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$3M to plan streetcar extension to north Broadway — Now we just need $25M to build it

The City of Seattle announced Tuesday that it has secured some $3 million in funding to plan and design — but not build — the extension of the First Hill streetcar beyond the planned Denny Way terminus.

The extension will require $25 million to complete. At this date, the source for that funding has not been identified. Because of the funding schedule, the earliest work can begin on the extension is 2015. The planned and paid-for First Hill route will be completed through Denny by 2014.

Earlier this month, CHS reported that $800,000 had been secured to study the extension. Today, Mayor Mike McGinn announced an additional federal grant and $1.25 million in City of Seattle matching to assembled the $3 million necessary to plan and design the route.

At the Tuesday morning press event announcing the planning funding held near Broadway and Roy, SDOT director Peter Hahn confirmed interest in the route reaching far enough north to drop off visitors on the edge of Volunteer Park, a plan backed by the Seattle Art Museum. The final plan for the extension will hinge on studies of the residential population in the area, employment patterns and visitors who might be drawn to resources in the area like Volunteer Park.

“Stopping half way up street just didn’t make sense,” Mayor Mike McGinn said Tuesday of the community push for the extension. Poppy owner Jerry Traunfeld and Josh Mahar, who helped spearhead the community council push for the extension, were on hand and applauded by McGinn for their efforts to bring the plan to fruition. “Community involvement could have been obstructionist,” Mahar said. “We put together a set of solutions.” Mahar called progress on the extension an example of how community groups can work with the city to get things done.

McGinn said, given the amount of time it will require to arrange $25million in funding, it’s unlikely there will be wiggle room to move up the schedule for the extension so that it could be completed along with the main First Hill route.

We endorsed Mahar’s Complete Streetcar Campaign in 2010 (Image: CHS)

One thing just might come early, however. Director Hahn said the mayor wouldn’t like him saying it, but the separated Broadway bikeway will likely be ready for use before the start of streetcar service.

The announcement was a victory for the CHS-endorsed Capitol Hill Complete Streetcar campaign that has advocated for the extension since the initial routing was decided in 2010.

People involved with the planning process around a possible First Hill route extension to north Broadway say there has been growing energy to push the rail system even farther north along 10th Ave to reach E Prospect and open up the possibility of a better connection to Volunteer Park.

The First Hill streetcar is expected to eventually serve around 3,500 riders per day, according to transit planners. A previous study concluded that extending the route to Aloha would add about 500 riders per day. That study also said that extending the line to Aloha would add 3 minutes to the trip in each direction. Trolleys will leave every 15 minutes and vehicle traffic and streetcars will share a lane as a separated bikeway is added along Broadway. The streetcar will also provide an additional connection to Capitol Hill Station and light rail when that facility begins operations in late 2016.

The route for the streetcar was finalized following an extensive SDOT planning and community feedback process that considered a variety of routes — including a loop around Cal Anderson Park. The First Hill line is being paid for by Sound Transit — on the line for the project as mitigation for its decision to not build a light rail station on First Hill.


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22 thoughts on “$3M to plan streetcar extension to north Broadway — Now we just need $25M to build it

  1. This is such great news. Thanks to all who have pushed for this extension over the past 2 years. Connecting Broadway’s retail core to the streetcar makes SO much more sense, not to mention avoiding a streetcar terminus at the busiest intersection on the Hill. It would be really great to push all the way down to Prospect to help get people to Volunteer Park, not to mention improve access to the light rail station. Perhaps the museum would then kick in some improvements to help the parks department make a more pleasant, accessible and clearly marked walkway from the station up to the Asian Art Museum?

  2. My wife and I own a home and live just blocks away from the Broadway and Roy intersection. Two of my nieces recently moved to the hill to attend college and love the neighborhood. I’ve been a huge fan of the streetcar plan from the start because I feel it will bring vibrancy, tourists and neighbors to and from the natural end of the Broadway business district and the doorway of Volunteer Park and private residences.

    The street car as transportation goes back to Seattle’s roots and will be another very compelling argument to forego parking and driving hassles and instead bike, walk and trolley to parks, schools, restaurants and stadiums. Easily hopping on and off to shop and eat along the way.

