we are, with transit advocated pushing for something they know is stupid (because it is better than nothing) instead of pushing for something sensible (like shifting a few buses over to First Avenue).

      3. “We need buses that go from 1st (or the waterfront) to 3rd. Not everyone can handle that hill.”

        Which the streetcar won’t, except for two spots at Stewart and Jackson. 3rd to 1st along Jackson is basically flat. Stewart, not completely flat, but still very gentle slope. Where 1st to 3rd is steep (Seneca/Madison/Columbia), the streetcar will not go up that hill. So, what you’re saying, is you want the option to ride a bus down 3rd Ave. north or south a few blocks, then wait for a streetcar to go west two blocks to first, then back the other way. Even if the streetcar runs every 5 minutes, you’re still looking at nearly 15 minutes of travel time to go two blocks. This is equivalent to an average speed of 0.5 mph walking the direct route. Even if you walk very slowly and take very small steps, you will still likely get where you’re going faster than this.

      4. Or they won’t get there at all because it’s too steep for them to handle. Not everyone can make the climb up to 3rd Avenue, that’s what they’ve been saying this whole time, and that’s something that needs to be taken account of in this city. And the building escalators aren’t enough because a) without significant signage people aren’t going to know that’s possible and b) they are only open a fraction of the day otherwise.

    6. You’re young. The hike up Marion from First to Third is no mean feat for a person over fifty or anyone of limited mobility. And the block from First to Second is steep enough that downhill is better navigated using the Federal Building stairs.

      1. Yes, and even going downhill can be bad for people with hip or knee or other leg problems. We need some kind of bus eventually. Not necessarily an expensive streetcar, but at least a bus. I don’t know why people think it’s ok to have nothing from the waterfront to 3rd Avenue in Pioneer Square and downtown, when there are businesses in that area.

        There are buses going down 1st up to Edgar Martinez Drive–why is 1st not worthy of getting buses farther north?

        I hate that not only is Seattle becoming unfriendly to anyone not making at least $75K, but also to anyone who can’t walk up hills or walk long distances between bus stops. Not everyone has a car, and not everyone can afford Uber or Lyft every day. What, are we just supposed to stay home? (If we can afford a place to stay, that is.)

      2. “I don’t know why people think it’s ok to have nothing from the waterfront to 3rd Avenue”

        There will be more escalators between Alaskan and 1st when the waterfront project is finished. There is a flat bridge from the ferry terminal to 1st Avenue. From 1st to 3rd is unaddressed. The city has made do with requiring developers to allow public access to their building escalators, and publishing an accessibility map of them. Of course these escalators are only open to the public daytime weekdays.

      3. I feel your pain, N.

        I don’t yet suffer from notable arthritis like half of all seniors or a quarter of all adult women, but even I really dread walking down 40 or 50 steps to get to or from a rail platform as well as walking up lots of stairs because the local leaders have been too dang cheap to put in redundant escalators and the ones there go out of service.

        I really hope you keep speaking up. Seattle has a terrible habit of being wowed by vehicles but ignoring basic mobility needs beyond ADA rules. The biggest “gaps” in our growing rail system are good pedestrian connections. The Madison BRT advocates won’t discuss how hard it is to get on or off a bus stopped at a 5+ or 10+ percent slope — on a route that serves medical centers with people with ailments! The first thing that ST cuts to save a few million are escalators like the recently announced Lynnwood Link design changes. Transit leaders will push to spend maybe a hundred million local dollars on the CCC but not a dime to upgrade and expand the DSTT station access points, which are now 28 years old and not designed for much higher rail ridership numbers coming in the next 7 years. I even get belittled here about my concerns — ranging from comments to use possibly out-of-service elevators that add at least 3-5 minutes to a trip to suggestions that I use a Link bike to peddle uphill to that there is no capacity or safety issue to that I’m some sort of rare and selfish anomaly because I want more escalators.

        Sure it’s alluring to fantasize about smooth-running, pretty vehicles in their own lanes. However, the reality for many is whether transit is actually usable and easily accessible.

      4. “The Madison BRT advocates won’t discuss how hard it is to get on or off a bus stopped at a 5+ or 10+ percent slope”

        Doesn’t the 12 have those same kind of stops? What are people doing now?

      5. If the current RapidRide G plan comes to fruition, it will have a nearly flat stop on First Avenue between Madison and Spring.

        The current 12 has nothing but steep stops in downtown, and it is a real problem for users with mobility issues.

      6. Yeah it will be really lovely to see mobility-limited folk get from First and Madison to a Link platform — for the sadists out there.

      7. The CCC is the best hope for people who have trouble using steep bus stops and need to reach Link from the slopey part of First. It would have accessible transfers to Link at both Westlake and International District.

      8. David, yes, the 12 would definitely need a center platform on First if it is to become the replacement for RapidRide G because of the bus issue. It has needed one for a long time.

      9. >> The CCC is the best hope for people who have trouble using steep bus stops and need to reach Link from the slopey part of First.

        A bus could provide that same connection (and more) while doing it more frequently. That would also ease the bus congestion found on Third — meaning those buses could run faster.

        I don’t why anyone assumes that the mayor will kill this project and replace it with nothing for First. That would be a political disaster. There are really three possibilities:

        1) She approves the streetcar, and other projects suffer (as money is siphoned off to support it).

        2) She kills the streetcar, and runs RapidRide+ buses in center lanes on First Avenue.

        3) She kills the streetcar, and runs regular buses in BAT lanes on First Avenue.

        The first is the most expensive option, and provides the least. The second is still expensive, but cheaper than the streetcar, and would provide the most in terms of transit mobility. The third is cheapest (and would be ready much sooner) and would work out better for a lot of people, but worse for some.

      10. Ross,

        You forgot option 4) The mayor kills the Center City Connector streetcar.


    7. We do know that if the CCC is canceled that will have to repay the 75 million to the Federal Government. So the report would have to show that the finishing the CCC would cost more the 75 Million to justify canceling it. At what point would it not be worth it? For example the Report show it would cost 90 million to complete or repay the Feds 75 million.

      1. Considering general drift of our non-local funding sources, probably safest not to update our sanitary wasted systems for fear they’ll pull our money. Then we’ll find out why dropping the draft was a mistake. NRA has to teach us how to dig a latrine with one of those little folding shovels.

        Read “All Quiet on the Western Front” about trench warfare. Grind an edge on one of those things and the enemy will drop their AR-15’s and immediately produce something to dig.

        For thirty years, DC’s been too lax to make us pay for all that wasted trolleywire from Colman Dock to the Courthouse. So far, haven’t heard a single bill-collector’s call about the Benson line. So next time Magnolia sewage plant falls apart- let’s hold off and hope the tide doesn’t change.

        Be hell to see it repossessed.


      2. Not only this, but we would have effectively lost/sacrificed all the money and effort put in to the existing disjointed two thirds of the streetcar system. We will never have a *complete* system this way! Look at it this way: if you’re tiling your living room, already committed the money to buying the tile and just have to finish the install, why the HECK would you stop two thirds the way done and decide to do the rest as linoleum???

      3. >> Not only this, but we would have effectively lost/sacrificed all the money and effort put in to the existing disjointed two thirds of the streetcar system.

        That is a classic sunk cost argument. The problem with that idea is that this will do next to nothing for the First Hill line. Sure, it will improve the South Lake Union section, but why would anyone “round the horn” to get to anywhere on First Hill, when there are much better transit options today, let alone ten years from now, when the buses are a lot more frequent?

        In other words, your “complete system” is just not a very good route. We aren’t talking about connecting the 7 with the 70 (assuming the 7 ended at Jackson and the 70 at South Lake Union). This isn’t the 3 or 4, which enable one seat rides from the C. D. or First Hill to Lower Queen Anne. This is a squiggly, short circulator. The kind that transit experts loathe ( and

      4. “if you’re tiling your living room, already committed the money to buying the tile and just have to finish the install”

        The issue is how valuable is the tiled room? The sunk cost is gone. Is it worth the additional money? Maybe, maybe not.

      5. let alone ten years from now, when the buses are a lot more frequent?

        Really? Buses are going to be more frequent on the 2, 3/4, and 27 in ten years? If RRG makes it, sure, Madison will have more frequent service, but what proposal are you reading that says headways will be reduced on the classic First Hill routes?

      6. Metro has repeatedly proposed increasing frequency on the 2 and 3. It was part of the RapidRide restructure and the cut restructure, and is in Metro’s long-range plan. It didn’t happen in the first two because the proposals were withdrawn for other reasons. (Because Queen Anne objected to their end of fhe changes so Metro withdrew the whole thing for rethinking.) But the 3N/4N consolidation is now finished, and the proposed Central District changes feature an ultra-frequent 3 on Yesler-8th-Jefferson and an ultra-frequent 2 on Pine-12th-Union.

        The 27 hasn’t been part of this because it’s a coverage route, but it’s probably headed toward a First Hill future. Metro’s LRP suggests running it on 9th to SLU.

      7. Really? Buses are going to be more frequent on the 2, 3/4, and 27 in ten years? If RRG makes it, sure, Madison will have more frequent service, but what proposal are you reading that says headways will be reduced on the classic First Hill routes?

        Bus service in general is increasing, as the city gets bigger and there is an increasing commitment to transit. The only thing that could delay the overall improvement is a local or national recession.

        This means that even with the existing grid I think it is reasonable to assume we will soon see improvements in the area. The 27, for example, seems like it is overdue for an increase in service. Since that is the weakest of the routes heading up the hill, improving it would make a big difference.

        As for what the network will look like in 10 years, it is hard to say. If the Madison BRT goes in, that will be an excuse to shake up the routes and make them a bit more grid like. I think a bus on Boren is long overdue, likewise a bus on 12th. For the latter, the long range plan suggests extending the 49 so that instead of going downtown after going past CHS, it would cut over to 12th, then run south to Beacon Hill. Metro suggests it would be a RapidRide route, which makes sense to me (it would be fairly popular, I assume).

        The point being that while we don’t know exactly what the bus routes will be like 10 years from now, it is reasonable to assume that they will be substantially more frequent, as the city continues to grow and spend more money on transit (both in terms of service and capital improvements).

      8. “Repeatedly proposed” doesn’t really sound all that dependable to me.

      9. It’s better than proposed once and forgotten. It shows that Metro really wants it. Metro went through so many years of the council vetoing innovations that it developed a self-censorship mentality: withdraw anything controversial. But over the past decade the council has let more and more restructures go through and public support has increased. So try, try again and maybe you’ll win.

  3. Seattle has not once installed a dedicated bus lane the length of the CCC’s First Avenue segment without a major compromise: those few parking spots, or the cars allowed in at one intersection—of course, inevitably in the most delay-prone spot. Rail bias may irritate transit wonks, but it’s clearly responsible for the CCC’s dedicated lanes, and therefore for the CCC’s value and likelihood of success.

    True enough. I’d love for us to elect leaders who aren’t afraid to put down some red paint anywhere and everywhere buses often get stuck in traffic, parking and/or general purpose lanes be damned. We aren’t there yet. If we were, the streetcar would seem rather silly; a bus lane would accomplish basically as much for urban mobility and for a lot less cost.

    1. No, not true enough. It is simply false (as I said below). Madison BRT will have more in the way of dedicated lanes (over 60%) along with 5% BAT lanes. The only part of the Madison route that will be in general purpose traffic is the section that is considered low traffic. It wasn’t a fight over parking, bike lanes or general purpose lanes that sent the bus into general purpose traffic. SDOT felt is simply wasn’t needed — the buses wouldn’t run much faster with BAT lanes or transit lanes. SDOT also made clear that if that isn’t the case — if there is congestion there — that BAT lanes (or transit lanes) could be added later.

      The streetcar is rather silly. Put it this way. Right now, consultants are looking at various alternatives to the streetcar. Instead of backing this terrible idea, transit advocates should be pushing for the exact same right of way on First, but used by buses instead. Sure, there are various issues involved (federal funding and all that) but in general, this would be way more popular. No one is complaining about the right of way — they are complaining about spending so much money on a silly, short, squiggly and looping downtown circulator that happens to create new dangers for the growing number of people using bikes downtown.


