What’s next for the streetcar?

As the opinions form around which alignment would best serve the communities of First Hill, the Central District and Capitol Hill, we talked with Seattle Department of Transportation planner Ethan Melone about what comes next in the process to finalize the streetcar route.

Melone said no date has been set yet but that SDOT is readying an update of the proposed alignments shaped by feedback and input from the community and a batch of new information and data that collected by his department for the next round of public outreach on the project. Melone said the next community meeting to present the updated alignments and new information will likely be in the second week of February.

“We will look at the same alternatives with refinements not entirely new routes,” Melone said of what we should expect to see in February. There will also be new, more accurate information on factors such as the time it will take to travel the three proposed alignments.

That framework seems to indicate that SDOT is forging ahead with the Broadway-12th Ave Couplet alignment despite a letter sent from the First Hill Improvement Association to outgoing SDOT director Grace Crunican (and a host of politicians and media outlets) asking for the removal of the option from consideration. Here’s an excerpt of the letter with the specific request:

The letter does not say which of the remaining alignments the FHIA supports.

Meanwhile, for a preview and a chance to provide your feedback directly to Melone and others from SDOT, attend this Thursday night’s Capitol Hill Community Council meeting at the Cal Anderson Shelter House where the streetcar process will be on the agenda.

Melone said more than 300 people attended the three streetcar open houses in December and SDOT has received more than 200 written comments about the proposed routes with more on the way. “They’re still coming in,” Melone said. “We receive between 5 to 10 every day.”

Melone said the comments break down into the following categories ranked from most common to least:

  1. Alignment preference
  2. Specific stop locations
  3. Bicycles
  4. Extension to north Broadway
  5. General support for the streetcar

“It’s certainly nice,” Melone said, “when you get the comment ‘This is great. Build it now.'”

Melone declined to provide a breakout of which alignments the public comments stated a preference for. Melone said SDOT will compile a full summary of the comments for the February meeting. If you’d like your $0.02 included, leave a comment here (and let us know what you said, below — we’re kind of curious!).

In a poll run on CHS prior to the December open houses, 48% of the votes tallied were for the Broadway-12th Ave couplet alignment, while 41% came in for the Broadway-2-Way route. The Boren route was left in the dust.

Tom Rasmussen, chair of the City Council’s transportation committee, said he hasn’t yet thrown his weight behind any of the alternatives but that he believes time should be a key factor. “One of the things they need to consider is how direct the routes will be,” Rasmussen told CHS. According to the information SDOT provided in December, the Broadway-12th route would be the shortest distance at 4.26 miles. We’ll find out in February what SDOT’s official travel time estimate for the routes are.

Current plan calls for the streetcar to be operational by 2013 — three years ahead of Capitol Hill’s light rail station opening. To make that goal, construction of the line is planned to begin in 2011.

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20 thoughts on “What’s next for the streetcar?

  1. That letter is right on and should be taken seriously by SDOT. They should drop the 12th Avenue Couplet instead of stringing people along like this. The couplet is not only a bad idea to begin with (see Seattle Transit Blog), it also completely goes against the idea of this being the First Hill Streetcar (not the First Hill In One Direction Streetcar). Also the interlocal agreement states that the route should be double-tracked except for short segments. I can’t seriously believe SDOT is being serious about this, they just want to mollify the 12th avenue diehards and seem like they’re taking them seriously.

  2. First Hill is not right.

    I love the 12th avenue proposal and support it. There is no reason it should not be taken seriously like any other proposal.

    First Hill is and always will be best served by bus.

    A streetcar that links First Hill and Capitol Hill is the best option. I don’t even know why we keep calling it the First Hill Streetcar.

  3. Cause that is why there is $100,000,000.00 plus sitting there of Sound Transit money, voted on and ready to go to build it.

    First Hill did not get a link station. This is their substitute rail feed into the Light Rail System. Simple.

    Maybe there is some good in all this discussion, but, maybe it is sounding more and more like folks need to get back to square one – First Hill and its link to the C. Hill light rails station and what route best serves that purpose, first.

    And planning for 12th is nice, but, seems to be a second project of its own. Bus? Trolly? Streetcar? Jitney? Future potential vs. promise and riders now. Interesting.

  4. That is not what the Sound Transit site says.

    It says the streetcar will serve Capitol Hill, First Hill, and the International District areas.

    It does not say that it is only for First Hill or First Hill is the priority.

  5. Regardless on where the streetcar runs, how about the permanent closure of Denny? if there’s going to be a 6 year closure and then a 6 day a week closure (plus special event days) with 1 way streetcar operating I think the community and the adjacent neighbors would support it.

