Community Streetcar discussion/meeting Thursday January 21

It has been posted elsewhere that none of the Capitol Hill community organizations have taken positions on the imminent SDOT/ST streetcar alignment. May I just say:  “Bureaucracy adores a vacuum.”?

At 5 PM 7 PM Thursday, January 21 there will be a Capitol Hill Community Council meeting at the Cal Anderson Park Shelterhouse featuring Ethan Melone, SDOT point person on the streetcar project. This meeting has not been advertised widely and I think it’s really important, since apparently SDOT/ST is racing to the finish w/out substantial outreach to the communities involved. (Open houses are NOT outreach; the information flows in one direction only with no record, summaries or minutes of community response. It’s a technique perfected by Sound Transit, and it works very well indeed unless community action is vigorously pursued.)

As just one example, to date no one has spoken on behalf of Cal Anderson Park on the streetcar issue, or the public’s interest in the access, safety and enjoyment of an open space which is encircled by a streeetcar line. All these issues need to be considered and addressed directly and honestly by the planners and the communities. The streetcar is not just about transportation.

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12 thoughts on “Community Streetcar discussion/meeting Thursday January 21

  1. I’m just curious how the streetcar encircling the park will have any effect on people accessing the park. People will have to look both ways, just like now, and will have to walk across tracks. Cars are much more dangerous than streetcars, which have to stay on a fixed trackway and usually drive slower.

    I also disagree about the open houses. I would have liked it if they had at least one forum-style meeting, but on the other hand those just get dominated by NIMBYs and cranks anyway. They took comments at the open house, so don’t say it was one-way communication.

  2. Many of the open forum meetings are designed for local, neighborhood related comments. I wonder who you think should attend, and comment?

    Cranks? Are those people who speak up and have an opinion? I have been to all of the Sound Transit forums and frankly, haven’t heard a crank yet. I guess they are dormant this season.

  3. putting a real streetcar next to the park is kinda dumb. why not run it up and down 12th the whole deal? people can walk two blocks down the future ped way to the LR?

  4. As a Capitol Hill resident, CHCC Officer, and active participant in the Streetcar process I want to wholeheartedly disagree with the tone and accusations of this post.

    Ethan Malone, as program manager for seattle streetcars, has done an incredible job of reaching out to the neighborhoods and working with them to find the best alignment solution. Although this author may not have been active, I have witnessed Ethan in personal discussions with individuals and community groups for at least six months and he has been very open and honest about the process. He has answered all of my personal emails with ample information and in a timely manner. He has also made sure that any important alignment information and mapping was supplied to the public, as is attested by the coverage on this blog, publicola, and the Slog, to mention just a few. Although I also did not prefer the open house format, I do actually think it gave more people a chance to provide individual feedback to the numerous city planners in attendance. If you have not gotten a chance to provide your opinion you are still welcome to by sending an email to Ethan or any of the other streetcar planners, who’s emails can be found at

    As far as the accusation that the proposed route would be somehow hostile to pedestrians using Cal Anderson Park, it is completely fabricated and unfounded. There is absolutely no evidence that streetcars increase the danger on a street, and in fact, due to the typical streetscape improvements, easily identifiable track placement, and general speed and care of streetcars, there is reason to believe that they actually make the street safer. As anyone who has been to Portland knows, they have a light rail line, which is bigger and faster than a streetcar, that runs through the center of their weekend market, and they have not had substantial safety issues. From talking to Ethan and others I also know that pedestrian and cycling safety have been paramount during the planning process. To suggest otherwise is libelous.

    The truth is that the streetcar planning process is an incredibly complicated issue and the result simply will not satisfy everyone. That being said, I think the team working on this have done a fine job of making sure that people are informed and heard during the planning process. But remember, these people have vastly more knowledge about streetcars and streetcar planning than the typical citizen and, while I encourage everyone to voice their opinion, we should at the very least respect their choices and decisions.

    The only thing I will agree with in this post is that the Capitol Hill Community Council meetings are unfortunately under-publicized. If you would like to remain informed please sign up to the CHCC email list at or attend the regular meetings every THIRD THURSDAY at the Cal Anderson Shelter House.

