More support — and continued opposition — for 12th-Broadway streetcar alignment

We’re working to get an update from the Seattle Department of Transportation planners about feedback they collected from the series of streetcar alignment meetings that were held in December. Here are the CHS notes from the session that was held at Seattle Central. We also hosted a poll to gauge the CHS community’s preference for the streetcar route at this point in the planning process.

As you can see in the graphic on this post, it’s a tight race between the Broadway and the Broadway-12th Couplet alignments with very little support for the Boren route.

To refresh your memory, here are the three alignments currently on the table from SDOT:

The “Two-way Broadway” option (4.38 miles long):

“Broadway/12th Couplet” includes southbound service on 12th Avenue (4.26 miles long):

First Hill Boren route (4.89 miles long)

In the meantime, it looks like the Stranger has come around to see the wisdom of CHS’s Josh Mahar who has championed a 12th Ave alignment from the start:

In 2008, when voters approved expanding light rail, they simultaneously approved a First Hill streetcar. The hospitals on First Hill, naturally, want the streetcar at their front doors. But that doesn’t mean we should build a streetcar for the hospitals. Roads cutting through First Hill are often jammed, meaning a streetcar would crawl rather than serve as a quick connection between the Capitol Hill and International District light-rail stations. And buses amply serve the hospitals already.

The neighborhood around 12th Avenue, adjacent to First Hill, has lots of potential. And by that we mean there’s a glut of underused parking lots. A streetcar on 12th Avenue could solve this problem—and bring density to an area that needs it.

Capitol Hill Housing’s Kate Stineback — also a frequent CHS contributor — convinced the Stranger editors that the streetcar “would be a ‘real catalyst for development, ‘especially for the ‘underserved, underdeveloped’ south end of 12th Avenue.”

Of course, Seattle Transit Blog is having none of that. This morning, they bang the No on 12th drum again in response to the Stranger change of heart.

Though a strong argument could be made for new bus service on 12th Ave, a streetcar couplet with three blocks of separation — and with one block up laying atop a steep hill — is unprecedented and would create significant access issues that could dampen ridership…

We’ll check in with SDOT to see what they learned in the community open houses, any new proposals on the table and what’s next for the process.

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21 thoughts on “More support — and continued opposition — for 12th-Broadway streetcar alignment

  1. Why is it that a walking shed in one of the options is different then a walking shed in one of the other options when the stops are in the same place?

    I’m not really sure how the walking maps were created on the Seattle Transit Blog and whether they are credible.

  2. Picture the 12th/Broadway couplet as a bus route. If you saw this bus route on a transit map would you pick it to get to First Hill? No! You would use it to get to SU and the neighborhood around 12th, but not First Hill. I thought this was supposed to be the First Hill Streetcar and was supposed to increase transit access to First Hill? That’s how it was presented to the voters in ST2 and honoring the commitment to First Hill needs to be first and foremost when considering routing alternatives.

  3. We at the north end of Capitol Hill already didn’t get a tunnel stop, and now we don’t get streetcar?

    From Top Pot on Summit I get no advantage to recent transit changes unless

    o Volunteer Park area tunnel station

    o Bring street car north to Roy

    The Joule will open soon at Rebuplican and Broadway and have 295 *units* so that is like 4-500 residents.

    All we get now is the 49 bus and that’s about it.

  4. You want a solid and consistent system with logical and easy-to-understand transfers but you want to create *4* access routes for every there-and-back trip? Pick a point and map out your trip to and from the Streetcar itself. No matter where you pick, anything north of Yesler on the B12 alignment will not allow you to travel on two simple routes.

    This discourages local trips by making getting to and from a matter of walking more than you ought to and that’s not the kind of “walkable” you want. What city even does this? Not Portland, since the furthest distance between alignment direction is 200′, not 700′ like a good deal of this alignment.

    Since we’re only 4 years out from the birth of this project and we’re at this point so quickly, may I suggest a second idea: a separate 12th Ave alignment that shares trackage from Weller to Yesler? Have both lines loop around Cal Anderson or Aloha and install a cross-platform transfer. Piggyback the funding on the 2010 Rail Initiative, sign trains as either “Broadway Local” or “12th Ave Local”. There, done. Everyone gets a slice of the pie.

