Answering your questions

  • Elected boards (2:31)
  • Earthquakes (9:20)
  • Fare evasion (9:50)
  • Streetcar alternatives (11:20)
  • Light rail to Laurelhurst (19:00)
  • East link frequency (22:00)
  • Center platforms (24:20)
  • Fare evasion and ORCA (28:20)
  • Post-viaduct transit from the South (30:20)
  • 4th avenue CID station (31:20)
  • Seattle Circulator (32:59)
  • City council (36:01)
  • Post-viaduct transit from the north (40:55)
  • Real time info for Link (42:40)
  • Union station (46:04)
  • Transit maps (48:27)
  • Fixed bridge to Ballard (50:18)
  • Transit operator dream routes (50:38)
  • Salvaging CCC and Madison BRT (51:48)

32 Replies to “Podcast #66: Streetcar Mailbag”

  1. Something I’d like to see an abrupt end to is listening to intelligent, skilled and knowledgeable young people acting like anything of ours is permanently crippled by anything this posting ended with. Only cure for Abrupt-ion is being ready to handle it. We’ll do fine.

    A new mayor has taken charge of a rich intelligent city in a winterless climate. Whose really serious problems all stem from so many people with so much money being dumped on the place that nobody can move in any direction but out. Blocking our freeways with cars, because they still have to get in for work.

    First act of office? Some really routine civil engineering is coming in more expensive than planned. Without the usual budgetary comfort of somebody’s brother raising the local price of cement because of the unforeseen collapse of his horse at Emerald Downs. “Base?” Mayors don’t have a “Base!”

    They’ve got a a Machine! Possibly including a former associate who has now become a pillar of public transit by being part of one. Being stuck with a mile of civil non-compliant concrete does not indicate transit indifference on her part. Just priority change so the holes get filled with something besides a streetcar.

    First Hill, Central City Connector, and South Lake Union street car line. Anyplace else it’d be same route number. A single-seat ride through three contiguous neighborhoods that’ll take a long while to get either smaller or poorer. Interrupted only by windows-full of attractions like clothes and food to stop inside and leave money for.

    Owned by merchants who’ll sooner or later support a line that brings them the passengers and sight-seers that stuck cars can’t. Brought by a number of subway stations putting their shops in same subarea as everyplace else on LINK. Where their shoppers will now be able to leave their cars in their garages in Ellensburg.

    https://waterfrontseattle.org/Media/Default/Library/Other/06012013_Final_Seattle_Waterfront_Historic_Streetcar_Technical_Evaluation.pdf

    “The Seattle Room”, 10th floor. Downtown Library. Doesn’t say anything about the Waterfront line permanently gone. Or the one past the stadiums either. Something about flyover from Myrtle Edwards Park to Seattle Center too.

    So Martin and Frank, look at it this way. In fifty years, James R. Ellis will have two replacements at retirement age but not going anywhere. Live with it and make the best of it.

    Mark Dublin

  2. I predict CCC will be scrapped to appease the mayor’s base who think it is a waste of money, don’t care about transit investment, or both. Why would the administration go through all this drama if they weren’t going to cancel it? Maybe the mayor is positioning herself to “save” the project? Doubtful.

    But I think she will need to throw a bone to the pro-CCC/pro-transit coalition, question is what will it be. Maybe a shuffling of the rapid ride plans somehow? Maybe something more radical that isn’t being discussed.

    1. It isn’t just the “mayor’s base” that thinks the CCC is a waste of money. My guess is a majority of Seattle residents — including very pro-transit people like myself as well as members of the Seattle Transit blog staff — think the same thing. Sure, we want the exclusive right-of-way (we want a lot more), but the CCC is an inferior mode and creates a very poor route. It just isn’t a worthwhile project. I don’t think she will pay much of a political price to kill such a poorly designed project (if she indeed kills it).

      The only people who will be upset are the businesses on First Avenue. They have endured a lot of turmoil on their street and were told that things would be better than before once it was all done (instead of being told the truth, which is that they needed to dig up the street, and things would be back to normal soon). Most of them feel the same way about the streetcar as the rest of the city, but some drank the Kool-Aid, and felt like the streetcar would transform transportation on First. Those are the people who will, justifiably, be pissed. If the mayor does anything, she will help them, hopefully by providing bus service on First with exclusive right-of-way or at least BAT lanes.

      1. As far as I know there’s no polling on the CCC. Everyone should probably be a lot more modest about their hunches about where public opinion probably lies. In particular, people who find themselves assuming something to the effect of “public opinion is surely on my side, because I’m so self-evidently right” should think a bit more about how profoundly fallible that particular logic turns out to be.

