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City Council approves First Hill-Capitol Hill streetcar plan

The Seattle City Council this afternoon unanimously approved a bill authorizing an agreement between the city and Sound Transit to construct and operate a street car running from Union Station, through First Hill to the Capitol Hill light rail station site on Broadway. CHS reported on the bill’s passage from the council’s transportation committee here.

Transportation chair Jan Drago said the line will be completed quickly — likely before the Broadway station opens in 2016. “We will be fast-forwarding the money,” Drago said.

Councilmember Tom Rasmussen voiced his opposition to the cost of streetcars but voted for the bill. Before voting, Rasmussen called the project “another camel under the tent” toward completing a streetcar system in the city.

In addition to structuring the working agreement with Sound Transit, the bill calls for the City Council to define the line’s route and own the ongoing funding process to manage any costs overruns or renegotiation with Sound Transit.

By the agreement, Sound Transit will provide $120 million to fund construction of the line which the city will manage. Any construction overruns will be the responsibility of the city. Sound Transit will also provide $5.2 million annually for the city to operate the line starting in 2016. If the line starts running in 2013 as planned, the agreement calls for ST to annualize the funds it has set aside for operation over the longer period and pay out a smaller amount each year.

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Arthur Fisher
Arthur Fisher
11 years ago

If the first streetcar was called the “SLUT”, maybe this one could be called “The Bums’ Rush”?

Mike with curls
Mike with curls
11 years ago

This is a big step forward on the mass transit front.

Good work Council of Wisdom and Light – and paid for to boot from other than city funds, ie. but many of the same taxpayers …. death and taxes, two sure events as the old saying goes.

trueamerican2012
trueamerican2012
11 years ago

How about “The Crackrock Express”??

Ed Short
Ed Short
11 years ago

So, what’s next? Rebuilding the Yesler Way, James St., Madison St., and other Cable Cars. That could really restrict automobiles on those streets and force residents to use Public Transportation. Also, think of what a tourist attraction they would become.

Former Baltimorean
Former Baltimorean
11 years ago

If you like this idea, try living in Baltimore for a year. You will soon, IMHO, realize what a bad idea it is to have so many modes of public transit, especially when they don’t integrate well. I hated public transit in Baltimore. Only thing good about it is the ease of getting to New York. And D.C.

Why can’t we just have the First Hill light rail station instead??

Kayzel
Kayzel
11 years ago

Broadway Avenue sure is getting crowded.

Richard
Richard
11 years ago

Capitol Hill streetcar line is a great idea. The neighborhood should be connected by streetcar. But extending the current South Lake Union line to King Street station should be a priority to increase ridership

dang
dang
11 years ago

There is potential for a more comprehensive and integrated system. The Central Streetcar would connect with the First Hill SC in the ID as well as connect the SLUT to downtown.

I agree that First Hill should have had a light rail station, but it was deemed to risky from a construction standpoint because of First Hill’s geology, elevation and position relative to the existing bus tunnel. So the funding was approved without it. The design was completed without it. And it’s not going to happen, no matter how much it should. So, we have funding for a streetcar…

dang
dang
11 years ago
dang
dang
11 years ago

That’s why I support the loop route, which forms a nice little couplet between Broadway and 12th.

Eric
Eric
11 years ago

Unlike the SLUT, This streetcar will actually be useful and connect the First Hill neighborhood and the hospitals to the Capitol Hill station and downtown Seattle. Hopefully the plan goes well and will be better than the SLUT.

The First Hill Streetcar is something that was agreed upon when First Hill gave up their light rail station due to poor soils that would make tunneling expensive.

Maxima
Maxima
11 years ago

That’s just great. Another stupid train through town.
What a bunch of RETARDS who run this stupid city.

Maxima
Maxima
11 years ago

“Before voting, Rasmussen called the project “another camel under the tent” toward completing a streetcar system in the city.”

Yeah Tom, so why did you vote for this waste of public resources?
Are all of you so anti car? Why don’t you just tear up the streets and go full tilt and make them walking paths?
Who needs to use cars when only 98% of people drive them?
Do you think people are just magically going to stop driving?
Dream on…….

archie
archie
11 years ago

Sorry, maxima but your rush to judge is clouding the truth… Voters overwhelmingly approved this streetcar last fall as part of ST2

Realist
Realist
11 years ago

What’s the difference between a streetcar and a bus? They both have to run on crowded streets. And don’t say right of way because buses could get the right of way, other cities are using transponders to give buses green lights the whole way.

