Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell’s solution to revitalizing downtown includes reviving the City Center Connector streetcar ($). “Where the pitch for the line was once purely transit-based, its new title as a ‘Culture Connector’ bestows a loftier purpose of injecting life into a part of town lacking it in recent years.”

The article says “transit advocates still want it to move forward” but that’s inaccurate. Transit advocates are divided, including on this blog. Some editors want the City Center Connector to move forward, while others like myself want the city to focus on other transit priorities instead.

The article calls it a “third line” but I’m not sure the operational plan is changing. The original plan had two lines overlapping on First Avenue: Lake Union Park to Chinatown/International District, and Westlake to First Hill.

Jarrett Walker, international transit consultant, says in the article, “Cities must look seriously at what they’re hoping to accomplish with a streetcar and whether that’s more valuable than a bus.”

I’ll leave it at that for now.

148 Replies to “The Streetcar is Back”

  1. Nobody has coherently answered the question of what exactly a streetcar does to inject life into downtown that the existing bus (and rail) system doesn’t do. It doesn’t get you where you’re going any better than existing options beyond eliminating a two block walk for some trips.

    Is the idea that people will be so excited that there’s a train running through the streets of downtown that families everywhere will all drive downtown with their kids to ride the streetcar in circles? Or, is the idea that the appeal of looking out your office window and seeing a streetcar will somehow motivate people to return to the office, even if they never ride it? Or, is the idea that 3rd Ave. is hopeless unsafe, to the point where we need transit that takes you straight to 1st, bypassing 3rd, but for some reason, it can’t be a bus? Or, is the idea that hoards of tourists will ride through downtown to go exploring, but only on a service that runs on rails, and Link is no good because it’s underground and you can’t see anything from it.

    In any case, transit in Seattle is facing a driver shortage. Eliminating it is probably going to require a substantial pay increase, which means more money just to keep the existing buses on the road. Seattle also needs money for numerous other priorities, not related to transit. (For example, the cost of the city’s share of the CCC could be used to build homes for some of the homeless).

    Or, if the goal is downtown revitalization, you could even use the money to offer tax breaks to companies that move there. But, more streetcars is just lighting money on fire. Even if the feds are offering a 70% discount, sometimes the product is so overpriced it isn’t even worth the remaining 30%.

    I hear over and over again that the city of Seattle has a budget deficit. Why they are even contemplating this when money is tight is completely beyond me.

    1. The feds gave the City a big chunk of money solely for the CCC. Not building it means paying the money back.

      Sunk Costs Syndrome.

      But also “Transit White People Like”, a phrase coined by ECB.

      1. There is precedent for a local agency switching from a streetcar to BRT. I could easily see the 7 or 70 (both slated for “BRT” status) running on First.

        It is worth noting that the money from the feds is capital, not maintenance or operations. There is no money for service. Imagine construction is free. What buses will you run less often so that the streetcar can run every five minutes down First Avenue?

      2. Senior operators will jump at the opportunity to drive the streetcar. Some might even stick around at the job longer.

        Regardless, We are years away from receiving another streetcar.

      3. @Ross,

        “What buses will you run less often so that the streetcar can run every five minutes down First Avenue?”

        Answer: almost every single bus currently operating in 3rd Ave.

        It is well documented that Metro is underperforming on 3rd as compared to all of our peer cities – ALL of them. It’s well past time for some serious improvements and a rethink of Metro operations in DT Seattle.

        If Metro simply got its efficiency up on 3rd there would be more than enough savings to fund other transit improvements around the city, including operating the streetcar.

      4. “I could easily see the 7 or 70 (both slated for “BRT” status) running on First.”

        No. When the 15 and 18 were on 1st, it was an inconvenience to transfer to another route or to go to 3rd or 4th or 5th. It’s not fair to arbitrarily force one part of town to go to 1st. First Avenue transit should be for people who are specifically going to a 1st Avenue destination or are directly north or south of it (Belltown or SODO).

        The CCC proposal doesn’t have this problem because it’s in addition to existing alternatives to 3rd (7, 14, 36, 40, 62, 70, C), not replacing them.

      5. > The feds gave the City a big chunk of money solely for the CCC. Not building it means paying the money back.

        They haven’t given the money yet. It is just in the proposal phase.

        The money the federal government talks about clawing back is about 7 million for the broadway first hill streetcar extension (from E Denny Way to around E Roy street) not the 100 million ish for the 300 million in total center city connector.

    2. It strikes me as comical that anyone would find the CCC so much more entertaining that it would bring people back downtown as an economic catalyst.

      I view its vehicles and station design as purely utilitarian. The streetcars are narrow so it’s not that appealing for a couple to ride with two kids. The windows aren’t even designed to offer even panoramic views of the skyline or Puget Sound. Unlike things like the SF cable cars, there isn’t a proposal to even hire entertaining drivers that would interact with the public.

      If the project will offer a unique rider experience (like the windows could be removed on sunny warm days, or the train speakers broadcast music that curated by a DJ or the drivers were stand up comedians practicing jokes) it may have some element that could draw people. But it doesn’t. It’s just a tiny streetcar offering a generic transit trip.

      Add to that the fact that it won’t move very fast. If the goal is to improve the speed of traveling through Downtown, spend the money on more DSTT escalators and elevators. Just adding down escalators to DSTT station platforms would seemingly save transit riders more time than using the CCC.

    3. But you’re not getting the big picture here. Seattle can use the street car to connect subway stations! That way people have to ride though downtown at street level and see what a great place it is.

      1. I can see the advertising now:

        The Streetcar! Almost as good as a bus!

    4. We already went through streetcar placemaking with the SLU streetcar. The streetcar was one feather in Paul Allen’s cap but I doubt the decisions by developers and companies were based mainly on the streetcar. And whatever its initial splash, it settled into low ridership. So low that it has been suspended when the First Hill streetcar isn’t.

      1. If the DSA and Harrell were reluctant to site a midtown Link station, and the CID did not want a station on 5th that would cause years of disruption, what about the disruption on 1st from constructing a streetcar?

        I have a brother-in-law and a few friends who now live on 1st/2nd uptown near the Pike Place Market. This is about the one vibrant area of downtown housing (and a few decades ago no one would have thought 1st would be the one vibrant area). What is interesting, according to them, is 3rd is such a no man’s land it has split downtown housing into two halves: below 3rd, and above 3rd. If you live below 3rd you rarely venture above 3rd (and mainly use the Pike Place Market), and vice versa. You don’t want to cross 3rd.

        Granted these units are expensive and these are Uber folks, and their buildings come with parking (not cheap), but does the city begin a multi-year project to make 1st congested when it is the one area showing green shoots of the new future for cities post-pandemic: attractive places to live.

        My brother-in-law and friends are younger, 30’s –40’s, and of course don’t have kids or the kids have grown, so this is a very delicate demographic for Harrell: those with enough money to live in these condos which means they have the money to move (and some moved from Pioneer Square that was supposed to be the young hip area for folks like this to live), but young and hip enough to want to, rather than Kirkland or Bellevue.

        I doubt they will ever ride a SC. They don’t ride the bus. They will take Link if the trip is to the airport sometimes but usually Uber. But I think it is risky to tell these folks the city will box them in for years between 3rd Ave. which is no man’s land and 1st which is blocked due to construction on 1st when 2nd runs one way.

        These are the few folks willing to live downtown today, and keep the remaining businesses alive. Harrell is so focused on the DSA I hope he doesn’t screw up these green shoots. Harrell got a lot of good publicity for cleaning up the tents — which should have been done long ago — but is starting to tread water when it comes to crime and revitalizing the downtown, and still has the comp. plan and residential zoning coming up that will likely determine his next election unless progressives run a nut.

      2. “what about the disruption on 1st from constructing a streetcar?”

        1st is not an equity area. It’s less disruption to install surface rails than to dig a hole across the entire street. The Downtown Seattle Association is for the streetcar, so at least some of the businesses are promoting it.

        The plan includes converting the center lanes to transit-only lanes, so cars will lose two general-purpose lanes. But that has been known for years.

      3. “what about the disruption on 1st from constructing a streetcar?”

        “1st is not an equity area. It’s less disruption to install surface rails than to dig a hole across the entire street. The Downtown Seattle Association is for the streetcar, so at least some of the businesses are promoting it.”

        All of downtown Seattle is an “equity area”. Office occupancy is at 40%. 3rd is dead retail wise.

        The issue with installing a SC is the entire street is closed down. The ridership on the SC has to make up for the loss of two general purpose lanes which buses can run in too. Based on current ridership on the two other SC’s the 1st Ave. SC — in a more important location IMO, especially with 3rd being a no man’s land — I don’t see the 1st Ave. SC coming close to replacing the mobility and traffic on first from buses and cars.

        Yes, if you are an urbanist or transit fan the idea of eliminating car lanes (even if they carry buses) is a dream, but my suggestion would be to see the next operating budget for Seattle and upcoming bridge repair costs before making downtown less attractive to shoppers and diners with money, otherwise you won’t have any, which isn’t going to help tourism.

        I really think Al is correct. This is throwing good money after bad in order to refund the feds $75 million. If the two other streetcars were even marginally effective — let alone good transit dollar per rider mile — I guess I could understand it, but the existing SC’s are the worst transit in the region, and their routes and terribleness are fixed.

      4. Daniel, actually buses can run in center lanes if the platforms are on the right like on Madison. Yes, the rails or bus lanes have to snake along in order to use right-hand platforms, but they are possible. Madison BRT was planned to stop at a CCC streetcar station on First.

        This could be a way to get a short, frequent line from Lower Queen Anne down to Starbucks. It would run in the reserved lanes through the traffic jams around the Market.

      5. “All of downtown Seattle is an “equity area”. Office occupancy is at 40%. 3rd is dead retail wise.”

        I meant equity as Metro/ST/governments have defined it. An area with a large percent of minorities, working-class essential workers, lower-income people, and/or elderly that have been neglected by transit investments. The CID fits this, but the rest of downtown doesn’t. We’d have to look at Metro’s equity map to see which areas are defined, but I doubt central downtown or 1st Avenue is in it.

    5. The caveat is that doesn’t this assume that attracting suburbanites, presumably mostly suburban drivers, is the way forward for downtown Seattle? It is probably not. In fact, this is probably a doomed approach. Seattle really can’t handle much more car traffic. (TBF, this approach does seem to be behind the mayor’s “Culture Line” branding).

      Link overcrowding might become an issue, and most tourists and convention goers are not going to spend much time looking up bus routes, even well branded ones like Rapid Ride.

      There is also the assumption that if the streetcar is not built (finished, really!), there will be a comparably robust bus option to replace it. I doubt it. Could you do something like a Rapid Ride G instead? Perhaps. But not cheaply, and definitely not quickly (years of additional planning alone!), especially if you’re looking to replace the current streetcar with “RapidRide Downtown” so it’s useful and there is not a forced transfer on both ends.