        Ross, I’m a hundred percent certain I’ve showed this one before, but really think it’s got some serious potential for Madison. Bus, streetcar, or both.

        Note that the vehicle carries no climbing mechanism at all. Cogwheel or grip. Of course our grip-car can be smaller and lighter. Streetcar shown here might date from the Austro Hungarian Empire. Which ended with the First World War. And probably mounted mountain artillery on them.

        Trieste is in Italy now, but used to be part of Austria-Hungary. Named “Rapid” or not, car shown here doesn’t crawl. For distance we need, looks like it’ll move fast enough it won’t either bore anybody or miss an appointment at Swedish.

        Would be a serious tourist-draw. World has a good pro-streetcar population. Really would draw admirers. Fast LINK ride from Sea-Tac is one of the things new tunnel is for. ‘Til somebody finds a cure for Viral Escalelevator Malfunction (VEM) we can learn to make them in-house.

        Just don’t let Boeing do it. Remember the Vertols in San Francisco.

        If we restored St. Louis Car Company- well, Seattle starts with an “S” too- on this note. First new PCC with this mechanism Would make America A Whole Lot Greater.

        MAAWLG sounds like good little triplet for the Seat Hog and the Tapmonkey. Or maybe that’s just the noise it’ll make. 1920’s model Chicago, North Shore, and Milwaukee interurban cars sounded pretty much like that when the motorman threw the throttle down when it cleared the Chicago city line northbound at Howard Street.


      2. Madison BRT will have more in the way of dedicated lanes (over 60%) along with 5% BAT lanes.

        That’s “will have” in the sense of “gee, wouldn’t it be great if…..”

  4. No bus service could accomplish it at all hours without the same dedicated lanes along First that are planned for the CCC. And those lanes are in the plan only because the CCC is a streetcar.

    That is simply not true. We have dedicated lanes for buses in various parts of the city. Madison BRT will have have more dedicated lanes than this project. More in terms of absolute distance, and more in terms of percentage. The two routes will cross twice. In downtown, the bus and streetcar will share the same lane. On First Hill, the bus will run in a transit lane, while the streetcar will sit in traffic.

    1. I think the author’s point is that there isn’t yet a continuous dedicated transit lane the length of the CCC. And you can always “dedicate” the lane the streetcar runs in after the fact (on Jackson St), if you have political courage.

      1. Problem with dedicated lanes on Jackson is the streetcar runs in the lefthand lane, while many bus routes (7, 36, 106) use the righthand lane. Making one lane bus-only would clog up the other lane, particularly during rush hour.

        If the First Hill streetcar wasn’t a streetcar, we could just move it back to the right-hand lane and paint it read. But we cannot.

        Since we can’t move the streetcar, maybe one day the 7 & 36 can have lefthand doors and use the streetcar center island stops on Jackson.

      2. >> think the author’s point is that there isn’t yet a continuous dedicated transit lane the length of the CCC.

        Yes, but my point is that it simply false to say that is only possible with a streetcar, when Madison will have the same thing — and more! More in the way of center lane running and fewer delays (the only part of the line that is running in general purpose traffic has very little traffic). You could chalk that up to Madison being in a less demanding part of town, but that ignores the fact that when they cross, the bus will have a bus lane, but the streetcar will be stuck in traffic! It is pretty hard to claim that streetcars make it easy to get right of way, when for two very similar lines, it got less.

        On the other hand, it is pretty easy to argue that times are simply changing. It is easier and easier to get dedicated transit lanes. It is possible to get center running lanes (even before we have the vehicles to use them). There will always be controversies and conflicts. Some streets have them more than others (Jackson, for example, is really well suited for bikes). But overall, there is no evidence to support the idea that it is easier to get right of way for streetcars — quite the opposite. Even from a practical standpoint (not a political one) it is harder to get the right of way, because streetcar tracks pose a hazard. Either you simply endanger bike riders, or you need more of the precious street space that everyone is fighting over.

      3. “Madison will have the same thing — and more!”

        Madison is unique in Seattle’s history, and the city has shown no indication to apply that level of improvement to any of the other RapidRide lines or transit bottlenecks. Not on Roosevelt, not on 23rd, not on Rainier, and probably not on 45th. The most we’ve heard is that there might be eight blocks of transit lanes on 45th. Or maybe not.

      4. @Mike — Correct. Not on Broadway either. Maybe if the streetcar was a bus it would have a transit lane.

        Seriously though, that really proves my point. There is nothing special about a streetcar politically that makes it easier to get right-of-way. Each street is its own challenge. Roosevelt and Rainier have competition with bikes. I will say, though, that Rainier isn’t done yet, and it wouldn’t surprise me if over time it gets extra right of way for buses. 23rd is just too narrow — you can’t fit in general purpose lanes and bus lanes. 45th has a lot of promise, along with challenges. Folks make a big deal about parking, but parking is the easiest thing to take. Sure, people complain, but at the end of the day, the parking goes away (they went away on Eastlake, but the space went to bikes, not buses). Between the U-District and the freeway the challenge is general purpose traffic. Is the city willing to let traffic snarl worse to serve buses? The short answer is maybe — as they did on Denny (albeit only for a couple blocks).

        The point is, each battle is unique, and the mode (streetcar or bus) has nothing to do with it.

      5. “it wouldn’t surprise me if over time it gets extra right of way for buses”

        Over time, yes, I believe there will probably be a major shift away from SOVs and overwhelming demand for top-rate transit and walkable neighborhoods and the US will become like other countries. Maybe after the 20th century generation dies out. But that doesn’t help the issue of what will improve my mobility and other non-drivers’ mobility in the next few decades. Maybe it will start happening by the 2030s, hopefully, but we can’t count on it.

      6. The main challenge with the streetcar on Jackson and Broadway is signal priority, not getting stuck in traffic. In one year of riding it several times a week, was never stuck in traffic on the streetcar. I did spend quite some time waiting at red lights, though. Slightly annoying when the steeetcar has to wait for one or two cars to pull up to the station at Pike/Pine then has to wait another light cycle, but again, this is mostly a signal timing issue. Complete blockage by traffic may happen a few times a year with events/parades, which is likely to affect the Madison Rapid Ride as well. By the way, does Madison Rapid Ride get full preempt signal priority? I doubt it but I honestly don’t know. However, if not, it would just as likely be stuck at the red light as the streetcar passes by, than vice versa.

      7. The biggest problem is the turns at Bwy & Yesler, 14th & Yesler, and 14th & Jackson. The streetcar often sits there for thirty seconds at each one.

      1. They’re from 8th to 14th (and a half block further). That sounds like six blocks but there are several named streets between 9th and 10th. Only a couple of them are in the narrow definition of downtown west of I-5, but in the context of the emerging Center City (Mercer-12th-Weller) it’s a dramatic improvement. There are block-by-block satellite images in appendix R of the NEPA environmental report.

      2. From 8th to 14th. In other words–not in downtown proper. From 1st to 8th the lanes are shared with cars in various ways (mostly allowing right turns, I believe).

      3. In terms of “Seattle Transit time frames” March 15, 2017 was the Cretaceous Era. If you haven’t noticed, there are no buses that can do what RRG needs; ergo, there are no Federal Funds for RRG.

        Trump somehow just canceled the COLA’s for Federal Employees which is mandated by law. Sure, he’ll be taken to court and probably lose but it will have revved up his base for the Midterm elections and maybe saved a half dozen House seats.

        Do you really believe that Elaine Cho is going to give Seattle money for “Madison BRT” in this climate, especially after we’ve just poked the FTA in the eye to the tune of $75 million?

        I guess this is a seventh-dimensional chess way of getting Link stopped at Northgate and Midway. Well, at least you get to be right.

    2. Furthermore — do you think this project would be so damn controversial if it wasn’t a streetcar? Look at Madison BRT. They have the same problem (with the vehicles) but is anyone saying it should be killed? Did members of the council oppose it? Did former city council members come out in opposition?

      No, of course not. Because the plan is solid, and it simply needs the proper buses.

      The same would have been true for First Avenue if wasn’t a streetcar. This whole idea that “only streetcars can get special right of way” is absurd (and demonstrably false). It is also backwards. Imagine if instead of this plan, SDOT connected the 70 and 7 via First Avenue, as RapidRide routes. Run in dedicated center lanes on Jackson as well as on First Avenue. Run the buses often — every six minutes all day long. Overlap them if you want (to get 3 minute headways downtown). Would there be any organized opposition? Would members of the bike community complain about the risks? Would others complain that it is too expensive, since it only covers a small section of the city? Would people criticize the route, for being short, squiggly and looping? Of course not, because it wouldn’t be any of those things. Connecting the 7 and 70 via dedicated lanes on First Avenue would be embraced by everyone.

      You really have it backwards. The only reason this project is controversial — the only reason this project is second rate — is because it is a streetcar.

      1. Connecting the 7 and 70 via dedicated lanes on First Avenue would be embraced by everyone

        Well, everyone who wanted to go from Rainier Avenue to First Avenue or Eastlake Avenue to First Avenue. Those who want to go to Fourth of Fifth where they work? Those who want to go to the government center or Library?

        Not so much.

      2. We can imagine bus lines all we want, but we don’t have an actual bus option with fully equivalent ROW on the table, and certainly not one that is two thirds of the way already done with Fed grants paying a large portion of the last third. If anything, the future of RapidRide expansion is a bit tentative. However, I suppose that for what we save by canceling the streetcar, considering all the sunk costs, we could build new shelters and arrival time signs on 1st, maybe some bus bulbs like at Yesler and Pike/Pine, and get more busses to run in mixed traffic–that’s about it. It would be an improvement, and I’d ride those busses, but all told it may be the most expensive mixed traffic bus corridor in the country?

    3. All these claims about “Madison BRT” this and “Madison BRT” will have that seem a bit hollow given the last two weeks. At least, it does to me.

      1. Madison BRT is being watered down to the point of an express bus, if they can even find one that will work with the grades.

        It might be time to just can Madison BRT and put the money elsewhere. Because it appears tht it is going to be another big, fat, nothing burger.

        Move the money to bike and ped improvements.

      2. It shouldn’t even be referred to as BRT, at this point. There is currently no genuine BRT plan on the table for the Seattle area, though the Swift expansions up on SnoCo come closer.

      3. It’s useless to debate the threshold for genuine BRT. The word has been used in so many different ways by so many people that it’s a never-ending debate. It’s better to just have an agreed-upon scale of BRT levels and determine where a service falls on this scale. Swift is better than RapidRide. Curitiba is better than Swift. Unfortunately the scale doesn’t say you have to have “A, B, and C” to get a silver level; it just says that the silver level has a substantial combination of A, B, and/or C, so it’s a wide judgment call what qualifies. But it’s better than endlessly arguing whether Swift is BRT or RapidRide is BRT. In fact, “BRT” was just the planning name for the service. It’s officially called RapidRide G now — no BRT in the name. The informal name BRT remains because of inertia — and as an epithet by anti-transit activists.

      4. @MO,

        it’s not inertia that leads to the retention of the term BRT, it is politics. The politicians promised us “true” BRT if we approved Sound Move, and that is what we did as voters. The fact that now this administration is backing off to delivering just RapidRide when we were promised BRT, and and that they might be backing off even further than that, doesn’t change the fact that the voters were promised BRT and pretty much expect BRT.

        The voters were promised true BRT, anything less is a breach of trust

      5. They promised RapidRide lines better than the existing ones. They never said it would be like Curitiba or Swift.

      6. All these claims about “Madison BRT” this and “Madison BRT” will have that seem a bit hollow given the last two weeks. At least, it does to me.

