North to Aloha: Community weighs in on streetcar’s path across Capitol Hill

Last night’s Capitol Hill Community Council streetcar discussion opened up the floor for suggestions from the community, leading with a set of proposed recommendations from the Council who will officially submit a position on the plan to the City of Seattle in April.

In a draft of the memo the group is putting together to present a unified community position the streetcar’s development, the Council outlined three priorities:

Note that the Council has decided to not take a position on the 12th Ave couplet option. More about the current set of route options here. You can review the entire draft memo attached to this post.

Here are a few key notes from the Community Council’s presentation:

  • Plan to extend streetcar route to Aloha St: The Community Council calls the Aloha extension a “consistent priority.” This would extend streetcar service to the far north end of Broadway and Aloha, ultimately connecting the Broadway neighborhood in one north/south route. There were some visuals on-hand to demonstrate what the north side of Broadway could look like with an Aloha extension, and the results are pretty interesting: multiple stops, hitting most storefronts along the north of Broadway, plus a streetcar platform in front of QFC and Cafe Zhivago/Infinity Nail. We’ve asked the Council to send over the visuals so we can post. Update:: Council’s Tony Russo provided files that we’ll update this post with shortly and a clarification:

    We are not proposing specific stop locations. There would likely be two additional stops with the Aloha extension, one in the vicinity of QFC and one at the very north end of Broadway, but we are leaving the specifics up to SDOT (of course we may comment on their suggestions). The diagram that shows a stop in the middle of the block by the QFC entrance is meant to be illustrative of the concept (we had to put it somewhere on the diagram) and should not be taken to imply that we are specifically requesting a stop there.

  • Broadway would be reduced from three lanes of traffic to two. Traffic congestion was a concern, as was the prospect of cars turning off Broadway during high peak hours (especially at corners like E. Republican). Also in question are bus routes. Keeping streetcar riders on Broadway encourages retail development and north Broadway activity, the Council’s presenter Tony Russo said.
  • Keep the streetcar on Broadway north of Union St.: This, says the Community Council, will keep the “energy and focus on the retail corridor and makes the system simpler and easier to understand.” Talks of a loop around Cal Anderson bring up safety and noise concerns in the community, especially if plans to move the farmer’s market to Denny Way and Nagle Place follow through, which is a top priority for the council. They also want to keep the corridor between Denny and Nagle open for festival/parade routes and other community building events. 
  • Reclaim the street: “Make the streetcar a catalyst for reclaiming the use of right-of-way on Broadway,” the Community Council states. Specifically, they want to focus on eliminating the center turn lane on Broadway (except major intersections), and instead focusing the space on bicycle and pedestrian use. There is, the Council memo states, a “unique political opportunity” at hand, as well – Mayor Mike McGinn started the Great City’s Streets for People Campaign during his time as executive director of the Seattle Great City Initiative. Plus, the city recently allotted $30,000 for a consultant report as part of ongoing planning efforts to redevelop the community around the Sound Transit Light Rail station sites, with a key policy recommendation to “reclaim the streets.” Pedestrian and bicycle growth, the report says, are vital.
  • Another alignment recommendation being considered by the Council is turning the streetcar off Broadway at the Denny Way junction, where it would take a loop around Cal Anderson and on to 11th Ave. Some on the Council are against bringing the streetcar to 11th Ave. because they consider it a residential street with limited lights in place for pedestrian/streetcar rider safety. This would interrupt bike routes as well. Turning the streetcar around at Denny also poses some traffic concerns about adding to Broadway’s congestion. Plus, it takes away from the retail businesses looking to attract new customers along Broadway. If the streetcar will only travel southbound on Broadway, (which 3 of the 4 alternative alignments suggest), advertisement opportunities will be cut short for local retailers because there are only storefronts on the east side of Broadway between Denny and Pine.

The Community Council is presenting this proposal to the Chamber of Commerce next Tuesday (Jan. 26). The City of Seattle will make a final decision in April and construction kicks off in fall of 2011.

SDOT Project Manager Ethan Malone also presented at Thursday night’s meeting to update the city’s status on the project and share some of the things SDOT learned in the public open houses about the streetcar. We reported on some of this and about the next steps for the streetcar here. Here are Malone’s slides from the Community Council session:

Much discussion was made over the increased amount of construction with both Light Rail and streetcar building on the Hill. However, the Community Council says this will not impede Light Rail construction and they are working closely with SDOT for the best outcome possible.