      It just makes sense to finish the streetcar. Finish what you start. But also, Run It Properly! No more 15-20 minutes between trains. Consider just running it as a single continuous line, a “downtown spine,” if you will.

      (Devil’s Advocate here: I mention lack of a bus based plan, and it is also the case that there isn’t a plan to run it frequently as a single line either.)

      1. Brandon, the way I see it is if the question is office commuters then yes downtown could not handle that amount of drivers in the past. Those are gone, and more are probably leaving. Downtown in the future has to cater to those who live there and to the discretionary visitor, although I am not sure Harrell of the DSA have accepted that because it seems nearly impossible to revitalize downtown without the work commuter, and today’s downtown proves that.

        I don’t care where they live, whether east, south, or north King Co., and retail experts I am sure know what percentage of their sales and customers drive or take transit. For example, U Village I am sure knows that. I know not enough live downtown to revitalize it, at least not now, so non-work visitors are critical, whether tourist or “suburbanites” (which is about everywhere else, including non-downtown Seattle), so, 1. they have to get to downtown; and 2. they have to get around downtown if you want folks on the street shopping.

        The CCC has been halted before for pretty valid reasons. Cost, the number of people it will carry, and the loss of that capacity on first for other modes.

        If the goal was to create a pedestrian only city, or area, and create parking along the perimeters that works. But the problem with downtown Seattle is there are so many buses, unfortunately on 3rd, the retail is spread out, sone areas are ok and some are bad, and if the hope is folks from outside Seattle take transit to Seattle to then catch the CCC or a bus to get around Seattle I don’t see it. They will go to U Village, Northgate Mall, Bellevue Mall, or if necessary, Uber, which all have perimeter parking and pedestrian only spaces. Uber is very cheap for intra-downtown trips.

        I don’t care and don’t live or work in downtown Seattle anymore, but I don’t see the CCC revitalizing downtown in any way, and really taking it backwards. My only experience with the street car is the FHSC and I thought it was maybe the worst transit I have even seen, whether in the U.S. or Europe. I would NEVER take it again. Too many better options.

        Maybe the CCC will be different but I doubt it. If you have two SC’s that suck what are the odds with the exact same technology and design and operators the third will be different?

      2. “There is also the assumption that if the streetcar is not built (finished, really!), there will be a comparably robust bus option to replace it. I doubt it. Could you do something like a Rapid Ride G instead? Perhaps. But not cheaply, and definitely not quickly (years of additional planning alone!), especially if you’re looking to replace the current streetcar with “RapidRide Downtown” so it’s useful and there is not a forced transfer on both ends.”

        The argument against the streetcar is partly that 1st Avenue is not a top transit priority, and if there were a bus, it would have a different route than the streetcar. I can’t see a bus making a U shape from 5th & Stewart to 1st to 5th & Jackson. First Avenue has ultra-frequent north-south service on 3rd, which is flat at Pike Street even if it’s steep for a half-dozen blocks between University and Yesler. There’s a DSTT1 entrance at 2nd & Seneca, which avoids the steep hill up to 3rd. The streetcar route doesn’t address Belltown, or travel between Belltown and lower 1st. A bus would not have the button-hole at Jackson-14th-Yesler-Broadway.

        Two useful bus routes on 1st would be Seattle Center to SODO, or Seattle Center to CID.

        There is no proposal to shut down the existing streetcars. That’s just a what-if. What if the First Hill route had been a trolleybus (without the button hook). What if we deleted the SLU streetcar and replaced it with more service on the C, 40, and/or 70.

        I agree that a single line running every 5 minutes sounds better than the current plan. The current plan is two lines running every 10 minutes, overlapping for 5-minute service between Westlake and CID. Running both lines every 5 minutes would lead to 2.5 minutes in the shared segment. We’d have to check that against traffic-light cycles to see if it’s feasible.

      3. I’ll repeat the gist of RossB’s comment from earlier in this post. Let’s suppose the CCC is built. Which bus route would you take service from to run the streetcar every 5 minutes instead of 10?

        The streetcar has to compete for the same pool of drivers as buses, so every streetcar run you add is a bus run that must be cut. And for reasons related to both the sub-area and racial versions of “equity”, it will inevitably be Seattle that bears the brunt of these cuts.

      4. @asdf2,

        Easy. I’d reduce almost every bus currently operating on 3rd. Everyone of them.

        Metro is currently wasting too many operator hours running nearly empty buses on 3rd. Our peer cities have figured this out and are wildly outperforming Metro. Metro should be able to do it too, and free up all those wasted operator hours for transit that actually matters.

        It is well past time for a rethink of Metro operations in DT Seattle.

  2. The original service plan, with mere 10-minute headway on each of the existing segments, was really disappointing. The full line needs 5-minute all-day headway, and 4-minute peak headway, to become useful. That may require a larger base. But I see this as a point of inflection where the City either goes big, or decides not to waste the money building a barely useful line.

    The failure to make the platforms level with the streetcar floors was gross incompetence. Since streetcar ridership is so low, why not resize the platforms while waiting for the CCC?

    The fastest way to build public support for the CCC is to increase frequency on the existing lines. That means ordering more fleet now, and putting it into service. That could be done even before the City recommits to the CCC., and could balloon ridership on the existing lines in the here and now.

    1. >The fastest way to build public support for the CCC is to increase frequency on the existing lines. That means ordering more fleet now, and putting it into service.

      In a way, this is a sensible idea. There is no need for a new segment to increase frequencies on the current lines, and increasing frequencies would make the existing lines more popular.

      But my concern is the current lines are not up-to-snuff from a routing and/or infrastructure standpoint. I know the First Hill Streetcar suffers because it takes a circuitous route and lacks dedicated right-of-way. I do not know if there would be so many trips that the Streetcar would be the fastest route for, even if frequency were increased.

      1. The Broadway portion of the route is long enough and straight enough to be a good route, if the wait time didn’t add significantly to the total trip time.

        Denver’s antiquated LRV’s have a relatively cheap solution to the level boarding problem: a ramp rolls up to where wheelchairs board. The current FHSC platforms just need one raised area for wheelchair boarding. The platforms don’t need to be completely rebuilt. Remove the time to extend and retract the on-board ramp, and the route could be done a little faster without going after the high-hanging-fruit traffic engineering fixes.

    2. The CCC is expected to increase ridership partially because it links SLU to Colman Dock and King St directly; the C is already very packed headed in that direction. I don’t know that it will help First Hill that much.

      If you wanted an extension that would drive ridership, the next logical place would be to extend south on Rainier to Judkins Park and eventually to Mount Baker, so that you now have a shorter, fairly direct ride to First Hill’s hospitals from East Link.

      1. The CCC would not go to Colman Dock; it would stay on 1st. The C already connects SLU directly to Colman Dock; if the C doesn’t have enough capacity, you can increase the capacity as needed by running the bus more often. Using the train to provide capacity might make sense if the bus was already running every 2 minutes and the trains were much larger vehicles than buses, but neither of these two conditions are actually the case.

      2. It’d more of move the connection point to Colman Dock towards the pedestrian bridge on 1st and Marion.

      3. Amazon workers who commute to Seattle by ferry having a one-seat streetcar ride from 1st & Marion to SLU is a human right!

      4. Transit is supposed to serve riders, and the ridership studies did show it would be very high ridership. Got a bigger, denser source of riders that’s even shorter to connect?

      5. > Transit is supposed to serve riders, and the ridership studies did show it would be very high ridership. Got a bigger, denser source of riders that’s even shorter to connect?

        The problem is that almost every trip pair is serviced better by the existing busses/light rail. For reaching Queen Anne the D line is better; Fremont the 40, UW the 70; rainier the 7. Even for First Hill itself from downtown using the Madison BRT/2/3 makes more sense than this circuitous route back tracking from Chinatown or from Capitol Hill station.

        To reach SLU from downtown besides if you are literally on 1st avenue, one can just use the C/40/70 and if you are coming from Capitol Hill, no one is going to take an hour long detour on the streetcar rather than just use the link and then go up westlake or take the 8.

        It is very hard for me to come up with trips that are served better with the center city connector against the existing transit options.

        Lastly the ridership studies are just done by a simple density measurement and parking cost analysis. It is kinda overly simplistic.

        > If you wanted an extension that would drive ridership, the next logical place would be to extend south on Rainier to Judkins Park and eventually to Mount Baker, so that you now have a shorter, fairly direct ride to First Hill’s hospitals from East Link.

        That was kind of the original goal, well the original plan was to extend up to Seattle Center/fremont/ and uw but the streetcar expansion just costs too much. Also it annoyingly conflicts with the existing trolleybus wires making it hard to expand.

  3. This is theme-park like thinking in that a streetcar will “revitalize” downtown. That is a task beyond the ability of a modest transportation investment.

    This extension is throwing good money after bad, in that it will be saddled to two existing lines that have shown to be ineffective. Aside from true level boarding, it will provide nothing that buses cannot provide; further, it will cost many times more and will do many things worse.

    While I applaud Harrell’s determination in pitching and supporting manifold solutions to support downtown, a successful approach needs to build on what is already working and be based in good fundamentals.

    1. I agree with asdf2 and Andrew on the streetcar. I am not a transit expert, but I did ride the FHSC a few times until I decided I would never ride it again since I could walk faster, drive faster, Uber faster.

      I don’t get the route for the FHSC. I get the premise: the hill is steep, most transit runs north/south through downtown, lots of hospitals and medical clinics up there, so how to get up and down the hill. Link goes to Capitol Hill. The G will go along Madison. That leaves First Hill.

      So the two things I don’t’ understand are:

      1. Why burden a bus with fixed rails and a fixed route? A streetcar to someone like me is no different than a bus. It isn’t like over decades development will coalesce around the SC. I don’t get the additional cost (which is insane) and lack of flexibility unless like San Francisco it is a tourist attraction, and those tourists don’t really care where the SC is going because when they get there they will Uber to their real destination.

      2. If the goal is to get north/south transit riders up the hill why not take the shortest route? Say up straight up and down Yesler or James, even if not in a dedicated lane. Just straight up and down. Get rid of the stupid bike lane on James. Fast and short. The terminus in Pioneer Square just never made sense to me (with the loop of course which is how transit is corrupted by politics).

      Granted this area of James and 3rd needs to be much safer, but in the future if there is a CID N. station that is within walking distance of the G line, DSTT1 station, DSTT2 station, I would think a bus straight up the hill to First Hill.

      Although I think the motivation with the 630 has to do with safety and a transfer on 3rd and James, transferring from Link to the SC to get to First Hill is plain stupid. It will take longer to get to FH on the streetcar than from MI to downtown Seattle and the SC. The two keys in that situation — which transit fans think riders of the 630 will overlook — are a very short ride, and very fast frequencies, like almost none, because it is a very short straight up and down run, not a milk run through the central district.