Someone enlighten me about how this is going to help anyone.

allan smith
allan smith
11 years ago

WHY? Seattle already has the failed Airport,Lake Union and Waterfront street car lines. And why run it from LR station to LR rail station? Why not repair the streets and increase the # of busses instead of blocking the road with street cars. Must be people making money on this but not Seattleites.

Enlightening
Enlightening
11 years ago

Streetcar riderships consistently outperform that of buses. For evidence, compare the ridership of the old waterfront streetcar with the current ridership of the bus that replaced it. Streetcars also provide a much higher level of permanence than do buses, which goes a long way for business and residential investment in the area. Also, streetcars are actually cheaper to run and maintain when you look at their full lifecycle compared to buses.

Huh?
Huh?
11 years ago

Failed waterfront streetcar? You mean the one that was hugely successful before being closed down to make way for the sculpture park? And um, what airport streetcar are you talking about exactly? Your credibility is falling like a rock…lol
Oh and the south lake union SLUT is actually exceeding ridership projections. I hardly consider that as “failed”…

Light Rail Supporter
Light Rail Supporter
11 years ago

I generally support light rail and mass transit expansion. However, this is a horrible waste of money. This streetcar line will connect two light rail stations. If near a light rail station, why not take the light rail? If in between stations, somewhere in First Hill, it would be a short walk to either destination. This line will never support itself and will always be a burden on the tax payer.

Jason
Jason
11 years ago

FYI, realist, you’re confusing right-of-way with signal priority.

dang
dang
11 years ago

Streetcars are much higher capacity (as in as a unit they hold more passengers than a bus), have lower operating costs (attributable to fewer drivers and electricity), are designed to move people on and off (think wide aisles, seat location/orientation), provide superior ride comfort as compared to buses (rails vs not-so-smooth roads or engineered routes vs. abrupt lane changes), and perhaps most importantly demonstrate long-term investment and confidence in a neighborhood on the part of the city, thereby acting as an impetus for future development.

dang
dang
11 years ago

If near a light rail station, why not take the light rail?

First, you presume that the function of the streetcar is to support those coming from outside the neighborhood. Light rail and streetcars serve much different functions. Light rail is intended to provide high-speed connections between distant stations (thus the dedicated ROW and preference for grade separation). Light rail’s focus is point to point. On the other hand, streetcars provide high capacity local service. Its not intended to be a commuter train, its intended to increase the mobility and range of pedestrians and residents, and provide increased connectivity along the length of the line.

If in between stations, somewhere in First Hill, it would be a short walk to either destination.

So, my guess is you are able bodied? I am sure there are a number of people who would not adopt as cavalier an attitude regarding the ease with which they could walk from First Hill to either of the connected light rail stations. And again, you presume the sole intent of the streetcar is to get people to light rail and only light rail. What about the businesses in the ID, First Hill, Capitol Hill or Central Area that could be connected via this line? With a streetcar, its not just about the end points, but all the points in between.

Wells
Wells
11 years ago

I believe streetcars should be appreciated, not denigrated. The “South Lake Union Streetcar Line” needs a simple extension to 1st or 2nd Ave to build adequate and ‘admirable’ ridership; about 1 mile of track to reach commercial venues and transit corridors. Its terminus on Westlake is just plain dumb.

As for the Capitol Hill-First Hill-International District line, I have concerns and reservations. If there are whores to be denigrated, its the planners who forward project proposals without fully informing the public and/or conducting public presentations that are more a formality than an honest and complete presentation of project specifics. Instead of serving the public, they’re serving ‘insiders’ who would rather that information be kept behind closed doors.

I’d rather see this streetcar line tie into a replaced Waterfront Line. Running along 1st Ave may be problematic, impractical, duplicative.

Seattle Greg
Seattle Greg
11 years ago

Funding a new line while the Benson Trolley Rusts away… The one we already paid for…
and could be making money with. Remember MAKING money?
The idea is simple. Extend the existing line NORTH beyond Pier 70, and run the line through Myrtle Edwards Park to Pier 91. I strongly believe the line would be profitable very quickly, and provide a number of benefits that fall within the goals of the city, the county and the state.

· It would be low cost to build, and quick to install
· A Green transportation solution
· It would be yet another Historic Landmark Attraction

Running the line north through Myrtle Edwards, you would be on city land most of the route. Some of the new line would be on Port of Seattle land. A Temporary Trolley barn could be constructed under the Magnolia viaduct on City or Port property, or north of it at the base of the bluff..
The Benson Trolley averaged 200,000 paying passengers yearly and never had anything other than a “temporary” barn it’s entire life.

Pier 91 now has a 10 year commitment from Carnival Corp, and beginning in 2010 will be home port all summer long to three cruise lines, Holland America, Princess and Carnival Corp. During the five month long cruise season, more than a half million folks will transit to Pier 91 getting to or from the ships, or working.