        The point is that it completely destroys the ridiculous notion that the only way to get right-of-way is with streetcars. Let’s review:

        Streetcar — Controversial from the start. Managed to give a relatively small portion of the route exclusive right-of-way or even BAT lanes. Nothing was done about existing congestion or other known weaknesses in the line that make it especially slow. Had organized opposition from the bike community, as well as several current and former city council members. Work on the project was halted after the new mayor became aware of falsehoods spread by SDOT. Further investigation suggested problems with the new vehicles. The project is being studied while various issues as well as alternatives are being studied

        Madison BRT — Supported by several groups from the start. Managed to give 60% of it exclusive right-of-way, and 5% BAT lanes. All of the congested areas were given transit right-of-way, while studies performed by SDOT concluded that it wasn’t necessary — at this time — to provide any more. They also said that further right-of-way could be added if it is needed. Federal funding is stalled as the company that said it was going to deliver the buses has backed out of its commitment and the city suggests alternatives. No one has suggested killing the project or finding alternatives — only alternative buses.

        Now just imagine the situation was reversed. Imagine that streetcars were being planned for the second project, and buses for the first. Just about all the streetcar fans would be taking about political rail bias. Of course they would. It has *more right-of-way*. The important congestion issues are being addressed for Madison, while they are being ignored for the streetcar.

        No one is saying that each project is perfect, or that the handling by SDOT was superb — far from it — they dropped the ball on both projects. But it is simply absurd to suggest that the streetcar owes its relative good fortune in acquiring right-of-way when a different project (that happens to cross it twice) has more. Not only more in the way of right-of-way, but more effective right-of-way! When all is said and done, most of the CCC will still be slow, while Madison BRT will be fast. Not only will the vehicles move quickly, but for any trip on the route it will be the fastest way to get there. You can’t say that with the streetcar, because some of the trips will continue to be ridiculously slow, and the only way to fix that would be to move the rails.

  5. Either a streetcar is a better mode of transportation to solve this transit service goal — or it isn’t. It is NOT a better answer because some folks are willing to set aside a traffic lane for a streetcar instead of a bus. That’s just a waste of money. Dedicate the lane and bring back the bus service that worked just fine for many people before.

    More importantly, the southbound traffic problem in the afternoon should be nonexistent or at least drastically reduced once the Viaduct is torn down because there won’t be any concentrated highway onramp entrance sitting there any more.

    I’m a fan of streetcars if we want to implement them properly — as rapid transit, like in Europe. I oppose them here in the U.S. when they’re continually implemented as slow-moving, development-promoting, tourist photo ops.

    1. “It is NOT a better answer because some folks are willing to set aside a traffic lane for a streetcar instead of a bus. That’s just a waste of money. Dedicate the lane and bring back the bus service that worked just fine for many people before.”

      That’s politically impossible in the current environment. The alternatives we can get are transit lanes for a streetcar and buses, or nothing. A transit lane for buses is an imaginary notion. If you want to hold your breath and wait for it, go ahead, but others are more pragmatic and take the best choice that’s available.

      1. >> A transit lane for buses is an imaginary notion.

        What??? How can you say that Mike, given the transit lanes that will go to Madison BRT?

        You have it completely backwards. In the current political environment in Seattle, streetcars are less popular than buses. It is easy to criticize our streetcars, just for being streetcars. They are expensive and inflexible (both for daily operations and in the long run). They are a danger to bike riders. In Seattle, they follow a very bad route, that no one with any knowledge of transit can defend. Sure, there are people who love them, but such love hasn’t translated into high ridership, as both lines have failed to meet expectations.

        Again, I point to the contrast with the Madison BRT project and the streetcar one. The streetcar project has been way more controversial for the entire time, while Madison has sailed through with enthusiasm. The only criticisms are that it doesn’t do even more, while acknowledging that it will be better than any other surface transit in the city and much more reliable and faster end to end than the streetcar.

        There is no reason why we can’t paint the lanes red and run buses there. it really comes down to whether we want to use the center lanes (with special buses) or BAT lanes (so any route can use it). Either approach would be way more popular than running the streetcar.

      2. “How can you say that Mike, given the transit lanes that will go to Madison BRT? You have it completely backwards. In the current political environment in Seattle, streetcars are less popular than buses”

        Show me the other transit lanes. Where on 45th or Aurora has the city proposed transit lanes for more htan a few blocks? Where has it proposed transit lanes on 23rd, Rainier, Pike-Pine, or any other street at all? We’ve been asking for transit lanes for years on Aurora like Shoreline and south King County have but the city always says no.

      3. Correction: BAT lanes in Shoreline and south King County. But that’s my point: we’re arguing from such a low level that BAT lanes are a major achievement.

      4. There are over 20 east-west streets between Jackson and Denny. There are five complete north-south streets. Do the math; it’s a heck of a lot easier to get a single lane on each of a pair of east-west streets than it is to get a pair of lanes on a north-south street.

      5. >> There are over 20 east-west streets between Jackson and Denny.

        But most of them end well before 23rd. More to the point, are you really saying that First Avenue is a more important corridor than Madison? Seriously? First is just one of the many north-south streets in a city full of north south streets. Holy cow — the freeway runs north-south, the viaduct runs north-south and the new tunnel (when complete) will run north-south. Between Yesler and Mercer (let alone Denny) there are only a handful of arterials that connect from 23rd to the waterfront. Denny, Olive, Madison, James, Yesler and Jackson. That’s it. There are several streets that don’t make it across the freeway (Union, University, Marion, Columbia, etc.). There are also a lot of streets that end very quickly after crossing the freeway. Some merge into bigger streets, while a lot just end (Seneca, Spring, Cherry). Even Pike and Pine — each major east-west streets, end at Madison. The point is, you shut down Madison and you make it very difficult to get from the east side of the city to downtown. You are detouring several blocks out of your way. If First Avenue is shut down, you go a block or two — that’s it. First Avenue was given transit priority because it really was no big deal to give it transit priority. Madison was given transit priority because the city placed a lot of value on transit, despite the obvious hit to general purpose traffic.

      6. Ross, you are hopeless. We’re talking about downtown. Even if you include First Hill and run it out north to Mercer and over to Broadway there are TWO more unbroken street that runs from Jackson to Mercer, Boren and Broadway. Two more.

        And yes, I certainly consider First Avenue a more important arterial than Madison. You obsess that Madison is somehow categorically different from Pike/Pine, Denny/Olive, Seneca/Union, James/Cherry because it doesn’t bend and has the same name all the way to Madison Park. But all of those streets, plus of course Yesler and Jackson itself run at least to 23rd and most run as arterials to the top of the Lake Washington bluffs. None of I-5, existing US 99 nor the future US 99 carries local traffic or bus riders between points in downtown Seattle, nor does Alaskan Way at the western fringe and the bottom of a long bluff.

        First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Avenues, plus Boren and Broadway are the only streets that run the full distance through downtown Seattle, regardless how widely you define “downtown”.

        As a result, each one of them is much more important than any of the east-west streets. Just look at the traffic counts. This is not a secret.

    2. For making the connection between two *existing* streetcar lines, a streetcar IS the best transit option, from a purely transit perspective. Period, end stop.

      No matter what bus lines we can imagine, it doesn’t change the fact that we have built two thirds of the system and invested in priority improvements, and that most of the cost of the final third is sunk costs at this point, and that we have *already ripped up the street* to build the damn thing.

      1. For making the connection between two *existing* streetcar lines, a streetcar IS the best transit option, from a purely transit perspective. Period, end stop.

        So what? Who cares. The point is to provide good transit, not to connect two poorly designed transit routes. When all is said and done, the result will not be a good route. Quite the opposite — it will be one of the worst transit routes in our system. Seriously, which route is worse? I’m not talking about the number of riders (we have plenty of coverage routes) but which route — end to end — has a worse design? There are plenty of silly detours (e. g. the 50, as it goes to the V. A.) but a line that is short, squiggly and looping? It is the leader.

      2. The only reason the route is “squiggly” is because of the First Hill segment.

        Imagine this system, which the CCC won’t get us, but which the CCC is necessary to get to.

        Line 1: South Lake Union – Starbucks HQ via Westlake/Stewart/1st
        Line 2: KeyArena – Central District (Jackson/MLK) via 1st/Jackson
        Line 3: Broadway – Westlake via CCC routing

        Lines 1 and 2 are perfectly sensible transit routes. Line 3 is U-shaped, but really does two things: connect Broadway with the International District and increase frequency on First. I would have no trouble defending this system as very good transit, especially if frequency on each line is 8 minutes or better and all of 1st and Jackson get dedicated transit lanes.

      3. David, THANK YOU. I’ve been advocating for the two extensions on First Avenue since the CCC came up. It’s the perfect downtown circulator linking the high density neighborhood between Battery and Denny west of Second Avenue to food at the market and International District and entertainment in Pioneer Square and at the stadiums.

        It’s nice to have the argument put forth by someone that folks respect and listen to.

      4. >> The only reason the route is “squiggly” is because of the First Hill segment.

        Yes, and the only reason I can’t dunk is because I’m not a great athlete. What is your point? Do you think the city is going to move the First Hill Streetcar (at great expense)? It is pretty easy to imagine they would if it was a bus route. But it isn’t — which is one of the many weaknesses of investing in streetcar lines. It is measure-twice, cut-once technology, similar to light rail. Not to the same degree, but similar. Metro proposed several restructures in the last few years including proposed changes in the First Hill/Capitol Hill area. But guess what? No one suggested moving the streetcar route, even though it is obviously flawed. Wire was moved for buses on Queen Anne, yet nothing was even proposed for the streetcar line that I would say is more flawed.

        Meanwhile, the squiggly part is only part of the problem. It is also a looping circulator, that makes many trips of a mile or so ridiculous. Again, we are stuck with the First Hill route. Are you saying we should just abandon it, and then spend a bunch more money on different lines? Yeah, that will be super popular. Good God, look how many teeth had to be pulled just for this one tiny section that actually connects the two lines — and it hasn’t even been approved yet. All the advantages of making this little connection — the federal money, having one barn, adding value to the existing South Lake Union line — and we still don’t have unanimous approval by the city council, while the mayor ponders its fate. Again, that wouldn’t happen if this was a bus route.

        Now you think folks in this town are eager to see streetcars replace bus routes? That is ridiculous.

        You can find opposition to streetcars everywhere. You can find it on national transit blogs. You can even find it here — on this very blog! Not by “Page 2” cynics like me, but major contributors, like Bruce Nourish ( Where is the opposition to BRT? Seriously, I can’t find it. Not here, not nationally, nowhere. Sure, there are people who complain when compromises are made to a BRT project, just as there are people who complain when compromises are made to a subway project. Join the club. But people who think that building right-of-way that can only be used by buses? No one opposes that. Seriously, when the bus tunnel was built, was there any opposition from anyone who cares about transit? Of course not. Yet you can find article after article by transit advocates — people who really, sincerely, want to see improved transit in this country — complaining about wasting money on pointless streetcars.

        For good reason! Few have bothered to say a streetcar would be better than a bus, because of course it wouldn’t. It wouldn’t come more often, or run faster. So now we have really tortured arguments. We should push forward with it — despite the widespread opposition — because it is a special mode that doesn’t garner opposition. We should connect the route to form a short, squiggly circulator, because someday we might build something else. It is a mode searching for a route, not bothering to consider that buses could (and probably will) provide much better, much more sensible transit options in the future.

        Come on David, just look at your proposed map, from a few years ago: That was brilliant, and one of the best things ever written on this blog. I happen to think that it influenced Metro. In what world does the proposed streetcar line fit in with that idea? The simple answer is that it doesn’t. It stands out like a sore thumb. No route comes close it in terms of being squiggly, or looping. The only route that is about as short is the 47, which was shifted over a couple blocks to provide service on First. You might argue that it needs more service, or that it should be extended, or that First Avenue should have other bus routes as well, but no one in their right might would call that route stupid. Because it isn’t! It is a straightforward, north-south route. Every possible trip along that route makes sense. At no point would you be tempted to jump off the bus, walk a few blocks, and then catch it again (just for kicks). Yet the proposed streetcar route has a ton of those. Seriously — at Yesler it takes 13 minutes to walk over to First Avenue. It takes longer than that for the streetcar to get to First, and it hasn’t even made it up to Yesler yet. That is walking! When it comes to transit, there are a lot better options.