      My final point is the corruption of federal grants which often are ideologically driven. If Seattle goes ahead with a SC on First Ave. so it won’t have to pay back the $75 million grant it will end up spending a fortune of its own money, get worst transit than a bus, and create more traffic congestion on First which will affect other avenues when Seattle is in a fight to the death over the discretionary shopper and diner. You don’t see Bellevue putting a SC down Bellevue Way.

      1. To me, this use of grant money seems to be quite pragmatic, not ideological. I believe Harrell is motivated here by the desire to show outputs to his downtown supporters. The existing funding and concept put it in the realm of the possible.

        I think the building of streetcars tends to be devoid of ideology, aside from the belief in the prevailing importance of property values and tourist amenities. That is an ideology, but I assume it is not one you are thinking of. My hometown, Charlotte, NC, has a streetcar, and that is a city that can never be accused of putting public transit over people.

      2. > A streetcar to someone like me is no different than a bus.

        Not everyone is like you.

        I ride the streetcar whenever possible, even when it means a little extra walking, because it offers a more pleasant experience than a bus.

      3. The idea is that middle-class people will think better of downtown Seattle if it has a streetcar. The goal is to capture people’s imagination, take tourists from Pike Place Market to MOHAI, and allow people to ride the streetcar to a restaurant before or after a show. The transportation benefit is marginal at best, considering the existing frequent transit around it.

        And, uh, if the problem is loiterers on 3rd Avenue, this routing just coincidentally happens to goes around it. Is that the goal?

        I don’t think it has anything to do with the 630, or that the proponents even realize the 630 exists. The alternative to the 630 is Link+G.

        The city should be promoting RapidRide G.

      4. “A streetcar to someone like me is no different than a bus.

        “Not everyone is like you.

        “I ride the streetcar whenever possible, even when it means a little extra walking, because it offers a more pleasant experience than a bus.”

        I think most people would say a streetcar is no different than a bus. Except it costs dramatically more, the route is fixed, it totally displaces other multi-use lanes (except for the existing SC’s), and in Seattle serves such a tiny portion of the city it is nearly impossible to choose the SC over a bus or Link.

        I also have never found the ride on a SC more pleasant than a regular bus with rubber tires.

        Personally, I am surprised Seattle has the money in its budget. I think the cost of the bridges is just coming home although I understand transit fans hate spending money on maintenance. According to the Seattle Times Seattle will face a $250+ million deficit in its next operating budget.

        If I had to guess I think Al called it: Seattle does not want to give back the $75 million federal grant. If residents or visitors don’t like the congestion or loss of two general purpose lanes on First they can always move or shop or dine someplace else. Where Seattle gets the rest of the money for the SC who knows.

      5. I am pretty sure the jog on Yesler is because of the grade. Yesler and James are pretty steep, and rubber is better at climbing than steel. And the FHSC was basically a sop to First Hill after their stop on Link fell through due to bad geology.

        The issue then is that it is faster to walk down the stairs at Yesler Terrace to Jackson St.

      6. Maybe the City could install a funicular between Yesler Terrace and the ID.

      7. @Mars Saxman,

        I think there are a lot of people like you. People who prefer to ride rail over buses.

        It is well documented that rail systems generally generate higher ridership even when replacing existing bus service on the same route.

        Why? Some would say it is “rail bias”, but in reality it is the old adage that “quality sells”. It’s just a better product with a smoother, more predictable ride. And it is easier to use.

        All those factors add up to increased usage, as you indicate.

      8. > 2. If the goal is to get north/south transit riders up the hill why not take the shortest route? Say up straight up and down Yesler or James, even if not in a dedicated lane. Just straight up and down. Get rid of the stupid bike lane on James. Fast and short.

        That is what the Madison BRT is going to do, straight up and down Madison.

        That is yet another reason why I really don’t see what exact trip pair actually benefits from the city center connector.

      9. If the objective is to get riders to the east, then the project is attaching itself to the wrong end of the FHSC. A better route would be to have a Pike-Pine one-way couplet with a streetcar lane between Broadway and Westlake, it would run by the expanded convention center and provide a faster one seat ride between SLU and First Hill. Half the trains could then turn north to Capitol Hill Station and maybe get extended on John St to 15th which has a former streetcar turn around loop (replacing Route 10?). The other half could turn south and the end on Jackson could go further to Colman Dock or to the stadiums. One branch could also leave Westlake and circle into Belltown and CCC end in LQA or near the arena..

        The moment the question is asked “How can we add to the streetcar to increase its productivity?” the task is already futile.

        The question that should be asked is how can transit be more productive — even as a mere tourist or recreational service. From that lens, a streetcar that skips the stadiums, the Arena, the convention center and requires a very slow trip to get close to nightlife in Capitol Hill, Belltown and Pioneer Square gets a really low grade in my eyes.

  4. The CCC got its $75M Small Starts grant, right? FTA will want their money back if it isn’t built. That could be why the project is back being considered. It’s embarrassing to return a gift.

    1. Al, based on another article, it seems like there is a pledge for $75M in funding, but the amount of money that has actually been granted to SDOT and not used is $7.4M combined for CCC and a proposed Broadway extension to First Hill Streetcar.

      “The U.S. Department of Transportation shouldn’t let Seattle sit on $7.4 million in transit grants the city failed to spend on streetcar extensions along First Avenue and on Broadway, a new audit says,” Mike Lindblom writes, Seattle Times.

    2. How about renaming the FHSC the “Center City Connector”, and use the money to fix all the engineering mistakes, build a larger base, and triple the fleet size?

      The FHSC already serves more minority neighborhoods than the CCC would.

    3. And the Broadway/Roy extension was canceled because neighboring businesses didn’t want construction disruption and didn’t think the extension would be worthwile. So the money will have to be returned.

      1. the grant for the Broadway extension has already been returned to the PSRC pool. that was a very weak project.

  5. What’s the real backstory? Who is anticipating that the project will be a financial benefit? The one thing I see with transit projects in our region is that someone is advocating for it because it personally benefits them financially, it mitigates some perceived negative impact or it accomplishes some other need besides transit service (like adding a bicycle track or demolishing an antiquated building).

  6. I’ll agree with Jarrett Walker about how streetcars are often overrated. The lines we have are hardly showing a great return on investment. I also think that these lines would both be more useful if they went all the way through downtown instead of terminating on one edge or the other as they do today.

    The downtown connection would then be partly doubling down on a sunk cost, but we aren’t realistically going to see through the sunk cost fallacy and tear these streetcars out in favor of buses. Given that, a connection would be a way to get more mileage out of this existing infrastructure.

  7. A streetcar named “Culture Connector”. “The streetcar plays a central role as a backbone to a new “arts, entertainment, culture district.”

    What culture will the streetcar connect? Where’s the new district? There’s the existing Pike Place Market, the art museum, MOHAI, some Chinatown venues, and the Capitol Hill Arts District. The symphony is on 3rd, not exactly on the streetcar line. Are new theaters planned on 1st? Where can a new theater go without replacing a highrise building? Well, The Lusty Lady needs a tenant, but the new owner is working on that.

  8. I understand the “in a perfect world” argument that buses provide more bang for the buck.

    But politicians often muck things up, and the world is less than perfect. If you have rails in the asphalt, it is far harder to cut frequency, and impossible to constantly move the route, so only the frequent flyers know where to catch it and where it takes you.

    I would use it. I will use a lot more if it is has it’s own right of way and it’s more frequent than every 10 minutes.

    1. “impossible to constantly move the route”

      I’ve seen this argument multiple times but realistically is it actually a problem? I’ve definitely seen changes in bus routes over the years, but I feel like Metro, at least, is pretty conservative in __not__ changing routes even when it might be better to do so, as people on this blog have pointed out in the past, too.

      I’ve been inconvenienced by some of the changes in the past (e.g. when the 73 moved to Roosevelt instead of 15th for a while, back in the day) but there were good reasons for those changes, the changes were pretty widely publicized, and the final impact on my life seemed… honestly, pretty tiny, after the initial “shit, it means I gotta walk 3 blocks in the rain now” wore off.

      Doesn’t seem like frequency is hard to cut when you can cancel or mothball entire routes, as we saw with the SLU one in the past, either.

    2. The waterfront streetcar could not be moved (its base in particular), so it was shut down forever.

      Seattle’s original streetcar network was shut down forever by one bad city council.

      “A bough incapable of bending …”

  9. Well, hopefully they will build the stations to be 120′ long so they can couple the streetcars together.

    1. What would be the point of coupled streetcars instead of longer or double-decker streetcars?

      1. 1. you don’t have to throw out the existing streetcars you have

        2. you don’t have to resize places like maintenance bays or yards, to fit longer and/or taller vehicles

    2. If single streetcars running every 3 minutes can’t provide sufficient capacity, this will be one of the most successful streetcar lines in the world. 120′ would be overkills. If SDOT needs to come back next decade an expand the maintenance facility to add a few additional vehicles to boost frequency to meet demand, the CCC will have been a wild success.

      For a short urban line, frequency is super important.

  10. Downtown transportation for downtown residents is worse than it used to be, believe me. Since no one is proposing buses going along First Ave., where we lived until recently, I endorse the proposed streetcar. At least it may help ferry riders as they exit the pedestrian bridge on First. We now live downtown Winslow so sounds good to me.

    1. in fall 2011, routes 15, 18, 21, 22, and 56 were shifted to 3rd Avenue from 1st Avenue to make room for two projects related to the AWV replacement. in fall 2012, routes 10 and 12 were taken from 1st Avenue as it was congested with AWV related traffic.

      1st Avenue is ready for bus routes, but for Seattle reserving it for the CCC Streetcar they plan but do not fund. 1st Avenue has two-way electric trolleybus overhead connecting with South Jackson, Pike-Pine, Union, Stewart-Virginia, and Lenora streets. Nothing can change until Seattle makes up its streetcar mind. We are waiting for Godot.

      My suggestion: shift routes 7, 14, 36, 21, 24, 33, 124, 131, and 132 to 1st Avenue; provide short waits. The G Line will take riders up hill. Link is close at USS and PSS. Routes 7, 14, and 36 would go atop Link at IDS and Westlake.

      With the AWV removed, the city will grow west a bit. We could have three frequent north-south two-way transit corridors: Link, 1st Avenue, and 3rd Avenue. Two-way PBL on 2nd and 4th avenues.

      Note the SDOT G Line and CCC add on block to the Marion Street causeway walks. The G Line will stop north of Madison Street.

      1. I would even say, that Seattle could reasonably spread service hours around to have a local grid on 1st, 3rd, and Boren. It’s kind of weird that most of the rest of the city has a grid bus pattern, but the moment you get to Downtown all of a sudden everything has to be on 3rd.

  11. If they had some true vision I could be convinced of the value — for instance if the plan was to convert 1st Ave into a carfree pedestrian/streetcar mall.

    If the plan is “run the streetcar mixed with cars or car parking and expect downtown to be magically revitalized”, then no.

    I have to admire Harrell’s skill as a politician, the guy is about as shrewd as they get.

    1. 1st Avenue will get center transit-only lanes. Initially they’ll be for the streetcar and for the one-block turnaround of RapidRide G, with a shared station for both, but they’ll also be available to any future bus routes.