    And finally, to my knowledge (and as posted on the website) the CHCC meeting, like every CHCC meeting, will be 7-9pm, not at 5pm as is stated above. I look forward to seeing you there.

  5. What is all the defensive language about? I think all concerns are properly voiced … and just how Cal Anderson is in play is an interesting issue.

    The bigger tug is First Hill vs. Capitol Hill …and which street gets the tracks. Stay tuned … sparks may fly!!! Steel on steel.

  6. Put safety concerns aside for a moment.

    From a ridership perspective and the “economy” boost idea – how does the along the park route measure up. Not at all. Not at all. Chamber, take note.

    The street car needs to be on a street with business workers, customers, near residents, fun seekers, tourists, students, diners, drinkers, riders and users on BOTH sides. All that investment, plus 100 million, must be focused on the two goals, enhancing ridership to the max, thus building, greener commerce and greener community. Neither are best with a route aside the park. Bad idea. Out of kilter.

    Who came up with that? Looking at maps only is not a good source. Where it goes is more than a line on a map.

    And, tracks in place are not soon changed, NOT a bus route.

    Cal Anderson Park and the route seem to me to be a giant topic. Not from safety, but from a reality check firmly grounded in real time, real use users and perspectives.


  7. The 5 PM was a typo. There are no accusations or libelous comments in the post. It is simply a call to interested people to hear the plans and comment on the issues in a community forum, since no organized community positions have been put forward. History has shown again and again that the city takes advantage of factions and splintered opinions on the Hill. The park issue is mentioned as an example of a couple of unaddressed concerns. Calm down.

  8. First off, quite a few people did speak up about the tracks on 11th at the last open house. To say no one has spoken on behalf of the park is untrue.

    Second, running the tracks past Cal Anderson probably won’t have a negative impact on ridership. The streetcar will be going northbound past Cal Anderson towards its terminus on Denny, basically anyone using the streetcar will already have gotten on it at Pike/Pine or First Hill by the time it goes past the park.

    From what I heard at the open house they are considering the loop on 11th as a way for the streetcar to turn around, to avoid heavy northbound traffic on Broadway, and because there is an old water main underneath Broadway on the east side of the street that can’t support the weight of the streetcar. I’d rather have both tracks on Broadway, but if they have to use 11th I don’t think it’s that huge of a deal. Streetcars are a lot safer than cars and having one trundle past the park could add to the atmosphere.

  9. Thanks. Score one for very rational comments.

    The water line thing sounds a bit bogus – it would seem to just require some support structure to take the added weight – and the park concerns are valid. In a rush to route the streetcar, there can be no tampering with the function or appeal of Cal Anderson Park.

  10. I think people should come to the forums and state their opinions concisely and then let other people have a turn. Every forum I have been to were dominated by the same 2 or 3 older neighborhood residents who just complain about everything and find petty reasons to oppose everything. They just don’t want change, and they don’t make constructive comments. Were you at the forum about the noise variance? The level of NIMBYism was off the charts.

  11. The water main thing is not bogus. The issue not that it can’t support the weight, it’s that the water main is right underneath the street. To put in the trackbed they have to dig down a bit and the water main would be in the way. Moving a water main is very expensive and SDOT understandably wants to keep this on budget. There is also a water main on 12th that makes 2-way difficult on that street as well.

  12. While I think perhaps you’re right, the streetcar might not heavily impact Cal Anderson in a negative way… the overall question I find compelling is why 11th? The only stated reason that I’ve heard is that 11th is closer to Broadway and that a streetcar “might” benefit the park, which seems an excuse. If the answer is primarily proximity, that doesn’t seem enough in terms of forward-thinking urban planning. The December public meeting also seemed to be the first unveiling of the 11th options (all routes on 11th) up til that meeting, 12th was the dominate selection. 11th was a surprise. Why the speedy change?

    Keeping the traffic where the traffic is, makes the most sense. It’s a way cleaner diagram and would be a more logical route. Additionally, 12th is an up and coming retail and commercial street (at least as far as the park), it would be a great benefit to the street-life.

    And, truth be told, I think this is a waste of public money. I’d prefer to link areas that are sorely under-served, not just link already connected areas.