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North Broadway streetcar extension could lose out to Pioneer Square plan — UPDATE

The push for a northern extension of the First Hill streetcar from its currently planned terminus near Denny and Broadway has hit an interesting bump in the road — an extension on the other end of the route in Pioneer Square. Details from Publicola:

The new proposal would use up all of the $132.8 million Sound Transit said it was willing to spend to build the streetcar, meaning that there will be no money left to fund the proposed northern streetcar extension to Aloha, on north Capitol Hill. (Seattle Department of Transportation spokesman Rick Sheridan attributed the higher cost to the cost of the streetcar vehicles themselves, not the Pioneer Square extension).


Under the original proposal, about $7 million would have been left over to fund the Aloha extension, which the Seattle Department of Transportation estimates would cost a total of about $20 million. The extension would have also gotten funding from the $60 car-tab fee, which flopped at the polls in November.

The Seattle City Council’s transportation committee is discussing the potential Pioneer Square extension in its session Tuesday morning.

We reported last month that the financed route is ready to begin construction with a goal of being operational by the end of 2013. In August, we detailed the opportunity — and the $7 million challenge — associated with extending the streetcar north up Broadway past E Roy. According to Publicola, the Pioneer Square plan is a response to an argument “that the neighborhood would benefit from the extra transportation option, especially during construction of the Alaskan Way tunnel.”

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17 thoughts on “North Broadway streetcar extension could lose out to Pioneer Square plan — UPDATE

  1. Doesn’t your headline contradict the facts from Publicola?

    “Seattle Department of Transportation spokesman Rick Sheridan attributed the higher cost to the cost of the streetcar vehicles themselves, not the Pioneer Square extension.”

    If you have facts that contradict Sheridan, that’s fine – but you should publish them, then.

  2. It osn’t as if the streetcar was provided for Capitol Hill per se. It was provided for First Hill users a link to Light Rail when their station was eliminated. It does that by hitting the ID station and the Capitol Hill station. Anything more than that, while being nice for the neighborhood, was NEVER promised by anybody. If Capitol Hill wants the extension north, I think our best bet would be to have a local taxing district provide the funds.

  3. I believe the higher cost is because with the Pioneer Square extension they have to purchase and operate an additional streetcar in order to maintain the headways that Sound Transit requires. There was a story about it recently on the Pioneer Square blog.

  4. (And yes, I do live in the neighborhood…)

    I’m skeptical about how great extending the street car up would be for business on Broadway. The walk from Denny to Aloha on Broadway is what, 10 minutes? And if you do walk that way, you pass by all the shops, bars, and restaurants, on foot. If you could ride the streetcar all the way up, you could zip right by a lot of them.

    I mean, more transit is always nicer than less, all things being equal. I just question whether there is really much of a benefit to this that would justify the additional cost.

  5. I agree…I think the extension to Pioneer Sq would be more useful. While the walk from Jackson between 1st and 5th may be only a few blocks, it’s a far less pedestrian-friendly walk than if it went a few more blocks up Broadway. The extension would bring many more visitors from Pioneer Sq. to CapHill, and make visiting Pioneer Sq from CapHill easier. Almost every Hill type I know never goes to Pioneer Sq, just not convenient. And, I doubt anyone will choose not to ride the streetcar to CapHill because it stops at Denny instead of going to Aloha.

  6. That’s the biggest load of horseshit I’ve ever read in my life. West of 5th, there is nothing more ped-unfriendly about Jackson than Broadway. And it’s FIVE BLOCKS — half the distance of the Broadway extension.

    People from Cap Hill don’t visit Pioneer Square because there’s not much on offer there that’s not on offer in the Hill, better and closer. The streetcar isn’t going to fix that. Not to 5th & Jackson, not extended to 1st and Jackson.

    Once University Link opens in 2016, people who do want to visit Pioneer Square will use that — it will take less than half the time.