      Westlake Avenue has transit lanes on at least part of it.

      The First Hill Streetcar still runs in mixed traffic. The northern end of the SLU Streetcar probably does too.

  12. Harrell probably decided for CCC, it was S$_& or get off the pot. Since CCC was big in the Durkan/Murray/Chamber of Commerce part of the party (see also, 2nd tunnel, even if it wasn’t put out for public comment), he decided he could use it to bring back downtown.

  13. I don’t really see the use of the center city connector streetcar. All of the existing trip pairs are covered by the existing C and 40 line or the link to get to Capitol Hill. No one is going to take the streetcar to get from slu/downtown over to cap hill as it’s too circuitious.

    I’d much rather have the money spent on improving the westlake corridor with the route 40 improvements or route 7 improvements. Or even extending rapidride J to reach Roosevelt.

    1. I see DSTT2 differently than CCC.

      DSTT2 comes with $1.1 billion of subarea contributions. At least according to ST the capacity will be needed. It extends Link to SLU which is the most vibrant commercial area in the downtown. According to ST it will cost $2.2 billion, and unlike some others I don’t think a CID N station is terrible or much worse than the CID if the tunnel is safe although agree a station at the CID/midtown would have been better. Zero road capacity is lost, and if you believe the press it will connect WS and Ballard to downtown and remove a number of buses from 3rd Ave.

      The CCC is almost the opposite if revitalizing the downtown is a main issue. If the CCC is really about transit then put it on 3rd. The walk from 5th or 6th to First is arduous. If I look at DSTT1 and Link from Northgate to Sodo I see the benefit, both better transit and revitalizing downtown Seattle. I don’t see that for the SC’s. They are just too slow to be good transit, too expensive, and displace too much other street capacity, and just give Freeman and Bellevue another gift.

      1. “SLU which is the most vibrant commercial area in the downtown”

        A suburbanite might think that. City dwellers and even SLU residents sometimes think it’s sterile and ugly, and doesn’t have enough third-place amenities amidst the offices and housing and lunch restaurants. The most vibrant commercial area downtown I’d say is Pike Place Market. It’s thick with crowds again.

      2. I would also add Belltown and the Denny Triangle as areas that are more vibrant than South Lake Union.

      3. The problem with 3rd is that it’s fairly uphill from the waterfront, and particularly Colman Dock. The new bridge does conveniently spit out people level with 1st.

        I suspect that the C and 40 are now back to crowded levels given that Amazon has returned to office three days a week.

      4. The nearest C Line bus stop to Colman Dock isn’t on 3rd. The C Line is a one-seat ride all the way from Colman Dock, through downtown, to SLU. There are both an inbound and outbound bus stop within one block from the dock. There is one right across the street from the dock on Alaskan Way, and the other outbound stop is on Columbia street in between Alaskan Way and Western.

      5. > The CCC is almost the opposite if revitalizing the downtown is a main issue. If the CCC is really about transit then put it on 3rd.

        I guess to put a bit more context in my thought; back in 2010s the original streetcar plan was really to extend these streetcar lines up to Queen Anne/Fremont/UW as well as south to Mount baker and central district (along Jackson)

        None of this happened or is going to happen, so the reasoning to find the center city connector really doesn’t have as much importance. I’d much rather just fund the bus improvement along those corridors

      6. “The most vibrant commercial area downtown I’d say is Pike Place Market. It’s thick with crowds again.”

        The restaurants south of the market on 1st are also busy. I went to the waterfront one afternoon and tried a couple restaurants around 5 or 6pm, and they were full and had a waiting list.

      7. According to the comment section, the most vibrant area of downtown is the area that has no public transit.

      8. @Sam — Being within short walking distance of transit means you have transit. There is transit to SeaTac, but you still have to go through security. There is transit to our arenas and stadiums, but not to your seat. Pike Place Market has good transit.

  14. I’m generally agnostic towards this, I don’t hate it but am not very enthusiastic about it either. I can see possible improvements to the system now that it’d be connected together. The only way I’d maybe be more Gung ho about it if this new news development by the city had some groundwork laid to propose and plan more branches like to Central District, Belltown/Seattle Center, and finally extend it farther up Broadway and Fairview.

  15. @Mike Orr,

    “The Streetcar is Back”

    Actually, the streetcar never went away, or at least the CCC never went away. It has always been the leading option for connecting our two existing streetcar lines.

    Yes, the Durkan administration tried to kill it by launching multiple studies of the streetcar by various agencies that either reported directly to Durkan, or that had longstanding financial ties to Durkan, but every one of those studies came to the same conclusion – that the CCC makes economic and transit sense and should be built.

    Why is that? Well it starts with ridership. Ridership modeling indicated that ridership on the completed streetcar line (SLUCS+CCC+FHSC) should be huge. In fact, original modeling indicated that the ridership on the completed streetcar line would exceed the ridership on the two highest RapidRide lines COMBINED.

    That is a huge accomplishment, particularly given how many resources and man-hours it take to operate a typical RapidRide line. And as ridership goes, economics usually follows.

    And let’s not forget that ridership on the FHSC was actually one of the highlights of pre-pandemic ridership systemwide, easily outstripping ridership growth on all other regional routes transit routes other than on 1-Link. That is a pretty good base to build on.

    As per your comments about Jarrett Walker and streetcar, give me a break. Jarrett Walker has never come out with a generic statement against streetcar and in favor of buses. NEVER. Please don’t put words in his mouth.

    All he is saying is that, if you are going to make a heavy investment like what is required to build the CCC, then you had better make sure you are doing the right thing and are doing it correctly. But I think we can all agree on that, regardless of mode.

    Bit given the specifics of the CCC, and given the unique circumstances of the CCC, I am sure even Jarrett Walker would be fully onboard with building it. It just makes way too much sense not to proceed.

    But hey, this is Seattle. We don’t always do what makes sense.

    1. “As per your comments about Jarrett Walker and streetcar, give me a break. Jarrett Walker has never come out with a generic statement against streetcar and in favor of buses. NEVER. Please don’t put words in his mouth…

      “Bit given the specifics of the CCC, and given the unique circumstances of the CCC, I am sure even Jarrett Walker would be fully onboard with building it. It just makes way too much sense not to proceed.”

      While the quote was misattributed, what Mike wrote was Walker’s position on the issue as described by the Times. I don’t see Mike putting words in his mouth. Further, article heavily implies that Walker is disapproving of the CCC plan in this interview, calling him a “skeptic.” I think your assertion that he would be “fully onboard” is mistaken.

      1. @Andrew,

        The fact that the article implies that Walker is disapproving of the CCC in particular is exactly the problem, because Walker in fact has said no such thing.

        He hasn’t directly addressed the CCC at all. And his comments about not building streetcars as an “amenity” don’t really apply to the CCC because the CCC’s primary reason for being built is transportation, not urban development. The fact that some improvements in both ridership and urban development would come with the CCC is just a bonus.

        But, if anything, Walker’s comments are actually supportive of building the CCC. His comments do specifically recommend against building fragmented streetcar lines (Seattle’s current situation), and do specifically recommend building longer lines that pass through downtown (the proposed situation with the completed CCC). So, if Seattle were to follow his advice, Seattle would build the CCC.

        But hey, only in Seattle would the city build two little fragments of a streetcar line on the periphery of downtown, and then spend a decade or so arguing about whether or not to connect them using federal funding! Sometimes this place is just too dysfunctional.

        But I’m sure the CCC will get built someday. It just makes too much sense. But in time for the World Cup? Probably not.

    2. given the specifics of the CCC, and given the unique circumstances of the CCC, I am sure even Jarrett Walker would be fully onboard with building it. It just makes way too much sense not to proceed.

      Nonsense. Read what Walker wrote about streetcars:

      Streetcars that replace bus lines are not a mobility or access improvement.

      Are there cases where a mobility improvement (i.e. enabling someone to go somewhere faster than they can now) follows logically from the streetcar technology? Yes, there are some:

      1) Capacity.
      2) Existing rail rights-of-way.

      The CCC fails on both. Their are no capacity needs for the streetcar, and besides, the capacity of our streetcar does not exceed the capacity of our (big) buses. Obviously, it is not leveraging an existing rail right-of-way.

      More from Walker:

      I’m not saying in the abstract that streetcars are good or bad. I’m saying that they are a major capital expense that requires a justification other than mobility (“getting people where they’re going fast and efficiently”) when we compare them to the bus routes they replace, or that could be developed instead.

      So, what bus is it replacing? Is that bus so crowded that it is running every three minutes, and should be replaced by a vehicle with more capacity?

      No, of course not. Cities across the globe run streetcars to replace their existing (crowded) buses. Sometimes they skip this step, and just run a subway instead. But in this case, we have a brand new line that folks assume will be more popular than an existing bus, even though we haven’t bothered to re-route a bus there. It is absurd.

      Then there is the routing. In a completely different post, Walker mentions routes that are successful, and ones that are not. Another quote:

      All other things being equal, long, straight routes perform better than short, squiggly and looping ones.

      Which one best describes the completed streetcar route? It is clearly short, squiggly and looping. No one would bother taking it from one end to the other. There are several combinations that are also nonsensical (Broadway & Pike to 1st & Pike; Broadway & Madison to 1st & Madison, etc.). For every single stop, you can find combinations that are simply unrealistic. Why? Because it short, squiggly and looping. In contrast, try this with any of our high capacity, high ridership routes (A, C, D, E, 7, 40). What are they? Long and straight.

      The route is terrible, and the mode unnecessary. Harrell and company are not focused on the mobility aspect of the streetcar. They see it as a way to revitalize the neighborhood. Maybe so, but for that kind of money, there are all sorts of better alternatives.

    1. I’m not sure how useful it is to go back to that. That was from Seattle’s Transit Master Plan in 2012, the first one after a long time, and an attempt to integrate the just-launching RapidRide C, D, and E and upcoming U-Link and ST2 Link into a long-term vision.

      Its highest tier of service was a few streetcar lines: Westlake, Eastlake, North Rainier, maybe a couple others. Madison BRT was one of them, as a bus because modern streetcars can’t climb the steep hills. Mayor Mike McGinn championed this and wanted Westlake-Fremont-Ballard to be first.

      When Mayor Ed Murray came into office, he replaced all the streetcar proposals with RapidRide, except the City Center Connector. These then became RapidRide G (Madison), J (Eastlake), R (Rainier), and 40 (Westlake-Fremont-Ballard). The G is under construction. The J is proceeding with Seattle funding but hasn’t started construction yet. The R is awaiting funding. The 40 wasn’t advanced due to lack of funding, and is now getting less-than-RapidRide improvements.

      Belltown wasn’t in any of these later proposals. It may have been omitted because Ballard Link was going to serve Belltown. That was being planned in 2015, but in early 2016 Ballard Link was rerouted to SLU instead.