        That is the problem with sinking money into the streetcar. Either it eventually becomes a white elephant (not unlike the monorail after Link gets to the Seattle Center) or we forever think the area is “covered” by a poorly designed route. No reason to provide better service for First, because five minute headways (on average) are just fine, while buses continue to crowd Third Avenue. Maybe a route down 12th, then heading downtown would make sense, but hey, that is too close to being like the streetcar, so we can’t have that. Investing in a mode that offers no advantages, yet is full of disadvantages (including lack of flexibility) is really a bad idea. We may be stuck with it — it may cost more to abandon this project then continue it — but at no point can anyone say that it is the best option.

      5. RossB, unfortunately, I don’t have time to craft a proper response to this. I’ll just say two things:

        1) You really ought to add some context and put it on Page 2.

        2) The FNP was designed in an extremely different environment from today. We were in a situation in 2013 where resources were constrained and becoming more constrained, literally to the point where we had to think about every available seat on a bus. But even in that environment I thought the Pioneer Square/Pike Place connection was essential and needed some kind of service not on 3rd, which is why I found the extra two buses to extend my version of the 47 down there. Now, we have a chance to restore that connection with 5-minute service and to make it accessible to a few other key destinations.

        We’ve been over the ground of why I think you are wrong on the politics of streetcar/bus, and I’d just add that I’d bet a bag full of anti-tax-tainted Dick’s burgers that opposition to center bus lanes among First Ave merchants/hotels and the Market community would have been deafening. But I think you’re also underselling the utility of the CCC itself as a transit connection, despite its squiggliness. There’s no question the First Hill segment is the worst, and I think of it mostly as a sunk cost that is relatively cheap operationally. But the rest (and the expansions it might make possible in the future) has a lot of merit, even as it’s something qualitatively different from straight fast bus lines designed to cover distance.

  6. This article completely misses the point that we don’t need a streetcar to do what it’s proponents claim it’s going to do.

    Take the same right of way being dedicated to the streetcar, and put buses on it.

    1. Here is an interesting article about modes and capacity.
      NoSpin to answer/address your query form earlier. No one would ever chose a street car. It really a equation based on expected demand and operational cost to pay operator and maintain the fleet.
      The inekon tams which are the current street car fleet have a capacity of 200 passengers which is a double what a 60′ coach can seat. So if you want to use buses instead of a street car your will need to double the number of operators.
      So if the street car was going to run on 10 minute headway from 5AM to 11PM = 18hr and have a round trip of 1 hr and operators working 9 hr shift you would need 12 operators for the streetcar and double that for ta bus line 24. If the Average bus driver salary is 75K /year then yearly operating cost for the operators would be 900k for street car and 1.8 million for bus drivers. That is difference of 900k/year assuming the maintenance costs are equal.
      Other factors include they is no more capacity at the current bus bases for more buses and the availability of operators which why Seattle has not been able to get the services hours it has been requesting from king county metro. All these thing are considered when choosing whether use a bus or a street car line.

      1. The current streetcars are the same size as our big buses. They have roughly the same internal space (the buses have a little bit more, but the difference is very small). The only reason one vehicle could carry more than another is seat arrangement (which can be done just as easily on one versus the other).

        Now, in theory we could buy bigger streetcars. However, doing so incurs extra cost. If they are longer, then we may need to make the stops longer. Doing that can really add up. Is it worth it? No, because there is another consideration.

        The CCC would run parallel to Third Avenue. Third Avenue is a major bus corridor. So much so that we actually have *too many* buses on Third. That is because the buses on Third Avenue are not only providing excellent intra-downtown service, but they are helping riders get from outside downtown to the other end of downtown. For example, the E doesn’t just stop at Denny or Pike, it goes all the way to Jackson (as far south as the streetcar will go). Similarly, the C ends at South Lake Union. That is why the streetcar — while not strictly speaking redundant because it will be the first to serve First Avenue — is redundant from a network standpoint. We don’t need more buses going from one end of downtown to the other — we actually have too many. We have enough to provide excellent intra-downtown service (much better than the proposed CCC) but we have so many that we don’t have enough space for them. The obvious answer, therefore, is to shift a few buses over to First Avenue.

        Doing so is much cheaper than building a new line, whether it be a highly efficient streetcar line (which we have no interest in building) or a stand-alone, South Lake Union to Jackson bus route (which no one has been silly enough to propose).

      2. Ross, you cavalierly ignore the hills in the middle of downtown Seattle. The vast majority of riders on the E, C, 7 and 70 your professed targets for banishment to First Avenue are headed for somewhere in downtown on or east of Third Avenue.

        No, it doesn’t matter south of Yesler or north of Union; the intervening streets are flat enough for people to walk with no problem. But from University to James IT. DOES. MATTER.

        The CCC is meant for downtown short-trip riders, including tourists. Leave the RapidRides alone; they’re for riders from the various neighborhoods of the city to get to points in downtown.

      3. Seriously, Richard? We have hundreds of buses carrying tens of thousands of riders downtown, and you think we should have short, stand-alone buses that go around in loops? Seriously? Do you really think Metro would come up with a bus route like that, as a means of serving First Avenue? Seriously?

        Of course not. Hey, guess what — walking from Fourth to Second Avenue is no picnic either, yet every day we have buses running on Fourth as well as Second. In fact the exact same bus! Oh, woe are the riders, as they toil away trying to just ride the same bus!

        Sorry, I’m being flippant. Of course it is a burden for those riders to go up and down a steep hill, to catch their bus every day. But it isn’t the end of the world, and no one has suggested we just move all the buses to Third Avenue, because that would magically make life easier. The fact is, people have to walk — sometimes several blocks — to their destination. Or they take another bus.

        Speaking of which, if the 70 and 7 were connected via First Avenue, it would run by Third Avenue. That means that someone who wanted to get somewhere on Third Avenue would simply hop of their bus, and hop onto a bus on Third. Buses travel frequently there, so basically no waiting. That will soon be an off-board payment area, which means no tapping either. Nothing could be easier. Meanwhile, the combined routes would be very close to five stations. Someone riding the 7 could get off at Mount Baker, Judkins Park or I. D. Someone riding the 7 could walk a few (level) blocks to catch Link, or catch it as it goes by Westlake. You have all the advantages of the CCC (works well for short trips) plus all the advantages of sensible routing (works well for medium and long trips).

        Meanwhile, it makes way more sense for connecting to First Avenue. It is a frequent, easy way to get from Link or another bus to First Avenue. If we have a streetcar, you really can’t say that. It connects to fewer places and would run less often.

        Building a short, stand-alone route on First (whether a streetcar or bus) is really not a great idea.

    2. How will busses tie in with the rest of the streetcar network, making the two orphaned sections into a continuous line?

      1. I guess we’ll just have to remove the streetcars on the existing tracks, and purchase a bunch more buses. And undo all the streetwork for all the wrong-side boarding platforms. Or find a vendor who will build us both-side boarding electric-battery buses, since they probably won’t work with the voltage of the streetcar catenary. We’ll also need another downtown bus base. Not a cheap or easy to-do list.

      2. How will buses tie in with the rest of the streetcar network, making the two orphaned sections into a continuous line?

        They won’t. Instead they will run a more sensible route, connecting more people to more places, running faster and with better reliability.

        As to what happens with the existing streetcar — who cares? It isn’t like connecting the routes suddenly makes them great. First Hill is a terrible route, and connecting it to First Avenue won’t make it any better. The only way to improve it is to move it — which is much cheaper to do with a bus.

      3. You mean if we decomissioned the existing lines and converted them to the CCC and a bus route? The answer is, we wouldn’t. We’d beef up and build other transit routes serving a combination of these markets. Part of it them may be on 1st, maybe on 3rd, maybe from Pioneer Square to Uptown, who knows? That’s RossB’s point: we wouldn’t create a bus route along the streetcar’s alignment.

      4. I’ve wondered if a spiral loop cut into the yesler terrace hillside rising from Jackson to yesler between i5 and 10th would be able to rise enough to remove the first hill streetcar dog leg and many of the hazardous intersections along the first hill route?
        Before the yesler terrace redevelopment and the construction of the streetcar dog leg to 14th the structure and grading for a spiral might have even been cost competitive with all the specialized trolley and track work required for the dog leg.

    3. While there can be a travel time advantage in an exclusive lane, it should be pointed out that the CCC will have to go through intersections with pedestrians crossing every block — hopefully without beg buttons. It will also have to make three turns in each direction at intersections Downtown that have pedestrians. Further, the signals can’t reset their timing any quicker than when the streetcar pulls out of the closest stop. This means that it won’t travel any faster than Third Avenue does.

  7. This is the best argument for keeping the streetcar that I’ve seen so far. It’s a pity you didn’t write this a year ago or back when the CCC was first proposed. If others had picked up on it it would have changed the debate and the political environment somewhat throughout the process. The city says ridership will be huge but never says why we should believe that a large number of new riders will suddenly appear, or how many will go from where to where.

    1. Well, it is hard to believe the ridership projections since they whiffed on the FHSC projections. Of course, those projections assumed completion before U-Link, and may have assumed better frequency. The lack of frequency kills the streetcar as a local connector to Link.

      One of the benefits of connecting the lines is the opportunity for better frequency. However, no new frequency is planned for the existing tails, and not enough streetcars are being purchased to amp up the frequency on the whole line.

      Even if the CCC is finished, the small fleet is a headscratching way to cheap out on the project.

    2. I did write exactly the same ideas in SEVERAL comments starting more than a year ago. When the CCC was first proposed, as a matter of fact. No, I didn’t write a specific post, but who reads Page 2?

  8. Well put. While the city should definitely take a critical look at the practical utility of any proposed streetcar lines after the CCC, the CCC itself is a no-brainer.

    1. The city has already decided against more streetcars. The 2012 Transit Master Plan ranked several sets of priority corridors and the top level — Westlake, Eastlake, Roosevelt, and north Rainier — were recommended for streetcars. McGinn was a streetcar enthusiast so he pushed the CCC and gave ST money to study a Westlake streetcar as part of the Ballard-downtown Link study. None of them got beyond the concept stage. But the problems with the First Hill streetcar — defective trains, slowness, low ridership — made people less enthusiastic for streetcars, and the recession bus cuts in 2014-2015 focused people’s attention on the need to spend money wisely and get the most bang for the buck. So Murray came in and reversed all the other streetcar plans except the CCC which was already in late design and was arguably “the most critical” and had a grant pending. So Roosevelt reverted to BRT.

    2. Of course a future council could change its mind again, but there’s no sign of that now. I could see a streetcar on 1st from Seattle Center to SODO, and a streetcar on Jackson-Rainier to Mt Baker station.

      1. I agree for both of those. They’re natural extensions and make the Jackson center-lane problem go away. The 14 (or whatever it would be renumbered) and 36 are sufficient service for short hops along Jackson.

        The stretch of Rainier between Mt. Baker and Jackson is the single best opportunity Seattle has for truly high-density development in an area with reasonable land values. You can put towers there and only block a very few view properties, but above the 20th floor or so, the units would have views of downtown, Mt. Rainier, the Cascades or the Olympics. Wow, what an opportunity. Ideally it would be served by the Metro 8 subway (only elevated here), but a streetcar with reserved lanes would do very nearly as well.

      2. Of course a future council could change its mind again, but there’s no sign of that now.

        Have ye no faith in the ability of voters to readily fire furniture incumbents, and in the willingness of incumbents to draw themselves highly-competitive districts?

        Snark aside, I agree that one of the advantages of single-member districts is likely to be tenure for most of its members, which might lead to slightly more stability so transportation projects don’t get halted after each election. However, the big problem is that Seattle has a streak of one-term mayors, who each come in, let go a lot of the existing directors, and re-make each department to fit the agenda on which they campaigned (including private promises to the Chamber, etc). The most direct solution to that problem is to move to a City Manager form of government.