      2. No polling, but consider the actions of the city councel while they formulated the MoveSeattle ballot project. They made clear that MoveSeattle would not include a dime for the streetcar, for fear that having such a controversial project would kill support. That simply isn’t true of other projects, such as the RapidRide+ plans. You won’t find transit supporters arguing against those projects the way that folks oppose the streetcar. Nor is there opposition from the biking community, the way that bikers oppose the streetcar. The transit community is clearly split on the streetcar (and that includes the members of this blog, as well as commentors), the city council is split, the biking community clearly opposes it, the mayor has raised important questions (that should have been raised before) which leaves only the vast majority of the city that probably hasn’t looked at the issue in great detail. But I would be willing to bet that a fair number of those people are beginning to wonder if spending such a large amount of money on something like a streetcar is really wise. Again, no polling, but my guess is the city council was right to not put the streetcar to a public vote, because it would obviously lose.

      3. djw, YES! +10000.

        A is for arrogance
        B is for bloviation
        C is for crapshoot

        The ABC’s of the Central City Circulator dispute.

  3. Left-door buses: SDOT has been planning center lanes on other lines too. What we don’t know is where they’d be or whether they’ve been value engineered away. The only specific thing I’ve heard is on 45th between I-5 and 15th NE.

    Circulators: a circulator is generally defined as a short loop route. Metro and others tried several of them but they all failed due to very low ridership. There was a Ballard-Phinney one, the Bel-Hop (in downtown Bellevue), etc. The biggest problem is that if it’s a mile or less many people will walk, and others won’t wait for it if’s not every 5-10 minutes which ir rarely is, and others are only interested in major forms of transit (subway, commuter rail, ST Express, maybe RapidRide).

    1. Mike,

      You need to be specific: “left-door, sixty-foot articulated trolleybuses with adequate hill-climbing ability made in the US”. It’s the Venn intersection of all four attributes that is, currently, impossible to obtain. If the City were willing to purchase the vehicles itself, it apparently could get buses in Europe which have both the trailer and center wheels powered. That would solve the problem.

      The 44 doesn’t have such a bad hill to climb but it might be worth it to get enough of the powerful buses to equip both lines. The hill up from Market to 46th is no walk in the park. Pre-trolley the diesels waddled up it.

  4. You mentioned the possibility of you missing an obvious reason why a 4th Ave alignment would be preferable to 5th. From my Pierce County perspective, the obvious answer seems to be easier Sounder-Link transfers without waiting to cross a busy street. Every afternoon, hordes of people line up across 4th from the Weller St bridge, while other wait at 4th and Jackson. keeping the transfers off the street will probably save only a little time on average, but we be a great psychological benefit to people who are cutting it close on catching their Sounder.

      1. They run under 4th and Weller.

        5th and Weller is where Union Station’s platforms were when it was active. Mostly all ‘underground’ parking now.

      2. It’s the King Street Station freight bypass tracks that would need to be under-passed, as well as one of the passenger tracks assuming the tunnel would serve only the Sounder platform. Since it would be a fare-paid area, that would make sense.

        There could be stairs and an elevator up to the Sounder platform just as there are down from the Weller Street bridge. A tunnel would be more convenient in terms of the number of stairs to be climbed and descended because it would only have to be eight feet high plus a couple of feet of roof to support the rail tracks, whereas the Weller Street Bridge has to pass Sounder double-deck commuter cars and double-stack freight trains. It’s about twenty feet above the railhead.

        So, the level change required of a transferring passenger would be roughly half what it is for the bridge, and of course, there would be no street crossing. Is it worth $50 million? That’s a good question.

        If the CCC is built there would be direct rail transit connections to and from Sounder from the office and shopping districts on First, Third and Fifth or Sixth Avenues. That’s excellent coverage for Sounder riders.

    1. For the 4th Ave option, in addition to creating a great transit hub out of Union Station (instead of having it sit empty for the next 50 years), another key here is that the 4th Ave viaduct replacement would happen at the same time as the station build, thus killing two birds with one stone (the viaduct is 100 years old and reaching the end of it’s design life). That keeps the CID from experiencing two monster infrastructure projects hitting them twice when the city decides to replace the viaduct 5 years after the new CID tunnel/station is completed. And it leverages city and ST finances to make it happen.

      Also, the 5th ave construction will effectively cut off connections between the existing station and the CID neighborhood during construction, depressing businesses not just along 5th, but within the entire neighborhood. And final part there is that all of the Metro trolley buses run along 5th ave to begin their respective routes. Removing/replacing these trolley lines is not a cheap or easy task.