      So that Belltown streetcar routing was part of an earlier vision that was superceded by the CCC+RapidRides vision. I don’t think it makes sense to single out one part of the 2012 vision, when the entire vision was superceded.

      There was no discussion of trolley-wire conflicts on 1st that I heard. The switch to the CCC vision was more about SLU privilege, and wanting to leverage the existing investment in the two streetcar lines to increase their ridership.

    2. I believe that map diagram was from the streetcar plan developed somewhere between 2005 and 2007, before ST2 was on the ballot in 2008. The FHSC was conceived and funded in that measure.

      Personally, that original network in the GIF had lines that generally went in one direction or made an L. That’s kind of like the ideal bus street grid network that some here adore.

      The CCC instead creates a very elongated U so that it takes forever to go from one end of the path to the other.

  16. A transit line is ultimately a solution to a problem. In this case, the solution will cost $300 million dollars. My question is, what problem is the CCC trying to solve? Can anyone answer this succinctly?

    1. We only have the vague platitudes of the politicians that are pushing it. They haven’t identified much of a transit problem that needs to be solved. It’s more about leveraging the exising investment in the two streetcar lines by connecting them. The closest Durkan could come to articulating a transit purpose was a vision of tourists at Pike Place Market going to MOHAI and Chinatown+Little Saigon.

  17. On a more serious note about using CCC funds to help the FHSC …

    Can the new base be positioned so as to let newly-delivered streetcars be put into service on the FHSC line?

  18. If you to see a toy train for place making purposes done right, you should check out Herman Park in Houston. It runs in a loop through the park that starts and ends at a big parking lot. The entire route is through the park, so no stoplights to wait at.

    The train makes no pretense at providing any kind of real transportation or getting cars off the road. If anything, it puts cars on the road, as it’s a destination to drive to. But it very good at its intended purpose, which is to get families with young children to come to the park. It has always been crowded, and tons and tons of families take their kids on it. And, unlike trains that provide real transportation, this one probably even turns a profit to help maintain the park.

    If the CCC’s goal is to be a toy train like this, it won’t work (if you really want a downtown joyride to take the kids on, the monorail is better). But, it also doesn’t work as real transportation either. Try to do too many things at once, you end up failing at everything.

    1. It didn’t work so well as transit when the Seattle Center used it as a bake sale fundraiser. Even ORCA did not change the game. But its ridership went way up as a PeopleMover to Kraken games. Having Climate Pledge Arena pay to make transit free for those with tickets to events at the Pledge that day may have done the trick.

      Maybe now they can afford to honor youth fare freedom (and have it turn out to be revenue positive thanks to the accompanying adults).

      But we digress.

      The fare system is not one of the streetcar lines’ problems.

      1. They also increase frequency for Kraken games so you never have to wait more than 2 or 3 minutes for a train. It’s the elusive combination of free, frequent transit in a high demand area.

        Buses are also not a viable option for Kraken games because they get stuck in traffic.

    2. I’m not aware of anyone who is advocating for the Streetcar as an attraction unto itself, akin to the monorail. It suffers from tying into two mediocre mixed traffic streetcar alignments, but the new ROW is clearly designed as a real transportation option. The only time I see the streetcar dismissed as a toy is by opponents of the streetcar.

  19. I have a question for transit advocates:

    1) What transit, bike and pedestrian projects would you cancel to pay for the streetcar project? It is worth noting that MoveSeattle was underfunded, and won’t pay for all the things they want to build (such as the transit improvements: Also worth noting is that Seattle faces a funding problem for street improvement projects, due to the red-light camera project not bringing in enough money ( Bonus points if you actually live in Seattle, and can tell us what overdue projects in your neighborhood you would like cancelled so that we can have the streetcar.

    2) What bus service within Seattle would you cut so that you can run the streetcar?

    1. Both are reasonable questions. Do you have the cost of the various transit, bike, and pedestrian projects, relative to the cost of the streetcar build-up, as well as the cost of the streetcar relative to bus service (say in hours of operation)? It’s hard to answer otherwise.

      1. Move Seattle was a $930 million, nine year levy. The streetcar is expected to cost around $300 million (and is not funded by Move Seattle). The Durkan administration took over and realized that they couldn’t fund what they wanted to build. They basically cut back on everything, and came up with a revised plan, which is this: A lot of it are things related to maintenance and repair. For example, $68 million to seismically retrofit the bridges; $27 million to replace the Fairview Bridge; $230 for arterial and asphalt and concrete. From a transit standpoint, they are funding (or funded):

        RapidRide G — $15
        RapidRide H — $9.5
        RapidRide J — $8.5
        Metro 7 — $8.5
        40 — $9.5

        All numbers are in millions. This is the money that comes from Move Seattle. In some cases, it is supplemented with grants (as is the case with the streetcar) or additional local funding. You can dig into the details with that document.

        There is plenty more where that came from as well. There is an oversight committee which publishes reports every quarter, along with a “dashboard” on how things are going.

      2. Thank you. The magnitude of the numbers is what I was after (and I think is what is most important).

        IMHO it is not worth spending a third of the Move Seattle budget on the CCC. The maintenance costs are what I am more worried about. I would also invest all that money in improving pedestrian experience all over the city, e.g. adding more sidewalks where they are missing, and more bike lanes. But I say this as someone who no longer lives in Seattle, and who almost never went downtown during the last decade of living in Seattle. So, for me, sidewalks in North Seattle would have been a much better investment, as far as transportation budget goes, or improving the NE Seattle bus route frequency (I was not originally a fan of the 62, but I found that it improved my mobility quite a bit in the area, so more of that sort of thing would be much more useful than the CCC).

    2. It will be directly competing with 17 different routes on 3rd. Maybe one or two of those that lose ridership after CCC opens?

      There are many 1st ave businesses, high-rise residents living and waterfront users who would likely jump at the chance to use an option that is much closer to them than 3rd and is traffic-immune.

      See which of those 17 routes loses and cut em.

      Limitations: Not in Seattle. And rarely rode anything on 3rd when I did live there.

      1. Unfortunately it’s be slightly slower than many bus routes with the detour over to 1st. Though I guess if you are on first already it is faster to get on.

        More importantly none of the extensions of the streetcar exist/nor are planned to be built. if you are heading north it doesn’t reach as far as the 70 further on Eastlake so people would probably still opt for that bus. Or if heading to Fremont/queen anne would also prefer the 40/D. Or also to rainier the 7 would bring you farther.

        Basically you’d end up transferring to another bus for most trip pairs unless one is solely going between slu and international district

      2. It will be directly competing with 17 different routes on 3rd. Maybe one or two of those that lose ridership after CCC opens?

        That is awfully vague and presumptuous. It isn’t clear any bus loses significant ridership because of the CCC. But consider the 27, which it overlaps. The 27 runs along Yesler, connecting an important and relatively dense part of the Central Area. It is by far the most direct connection between Yesler Terrace and downtown (while the streetcar takes a wide loop). The bus runs every half hour — running it less often would be terrible for those riders.

        On Westlake it overlaps the C and 40. Do you really want to reduce frequency on two of the most cost effective routes in our system?

        Here is another way to think of it. Imagine the streetcar is a bus route. Also imagine that it is extended in a loop, but on 3rd, instead of 1st. Now assume that for whatever reason we want to reduce the number of buses on 3rd. Which route do we cut back? There are a number of choices, but probably the best one is the streetcar! There are only a handful of trips that would actually make sense on the streetcar — mostly combinations that are shared with other routes. In contrast, if you cut, say, the C, it would mean that all of those riders who are used to their one-seat ride from West Seattle to the middle of downtown have to transfer.

        If you want to argue for moving a few buses to First, that’s fine. But extending an existing route — that makes a freakin’ loop! — is going to cost money, even after the huge amount spent just because it runs on rails.

      3. Well, Metro should always review routes that have low ridership, or routes whose ridership declines significantly, like the recent suspensions, no mater what the cause is. Same with street cars, except how does Metro suspend or cut those runs if ridership is weak after spending hundreds of millions in road design, vehicle purchases, O&M costs, and so on? How does Metro restore those two general purpose lanes if the 1st Ave. SC performs poorly?

        I agree with Lazarus that Metro or any transit agency should constantly reevaluate ridership and costs for all routes because revenue is finite. The benefit of buses is it easy to do that, and reallocate those buses to other routes. Imagine if the peak buses Metro wants to suspend or consolidate were rail? Then what? All you can do then is cut frequency, but the route is fixed even if the riders have gone away, and you don’t save that much and no other route benefits from reallocating the extra service.


        “A group of Amazon employees walked off the job Wednesday to show frustration with recent layoffs, a mandate to return to the office and a lack of action around climate change, organizers said.

        “As of Wednesday morning, nearly 2,000 employees had pledged to participate in the one-hour walkout slated to start at noon. Of those, roughly 900 planned to gather outside Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood while another 1,000 would join from offices around the world.

        “The walkout comes after a year of cost-cutting measures that have affected nearly every part of Amazon’s sprawling business and led some employees to question how committed the company is to former CEO Jeff Bezos’ goal of becoming “Earth’s Best Employer.”

        “Amazon has cut 27,000 jobs since November. The layoffs have affected workers in advertising, human resources, gaming, stores, devices and Amazon Web Services, the company’s cloud computing division.”

        Not a huge sample but the layoffs and RTW have already influenced recent graduates’ work decisions, although recent graduates are more willing to consider a downtown urban experience for a while. Morale is low due to the layoffs, which has increased the workload for those still left.

        One complaint I hear is SLU is about the worst area in the region to commute to and from. Suddenly forcing 55,000 workers to commute in and out of SLU fro all over the region, all during three days/week, overwhelms the infrastructure including transit. Amazon needs to get its eastside offices open asap and move 15,000 to 20,000 workers to Bellevue, and probably spread out the workdays because everyone wants Monday and Friday off, and maybe look at a third location in S. King Co.

    3. Great question!

      The reason that I’m against 80% of all US commuter rail is it tends to suck up all the transit money and bus service gets cut. That’s happened here in Puget Sound already.

      This street car idea is stupid because there are already huge holes in the bus service in Seattle before even breaking ground of a project that’s guaranteed to be behind schedule and over budget.

      I’m not sure how this blog can post about an extreme driver shortage cutting bus service and even debate building a street car. But hey, maybe you all are jealous of Tacoma… he have Pierce Transit and a light rail line to nowhere.

  20. This streetcar project should be a 1st Ave transitway… a dedicated center running transitway for a handful of major bus lines that can shift down to 1st. While you are digging up the street, lay some tracks in the roadway and link the two streetcar lines. This project should just be doing a lot more and it could have if it just designed it adequately to be shared with standard fleet buses.

    1. The pedestrian concentration is between 1st and 5th. Third avenue goes through the middle of this and has a full walkshed on both sides, and the retail district from 3rd to 7th, and Link transfers. First Avenue is on the western edge of it, and parts of it are a steep hill up to 3rd or 5th or 7th. Moving bus routes to 1st just because there are transit lanes there is one of those things that looks good on paper but is not good for passengers. Third Avenue is already almost-exclusive transit lanes, the same as the benefit on First.