        Of course, then, you’ve got the school board, which fires its yellow bus contractor (as well as the superintendent) each time the majority changes, and re-hires the contractor the previous majority fired (based primarily on the contractors’ attitude toward unions). But they aren’t truly single-member representatives, and so, more volatile than our districted council.

      3. Oh, I don’t think the center lane problem goes away, even if we have center running buses or more streetcars. The problem is that center running takes more space, and Jackson makes sense as a bike corridor. The two issues, unfortunately, are in conflict. As much as I would love to see a 7 (and 36) running in the center in its own lane, that won’t please the bike advocates. Not that it would be worse than the current situation, but it wouldn’t be better. I see two compromises, both of which would involve the removal of the streetcar. First, run those buses on the right side, in BAT lanes. The second would be to run the buses in the center lanes, but get rid of the streetcar as a way to throw a bone to the biking community (bikers would still have to navigate Jackson without a bike lane, but at least they wouldn’t have to deal with the tracks). From a transit perspective, I think center running buses are ideal, but it isn’t clear to me how much difference they would make on Jackson (i. e. whether BAT lanes would be OK).

      4. Jackson would be easy to solve if we could only remove parking on one side. Put the buses in the center with the streetcars, keep a lane of GP traffic on the outside, and put a PBL on whichever side of parking you take away.

        Even without the PBL, having the buses in the center would be an improvement. I bike on Jackson regularly and the scariest thing that happens is when an eastbound bus makes an in-lane stop and there is no room to get around it without getting dangerously close to the tracks. If the bus stopped over the tracks, that problem would at least be solved.

      5. @David — Parking? I don’t see it: or Again, as a transit advocate I would love to see center running buses there (in transit only lanes). But then you simply don’t have enough space for bike lanes. You would have just enough for one general purpose lane each direction and that’s it.

        On the other hand, if you had BAT lanes (and regular bus stops), you could get rid of the center platform, and that would give you enough room for bike lanes.

        But yeah, your point about center transit lanes is a good one. One general purpose lane each direction (with no bike lane) would probably be safer. You would still have cars and trucks turning right, but you wouldn’t have buses stopped to pick up people. That would be my choice, but I doubt the bike community would be thrilled with a sharrow type solution (unless it came with eliminating the streetcar).

      6. As I recall, on of the major impediments to extension of the SLUT up eastlake was the failing fairview bridge structure. That bridge replacement will begin this fall. Does anyone know if the new structure will be forward compatible with a streetcar extension?

      7. @ 🚇🚠🚲💵 (if that is your real name)

        I doubt it. They looked at running the new RapidRide 70 as a streetcar, but rejected it. Too expensive, too much of a hazard to bikes, less mobile, etc. I don’t see how that would change in the future.

      8. McGinn recommended several streetcar corridors. Murray reverted all of them to BRT except the CCC. It was related to cost/benefit, not the Fairview bridge.

  9. I’ve noticed that STB will say a streetcar or train never is never redundant or duplicative of a bus route, but they almost always say a bus route duplicates a train. “The CCC doesn’t duplicate the buses going down 2nd and 3rd ave! Apples and Oranges!” But ask them about the 550 or 545 or 255 once East Link is running … “Redundant! Truncate them all!”

    1. You’re completely wrong, either because you don’t bother to read the stories or because your comprehension of the content is lacking lucidity. Everyone who reads the blog (trolls excepted) or even more, who writes for it, understands that the half-mile to mile spacing of stops on Link is not adequate for local service within urban zones.. That in fact high capacity transit has to be “shadowed” by local buses.

      What you are complaining about is the unwillingness of agencies to run long distance intercity services alongside Link. The reason for building and running high-capacity transit are two-fold. First, it allows urban areas to be denser which makes land use sense. But more to this point, it also allows significant labor cost savings because one operator can carry six to ten times as many people as a bus operator.

      Which just means that, once again, you have proven yourself incapable of making a genuine contribution to the discussion.

      Tlsgwm is similarly skeptical of the agencies, but he always makes it clear that he understands the basics of transit and is mostly upset about the financially shaky assumptions under which it is being built.

      There’s a difference.

      1. Let me put it another way. The CCC is an answer to a problem that doesn’t exist. It’s redundant. When Metro took the 99 off of 1st ave no one cared. No one missed it because no one took it. There’s no transit on Bellevue Way between 4th and 10th street, and the area is vibrant and flourishing. (Thank you Mr. Kemper Freeman. You are truly a great American hero and patriot). The only people clamoring for the CCC are rail fanboys. We were told that the SLUSC would solve transit problems. It didn’t. We were told the FHSC would solve the transit problems. It’s solved nothing. And the same will be true for the CCC.

        Sam. Fair and Balanced Transit News.

  10. By the time today is over, there will probably be 20 comments on this story that are along the lines of “but you can dedicate a lane to bus service just as easily and buses would have advantages A, B, C, and PP over a streetcar.” Consider this comment the response to all of them.

    Buses do not get effective dedicated right of way in this city. RapidRide G hasn’t been built yet, and given federal and local funding issues is very likely to be watered down. Every single currently existing bus lane in this city—every single one—has design issues that slow down buses. Essentially all of those design issues are because of compromises to accommodate cars, either car parking or extra lanes of car traffic at high-demand intersections.

    That’s not a problem with bus technology. It’s a problem with social perceptions of buses and how the political process around infrastructure works. But those are real things—honestly, more real, and harder to defeat, than any technological or operational detail of transit.

    Big infrastructure projects are symbols, things that executives and legislators can trumpet as accomplishments and raise money from. Bus lanes are small potatoes, and neither officials nor voters display the same sort of excitement about them. That’s hard to imagine from our wonky vantage point but it’s true and demonstrated over and over again. As a result it’s vastly harder for officials to keep small projects pure. The loud objectors, whether they are drivers or businesses who falsely think everyone comes by car, end up being the only people who actually care about the project. They usually get their pound of flesh, and that is why the bus lanes in Seattle are the way they are. That wouldn’t change if RossB or I were mayor.

    The genius of the CCC is that it wraps up a dedicated surface ROW—and a good one, one that solves a lot of longstanding problems—in a politically attractive rail mantle. There’s nothing saying that the streetcar is the only thing that can ever run on the ROW, especially once long-range battery buses become common. The 7/70 through-route idea RossB moots above would work great sharing the CCC’s ROW, with the same left-side-door equipment we’ll get (whatever it ends up being) for RapidRide G. Imagine any other First Avenue idea of your choice and you can do the same thing, without political headaches, because the ROW is already established.

    Separately, I suspect the faction of commenters that is satisfied with the existing 3rd Avenue service never actually travels to Pioneer Square by bus, or at least never does so at night. Prefontaine Place and Third and James are just not satisfactory places to wait in the dark, no matter if you’re a local or a tourist. On top of that, because of the intersecting grids at Yesler, they are hard to find and confusing for tourists. There’s a reason that Pioneer Square merchants are in favor of the CCC despite the disruption of construction, and it’s because the current Pioneer Square transit situation is deeply user-hostile, even if buses are “only two blocks away.” A streetcar that serves most major downtown destinations will be far more useful to Pioneer Square in particular, even if it’s a minute or two slower after wait time.

    1. “There’s nothing saying that the streetcar is the only thing that can ever run on the ROW”

      The ROW is explicitly designed to accommodate future bus routes. I said repeatedly in the early open houses that it must accommodate buses because we don’t know what future needs we’ll have. An SDOT rep assured me that the lanes would be compatible with buses.

    2. “Buses do not get effective dedicated right of way in this city.”

      Yes but,

      Streetcars do not get effective dedicated right of way in this city.

      This one won’t either, emphasis on effective.

      If we are making the lanes accessible to buses they will be accessible to cars. If they are accessible to cars; cars WILL use and block them. Hope the streetcar has a really loud horn…. or we could just run buses instead and they can drive around the jerks blocking the right of way.

      If we are making the lanes accessible to buses they will be accessible to bikes. If they are accessible to bikes; bikes WILL use and crash on them. Hope the streetcar has a good first aid kit…. or we could just run buses instead and their won’t be tracks posing a hazard 24 hours/day for eternity.

      1. Exactly – both the SLUT and the First Hill Streetcar get stuck in traffic.

        The SLUT in particular regularly gets caught up in traffic at Fairview and Valley just a couple of blocks after starting its southbound run from Fed Hutch, and again turning from westbound Valley into southbound Westlake, and yet again crossing backed-up traffic on Mercer. The average person can WALK from the terminal at Fred Hutch to the SLUT stop at Westlake and Mercer fast that the SLUT would get them there – especially if you count the time a rider would spend waiting for a tram.

        Yet somehow we’re supposed to believe that the CCC will be an exception. And that linking it with the other two dysfunctional streetcars will somehow result in a value-added network.

      2. If we are making the lanes accessible to buses they will be accessible to cars.

        That is not necessarily true. With bollards or exclusion chains cars can be effectively embargoed. Very few drivers would be tempted to drive in so clearly demarcated a facility, especially if they can’t get out quickly when they see a police officer. .

      3. @Richard — Yes, but that isn’t likely to happen. It hasn’t happened for the streetcar, and it hasn’t happened for the buses. The general problem is that it takes extra space. The bigger point is that with buses it is less of an issue. It is one of the great advantages of center running buses. If a car extends out a few feet into the lane, a bus lays on the horn, and swerves into the oncoming lane. Since the only vehicle in that oncoming lane is a bus, there really is no problem.

        Meanwhile, this doesn’t really address the point Tom and NoSpin made, which is that the existing streetcar route does not have much in the way of exclusive right-of-way. To say that streetcars are somehow political magic, and can get special treatment ignores the fact that they haven’t in the past.

      4. They could put a cattle guard on the front and just give the the right to push cars out of the way.

      5. And in the biggest bottleneck in Pioneer Square there will be no exclusive lanes because the street is considered too narrow.

    3. As another example, for any dedicated bus lane, the powers-that-be feel no compulsion to keep it open during construction. They simply close the lane and the buses move over into general traffic. This will never happen with the streetcar. They will find a way to do the same construction without closing the lane. I’ve been in bus lanes all over downtown that close for months so a building can go up or utilities can be laid, etc. Track prevents that.

    4. I agree with you in theory, but I’m not convinced the CCC is immune to the kind of watering down a bus lane would get. Being a streetcar/large infrastructure project certainly hasn’t given the FHSC or SLUT any priority over buses. We shall see how it plays out.

      1. The design of the CCC’s First Avenue segment that has been completed to date is excellent. (Stewart/Olive, on the other hand…)

        If it started to look worse, you can bet we’d sound the alarm.

      2. @David — Wouldn’t you say, though, that the design of Madison BRT is better, overall. I’m not talking about just one tiny section, but the overall route? Not only is the route better, but there is way more in the way of transit lanes. More importantly, the transit lanes are where you need them. The only place where buses mix with traffic is where SDOT said they aren’t a problem. With the streetcar, we know several places where there is major congestion (e. g. on Broadway) but the city will do nothing about it.

        I also think worrying about Madison BRT being further watered down is silly. The hard work has been done as far as right-of-way. It wouldn’t be any cheaper to turn around and run buses in mixed traffic. If cuts come, it will be to service (and possibly wire). Likewise, I really don’t see the CCC running in mixed traffic, since the big cost is to lay and operate rail. I could see the whole thing being cancelled, but not watered down (the thing is extremely wet as it is).

      3. If cuts come, it will hopefully be red buses first, and reversing the direction of the transit lanes so that we can use right-door buses.

    5. “Big infrastructure projects are symbols, things that executives and legislators can trumpet as accomplishments and raise money from. ”

      And who’s running for re-eleciton by trumpeting the success of the SLUT or the First Hill Streecar?

      They’re boondoggles that no politican in their right mind wants to be associated with.