      It’s true that shutting down 4th would force a lot of traffic to be diverted to 5th and 1st, so there are other issues created by this option, but there are a lot of great outcomes.

      1. With office space for ST. And they’ve been transitioning into the other buildings so “occupied” is a stretch. And the main concourse is EMPTY! the whole place should go back to it’s intended use for the public.

  5. The Circulator in DC is good for connecting stops that are in between the subway lines (or if you don’t want to wait for a lengthy transfer) . For example, it goes from Adams Morgan (Red line) to McPherson Square (blue/orange line) and hits a lot of stops in between like Adams Morgan shops and restaurants, Columbia Heights and 14th and U (both near green line stops, but the transfer can take awhile from Chinatown station, esp. on weekend nights). It takes the DC version of the ORCA card. It also runs every 10-15 minutes or so (as compared to Seattle’s version of the Circulator).

    I could see this as an alternative proposed to the CCC, if indeed it gets slashed (I am agnostic on that issue FWIW).

      1. It isn’t– except that it is more frequent than the 99 or the current Waterfront shuttle. My guess is that the Mayor, if she kills the CCC, would offer this as a possible alternative/salve to the transit folks.

  6. Guys, “east campus” needs a station which could also serve U-Village and the apartments north of 45th. Put an elevated station across 25th at the between the 45th Street Viaduct and the Pend O’Reille intersection with elevated walkways underneath the viaduct at mezzanine level. Whether to extend to Children’s Hospital is more of a question, but there are a LOT of students living on the northeast corner of campus and in the blocks to the north who would like even a single-station shuttle sort of access to Link

    Yes, this requires another tunnel under campus, but it’s the edge where there are no science buildings to give the shakes.

    1. Really. If you’re going to have a TBM or two chewing their way across north Seattle, don’t stop at Brooklyn. Keep chewing until you break out the bluff above Montlake and build a $30 million station for that area too. I’ts 2/3 of a mile at most and the TBM’s are already there.

      Kaepernick it.

  7. The problem with a Fourth Avenue solution is that the railhead would have to be a whole story deeper than the railhead in the existing IDS station. Immediately north of the platforms the Green Line would have to veer east, under-passing the Red/Blue line tracks before they enter their tunnel at Main and drop quickly to under-pass the BNSF tunnels. You’d need a curve nearly as tight as the curve from Pine to Third just west of Westlake Station though a heading change of only 45 degrees would be necessary. Still, it would have to be a fairly small radius to get the job done. Then you’d have to curve again, making an “S” to head on north.

    Now that might be a good reason to put the Midtown station at Eighth and Madison (the second change of heading would be much smaller), but that train has apparently already left the station.

    It’s not the expense of rebuilding Fourth Avenue and Seattle Boulevard that is deterring Sound Transit from a Fourth Avenue platform. It’s the danger of digging a tunnel and station box that deep in the muck underlying what only looks like dry land.

  8. in the last sentences of the CCC discussion, the podcast addressed the timing issue. the two-year delay to the First Hill line took the construction window from the CCC. 1st Avenue is needed for the interim pathway for the SR-99 routes and their thousands of daily riders. During the period of maximum constraint, we cannot both build the CCC and use it as the interim pathway. RossB has provided other worthy criticisms. The high capital cost could be used for other projects. the downtown circulation can be provided by already funded routes that need a pathway through downtown. Frequency! the CCC plan is for only 12 trips per hour per direction; that is not an intense use of one-half the capacity of 1st Avenue. the circulation trips can be attracted by the Link, streetcar, and bus network. consider South Jackson Street today. the First Hill line serves inside stops with about five trips per hour. Routes 7, 14, 36, and 106 provide 20 trips per hour per direction at outside stops. where do local riders wait? Seattle will decide how much priority is provided transit on 1st Avenue; it would be great if they provided bus lanes. It may be many more than 12 trips per hour per direction. If one waits until 2023 or 2024, the CBD capacity constraints will be relaxed. timing is key.

  9. Love the podcast but ironically I can’t hear you while… riding the bus. Especially Frank. You get pretty quiet at the end of each point you make. Any other freeway-bus riders out there have this problem?

    1. I posted that before hearing your comment about this. Sorry for the pile on! Thanks for trying to do something about it!

  10. OMFE is before any at-grade crossings in Bel-Red. You could probably run a train from Seattle-Wilburton (last station before OMFE), but I’d also be concerned with too many trains in the Downtown Tunnel.

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