      And any buses using the center lanes on First would need left-side doors to use the stations. We don’t have any of those buses yet, but RapidRide G will have them. They have to be special-ordered and are more expensive than regular buses.

      1. Yes, yes, yes move some transit to First Avenue.
        Don’t discount the people on Alaskan Way, Western and Elliott. They are in the mix too. Alaskan Way is full of pedestrians deserving of public transit.

      2. I think a good replacement for CCC would be to extend RapidRide G up First Ave to Belltown and even to LQA or Key Arena. The left doors could allow for median stops on First. The travel time to First Hill would be much faster.

        To not take extra service hours, it could be attached to RapidRide D for a longer route. We could have a GD RapidRide Route!

      3. That is a nice idea Al, but one of the big reasons they separated the C and D was because the D is unreliable (because of the Ballard Bridge). They plan on running the G every six minutes, which runs the risk of bus bunching. The longer and more unreliable the route, the greater the chance of bus bunching.

        I’ve gone back and forth on which buses I would send there. If we wanted center running (and thus RapidRide) I would send the RapidRide version of the 7 and 70 (perhaps overlapping). Another option would be the 40 (which follows a similar path). For BAT lanes (and regular buses) there are a number of options. The 24/33 would be fairly painless, as long as they extend BAT lanes through Belltown. I don’t see BAT lanes as being much worse that center bus lanes, as First doesn’t have that many places where people turn. The G is slated to be the closest thing to BRT we’ve seen in this state, and it will have BAT lanes downtown (not BUS lanes). It is not ideal, but it is pretty darn close.

      1. That’s the plan, but as of early this year there is no sign of a station in the block between Madison and Spring.

        So it’s not clear whether that station will be built or that RRG will just stop at the curb using the right-hand doors. There is new concrete filling the former block-long parking pocket in the northern half of the block between Madison and Spring. It looks long enough for an artic to stop at it, but there is no shelter or even a bus stop pole, and the street has not been strengthened.

  21. It’s a tourist train. Tourists don’t take buses in America, certainly wouldn’t take a bus on Third Ave.

    Although I think the route would have been better on the waterfront to replace the old trolley.

  22. I’m beginning to lose faith in Harrell’s ability to revitalize downtown. So far it’s been some police stuff, a plaza at North of CID station, and doubling down on the CCC streetcar.

    The police stuff may be helping but it’s hard to tell, and I see no end date for the loiterers/sellers/tweakers.

    The North of CID vision of a “major hub” will probably end up one or two residential towers with a couple restaurants on the ground floor, relevant only to the residents of those towers and diners of those restaurants, but not to the majority of the community (so not a “major hub”).

    The CCC project seems like a non-solution to a non-problem.

    The culture district I don’t know what it is, so I don’t know how much it will make a difference. What cultural additions is he thinking of?

    That doesn’t seem to add up to much. What else is there?

    The best emerging thing downtown is probably the waterfront renovation and the Pike-Pine complete streets project. That at least will be nice-looking corridors for pedestrians and bikes. Part of it is coming into outline on Pike Street between 1st and 2nd. The street has been narrowed to one lane, kind of like the Bell Street Park non-woonerf. The rest of it is significantly wider sidewalks, and a bike lane isolated from the car lane. It’s still under construction but the sidewalks are clear and you can see what it’s turning into.

    1. Downtown will revitalize no matter what Harrell does. It is just a matter of time. Things are currently much better than the Seattle-is-dying, right-wing crowd believe. He is doing things that should help speed it up by changing the perception (“the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” and all that). As a result, he will credit his policies, even if they have marginal impact. This is good politics, which also make for good policy.

      I have a lot less faith in his transportation policies. The second tunnel is stupid, no matter where they put the station. He is basically following Dow into the abyss. The CCC is a bad transportation project, now being sold as an essential tool for revitalizing downtown. By the time it is done, the area will be revitalized, and spending that kind of money will look awfully silly. Unlike a lot of his proposals (and unlike the South Lake Union streetcar) you won’t be able to credit the streetcar for an improving neighborhood. The neighborhood will have already improved. If anything, tearing up the street (again) will be worse for the neighborhood, at least in the short run. There is a reason why shop keepers in Capitol Hill shot down the extension of the streetcar.

      To be clear, I like Spotts, and think his heart is in the right place. But he doesn’t understand the particulars, and why the CCC is a fundamentally bad idea (or why we don’t need a second tunnel). The tourists are back. The workers are slowly returning. We actually do have a fairly strong, vibrant downtown. Spending a fortune on something that adds so little (when we don’t have that much money) is a really bad idea.

  23. Lazarus: “I’d reduce almost every bus currently operating on 3rd. Everyone of them. Metro is currently wasting too many operator hours running nearly empty buses on 3rd. Our peer cities have figured this out and are wildly outperforming Metro. Metro should be able to do it too, and free up all those wasted operator hours for transit that actually matters. It is well past time for a rethink of Metro operations in DT Seattle.”

    This doesn’t make any sense. Each route goes to a different neighborhood. They have to be there so that people downtown can catch them. They have to be together on one street so that people can transfer between them and to/from Link. The city has made the entire street transit-only with limited exceptions, so the buses get through the area robustly now. You may see empty buses because they’re near the end of their route and people have already gotten off. The 3rd Avenue segment from Jackson to Stewart is only a mile or ten minutes, so not many service hours, and they’re the most useful hours because they’re in the densest area and central transfer hub. If you add the area between Stewart and Denny it’s still most of that. So the buses aren’t wasting hours there; they’re doing their job. Saying Metro’s transit mall is less performant than Portland or other cities is just silly.

    The city and Metro are gradually streamlining the routes there. They want more RapidRide lines there, and restructuring some non-RapidRide routes out of downtown. The ST2 and ST3 Link extensions will make that more feasible. So what you want is going to happen anyway. It has been slowed by the recession and driver shortage and Kubly-era fairy budgeting: the RapidRide lines are coming more slowly and fewer of them than expected. But they’ll get done eventually. And the Downtown Seattle Association is already ready with a few proposals on how to reconfigure Third when the number of buses go down, for whatever they’re worth. We don’t need to go deleting bus routes or moving them to First just because Lazarus is offended by them.

    1. I think generally your explanation makes sense, but I feel like there is a bit of a conflict between

      “You may see empty buses because they’re near the end of their route and people have already gotten off.”


      “they’re the most useful hours because they’re in the densest area and central transfer hub”

      If most people get off at say Westlake from the North end, and CID from the South, to transfer to link, and almost no one rides through the 3rd Ave corridor, then Lazarus is correct and some of the routes should be truncated earlier. If, on the other hand, these are the most useful hours, then the corridor ridership should reflect that, and it should be an easy thing for Metro, at least, to find out.

      1. @ Anonymouse,

        Fundamentally there is nothing that unique about our transportation needs. There is no such thing as “Seattle exceptionalism” when it comes to downtown buses. And anyone who claims otherwise should get out and see a bit more of the world.

        All of our peer cities have found a way to do a better, more efficient job of serving their downtown areas with transit. All of them.

        Metro could do a better, more efficient job too. There is no reason for the situation on 3rd to continue in perpetuity. None.

      2. @AJ,

        Yes, Seattle has an hour glass shape, but that actually makes our task simpler.

        With so many transportation routes aligned North/South in Seattle there are actually MORE opportunities to consolidate routes and have efficient transfer points, not less. Pity our poor peer cities who have routes arriving from all four points of the compass instead of just our two. They have a much tougher job creating efficient transportation corridors to serve their downtowns, yet they still out perform Metro in efficiency. Why? How?

        Additionally, we already have LR aligned N-S to do the heavy lifting up and down our hourglass shaped city. That helps a lot too, so why do we still have such an inefficient and disappointing situation on 3rd? Why?

        It really is time for a rethink of Metro’s service plan for downtown.

      3. Lazarus, what are you actually proposing? Massive route truncation at the ends of downtown, or just less routes? Your critique strikes me as an elaborate version of the empty bus fallacy coupled with a rejection of the value of through-running.

        “Pity our poor peer cities who have routes arriving from all four points of the compass instead of just our two.” Um, no? A city on a square grid doesn’t have routes overlap. They intersect, which is different. The most efficient route design is a rectilinear grid.

      4. @AJ,

        Yep, increased route consolidation and hub-and-shuttle systems are both techniques that our peer cities have used to increase bus efficiency in their urban cores, in addition to other methods.

        But hey, the great thing about being as far behind as Metro is that it is easy to catch up. Our peer cities have all done the hard part of demonstrating what techniques work and which don’t. All Metro has to do is select which techniques they want to copy and implement them.

        I.e., it is easier to copy someone else’s success than it is to innovate. At this point Metro should start coping.

      5. @Lazarus

        We’ve already been over this but the problem is the streetcar only travels one mile from downtown going north and south. Many riders want to go past it. Other cities streetcars/trams travel much further 3~5 miles from their downtown where it makes sense to then transfer to a bus past it. I really don’t know what example city you are citing that uses such a short streetcar system as their core

      6. @WL,

        Actually, the existing streetcar lines total just under 4 miles in length. With the addition of the CCC the total length would be just over 5 miles.

        Additionally, the Seattle urban core is denser than most of our peer cities. So a streetcar line wouldn’t need to be as long to generate the same level of ridership.

        The combination of higher ridership with shorter travel distances is a huge multiplier on improved streetcar economics.

        And there is nothing to preclude extensions in the future to further leverage the city’s investment. But I would advocate for a go slow approach where we finish what we started first, and then talk about potential extensions.

      7. “With so many transportation routes aligned North/South in Seattle there are actually MORE opportunities to consolidate routes and have efficient transfer points, not less”

        What? What? What? Which routes do you want to truncate where, and which do you want to keep?

        “Pity our poor peer cities who have routes arriving from all four points of the compass instead of just our two. They have a much tougher job creating efficient transportation corridors to serve their downtowns, yet they still out perform Metro in efficiency.”

        What do you want? Central Seattle is very short east-west, so its transit needs there are markedly different from north-south. Metro used to have more routes that turned on 3rd to East Seattle like the 11/125, 7 (49), and 14 (47). They were split because the turns were creating more congestion and slowness.

        If you’re concerned about inefficiency, downtown seems a strange place to focus on.

        “If most people get off at say Westlake from the North end, and CID from the South, to transfer to link, and almost no one rides through the 3rd Ave corridor, then Lazarus is correct and some of the routes should be truncated earlier.”

        It’s not; Lazarus is just saying it is. The biggest objection to the C/D through-route was that there was no route from Ballard to lower downtown or Pioneer Square. Splitting the C and D and extending the D to Pioneer Square rectified that. Yet Lazarus wants to do the opposite, for some vague reason, and imagines inefficiencies in the most important part of the routes. Routes that go to downtown should ideally go all the way through it to the adjacent neighborhood on the far side, or be through-routed with a route going to the opposite end. That allows people to do what they really want: get to any part of downtown. There’s no reason not to.