      1. Exactly. This whole idea that the streetcars are popular, or that the extension is popular is ridiculous.

    6. >> RapidRide G hasn’t been built yet,

      Neither has the CCC!

      Holy cow, man, you are ignoring the fact that the Madison BRT will have way more right of way than the streetcar. Why is it the Madison BRT — as currently designed — will include 60% transit lanes and 5% BAT lanes, while the streetcars will only have a small section of dedicated right-of-way, despite known issues with congestion? All funding issues aside — why was the Madison BRT able to get so much in the way of new transit lanes, while the streetcar couldn’t?

      The obvious answer is because it was a bus. There was no issues involving bike safety. No issues involving the overall route (other than maybe it didn’t go far enough). No one on the city council opposed it, on the grounds that it was too expensive. Again, this was all for a bus route. Somehow they were able to do something that you claim is impossible — set aside lots and lots of lanes for buses. The funding issues (which also apply to the streetcar, obviously) are irrelevant. Somehow they were able to deal with people who wanted the lanes for parking or cars in general, and set aside way more space for buses, and provide for a much faster, more reliable route.

      The streetcars are simply not popular. The right-of-way on First was granted *despite* the fact that this was a streetcar. A plan involving bus lanes on First Avenue (such as running RapidRide+ versions of the 7 and 70 there) would have been *more* popular! Of course it would. Who would have objected? Bike riders? Hell no. City council members? Of course not. Just as with Madison BRT, it would have gone through without a hitch. No one is complaining about Madison BRT — in fact, people want it go farther (folks in Madison Park wanted it extended). But when the city wanted to extend the streetcar up Broadway, folks in the area objected.

      There may be financial reasons (with regards to the federal grants) to continue with this poorly thought out plan, but from a local political standpoint, it just doesn’t make sense. If the mayor comes back and proposes bus lanes instead of a streetcar, it will be more popular, not less. Transit advocates should be pushing for that, instead of pretending that this streetcar is a great value.

      1. The streetcars are simply not popular. The right-of-way on First was granted *despite* the fact that this was a streetcar. A plan involving bus lanes on First Avenue (such as running RapidRide+ versions of the 7 and 70 there) would have been *more* popular! Of course it would. Who would have objected? Bike riders? Hell no. City council members? Of course not.

        Ross, your perspective is often astute technically, but this take on politics is through a funhouse mirror. The political part is important, because the reason the CCC is a worthwhile project is fundamentally political (as is the case for some other things you hate for technical reasons, like West Seattle Link and the Everett Link extension). Let’s break the politics down.

        There is a baseline level of objection to transit ROW, especially conversion of existing ROW to transit, that will be present in equal measure no matter what mode will use the ROW. This is the parkers who refuse garages, the war on cars types, the businesses who think everybody comes by car, Faye Garneau, and Toby Thaler. This opposition doesn’t have much electoral clout (anymore), but knows the process very very well and is often successful in manipulating it at the public feedback stage. If the bureaucracy were made up of true urbanist believers, this opposition might not matter at all. But the bureaucracy is conflicted internally and, in the absence of heavy pressure from above, often responds to anti-transit public feedback.

        Meanwhile, “heavy pressure from above” is driven by both executive and legislative elected officials’ feelings about projects. Some of that may be based on technical merit, especially with the wonkier type of official that we have in a couple of City Council positions. But for the most part it is based on how officials think the projects will reflect on them at the ballot box. And what drives those perceptions is a mix of news coverage, visibility, and ability to be distilled into a succinct talking point for fundraising and advertising purposes. Even if you were to ask people directly whether they prefer streetcars or center bus lanes on 1st and the answer was “bus lanes”—which I doubt it would be—that has little to do with how the two projects would affect officials’ electoral performance. The streetcar gets media attention, it gets a splashy ribbon-cutting ceremony, and it allows the officials to say “We brought new trains to the city.” That’s core to how officials get elected, and it’s why underfunding of maintenance in favor of new projects is always a chronic problem in government. Meanwhile, if you schedule a ribbon-cutting for a new bus lane featuring RapidRide service on day one, Mike Lindblom and a few transit geeks will show up.

        The CCC gets the politicians what they need, giving them an incentive to supervise the project closely and prevent its watering down, while not forestalling use of the same ROW for all sorts of bus projects later.

      2. “The right-of-way on First was granted *despite* the fact that this was a streetcar.”

        That’s baseless speculation. The streetcar project is being pushed because that’s where the existing streetcar lines happen to terminate. If that factor didn’t exist, First Avenue would be low priority and it would get a bus like the 14 or 36 (but diesel powered because they wouldn’t install trolley wire for it).

      3. Ross, still think my cogwheel streetcar idea would bring everybody around to your side. Especially since I don’t see any reason it won’t work with buses too.

        I think counterbalance techs though about trying it with trolleybuses- but probably too light to tug each other up the hill.

        Don’t want to mention a creature that there are more ways to line a pair of gloves with because I don’t want my sofa clawed to shreds, everything breakable (and carefully, nothing else) shattered all over the tile under the mantel piece.

        And five hundred miles of toilet paper going out the basement window after the house is full and all the way to Ellensburg. Sorry kitty. Meant drive a bulldozer real fast.


      4. I have never claimed that support for West Seattle or Everett rail was anything but political. Of course that is why it happened. People love subways, and assume it is the best way to solve their transit problems (even when it isn’t).

        But this isn’t a subway. This is a mode that is simply not popular. Again, I point to the organized opposition that exists for the streetcar that doesn’t exist for the similar Madison BRT project. I can also cite other examples. The bus tunnel is one. A major project that was designed to serve only buses. The MoveSeattle project allocated money for buses (not nearly enough) and made a big deal about including transit, but specifically mentioned that the money wasn’t going to go to the streetcar (because they knew the streetcar was less popular than improving bus service).

        I don’t know why you think there is widespread support for the streetcar, given what has happened over the last six months. Holy cow, it is largely funded by federal dollars, largely complete, combines the two tracks (however poorly), provides the only service on First Avenue (at this point in time) yet it has strong opposition. It has grudging support at best — which I’ve said is quite reasonable, given how far along it is. Holy cow, it might cost more to kill it than built it, yet there is still widespread opposition.

        No one really wants to cut that ribbon. Seriously — I have no idea what the polling is on it, but there is widespread derision towards it, in ways that don’t apply to the buses. I have talked to several people — people who love Link, and ride the buses all the time — and they generally make fun of or hate the streetcar. They think it is stupid, not even realizing that the part they are building will actually run faster than the rest of the poorly designed line. These are people who could take it right now (to get to South Lake Union) but just walk or take a bus. Opponents include people who work on First Avenue — their key market — and they think it is stupid. Expansion northward (on Broadway) was shot down because of local opposition. That doesn’t include the thousands of bike riders who oppose it. Seriously, get on the Seattle Bike Blog and see if people love this thing. Nope. Now ask them about improving bus service, or Madison BRT for that matter. Nothing but love (or at the very least, like).

        A politician would have to be idiot to run on their support of the streetcar *in this city*. Sure, there are places where they made a streetcar project a big deal. Again, largely by suggesting it is was the only way to improve transit in that area (while areas like Providence who switched over to buses laughed at them and were applauded for their efforts). But in this town, we want transit that works, and transit that is cost effective. The streetcar isn’t that, nor has it ever been that.

    7. A little more accounting here. We’ve got two brand new (in transit terms) streetcar lines, one at each end of Downtown. Each going through commercial neighborhoods that are only going to get bigger and more crowded.

      Every major operating problem fixable by giving them their own lanes and traffic signals. What taxpaying motorists won’t tolerate for transit now, they’ll like less the approaching time when their cars will be moving faster in a parking lot being spun by the world than in mixed traffic.

      So let’s calculate the value of the separate existing car-lines as opposed to when they get through service with nobody forced to transfer to a bus to get between their western ends. Name me one mile of the Interstate highway system deliberately designed that way to save money.

      Let’s get the demographics that count. Survey of every business interest along the route. Pike Place Market Association to Pioneer Square equivalent. They nix it… CCC has got a problem. They like it? Demand a lot wider sidewalks. Nobody’s going to keep you aboard the streetcar at gunpoint, though based on San Francisco you might want to start pushing your way toward the door before you leave your departing stop.

      Mark Dublin

  11. Word on the street is that the mayor hasn’t’ released her CCC SC report because the report is even more favorable to SC over buses on 1st than was the original SDOT estimates. She was hoping that the report would give her ammo to kill the project, but what have we heard since she saw it? crickets! Nothing but crickets.

    The truth is that buses on this route just won’t match the performance, the ridership, or the economics of a SC based CCC. The city should get over it, end these silly mode wars, build the CCC to create one single integrated SC line, then take some data and some time and decide what to do next about quality transit.

    But hey, I don’t have any illusions about this mayor. She appears to be solidly anti-transit, or at least anti-infrastructure investment. It’s a shame we don’t have a builder in office like Nickels. He knew how to get things done.

    1. That is ridiculous. Why would more people ride the streetcar — a route that everyone admits is terrible — than buses that connect to more places? That is just absurd. The only reason the mayor delayed releasing the initial report is that she wanted more details — details that take time to research.

      1. *Of course* busses go more places because there are more bus lines. I doubt anyone expects streetcar ridership to exceed bus system ridership! Passenger per mile may be a better metric. RR-E gets 16K daily riders, but has to go way up to the Sno-Co County line to get all those riders. Of course, it all depends where point A and point B are. SLU to Pioneer Square or ID or the waterfront/ferry? You’d take the streetcar–no brainer. SLU to West Seattle or Ballard? You’d take a bus (eventually, a subway). Tourist or stadium event goer who is not familiar with Town? Might even take the streetcar and walk more even though a bus would technically have got you closer to point B, because you didn’t know which bus and the streetcar is easier and gets you close enough.

      2. Any chance that whatever makes streetcar travel terrible is also curable? Fact that so many people ride it in its present condition indicates a constituency, doesn’t it?


      3. Yes but some people are more equal than others. The combination of old thinking, existing regulations, and deference to single-family SOV-driving homeowners is what created the problem and what needs to be overcome to fix it. So far we have not been able to elect politicans willing to do this.

      4. @B — I’m talking about buses *serving the exact same corridor*. That is the point. Move a couple buses over to First Avenue, and you have the best of both worlds. You have:

        1) More frequent service along First Avenue.
        2) Connections from First Avenue to more places.
        3) Reduce overcrowding on Third Avenue.
        4) Save a bunch of money, since those buses have to travel the length of downtown anyway.

    2. Has anybody in Seattle had a chance to talk with the Mayor at all about anything? That’s what I think is worst of all, and has to be cured for everybody’s sake, starting with hers. Might start with finding out who and what she is talking with.

      And what they’re smoking, because would take Freedom of Info. Act to find out how many fire trucks it’s taking to put out somebody driving while smoking a vape to tick off the aging War On Drugs vets now that weed’s legal.

      Because I can’t name a single interest that I think wants Seattle to be a permanent traffic jam. Including anybody depending on a car for anything but two couches and a sound system. Will already take a bumper-bumper to gridlock the whole place, let alone a fender-bender.

      Any of our spies are still alive after jumping off LINK as train approached Angle Lake and making a run for it?


  12. This article illustrates the lack of thinking comprehensively about transit riders first.

    The DSTT opened in 1990. Buses were still on First.

    In 2011, buses were moved off of First, but no one suggested ways to make it easier to get to Third as a mitigation for riders. No new public escalators to go between blocks or to better connect subway stations. No new underground entrances towards a DSTT mezzanine from First or Second.

    The genesis of the solution has been one mode (streetcar) and effectively one street (First) to restore some transit service — even though it connects to little so riders must mostly transfer. (The Fourth-Fifth option was an obvious non-starter). Even suggesting a bus solution (something that could be operating during the “period of maximum constraint” of 2019-2021) is met with vehement outrage befitting a right-wing extremist.