  7. I’m agnostic on the relative merits of the Pioneer Square extension. I’m just wondering if extending the Cap Hill end to Aloha would be a case of diminishing returns.

  8. I think that if the line is not extended to Aloha, the “tourist dollars” they are trying to get will all go straight into Pike/Pine businesses and nobody on the N side will see them.
    That seems to be what developers have been planning for anyway, as of late. I predict the downtown line will win. Although I think that in the future, the Broadway line will get extended eventually.

  9. This is so typical of Seattle it drives me insane. The time to build the entire line is now…while it’s being planned. The idea that MAYBE in the future, we might get the North Broadway extension is foolish. Most likely, it wouldn’t be a priority (we know that Sound Transit has no interest in it whatsoever), and the longer we wait, the more it will cost.

    Just look at what we’ve done to ourselves by opting not to accept the HUGE sum of federal dollars that would have built an entire light rail system in Seattle back in the 70s (Atlanta said thank you very much and, with that system in place, won a bid for the Olympics). Seattle simply can’t manage to think large when it comes to transit and our citizens have repeatedly voted down efforts to raise funds to build it. (Yes, we finally approved Sound Transit, and ST2, but we’re decades behind the ball and we voted it down repeatedly in the 90s. Meanwhile prices kept going up.)

    I support both extensions: Pioneer Square because it makes sense to extend the line into a major tourist center. Tourists are a skittish lot and they are much more likely to get on a simple, above-ground streetcar line than to try and decipher local bus schedules or venture into an underground tunnel. I don’t have scientific surveys to prove it, but I have travelled around the world and I have seen these behaviors.

    North Broadway is vital because it has ZERO logic to cut off the entire Northern business district from a source of mass transit. Enacting traffic flow changes for only half the street is also ludicrous. Broadway is a corridor and the streetcar should follow until the end of the corridor. Furthermore, can you imagine the traffic headache of a streetcar end station right by Broadway and John? Allowing a turn-around at Aloha would elimitate a potential traffic snarl and let the streetcar run on a natural loop. I also like the idea of tying the system in as closely to Volunteer Park as possible.

    I know not everyone loves streetcars, and not everyone supports the Broadway extension (seriously, the amount of funding needed for this extension is minimal when compared with the entire cost and/or the increased cost of “adding it on” later), but I’m passionate about giving people transportation CHOICES and adamant that the city look at neighborhoods as a whole and not just piecemeal a system that could be addressed at one time.

  10. I would support a total revamp of our transit system, including the merited North Capital Hill extension, but I do not believe the tax base (cash) or Federal Government subsidies are there to make it feasable. As to why Seattle did not do all this in the 70s, well it could have been because Seattle was still suffering the effects from a major economic down turn, with people abondoning homes, banks and Hud bulldozing empty homes, and the outflow of residents had made rental trucks impossible to get ( hired drivers brought them in, as few were brought in by new arrivals). I remember buying my first house at 19, in 1973, and having the crazy realtor show me all those huge old homes on Capital Hill for cheap, but who could believe his prediction that that area would ever come back, so I bought a nice home in Lake City ( 2 bedroom, attached garage, huge lot, fireplace, and all completely rebuilt by HUD ) for $13,250. The US had suffered two oil embargos, and no one wanted those monster homes on CH. Seattle was poor, and the bus service was totaly adequate for most of us at the time!

  11. Jay-
    “I believe the higher cost is because with the Pioneer Square extension they have to purchase and operate an additional streetcar in order to maintain the headways that Sound Transit requires.”

    I’m still looking for this. Again, if you want to base your reporting on this belief, please cite your facts directly in your article. My facts from available sources indicate that the added costs that make the Aloha extension unfeasible at the current time are not related to the changes in Pioneer Square. If you have different information readily available, please share it.

  12. That’s awesome. I’m not sure what else to say, other than that I hope you draw enjoyment from repeating things you read “elsewhere,” wherever that may be. I still tried to find whatever you tried to reference, regardless of your involvement with the original post here. Thanks for providing that link!