      8. @Lazarus

        It is 5 miles long but only 1 mile from downtown Seattle (say using westlake center as center) when you measure on a map. the circuitous routing around cid up to Capitol Hill means it still doesn’t actually travel that far from downtown.

        This is not like say in Zurich where the tram lines travel 3~5 miles from downtown.

        Or to put it another way the streetcar does not replace any of the rapidride lines which is would be the streetcar lines in a European city and instead is an awkward stub of the rapidrides

      9. If most people get off at say Westlake from the North end, and CID from the South, to transfer to link, and almost no one rides through the 3rd Ave corridor, then Lazarus is correct and some of the routes should be truncated earlier.

        Correct, except not a single bus route follows that pattern. It is hard to get access to the Metro routes, but look at the numbers for ST, prior to the pandemic*. The 510, 511, 512 and 522 came from the north and ran through downtown. Ridership was fairly evenly amongst the downtown stops. Same with the 545. So much so that it is difficult to tell where the Link stop is. The 550, as well as the South Sound buses go the opposite direction through downtown, but again, ridership at those stops is pretty evenly spread out. In every case a bus truncated at the edge of downtown would force the vast majority of riders to transfer. I’m not talking about the vast majority of downtown riders — I mean overall ridership.

        Obviously these buses are downtown express by nature. Something like the 40 would be different. Lots of people get on and off along the way with a bus like that, which is why ridership is so high. But there are still thousands and thousands of riders who board or alight downtown, and again, the riders are spread out downtown.

        It just isn’t that pattern.


      10. Yep, increased route consolidation and hub-and-shuttle systems are both techniques that our peer cities have used to increase bus efficiency in their urban cores, in addition to other methods.

        What peer cities ask riders to get out of their bus a half mile from their destination, and then wait for a train? I can only think of Denver, a city that no one in the world wants to emulate when it comes to transit. Their modal share is abysmal, even for a U. S. city. They are much below (peer cities like) Portland and Seattle. Vancouver (our peer in so many ways) does not apply this approach either. Despite having a much more frequent rail system, their buses continue to run downtown. Look at how Walker praises the buses that go downtown while writing about their grid:

        So look at the network map again. Downtown is the peninsula sticking up on the north side of the city. If you look closely at the system map, you’ll see that most of the north-south lines extend to the north edge of the grid and then bend east or west as needed to flow into downtown. There’s a bit of inefficiency in the resulting duplication, but it’s not too bad. It means downtown’s major attractions and connections anchor the north end of most of the north-south lines.

        In other words, they *don’t* do what you are suggesting. Is it working for them? YES! They kick our ass when it comes to transit, in every respect — modal share, train ridership, bus ridership — despite being smaller. When it comes to transit, we shouldn’t be trying to emulate a city like Denver, but copy Vancouver, arguably the best transit city on the West Coast (and the best of its size in the U. S. or Canada). That means avoiding stupid decisions, like pretending there is no transfer penalty.

        Look, there is a very good argument for truncating buses a long ways from downtown. You do save a lot of money, and there are oodles of excess capacity with our trains. There is also an argument for sending a few buses to nearby, parallel streets downtown (like 1st, 5th or Boren). Doing so adds coverage for very little money, while maintaining the spine (if done right). But asking all the riders to transfer so close to their ultimate destination is just annoying, which is why so few agencies actually do that.

        Then, of course, there are the practical problems. A short streetcar on First Avenue is expensive — a large streetcar on Third would be even more expensive. Or are you suggesting that everyone transfer to the streetcar on First? Seattle is an hourglass, but it isn’t that skinny. You would be forcing two transfers, or very long walks for fairly common trips (e. g. to Fourth Avenue). So now you want a streetcar on First, and a streetcar on Third. Where do all the buses truncate (on each end of downtown)? Where do they turn around, and layover? This isn’t a trivial issue — it is why so many of the buses through-route. Oh, and through-routing saves money in other ways (fewer actual trips). So now you have spent a fortune on not one, but two streetcar lines, as well as the service to run and maintain them; you are forcing transfers; magically turning around the buses; yet you haven’t saved that much money, since you’ve eliminated through-routing. This is a fantasy solution that simply doesn’t exist.

    2. Lazarus: due to its operator shortage, Metro has announced route suspensions and reductions in fall 2023.
      Routes 15, 16, 18, 29, 55, and 121 use 3rd Avenue.
      Route 28 will have longer headway and fewer trips; it serves 3rd Avenue.
      Even routes 7 and 36 will have fewer peak period trips; they serve 3rd Avenue.
      Other 3rd Avenue routes were already suspended; see routes 19, 37.

  24. I am still crying over spiltmilk.

    I still wonder why the once very popular waterfront streetcar was eliminated in favor of
    creating a park with a huge rubber eraser as an attraction symbol instead.

    ?Could that streetcar not have been included in that SAM park system somehow, as it was the best connector between the ID, King Station, the sports arenas, the Colman ferry terminal, and many other popular destinations along the waterfront?

  25. Portland has far more streetcar miles than Seattle.

    The areas along the streetcar are doing ok, but that’s because there is stuff along the streetcar, not because the streetcar exists. If you stand at NW 23rd and Lovejoy, you see far more people on the 15 than on the streetcar.

    MAX did a lot to revitalize part of downtown Portland, but adding MAX did little to revitalize the areas along NW 5th and 6th north of Burnside.

    At least MAX has dedicated lanes, and even a dedicated street for parts of 1st.

    Maybe, if the CCC is build properly, it could lead to some benefits, but neither seem likely.

    How is a streetcar on Seattle’s 1st supposed to revitalize the office buildings on 3rd?

    1. Not entirely related to your comment, but since you talked about MAX and the streetcar in Portland it made me think of it. The first time I was in Portland years ago, I was very confused as to the need to have two “light” rail systems, that seemed to not interoperate and be generally weirdly (to me, as a tourist) complementary. I figured out how to go where I needed to, but the branding seemed strange and the need for different systems seemed nonexistent.

      That’s my unrequested observation :) now to hop off the soap box again, I have some actual questions (and tie this back to the topic of the post):

      1. How do locals see the branding in Portland?
      2. Has there been any discussion in Portland about whether it would have been better to tie the streetcar lines into MAX?
      3. From your experience with the parallel systems in Portland, do you think that Seattle/Puget Sound would have been better off tying the branding and operations of the streetcar lines into Link?

      I’m genuinely curious. I don’t have any thoughts about it beyond what I said, that “vibe” that it’s weird and unclear. I’m thinking of cities where I’ve seen different rail systems and they’re just… usually very different, like Toronto streetcars are very different from the subway (though I guess the Crosstown Eglinton will blur the line a bit, since it’s light rail), Stockholm streetcars are nothing like their metro… I had maybe a bit of a similar confusion in SF (“why are the Muni lines not part of BART”) but even there it was more immediately different because BART is still heavy rail and so it “feels” different (and obviously Caltrain even more so). But this whole “streetcar” vs. “light rail intended to operate as a Metro” thing that the PNW systems do is just weird to me, I guess.

      Okay, now I’m really off my soapbox :) Thanks again in advance for your thoughts (and anyone else’s).

      1. MAX is too large for the blocks in the Pearl District, and especially the narrow streets west of I-405. MAX cannot run in mixed traffic because of its size and weight. It can’t stop fast enough without knocking people down inside it.

        “Tram-trains” [i.e. slightly wider all low-floor cars with more segments] could, though the short blocks north of Burnside would limit them to perhaps four rather than the current three sections. They couldn’t be much bigger than they are.

        They’re wildly popular with the people who live along them, since they’re quieter and safer for pedestrians — they never deviate from their prescribed path.

        But the main thing is that MAX is relatively enormous in comparison, and just not appropriate for the small scale of the Pearl District and “Northwest” streetscapes.

      2. Thank you, Tom.

        One question – the “never deviate from their prescribed path” applies to both types of rail vehicles, doesn’t it? Just to make sure I get your point here (as I don’t think I do).

        The rest makes sense, I think (the scale part especially). I’m not sure that we have quite the same problem with the streets where the Seattle streetcars are slotted to go (or are already going), though, do we?

      3. The “don’t deviate” is in comparison to buses which everyone advocates as a replacement for them. I should have made that clear. MAX doesn’t derail either, at least not more than once or twice every decade.

        And, no, the streets on which the Seattle streetcar runs — and will run assuming the CCC is built — are much wider and not primarily residential and restaurant as are the streets north of Burnside in Portland.

      4. MAX can run in mixed traffic, and did so for brief segments. Even these small segments were eliminated due to the operational unreliability they created. When they built MAX, places like San Diego had a lot of street running, and as time went on most places that built light rail lines realized what a mistake making them partial streetcars was, and eliminated that.

        The branding difference is important because the ticket prices are lower than for TriMet. That’s really the only real difference the branding makes, plus it’s a lot slower.

        The cars are really not that different when it comes to their width. It’s about 8 inches or so, the same as Link vs Seattle Streetcar.

        The streetcars are very specialized, and are not built in large quantities. In 2003, they cost about 3x what a MAX car costs. None of the parts are easily obtained in the USA (I’ve had to go through their parts list a few times), unlike MAX cars, of which there are some 1,000 or so operating throughout the USA.

        Some streets where MAX runs are just as narrow as those of the streetcar. They’d need some effort to fit a dedicated lane, and might not be possible in 100% of locations, but that was the case with those sections of MAX that were originally in the street. Those modifications were made once it was realized how much of a problem shared lanes really are. The streetcar has those same problems, but the operational problems are tolerated because reliability and speed isn’t being considered.

        Considering the only thing that makes the two incompatible is several inches of platform space, making them incompatible was a huge mistake.

        The streetcar already operates over MAX lines on the Tilikum bridge, and as out of service trains to get to Ruby Junction for heavy maintenance. Making them 98% compatible would do things like make it possible to add Sellwood: just add a branch line off the Orange line and do a little street running. But, for a perceived need for 4 inches of right of way on each side, the two were built incompatible. So, that flexibility isn’t possible.

        It seems to me the operational flexibility of making the systems in the Puget Sound area compatible would be useful. For the cost of a junction you could run single car Tacoma streetcar trains to TIBS, or further, giving downtown Tacoma an actual one seat ride connection to the rest of Link and especially that craved airport connection. Various c other examples exist.

      5. Glenn, while it’s technically “true” that MAX “can” run in mixed traffic, it’s also true that a 737 “can” land at hundreds of rural airports in an emergency. They don’t do so as a regular thing because it’s massive “overkill” to have a vehicle of that size and capacity in a small setting. The same is true of MAX. Even a single MAX car — much less a MAX train — would be completely out of place trundling down Lovejoy or Northrup.