    And still almost no discussion of how to better connect our wonderful attractions to fast regional transit. Why aren’t we talking about extending mezzanine-level passageways from Westlake or University Street to Pike Place? Why aren’t we devising and advocating for a walkway system from the Ferry Terminal to Pioneer Square Station? Why aren’t we even talking about a better streetcar transfer design at Jackson Street so that riders could transfer easier without crossing two streets?

    We need to ask what riders need first. That not only includes vehicle travel but also the ways people access any vehicle. Only then can we have perspective on what projects make sense.

    1. I was in Lisbon not too long ago and rode the Elevador de Santa Justa. It is a very interesting piece of infrastructure.

      Seattle could do something like that, except we could integrate it into a waterfront building, and potentially even have the last block be tunneled. Such a thing would provide an elevator ride followed by a level walk directly to at least the mezzanine level of the DSTT, but I suspect such things are too “radical” for a city whose transportation thought process begins and ends with a bus stuck in traffic.

      Lisbon also has a second elevador in the Almada district, in addition to several funiculars and an extensive trolley system. Seattle could learn a lot from that city.


        I think Metro Lisbon has about a quarter of the population of Portugal. Also, materials and labor costs were a lot lower in 1902 than now. But most important: How long has it been that the average resident could own a car?

        Beautiful thing. But given the quality of the work on the Space Needle, think when the time comes, we can build better. And faster.

        Thanks for the word, though, Lazarus.

        Mark Dublin

    2. “Why aren’t we talking about extending mezzanine-level passageways from Westlake or University Street to Pike Place?”

      I’ve been talking about it but the Powers That Be aren’t interested. What I’d most want is a Westlake Station entrance at the eastbound bus stop at 4th & Pike, and a University Street Station entrance near the library. A Westlake Station entrance near Pike Place Market would be third.

      1. Throw some tiny little shops/coffee bars etc. in there on the long passageways (cf. Rio, Seoul, Santiago, Mexico City and a host of others) and it would keep the tunnels safer and more active. Those things are like food trucks are to aspiring restaurateurs – relatively inexpensive ways to start a new business.

        Something I thought Seoul does particularly well is have a huge number of access points to many of their stations, all nicely numbered and well-signed. Zoom in on Kakao Maps (much better than Google) and you can see all the numbered passageways. Businesses advertise using the closest exit number as wayfinding, which certainly helped someone like me unfamiliar with the city, the system, and Korean easily get around. Going to Seattle Public Library? Take the train to University Street station, exit 7 (or whatever). Pike Place Market? Westlake, exit 5. Boom. Make the system easy for visitors and those without a great grasp of English and by so doing you make it that much simpler and inviting for all of us to use.

  13. Having taken the 33 and 24 a few times when they also served a small section of 1st, I can well remember them being pretty crowded S of Mercer.

    If it were me, I’d push to extend the end point of the First Hill portion north to somewhere in Lower Queen Anne so it can exchange passengers with Ballard Link, D, Queen Anne routes, etc in that area.

    1. The streetcar plan mentions a potential future option of a 1st Avenue extension to Seattle Center. It doesn’t get into how that might affect the existing lines. So it might be a third line from Intl Dist to Seattle Center. But Broadway to Seattle Center is another possibility.

      1. The Broadway segment will have to terminate somewhere and the middle of 1st doesn’t seem conducive to that.

        Seems logical to have it sort of replace (requiring a transfer if done with a streetcar or trolley bus) what the 18, 24, 33, etc used to do.

      2. The Broadway segment will terminate at Westlake somehow. And that invalidates the Broadway-Seattle Center idea I didn’t realize, because if you did that you’d lose the double frequency between Intl Dist and Westlake that is apparently very important.

  14. It’s not just transit wonks who can be rail biased, but also transit riders who can be rail biased. Remember your users! You not only have to cover a route, you have to convince people to ride it in lieu of pulling out their phone and calling Uber. When deciding where to stay in a city for a short trip and whether I will need a car for the trip, I generally look at the rail network and ignore the bus system entirely. I probably ignore some bus lines that are just as good or better than the rail line in this way, or I do things like take two trains when I could have taken a single bus. Tell people they have to transfer from the train to a bus, and you’ve pretty much lost half your potential ridership no matter how good that connection is.

    1. >> When deciding where to stay in a city for a short trip and whether I will need a car for the trip, I generally look at the rail network and ignore the bus system entirely.

      You are in the minority, obviously. Bus ridership in this city is very high, and has been for years. Streetcar ridership, meanwhile, has repeatedly failed to meet expectations.

    2. In some cities the subway goes everywhere and you can ignore the bus network. Seattle is not one of those cities.

      If a city has both subways and streetcars, people will start with the subways and only use the streetcars is the subways don’t go to where they need to go.

      1. Subway lines are expensive to build and take a long time. This is why cities that once abandoned streetcars have put them back.

        The problem we have in the USA is that they are seldom given mostly light rail treatment as they have been when rebuilt in Europe.

        If the likes of Paris, with its extensive Metro and regional trains, feels the need to add surface style light rail, it seems like Seattle would eventually wind up with it as well. There’s only so much money for tunneling.

        It’s unfortunate that the current streetcar lines have proven so terrible, but with dedicated lanes the CCC has a chance to become more like what has proven popular in Europe than those two existing lines.

  15. Sorry to always be so negative, but it’s very frustrating to have trouble paying my rent and bills because of having to take Ubers because buses aren’t feasible anymore. If I had hope that it’d change once the 1st Ave. work is completed (either buses or streetcars) or even that West Seattle buses would go down Alaska Way when the viaduct is gone, I’d be able to put up with it. But it doesn’t look like there will be anything, and many of you able-bodied folks seem to think that’s perfectly ok and that there shouldn’t be anything. It makes Seattle seem like a really unfriendly place.

    1. Where do you want to go from and to when/if the streetcar is completed? That’s what we need to know. How many people are going from and to which places? That’s what determines how necessary this corridor is.

      1. From 1st Ave. to 3rd Ave. Or from the waterfront to 3rd, as that would probably get more riders.

      2. Seriously — you take Uber two blocks — from First to Third? Do you share a ride with folks who are riding from Fourth to Second? Do you think every bus that runs downtown on Second or Fourth should loop around, to spare the rider a couple blocks of walking? Maybe they should just weave back and forth to get all the streets.

        Sorry, but come on. We all want better bus service. Service does exist on First Avenue, of course (on various streets) just not along it. Running a bus on First Avenue is a reasonable idea — no one is arguing that. But pretending that it is somehow the worst burden in the world when there are plenty of downtown connections that are more difficult is just silly. This would only cover a small part of it, and skip Belltown, the most densely populated part of First Avenue. The lack of service along Boren is much worse. Again, I’m not saying we shouldn’t have service on First Avenue, but implying that it is a huge burden for lots of people is just silly.

    2. Be sure to use the new Alaskan Way shuttle as much as possible and maybe they’ll get the hint something is missing.

      I’m able bodied and have walked from the Clipper to BoltBus as it was a faster and safer option than the obstacle course of going up the hill to get a bus on 3rd. Trying to get across Western in that area is like trying to cross a freeway.

      1. I would use the shuttle if I knew when it was going to stop. The other problem is I can’t stand for long periods of time (20 minutes would be too long) and there’s no place to sit, even though it stops right across from where I work!

        Hopefully others who are able to will use it though.

    3. This gets into the broader issue that transit, in general, just doesn’t work efficiently for people with mobility issues. At best, you can try to design the network so that buses go on every single street, and stop every single block – and have lots of low-ridership “shuttle” routes on corridors like Alaskan Way, which able-bodied people won’t ride because the walk time is less than the typical overhead of waiting for it.

      But, even then, there’s another issue that any reasonable grid-like service forces people with mobility issues into extra transfers on each end of the trip to go a few blocks – segments that an able-bodied person would simply walk. Preventing this is simply not possible without spending insane amounts of money into service hours within a very small area.

      For people that absolutely need door-to-door service, the best time/money balance is probably something akin to UberPool, but services like that are woefully inefficient compared to traditional public transit.

      1. >> Preventing this is simply not possible without spending insane amounts of money into service hours within a very small area.

        Exactly. If your goal is to simply improve overall mobility — deal with the trips that are difficult for people who can’t walk very far — then it is hard to see this as the best way to do it. Hell, if your goal is just to serve First Avenue, then it should serve all of First Avenue, and not leave it right as you get to the most populous part. Keep going until Broad, then go up, and then head east on Harrison (over Aurora) and end close to REI. Not the best possible route, but clearly better than this one in terms of coverage. The only reason that wasn’t a possibility is because of the existing streetcar.

  16. Why haven’t SC ridership numbers been posted for the last 2 months? I noticed there has been a trend up and I was curious to know if Durkin will allow the public to see more upticks before she cancels it.

    1. Ridership on the existing lines is tiny, even if the recent percentage gains are superficially impressive.

      The case for or against the Central City Connector doesn’t rest on the existing lines ridership. The new trips served are far more important than extrapolating out the performance of the existing lines.

      1. uh? If planned improvements to FH generate 350 additional boardings, and with an independent FH uptick of 700 riders already this year, this would be an additional 1000+ riders that potentially could impact CCC ridership, ie individuals which could continue on to CCC stations. Add another 1000+ before the CCC is off the ground, and now were talking 6500 riders between FH and SLUT. This is not a trivial number, especially considering they are two disjointed segments.

  17. While I understand the skepticism people have, with all due respect, the time for that was 5 years ago when there was public outreach. For those of us that attended these meetings and advocated for transit only lanes and signal priority (no sure thing at the time) to have this derailed at the last minute in a non-transparent and somewhat disingenuous way is really disappointing.

    And lets be clear, if this gets cancelled, the federal funds go away along with the transit lanes, and it will be several years before we could get them back. SDOT would have to do outreach all over again, and with the current Move Seattle funding crunch there would be very little money other than for paint, if the mayor could summon the courage.

    1. Agreed. The case ‘for’ seems to be reinforced with the 25k ridership prediction

      The case against is that the costs have gone up.

      Could buses on first achieve the same 25k ridership by themselves? I doubt it.

      Frankly I want both: a streetcar that leaves open the possibility of expansion, and buses running in the streetcar reserved right of way.

      This city isn’t getting any smaller and creating higher transit capacity now, and preparing for even more in the future seems smart.

      Yet, I recognize that the mayor has been forced into counting the beans, and all of these transit issues are a huge pile of beans to digest.

      It sounds like in a couple of months we’ll see what cones out the other side….

      and we will finally see the mayor’s vision for Seattle.

      1. >> Could buses on first achieve the same 25k ridership by themselves? I doubt it.

        You are saying that buses on First, directly connecting to more places and running more often, wouldn’t get higher ridership? Why?

        If history (in this city anyway) is any guide, people take transit not based on mode, but based on how effective it is. Link has been very fast and frequent from the beginning, but ridership soared when it covered more places. The E is extremely popular, because it is fast, frequent, and goes where people want to go. Over 50,000 people ride buses on Third Avenue and of course many of those riders are just going from one end of downtown to the other, since it is a fast, extremely frequent way to do it. No one really has a strong mode preference — they have a preference for the fastest, most frequent way to get there. Buses can deliver that better than streetcars on First, which is why ridership would be higher.

      2. The thing you’re forgetting is that the competition with the streetcars isn’t buses, it’s Uber and Lyft. The streetcars are specifically designed to serve downtown residents and tourists. Both those groups are going to use Uber or Lyft much sooner than they’ll use the buses.

        The people who live downtown — except the street folks of course — are rich! They don’t want to hob-nob with the crazies on the 40.

        We’re transit lovers; we put up with it, but most people don’t like the intrusion that a normal in-city bus line represents. The demographic, other than at the peak hours, is distinctly down-market.

        They might take a streetcar which will have their demographic simply because it doesn’t go anywhere else. In this case, shorter is better.

        Again, why do you hate the very affluent people who live in downtown Seattle? They’re not “Masters of the Universe” type of wealthy; they’re mostly younger people living the good life. They don’t want vomit on in their $200 shoes.