Imagine a green, historic, fun way to offer transportation to the approximately 6,000 to 8,000 DAILY ship passengers who transit every Friday, Saturday and Sunday all summer long. The trolley would offer them green access to our International District, Pioneer Square, Pike Place or even just the sculpture park without impacting surface streets. Not to mention the potential to be used year round by Amgin and all the lower Queen Anne residents and work force, all without adding another cab or bus to the streets.

Best of all it connects with the major transportation hubs, including the Washington State Ferries, The West Seattle Water Taxi, Sounder Rail, the new Light Rail, and the Metro Tunnel.

I bet you could even do it for less than the 52 million it cost for the Westlake Line.

We already own the five streetcars. We already have the right of way secure for the length of the existing line. We own the park land. It is in the Port’s best interest to give us access for the rail line. Both the city and the port own land under the viaduct, and north of the viaduct.

Amgin currently pays a good sum of money for a private charter service to run shuttles all day long to Pier 86 from downtown as Metro service is inconsistent and several blocks away. The new First Avenue Trolley will not help any cruise ship or Amgin person.

Five years ago Amgen and the Port of Seattle BOTH offered the city money to possibly cover the cost of extending the line north. For whatever reason that memo got lost. Perhaps with the Benson Trolley Line Extension, the money Amgen spends on bus shuttles could now underwrite the Trolley.

Out of town visitors and ship crews would pay for the line within a few years, let alone daily commuters to Amgin and offices along Elliott.

The new line could run from Pier 91 all the way to 5th and Jackson until the Viaduct is ready to come down. Just prior to the construction starting, you could temporarily end the line at Pier 50, across from the Washington State Ferry Terminal. This would maximize interline transportation options. If that is too close to construction, you could end it at Ivar’s Station, or at the Hill Climb for access to the Market and the city’s Aquarium. If viaduct construction required, even ending it across from Pier 66 to keep the line out of “harms way” would still be a huge improvement and allow access to the Lenora pedestrian overpass up to the Market

Once the Viaduct is finished, the trolley line could return to servicing the Pioneer Squre and end at Jackson to meet up with Amtrak Sounder, Light Rail and the Metro Bus Tunnel.

The work around the Olympic Sculpure Park can eithe be done on the sidwalk side by divering the rails from the east side of the street to the sidewalk on the west side, or by squeezing it on the rail side with access only when no train is running. It CAN be done.
How about a pragmatic transportation solution that MAKES money rather than needs a loan?

Wells
Wells
11 years ago

I agree that the Waterfront Streetcar line should be reinstalled. SDOT led people to believe their preferred route (smack dab through the middle of the wide plaza) was NOT idiotic for 5 years. Finally called out on the lunacy of rail through the middle of a pedestrian plaza, SDOT cancels the streetcar line, rejecting several sensible route options proposed by others. SDOT hires bratty 13 year olds.

The proposed streetcar maintenance facility adjacent to Occidental Park is not a good location at all. Why devote street level storefront to a maintenance barn? Ooops! The better site was indeed out toward Interbay. And the line could extend as far as the shipping canal. It’s another reason why the monorail route through Interbay was ridiculous. The streetcar line would’ve served Interbay as well at a fraction of the cost.

Still, the Waterfront Streetcar line must wait for removing the AWV and rebuilding Alaskan Way. SDOT’s design for Alaskan Way is as poorly engineered as the Deep-bore. Grace Crunican plans to turn Alaskan Way between Lower Belltown and Jackson Street into around-the-clock gridlock, and Mercer into a freight corridor through Lower Queen Anne. The Deep-bore is another fiasco. She’s been around 8 years now through one fiasco after another. This is just the latest. Don’t be fooled.

Jonathan Dubman
Jonathan Dubman
11 years ago

The stations at First Hill and Capitol Hill were supposed to open in 2006 according to the 1996 vote. First Hill was promised to voters, and then cut (replaced by this streetcar) and Capitol Hill is opening 10 years late. So if the streetcar opens in 2013, it will be more like 7 years late than 3 years “early”. If that’s the way we’ve decided to replace the function of the First Hill station that would have cost dramatically more money, then Sound Transit should really be paying for the whole thing.

Jonathan Dubman
Jonathan Dubman
11 years ago

Apparently the acceleration of the operational funding is proposed to come out of existing planned ST funds, while the city is on the hook for cost overruns.

I’m not clear on the status of the “extension” to Roy/Aloha at the north end of Broadway. A light rail station was proposed at that location too, and it, too, was cut.