        That seemingly trivial to you eight inches of width means that the streetcars can only have 2-1 seating, instead of 2-2. MAX trains regularly run 35 to 40 in their median reservations on East Burnside and Interstate Avenue. The streetcars rarely exceed 20, in part of course because of their relatively short stop spacing. Yes, original MAX operated like a streetcar between the Steel Bridge and the turn-around at Tenth though it has always had full reservation downtown, but the Mall and the Burnside stops were recently removed to decrease travel times for through-riders.

        The streetcars are “all low-floor” as typically are “trams”. MAX has low floors in the boarding sections where there is less seating, but high floors in the “long-rider” sections at the ends of the cars and higher ceilings. And of course MAX has the “Type 1” cars with all high floors. MAX vehicles are at least a couple of feet higher as a result.

        Though the basic technology is the same, the application is different, so having differently-sized vehicles makes sense, though it does make maintenance for the smaller vehicles more expensive.

  26. “Even routes 7 and 36 will have fewer peak period trips”

    The reductions on the 7 and 36 seem minimal; I’d barely call them cuts. If a bus runs every 7.5-10 minutes peak hours; I’d still call it high frequency and convenient. Do you think there’s a risk of overcrowding at this frequency? I assume Metro doesn’t think so or it wouldn’t reduce these routes.

  27. I agree with Lazarus. Get rid of the redundant buses on Third Ave. What a waste of emissions.

    It’s a travesty that nearly every bus in Seattle has to end up on Third. There are other streets in downtown. Some of us would like to get to the waterfront or Western.

    1. Which buses are redundant? How many buses should Third Avenue have? How can a bus from the north or south get to the waterfront or Western efficiently? What’s the chance that the bus on Western is going to the area you’re going to?

      1. @Mike Orr,

        “Which buses are redundant?”

        Ah, lots of them. But maybe start with the buses that Metro has “temporarily” suspended.

        Many of the Westside buses that Metro suspended actually do run on 3rd (see Andrew’s latest post), and they are grossly under performing. I’d start by making those “temporary” suspensions permanent.

        After that I’d let Metro decide, supposedly they are the experts.

        But I would incentivize them by drawing a perimeter around downtown and slowly reducing the number of Metro buses that could legally cross that perimeter. Maybe reduce the total number of buses entering downtown by 10% per year for at least the next 3 years, maybe the next 5 years if good progress is being made.

        And if that doesn’t work, then Seattle should consider reducing its extra support for Metro and spending that money elsewhere. There are plenty of other places where Seattle funding can be spent more wisely.

      2. As Link extensions open, buses should disappear from Downtown. In particular, the many ST Express buses and CT buses will disappear. At that point, Metro could shift buses to Second and Fourth.

        That however doesn’t address what I see as the core problem of using Third. Downtown is on a steep hillside! It’s probably the steepest major US downtown! That limits how easy it is to get to Third Avenue. If Downtown was flat like Chicago or Manhattan or Miami or Dallas, few would have a second thought about walking to Third.

        Of course, rather than try to run more and more things on Avenues, investments could make it easier to get to Third Avenue in the first place. That’s why I think the greater need is to get up and down the hill more easily than to focus on going north and south.

        There are many ways to do that — but they don’t include boarding a bus on a sloped street. Inclines in a tunnel or above the street? Gondolas? Diagonal elevators?Escalator and elevator banks above and/or below ground? New entrances from Second Avenue to Link mezzanines, and direct pedestrian connections to Fourth Avenue with an elevator/ escalator bank to reach the street ? A public-private walkway system like Montréal or Minneapolis?

        It would take a paradigm shift in downtown circulation to result in a useful set of projects . It would require consideration of safety, security and wayfinding. It’s not easily solvable in a post or in the mind of one person. But I think it’s the part of Downtown circulation that needs the most attention (rather than laying a new streetcar track or boring a new deep rail tunnel).


        Transit riders are probably better off with transit on two-way streets; the network is simpler and easier to understand. 3rd and 1st avenues seem best in downtown Seattle. The volume could be higher on 3rd Avenue; it is atop the DSTT for great transfers. Seattle has done a great job of providing transit priority since fall 2005. That was needed after ST decided to build Link south first; the initial segment opened in 2009; Link reached NE 45th Street in fall 2021; that was two decades of pressure on downtown Seattle streets. The couplet of 2nd and 4th avenues is set up for use by general purpose traffic and bikes in the two PBL. There need not be any transit service on the couplet after the ST2 Link lines open unless ST wants to provide an express service to compete with the slower south Link line.

        East-west service can be provided on Stewart-Virginia, Pine-Pike, the G Line, James-Yesler, and South Jackson Street.
        The west entrances to the Pioneer Square and University Street Link stations point to 1st Avenue.

        Perhaps if the DSA wanted to pay for it, the CCC could shift to 5th Avenue, if it could cross the Westlake station. The traffic on 5th Avenue might be largely replaced. Streetcar v. cars?

        Note the large scale of the CCC Streetcar capital cost. If it is $300 million, that would be a large portion of Move Seattle that was $930 million.

    2. There are tradeoffs. It saves walking for some people, but it increases walking for others. For example, if your actual destination is on 5th Ave., but the bus that goes downtown from your neighborhood takes 1st, you have to walk further than if that bus simply took 3rd, not less.

      Also, simply having different buses take different streets means that transferring buses now requires crossing streets and walking two blocks, which you don’t have to when all of the buses are consolidated on 3rd.

      Unless there’s some evidence that people who live in some non-downtown neighborhoods are somehow more likely to prefer 1st vs. 3rd than others, then the choice of which route take 1st vs. 3rd becomes purely arbitrary, so it’s luck of the draw whether it hurts you or helps you.

      Also, 3rd already has all of the infrastructure – bus priority, bus stops, RapidRide Orca readers, trolley wire, so consolidating buses on one street makes for more efficient use of the infrastructure.

      1. Jon Talton has Ben Carson’s disease. So does Cliff Mass. These folks are really well educated *in their field*. As a result, they think they know about things they don’t. It is clear by Talton’s writing that he doesn’t know a thing about transit here, or in general. For example:

        I realize this is a hard sell. For all Seattle’s virtue posturing and wokeness, many residents can be as adamant about Happy Motoring as people in Texas. It’s even more so in suburban areas. Yes, measures have passed to fund Sound Transit light rail and its extensions, but the opposition is large and loud.

        For many Americans, the 138-year-old technology of cars is synonymous with freedom, even though American drivers don’t realize the high subsidies that undergird car culture.

        Wait, what??? This is an argument for spending money on transit, not on a streetcar. Does he not realize that Seattle passed Move Seattle easily, in an off-year election? Does he not realize that the planners went out of their way to specifically exclude the streetcar from Move Seattle? Of course not. He seems to suggest that the alternative to a streetcar is more driving — it is absurd. He goes on:

        And for many Seattleites, the idea of giving a modern streetcar its own designated lane is an outrage.

        Again, nonsense. We give our buses their own designated lane all the time. Most of the time it is a BAT lane, but there are plenty of instances where it is a bus lane. Again, he seems obvious to what is happening right under his nose. The G will run in its own bus lane much of the way. It will experience far less congestion than the streetcar (if the CCC is completed). Yet clearly Seattle has no problem with that. Seattle has no problem with spending a bunch of money making the buses faster — they have a lot of problem with spending a bunch of money building an unnecessary mode on a bad route. Maybe Talton thinks he is still in Phoenix. He is making this out to be a battle between cars and transit. It isn’t. It is a battle between buses and the streetcar.

        Streetcar have their role. But even transit advocates who laud them are quick to call them a niche tool. Let me quote a few lines:

        so a lot of the u.s.streetcars are quite circuitous they go in looping routes, they’re a lot like the Detroit people mover they’re just not great for getting around … so the service is really kind of a purely image thing it’s based on making the street look a certain way and attracting development rather than actually moving people … a lot of these systems aren’t actually operated by transit agencies are operated by city departments of transportation … they should really be planned in my personal opinion more like bus lines where you have a single linear corridor you don’t have this kind of looping pathway because again how often would you see a bus line that’s basically just a random you know circulator route through downtown you might see it here and there

        Sound familiar? A streetcar not run by a transit agency, but by the city department of transportation? Check. Makes a circuitous looping route? Check. Purely image thing to make the street look a certain way, to attract development. Check.

        Keep in mind, this is in the middle of a video praising streetcars! For all the advantages he mentions (like running on electricity) it still comes down to what Walker mentioned: Capacity. This is why he calls it a niche tool (“higher capacity than buses, lower costs than full rapid transit”). Without a good route, you won’t get the kind of ridership where the additional capacity is needed. This explains why he focuses so much on the Toronto streetcars (while dismissing the ones in Portland, Atlanta and Oklahoma City as “not a transportation tool”). The routes are good and Toronto is a huge city — thus you need the capacity. That clearly doesn’t apply to our streetcar.

      2. Talton’s arguments for a 1st Ave streetcar are disjointed and weak. Some of them can be boiled down to … Cars are bad. Other countries have them. Wheelchairs roll onto them easily. Tourists like them. Overall, I didn’t find the piece persuasive.

      3. Talton is talking about the region and Ross is talking about Seattle.

        I agree with all the points Talton makes about regional views, especially cars. I also think it is a mistake to take two lanes from First when Third is transit only and the new demographic along 1st — 2nd is so Uber oriented. The biggest competition for a slow streetcar is Uber, which is just micro transit that thrives with short urban trips. Plus the cost of a streetcar is ridiculous which Talton seems to ignore, or that motorists subsidize much of their infrastructure and much of transit.

        Seattleites should decide the fate of the streetcar, especially those who work or live along the route. The rest of us have options, whether U Village, Northgate Mall which I think will (further) devastate downtown retail, or the Eastside.

        I do think though Seattle urbanists and transit fans are chasing a world downtown that no longer exists, and that includes DSTT2. I was pretty amazed that foot traffic at Pike Place Market — about the one vibrant retail area downtown — is only 72% of pre-pandemic, while I was not surprised office occupancy is still in the low 40’s.

        The future is San Francisco, a much wealthier, sophisticated, urban, dense city. This is the new normal except vacant rates will ride and occupancy rates fall further. The streetcar or BAT lanes along 1st are not needed anymore, that time has passed and was always based on inflated future population growth estimates, despite the cost, and can’t compete with Uber on that short urban trip. Uber provides better mobility for this corridor at no cost the the city and 3rd provide duplicate service. Surely Seattle urbanist are not too delicate to walk from 1st to 3rd.

      4. Thanks for the article bits, Ross.

        Yeah the Talton piece looks like a naive take on the CCC. The author thinks the trade off is between cars and streetcars. That’s a typical “any transit is good” mentality. A more perceptive person understands that the CCC project is a trade off between different types of transit to make a trip. Investing in building slower routes makes a system cost more to operate. Plus, there are faster ways to get to most of the destinations that riders want to reach; the CCC doesn’t improve transit trip time for most trips in the corridor. Those three added turns at Downtown intersections are particularly going to make the CCC segment slow.

        It just goes to demonstrate that Talton actually doesn’t get it.

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