About 50 people attended this meeting.

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18 thoughts on “North to Aloha: Community weighs in on streetcar’s path across Capitol Hill

  1. It is really good that the Community Council is stepping up on this. When I have asked Ethan Melone about the extension he made it clear that it is up to the community to lobby the City Council and Mayor McGinn on this issue. They need to give SDOT funding to do a study of the extension. What we have here is a good starting point, to show the City what we want out of this streetcar. I hope the Chamber of Commerce will also get involved, since the streetcar would have a huge impact on the businesses involved. I love these graphics too–thanks for including curb bulbs.

  2. Great work from the Cap. Hill Council.

    I agree with every line of the proposal; if Bwy. is narrower, delivery is an issue as there are few alley slots and trucks park in the mid street for delivery. Cops and Fire too.

    Getting the extension to Alhoa now is good planning. Won’t be cheaper later and why disrupt TWICE – build it now in one shot, and it will boost the north end. In a recession there should be some cheap bids too, another bonus. Population density would say better ridership too.

    On to the build – Union to Aloha!!!

  3. What is so impressive about the CHCC position paper is that it addresses both transit AND community goals and issues, considers previous plans and future challenges, and shows the way forward in a clear, well-written manner. Bravo to those responsible.

  4. Kudos to those who organized, developed and presented last evening’s Position documents on the Street Car topic. Well written, cogent, and presented knowledgably and confidently. Well done! Now is the time to encourage a commitment of as many community members, businesses and organizations as can be mustered. Again, a fine first step.

  5. You know what would be really be cool? A full loop of 12th/Broadway/Aloha, going both directions (i.e., run the streetcar on 12th all the way to Aloha, then looping around to 10th/Broadway). This northern section is entirely residential (but very densely populated), but it’s also close enough to the 15th Ave business district.

    As it is Capitol Hill is woefully under served with one light rail station, which is why the whole “First Hill street car” argument seems silly to me. First Hill is considerably smaller than Capitol Hill, with fewer people, and it’s much closer to Downtown (and several light rail stations).

  6. Apparently 12th has a water line under it, 42 inch., that will prevent a streetcar on top of it.

    Ref: Mr Malone, from SDOT, at the forum.

    So, looks like a trolley would work.

  7. The Broadway alignment with widened sidewalks at stops looks good to me. It preserves parking, gives priority to streetcars (and buses, which could use the same stop like some on the SLUT), and calms traffic. But it better not mean that trolley bus lines go away, or it’ll be war.

  8. I was reading Mike with Curls comments about delivery vehicles and I was wondering the exact same thing. Where will those delivery vehicles go, or will a lot of the current street parking be yellow delivery zone only?

    Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the separated vehicle bikeways, and I wish we had far more like this in the city.

    And I have a question about the reduced left hand turns off of Broadway. Would SDOT then have dedicated left hand turn lights at intersections of Broadway/Olive/E.John and Broadway/E.Roy St.? How do people on 10th and Harvard feel about a lot more people driving on their streets because they won’t be able to turn left on Broadway. For instance, is there going to be a longer line of cars trying to turn left going eastbound on Olive Way at Harvard so that they can then turn right on Harrison St. for the Broadway Market parking garage?

    Great design works, but a solution for one street might make things bad on another street.

  9. Tony here from Community Council.

    Deliveries are a concern, but we are confident that they can be addressed. One solution is to restrict to deliveries to certain hours of the day. Other options include more loading zones or the use of side streets. Somehow, deliveries manage to be made to Pine Street, Bellevue Ave, 15th Ave and 19th Ave despite not having center turn lanes. It’s actually probably illegal to park a delivery truck in the middle of the street anyway. We are presenting to the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce Tuesday morning to get their feedback. Initial conversations have been very positive.