        Streetcars come almost completely without vomit.

  18. Good comment session. But worst problem I see has less to do with the material around the wheel rims, than the idea that problem here can’t, or will never be fixed. We’re not talking Channel Tunnel or Denmark to Sweden bridge here. Must read for anybody digging a drain. Most important political/time frame experience. In 1885, the British had the forerunner of all modern TBM’s ready to go. Already digging, I think.

    But the English people panicked, not over taxes or military fears, but dread of being overrun by Frenchmen with little pointed mustaches stealing their women and Italians with those hand cranked music boxes and a monkey jumping around collecting half-pennies.

    The original book “Dracula” was supposed to be ripped from the headlines in 1885. Real horror to contemporary readership was not that he was a blood-sucking monster. Story was he hypnotized his lady victims. So truth was he was almost as bad a threat as Frenchmen with little mustaches. AND HE WAS COMING TO ENGLAND!!!!!!

    Real horror. Turned out that if the Tunnel had existed when World War II hit, the Dunkirk disaster (Hollywood too gutless to show how many died, and how) wouldn’t have happened.

    On the other side, since the layer of chalk that was the only geology that would hold a tube was so thin that one degree too high and everybody would drown in a rush of seawater, and downward, quicksand Many decades ’til work could continue. Drilling conditions still include air so full of salt-water that a surveying laser has trouble finding France.

    Book also includes screaming multilingual arguments in boardrooms, while under the North Sea Irish laborers cut cross-passages by hand with jackhammers driving same kind of chisel as a sculptor’s. Lesson being that the more rocks you have to blow up and water to drown in, the longer the work can take even with a pro-streetcar mayor.

    But for us diamond signs between Swedish Hospital and Thomas Streets can make Broadway a car-free transit mall in one night. Just for an experiment. Whereupon time will be near time that people have noticed for a while much more mobility, freedom, and money they’d have with streetcars to ride. Meaning when we’ve finally got the line good enough to make it so soon as barrier made of fenders gets taken down.

    Anybody who remembers the days when cars meant freedom-as they really did for about twenty years after World War Two has been eligible for a Senior pass for ten years. Or an Eternal youth pass where they now never have to fear a Rent Increase.

    However, the real problem is as big as the mention of it is microscopic. How do we do “De-Sprawl?” My own sense is when people decide they’d rather live near a transit line than a freeway, same thing will happen as after the Second World War, when people demanded freedom FROM the cities.

    Considering design and materials, when nobody loves them anymore, average sprawl-dwelling house will go the way of unsaleable ones after events of 2008 in a day’s work-shift. So seems to me our work right now should concentrate on creating samples and examples wherever we can.

    Also learn to stage our transit projects for possible changes of funding and construction speed. Putting a slow-down to good use in planning, rethinking, and refining. With everything and everybody having next move in their minds and toolkits if something suddenly turns good. DSTT good to study and remember.

    Especially to know what not to imitate next time. Looking forward to minutes of first meeting with the Prosecution.

    Mark Dublin

  19. I feel like there is an argument in favor of streetcar here that people aren’t stressing enough – it’s nicer. Should we only build streetcar? Of course not. Buses are more cost effective and flexible. But most of our money is going to the most cost effective transit. We’re paying for additional but service. We’re paying to build grade separated rail to Lynnwood, Bellevue, Ballard, etc.

    My point is, yes, a bus might be a few million cheaper, but we deserve to splurge every once and a while. If this wasn’t also useful, I wouldn’t support it. But it useful and a better experience than a bus. Let’s not be transit Puritans.

    1. When Seattle first considered streetcars around 2000, I attended an open house in Roosevelt where the city asked whether we wanted the next generation of Seattle’s transit to be focused on (A) light rail, (B) streetcars, or (C) buses. I said either light rail or buses, because light rail is grade-separated enough to give a substantial increase in speed to be more competitive with cars, and buses are inexpensive so we can deploy more of them to more destinations for the same money. Streetcars are the worst of both words: no speed advantage but more expensive than buses. Again, this is because of how Seattle and the US define “streetcar”: literally as the lever of transit that couldn’t. Light rail is defined as mostly exclusive lane, while streetcar is defined as mostly shared lane.

      We could afford to spend extra for the aesthetic benefits of a streetcar if we didn’t have so many serious unmet transit needs.

    2. Yeah, what Mike said. Splurging — as you put it — for a mode that is slower and creates a hazard for bicycles really doesn’t sound like a great deal to me when we have so many transit needs in the city.

      Here is one scenario to consider. Let’s assume we built it, and as times goes on, more bus routes are added to First Avenue. This is quite possible, and one argument used to build it. So that means we have trains running on First every five minutes or so, along with buses running more often. How many people will just ignore the bus right there, so they can take the more pleasant bus? My guess is very few, just as very few have taken the existing streetcars. That is the problem. You end up with something similar to the monorail, but not nearly as cool. It probably becomes a big money loser, and would surely be restructured out of existence if not for the fact that the rails can’t easily be moved. You simply wouldn’t have enough extra ridership to justify the expense. Transit really shouldn’t be built as if it was part of Disneyland (

  20. With all this dialog it still fails to address the fact that there is NO transit service to the waterfront or the ferry terminal! And little to Pioneer Square proper and even the main offices of Metro! That is for someone not wanting to take on the steep hill and or marginal areas. It’s incredible that public transit doesn’t serve the waterfront.

    Living on the north side, in the past I used the 62 connection at times and later 99 – with sometimes using an illegal transfer one block at 1st and Broad (no stop) to 2, 13..

    The current trial waterfront shuttle leaves a lot to desire but it very useful in connecting with very short walks to routes 8, 3, 4. With a few level walks it connects to 26, 28, 5, 2 and 13. .

    Minor changes and small busses metro could well serve this area as an interim until such time as the 1st avenue challenge is completed. [the 99 might have done well if it had just stretched up to 1st and Denny].

    In the meantime I urge you bus studiers from the north and east to use this rather unknown – hard to find – shuttle so the powers that be can understand there is a need – now – for public access for all.

    1. Metro routes were removed from the waterfront because of construction. Sometimes half the street is blocked off for several blocks. The waterfront plan calls for a circulator bus or minibus on Alaskan Way.

      1. Weren’t there plans for some of the buses to go along Alaskan Way, then cut up at around Spring? There will be bus lanes along Alaskan Way, if memory serves (I can’t find the link) which means that a bus from say, West Seattle would go that way (since it can’t use the old viaduct ramp).

      2. Yes, that’s for the West Seattle buses. Transit lanes to Columbia Street, then buses will turn east. That’s separate from the waterfront circulator. It will travel all along Alaskan Way, and it won’t use the transit lanes which will be in the center.

      3. OK, that makes sense. Columbia is not that far north, so that leaves a pretty big hole along the waterfront. For some reason i thought the bus lanes extended farther north, even though there aren’t any plans for them (other than the circulator). Is this the same circulator that goes to the Seattle Center, or something different?

      4. The congestion is mostly south of there because that’s approximately where the ferry lane ends and the industrial/freight destinations end and the touristy section begins. I think north of Columbia will be pretty quiet.

        The circulator route in the waterftront plan goes from Intl Dist to Pier 70, so replicating the Benson streetcar. Seattle Center is mentioned as an optional extension.

    2. Public transit DOES “serve the waterfront”, all the way from the Ferry Building to Ghirardelli Square. The F runs every five minutes until pretty late in the evening.

      Oh, you meant Seattle. Apologies

  21. In general I agree that street car is not a good choice. I was skeptical of the SLU street car when they were building it. Time has not proven me wrong. I wasn’t living in Seattle when they were building the First Hill street car, but we know how poorly that turned out. But we also both know that this particular segment is not your standard American style street car. It does have it’s own lanes for most of it’s length and it will come every five minutes. What we are paying extra for is a smoother ride, better boarding experience, and most importantly, non-diesel drive.

    I know we have critical needs. Our transportation systems are overwhelmed. We also have critical housing needs that aren’t being met, as can be seen by the homeless everywhere. But this street car funding is a few orders of magnitude smaller than what we need to tackle our critical issues. $200 million for a street car vs $2.5 billion for Ballard light rail. Though I’m just looking it up now, and I am surprised at how high the operating costs are. $30 million a year is a lot. Compare it to the $50 million brought in by the Seattle Transportation Benefits District which has brought in all that high frequency bus service. Why does metro think this will be so expensive to operate?

    Well maybe it is too expensive after all. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    1. Because the existing streetcars are more expensive to operate than buses, and that’s taking service hours away from bus service. the $2.5 billion is a one-time capital cost.the whole point of light rail is that you get more capacity and speed: a level of service you can’t get with buses on streets.

    2. Folks, read the report. The FH streetcar carries 72% more riders than does the SLU. Everyone is ragging on the FHSC, but it’s clearly a success and can become more of one with some positive press and a few traffic light investments.

    3. Operations and maintenance is projected to be $19.5 million under the current operating plan. Page 19 of the document.

    4. Ballard-Downtown is way more than $2.5 billion. You have to count the new tunnel, or at least half of it. IIRC that alone is more than $2 billion and it isn’t even engineered yet. But just getting from Ballard to Lower Queen Anne would be completely useless, so you have to include the entire cost of the downtown Tunnel. So the total is $4.5 and rising.

  22. Great, great post, David. Convincing argument and involving narrative– from someone who has experience not just behind a desk, but behind the wheel, out there on the ground where it all happens. Bravo.

    1. I concur. Well thought out and has provoked impassioned, mostly reasoned, arguments from different viewpoints. Can’t do much better than that. Thanks – as always – for your work, David.

  23. Streetcar report released

    1. It looks like the cost increase is essentially 26% ($198 to $252 million). And apparently the only monies actually received are the Small Starts grant which isn’t actually measured in the document, or I can’t find the value.

      At any rate, Seattle won’t have to “give back the $75 million”. It hasn’t yet been released by the FTA. However, the effect on the relationship between FTA and Seattle is still a problem. The next FFG application Seattle sends will probably go straight to the round-file.

  24. David,

    1st Avenue had frequent transit service for more than a century.

    your 2011 paragraph is in error. Although 3rd Avenue was more reliable than 1st Avenue, as, in 2005, Seattle provided transit priority on 3rd Avenue while the DSTT was closed, the main reasons that routes 15, 18, 21, 22, and 56 were shifted from 1st Avenue related to the AWV project. At 1st and Cherry, SCL dug up a vault and south of South King Street, WSDOT built the WOSCA detour for the AWV. 1st Avenue was not available for transit. the Ballard and West Seattle through routes were re-established in fall 1998. the base headway was 10 minutes. many through routes were rationalized. for example, routes 16 and 21 were paired before the service change and the former was very unreliable, due to its use of NE Northgate Way and Mercer Street and many turns.

    Seattle has just improved the priority it provides buses on 3rd Avenue. priority is provided on Wall and Battery streets, Westlake Avenue North, 1st Avenue near Denny Way, Midvale between North 45th and 46th streets, and Spring Street. Seattle took parallel parking off Aurora Avenue North to improve the E Line and Route 358 before it. SDOT provided many transit queue jumps. Seattle is helping to move buses.

    Seattle could provide more transit priority for bus on 1st Avenue. I suspect Mayor Durkan knows that right of way is one of the opportunity costs she must consider: ROW, operating costs, and capital costs. the timing is very poor for the CCC streetcar. the First Hill line was delayed by about two years for the cars. now its construction would conflict with the interim pathway of the bus routes coming from SR-99. the operating plan for the CCC is flawed. both tails will be unreliable; they are today. so, the trips in the middle could not be evenly spaced. Should Seattle provide priority through traffic for 12 trip per hour per direction on the CCC or about 40 trips per hour per direction for the bus network? in March 2019, with joint operation ending, the bus network will need pathways. the circulation service envisioned by the bobby-pin shaped streetcar could be provided by bus trips already funded and needing a pathway through downtown.

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