  6. Yeah, this is a really good idea that this community should support. It would create a pedestrian plaza right by the park and the main light rail entrance. If they can close it for 6 years, why not forever?

  7. We keep calling it the First Hill Streetcar because that’s what we voted on. You can’t undo that. It doesn’t matter if First Hill is well served by bus. A streetcar is not a bus, in case you haven’t noticed. I do think 12th Avenue should get some bus service, maybe the 60 and the 9, but that is another issue.

  8. The streetcar should run down 12th, then left on John left on Broadway left on e.Denny way right on 12th. Broadway is well served by metro bus. With the streetcar running down 12th the streetcar can serves all the restaurants and retail and going down John and e. Denny way they would serve the light rail station.

  9. Even if its just two blocks it would really say something to do this. I’d be impressed with the neighborhood after several years of planning disappointments if this idea took root. although the section from the sdot (2) report looks promising, its fairly ambiguous..imagine people taking a streetcar to a ped blvd for a farmer’s market.. (even if its just a few hundred feet long) on the hill. it would help make up for the nordie’s/macy’s insistence of the pine street reopening several years back.

    A very nice complement to the north end of the park, softening it up and safeing it up quite a bit i think.

  10. the permanent closure commenter meant 6 year street closure + 1 day a week street closure..then why not keep it closed to motorized vehicles all the time. it would def improve streetcar perf and pleasurize the walk to the light rail station for all the residents e of broadway taking the light rail every day. streets like this are common overseas. oh yeah, and in portland, vancouver BC. the SDOT plans sorta glom over this but wy the hell not cap hill? The fighting over the route seems to have overshadowed a lot of other ideas. The copenhagenize it blog has some sweeeet ideas!

  11. Sure, but in tangent with the long range land use of the extra real estate AFTER the construction of C. Hill Link station is finished.

    That is the biggest challenge of all. The prize, the challenge of the decades.

    N. Broadway has been all but ruined by three giant apt./condo buildings, a block each which are mundane, blah at street level and now fixed in place for 100 years or more ….

    The opportunity to shape central Broadway only, repeat only lies in the long range development of the extra land which Sound Transit will spin off.

    That, my fiends is the prize and the challenge to energetic and enlightened community voices.

    In some ways, the streetcar is a ruse. Nice stuff, but not the central problem to get a better Broadway out of all this. We know the Link station is right there, for certain, under construction as we chat. With or without the streetcar, it is going down.

    And, this Link station will be high volume from the get go. High traffic, high revenue, pivot to the system.

    Lets’ keep talking , but, keep our eyes on the prize, so to speak.

  12. Zef, we voted on a $15.2 billion regional transit package that included 50 miles of light rail, hundreds of thousands of hours of express bus service and significant expansions to Sounder commuter rail. If you think that anyone, including anyone who lives or works on First Hill, would have voted differently on this package if the First Hill streetcar had not been included, you’re deluded.

    Our elected leaders have decided, via resolutions, plans and interlocal agreements that serving First Hill is a regional priority. That’s fine; that’s how decisions get made in a republic, but stop trying to pretend that there was some massive populist movement behind running a streetcar past the hospitals.

  13. I can understand the upset at the idea of the streetcar not running thru First Hill as first proposed. However, I think its time the city starts actually listening to the citizens and not make a “political” route for the streetcar. 12th Ave is very much left vacant without many transportation options. It seems the 12th Ave/Broadway run serves the most people.

  14. I live on E Denny Way very near the park and I agree with closing Denny eastbound past Broadway to cars. I think this would be great for the neighborhood and make the area around the park safer for pedestrians/bikes/kids/etc. I like the idea of an urban village for the area around Cal Anderson Park.

  15. @Tony – who is saying anything about a “massive populist movement?” you’re the only one as far as I can tell. Straw Man arguments are not helpful.

  16. And you would compare the workforce/resident population of First Hill with 12th?

    I think some perspective is needed, mass transit self defines.

    Even the car traffic on 12th is light- a common route to go fast cross the Hill to smarty drivers. So tens of thousands of riders will come from where? Who? When?

  17. Regardless of what the name of the project is called the First Hill streetcar is intended to serve First Hill, Capitol Hill, and the International District.

    If you think it is just for the First Hill then you should propose that it run in a circle around Swedish.

  18. At our Capitol Hill Community Council January General Meeting, we’re only going to be talking about the streetcar route north of Union St., i.e. the part of the route that will be on Capitol Hill. We also intend to focus conversation solely on that part of the route.

  19. Like SS above, I too live just off E Denny on 11th. I would very much appreciate permanent closure of the block between Broadway and 10th.