    Take that tack, otherwise I guarantee you SDOT and ST will find a way to study away the 12th Ave Alignment for the FHSC and you won’t get ANY say on the future of Streetcars on the hill.

  5. The Streetcar was designed as an alternative to the “First Hill” light rail station, which was actually designed to serve North First Hill, South Capitol Hill, and the Western Central Area (12th Ave corridor). This is apparent in the original station area overlay map:

    Notice that Harborview is not included in this area.

    Also, First Hill is, and will remain, better served by buses than the Streetcar. The 2,3,4, and 12 all have shorter distances from the downtown Light Rail tunnel to the medical centers and have peak headways of around 5 min, much less than the probable 15 min for the streetcar.

    A final factor is that, although building heights may be higher, TOD planning for either of the First Hill routes would be difficult. If we review the neighborhood plans, both Boren and Broadway are not designed as pedestrian or commercial corridors. This means that neighborhood focal points have been elsewhere (namely the West slope) and its also why you see big blank facades going up along Boren Ave. Not that this couldn’t change but the Neighborhood Plan Update is a long and complicated process and would require many additional funds and resources.

    12th on the other hand is designated specifically as a pedestrian and commercial center and development over the past decade has facilitated this, including plans for the future redevelopment of the King County Juvenile Detention Center. In addition, the 20 year master plan that SU developed highlights 12th as a central reference point for the campus. This type of street is a much better corridor for a streetcar line.

  6. I was wondering how long it would take before someone would trot out the old station area zoning map. If anything that map supports the Broadway/Boylston/Seneca alignment, which isn’t shown on this blog entry BTW, over the 12th Avenue Couplet. From that map I only see a tiny corner of 12th being served by the canceled First Hill Link station.

  7. Hey folks streetcars should move people and lots and lots of us live at the north end of Broadway. Let me add my voice to the Roy Street should be the end of the proposed streetcar line suggestion. People who will design this streetcar line probably aren’t living and walking in the neighborhood to the north of John. They haven’t seen the need first hand. And … I can’t believe the north end of Broadway Capitol Hill businessmen aren’t screaming bring the line north.

  8. The Seattle Transit Blog is right – the distance between Broadway and 12th Avenue (and the hill) make the 12th Ave Couplet a non-starter. For example, a person going to ID/Chinatown will not want to board the Capitol Hill-bound line on 12th Avenue, and many people will be dissuaded from tromping up the hill to the southbound side on Broadway. The Broadway line will be able to serve BOTH the hospitals and Seattle U, which is essential.


  9. Like every other sane person, I’m strongly in favor of running this puppy straight up (and down) Broadway all the way to Roy or Aloha.

    To everyone else who does not suffer from cranium-up-the-rectum-disorder, I encourage you to voice your thoughts directly to Sound Transit.

  10. The debate has been interesting – but the loop is increasingly sounding like a bad ride … bad design done to suit all interests and screw riders out of a simple, direct trajectory.

    Build more transportation, whatever ilk, on 12th as a separate project – doing what is good for Bwy./First Hill now.

    And First Hill still holds the aces, this line was promised to them since they got screwed out of a Link station. That little ditty seems forgotten by the C. Hill voices trying to change the project to their advantage.

    I smell money in the background too, coded under the guise of “economic development” – land values will jump with rail stations close by, whose?

  11. Because with the 12th ave couplet has stops for opposite directions 3 blocks apart. So the walking shed for being able to walk 5 minutes to either one is smaller.

  12. I agree with Jay. Josh, you shouldn’t use that map if you want people to agree with you. It shows 3 blocks of 12th on the very edge, whereas Broadway is right in the middle. I also doesn’t do much good to mention bus service–we are not talking about buses. Hopefully 12th will continue to densify enough to support more bus and streetcar service, but right now it is primarily a single-family neighborhood. First Hill, meanwhile is and will continue to be one of the densest neighborhoods in the city.

  13. I have yet to hear a credible argument against the 11th couplet. The streetcar will pass by 2 blocks of residential as well as the park–why is this bad? The Portland Streetcar goes through residential areas without any problems. They are very quiet most of the time.

  14. I agree about that map, I don’t really see how it supports the 12th Ave alignment and it’s actually one of the things that is making me lean toward the Broadway alignment.

  15. Because going around a park just to around a park is lame. 12th is where the traffic is, its the main avenue. Put the streetcar where the traffic is.