Community Post

Forum Tomorrow July 2 on Central Streetcar Line

There will be a forum on the Proposed Central Streetcar Line on Wednesday, July 2nd at Seattle City Hall, 600 Fourth Avenue, Bertha Knight Landes Room, First Floor, 4-6pm.

See for the announcement and for the plan.

As Councilmember Drago mentioned on the Dave Ross show this morning, the purpose of the streetcar plan is to connect neighborhoods, unlike our bus system which is focussed on a hub and spoke model oriented to commuting through downtown. If you review the map of the proposed system, you can decide whether her comment reflects just talk or real possibility. I also do not see how this plan connects to light rail. I like streetcars, but I cannot feature us building any transit options that do not ‘connect’ to each other.

As Scott noted in his May article the line only goes to 23rd and Jackson. Part of the funding process involves local businesses and local business development. So, for all of you who live in the Central Area, own businesses in the Central Area, or want more neighborhood ‘main’ streets, consider attending and contributing to the discussion.

0 thoughts on “Forum Tomorrow July 2 on Central Streetcar Line

  1. While streetcars on tracks are perhaps an improvement over no public transport on any street, my understanding is that trolley buses are, in the long run, a better investment of public funds. That local businesses help support the streetcar on their street is not necessarily A Good Thing. It works fine for pricey places along the South Lake Union line or along the Central Line, but not elsewhere.

    The Central Line is the one being considered in the public hearing 4-6 today at City Hall; it runs along the waterfront, where there is already a track– this is a crucial point. I am all for re-opening that largely tourist-used link. BUt there is no track along Jackson from International District to 23rd AVe., where the proposed extension of the Central line would stop. AND there are fewer businesses along Jackson able/willing to fork up for a tracked trolley along Jackson.

    A better alternative for this extension is additional buses, trolley run or smaller electric buses: no tracks to maintain, greater flexibility in traffic management (both traffic of passengers and non-pub-transit traffic of trucks, cars, etc…).

    A third option for the very near future is electric or hydrogen driven small buses operating as frequently as, but much more flexible than, either trolleycars on tracks or trolley buses. These minibuses could also be added to link bus lines all across the city, for example, along Twelfth Ave. between Jackson (or somewhere farther into South Seattle) into Capitol Hill and the Broadway stop of the light rail line.

    I leave you to imagine where adding a frequently operating public minibus might help move people around without recourse to Single Occupancy Vehicles or even SUV’s with a kid in the back. Let’s quit looking to Tacoma’s fancy downtown streetcars (retro-style?) for solving Seattle’s transit problems.

    The main problem with smaller buses is that labor costs per rider are likely to be higher that with fewer but bigger, less flexible (tacked or trackless) trolleys (often double-length). But I would prefer hiring more drivers (and incentivizing small-bus economies and ecology) to the higher capital costs (and disruptions, including to businesses not able to pay the annual fees).

  2. Please consider joperry’s commentary. Additionally, remember our precious transportation tax dollars and resources of streets and space are used for the less efficient fixed-street car options even if the the business community picks up some of the cost. Ridership on the South Lake Union was estimated so low that it was not difficult to advertise that it more than met expectations. In the meantime folks in the North Seattle are requesting more regular bus service through South Lake Union, as the street car is not practical for those who commute from many areas to work. Please insist that the city, Metro and Soundtransit work together.

  3. Streetcars are cheaper in the long run than buses because they require less maintenance. Running on rails is a lot smoother on streetcar (and passengers!) than on Seattle’s bumpy roads. There are less moving parts than in a bus and a lot less wear and tear. Having a streetcar will encourage businesses to open up along the lines and stops since they know they are there to stay. (rails don’t move) This will be great for any neighborhood that it goes through. That’s why you see streetcars in Amsterdam, SF, Portland, Tacoma, etc. I think we need more alternatives than the bus-or-car options.

  4. One that springs to mind is, who pays for these lines? The SLU line was built as a Local Improvement District, or LID. With all the expected development in SLU, and Vulcan as a primary property owner with deep pockets, this was not a hard sell. I can’t imagine a line coming up Jackson from downtown having anything close to similar ease of passage for an LID. Then what?

    Running on rails is smoother – and electricity is a nice option – as long as the drivers are well-trained. My two SLUT rides have been…less than I anticipated quality-wise. I’m also no fan of modern streetcars, but that’s probably beside the point.

    The reality in our neighborhood is that development is already happening, with or without a streetcar line. I challenge Bassam or anyone to show me stops that have magically disappeared on any of our major bus routes, most of which are replacements for streetcar routes that formerly existed anyway :-)

    I think one of the real drivers for the streetcar conversation is Seattle’s frustration with the County Council, who insist on running largely empty buses in deepest suburbia while continuing to run full-to-overflowing in-city routes. If transit service were delivered based on demand rather than on politics, you’d see ten minute or less headways on the 2, 3, 4, 14, etc. and there *would* be transit service on 12th. But the County Council thinks that to be “fair” we have to distribute transit service around the region, even to places that barely use it, or in development patterns where transit doesn’t work very well. So those of us who live in relatively dense neighborhoods like the CD suffer as a result.

    I do think there are places streetcars make sense, I think there are people who will ride them who aren’t enthusiastic about buses, and I am glad we are having the conversation. But if the question is, does it make sense to spend big dollars on a couple streetcar routes when doing so hurts bus service for the rest of the city – see SLUT for a great example of this – then I have some pretty major concerns.

  5. It’s really long, and pretty sound in its points. It alludes to the idea that we all have been getting some ‘interesting messages’ from WSDOT in the past. I’m not sure where streetcars completely fit in but having lived in the East I am a big fan of fixed rail BUT the system HAVE to work together to see what really makes sense. Otherwise we are talking vanity boondoggles. Can’t anyone do any somputer modeling?

  6. I attended the meeting and testified concerns due to lack of coordination between public entities and efficient use of public resources. I noted that the North End has requested and probably will receive additional bus service through South Lake Union as the people who work in the area commute from many different locations and the Streetcar is not practical. Following one presentation that indicated that a streetcar was not planned for Rainier Valley because it would too much parallel the light rail, another speaker presented the fact that the streetcar plan to the U-District also parallels the light rail. There are many questions and few specifics.

    Meeting speakers primarily represented the business interests, contractors and developers and a few regular residents.

    Councilwoman Drago expressed that this is only planning in case if a street car system is eventually installed.

    LIDs are problematic as, yes, there is some private investment, but still streetcars compete for the public resources of space, streets, and grant opportunities with other forms of public transportation. These are limited resources. LIDs are also more likely to be acceptable to larger or bigger businesses. The uccess of the SLUT is not proven. Restoring the Waterfront Streetcar as a test might help restore a little more confidence. That route seems like an ideal test especially if it was extended to the area where the cruise boats board. Does anyone really miss this one? If not, why is the City wasting time and money on extending the idea.

    But really, if all other neighborhood gets a streetcar it would be a shame to stand in the way of our neighborhood having one too.