    Our proposal calls for maintaining the center turn lanes at the major intersections including Pine St, John/Olive and possibly Roy. At these intersections, one could simply remove one lane of parking on one side of the street for about 3 to 4 car lengths in order to make room for the road to “flare out” into a 3 lane configuration, similar to what happens on other two-lane streets that widen to 3 lanes at the intersections. The overall impact on parking would be very minimal, much less than if SDOT were to try to make room for bikes by removing an entire lane of parking, which is what one of their current proposals entails. In fact, because our proposal suggests consolidating the bus and streetcar stops to be one and the same, we actually maintain more on-street parking than the status quo.

    With respect to impacts on side streets, left turns would likely only need to be prohibited during rush hour if at all. People turn left on two-lane streets all the time. We are relying on SDOT to study the impact of our proposal and develop any mitigation strategies necessary. No solution is perfect and some level of tradeoff will need to be made, but let’s be clear about one thing: simply putting the streetcar two-ways on Broadway without changes to the right of way is not an option. There is a significant bicycle-streetcar conflict which can only be resolved in one of three ways:

    1.) One-way on Broadway (i.e. SDOT’s “Park Loop” option)
    2.) Taking out a lane of parking
    3.) Taking out the turn lane

    Option 1 would make it impossible to extend to Aloha and option 2 would meet with such a backlash from businesses that it would be a non-starter. That leaves option 3. If the tradeoffs are considered too much to bear, than Capitol Hill will have to abandon its desire to see the streetcar extend to the north.

    Nothing’s easy.

  10. Tony,

    Thank you for the feedback. I agree that nothing is easy, and I don’t envy the choices that are made. Thanks for the clarification for the choices that were made, as it makes things much more understandable. As a Capitol Hill resident off and on since 1987, I agree that this is a once in a generation opportunity to make some wonderful substantive changes.

    Good work.

  11. I thought the voters approved this in order to serve First Hill. Have I missed something? Erik, do you realize how many people work and live in the center of First Hill. And, the slog downtown and back uptown to Light Rail is not easy. Having said this I agree with the great thought that went into this recommendation. Broadway to Aloha would be great. 11th seems nutty to me.

  12. I agree with the posters here about extending the streetcar to Aloha. Great job community council!

    However, the thought of creating a two-way bike path on one side of the roadway is a very dangerous proposal. First, it is likely that with any large group of pedestrians that they will fan out into the bike path causing problems there. Second, at intersections, there will likely be an increase in accidents from motorists simply not seeing a bicycle. Check out this graphic and you’ll see that it isn’t just a case of a bad driver but bad design.
    http://www.richardcmoeur.com/docs/bikepres.pdf
    (Check out pages 20 through 23)

  13. The two-way bike path is a fun idea to toy with. I believe they are usually found on one-way streets but not unheard of on a two way street. Consider replacing the center turn lane as the two-way physically separated bicycle facility. That seems the best way to keep the streetcar and bicycle facility from interfering with each other.

  14. Regarding the two way bike paths on one side of the road, they are quite prevalent in Amsterdam, NL. Now, in Amsterdam, bikes seem to have the right of way over everything, but as a pedestrian, you know to keep the heck out of the way of the bikeways. They are a very efficient way to move bike traffic, and its great that its traffic separated as well. We don’t have anything like this in Seattle yet, and I think you’ll all be amazed at how well it works. Once you see it, every commercial neighborhood will be clamoring for a similar bikeway. At least I think they will.

  15. http://your.kingcounty.gov/elections/contests/measureinfo.as

    Here is the language from the voter’s guide:

    Light rail extensions will provide frequent service on exclusive track between employment and residential centers, including Northgate, Shoreline, Lynnwood, Mercer Island, Bellevue, Redmond, Des Moines, and Federal Way. Streetcars will connect light rail to Seattle’s International District, First Hill and Capitol Hill.

    So, the argument can be made for 12th avenue, as well as stopping at the Capitol Hill light rail station. I’m on board with the Aloha St. extension, however, as well as the Community Council’s recommendations. However, I just wanted to point out what was stated in the voter’s guide, as those who are advocating 12th avenue do have an agument.

  16. While I like the idea of the streetcar running along Broadway, removing the left turn lanes will cause a lot of havoc. I would not support having the streetcar travel all the way to Aloha if it meant removing the left turn lanes. Plus, Aloha extends beyond the retail district and is a major thoroughfare for automobiles… it would make far more sense to terminate the streetcar at Republican or Mercer. Streetcar riders wouldn’t be afraid to walk a block or two.