    This is what I love best about Seattle, people often succeed in doing the right thing for the long-term future vibrancy of the city and not just for today. Kudos to the Mayor, local business owners and champions of this cause.

  3. I would just like to point out that your numbers are misleading. If the streetcar were to run for a single day and then we shut it down then yes, it would by 50K per rider for construction of the addition.

    If we assume that the streetcar runs 365 days a year for 10 years with just 500 riders coming from the broadway extension (a low estimate in my opinion) then the construction of the addition costs approximately $13.70 per person.

  4. I think the plan for the streetcars and all other vehicles to share one lane along Broadway will be a disaster, with increased congestion and long backups. When the streetcar comes to a halt at one of the designated stops, it will sit there for awhile as passengers load and unload (which can take some time, depending on time of day, the needs of the disabled, etc) and meanwhile all the vehicles behind it will have to wait. Traffic flow will be seriously impeded.

    Now, at least, the busses can pull over at a stop, allowing vehicles to pass by as they are loading. And won’t the same bus routes continue to run along Broadway? If so, they will contribute to the same problem caused by streetcars, because they no longer will be able to pull over into a stop zone.

    Am I missing something here? To me it seems like a really stupid configuration.

  5. Sure this might be nice to have, but a $25m investment for only 500 daily riders is pretty wasteful and certainly not cost-effective transit. By way of comparison, the proposed Madison BRT project carries estimates of serving 14,000 daily riders at a cost of $81 million. How a streetcar extension can be considered even remotely competitive is beyond me.

    For that matter, imagine what $25m applied to existing routes that already serve thousands of daily passengers could do. It could improve the lives of far more transit riders.

  6. So we’re so awash is transit funding that catering to choosy tourists (and only 500 of them a day) is a good use of funds? It would be great to live in that world. Personally, I would prefer that our transportation dollars go to projects that move and benefit the most people.

  7. While SCCC, one of the true gems of our city cuts curriculum and can’t maintain physical plant, I watch rails being installed in the street in front wasting millions. Sure rail would be nice if it were free. But at these ridiculous costs, what a waste! So that snooty people who don’t want to ride buses can have something more la-di-dah that they will like to ride? Well, why not just doll up a bus or two and have “luxury coaches” at about 1/100 of the cost of tearing up the streets for rails?

    It says here the owners of Poppy have led the push for this extension. Yeah, Poppy’s probably a very good restaurant for those lucky enough to afford expensive dinners out. Unfortunately, the taxes used to pay for this project will mostly come from people not able to afford pricey restaurants like Poppy. Pretty revolting if you ask me.

    Plus it won’t work. The boosters of streetcars can’t point to any successful projects of this kind in our city. Their idea of a success — the near empty SLUT cars or the waterfront trolley? How long until we sell off our new streetcars at a big loss from this wasteful project?

    Politicians I’ve talked to say, well, the money for the streetcars comes from a different fund than education. Apparently, the fact that the same people are paying all the taxes doesn’t register — and the fact that the total sum of tax money is limited. So, we go on prioritizing streetcars over schools. We deserve what we will get down the road — empty cars and starved minds.

  8. in Portland, the light rail runs the right hand lane. Seems to work just fine there.

    Hell, if I had the money I’d give it to the City if they promised to build quickly and not waste it.

  9. “Unfortunately, the taxes used to pay for this project will mostly come from people not able to afford pricey restaurants like Poppy.”

    The money for the streetcar comes from sales taxes, so I’d wager that you’re probably wrong.

  10. A wise friend once told me that if you want to be wealthy in Seattle, become a consultant. There goes another 3 Million for a “study”.

    My favorite line from McGinn: “Stopping half way up street just didn’t make sense,” Mayor Mike McGinn said Tuesday of the community push for the extension.

    Guess we should have hired a consultant to take that into account in the first place, eh?

  11. Methinks your real agenda has to do with taxes and your perception that lower-income people pay the majority of taxes that go to projects like this. Wrong! Even though richer people sometimes have a lower marginal tax rate (soon to change?), they pay the vast majority of total taxes…by far…for example, something like 10% of the population pays 80% of income taxes collected. And since this streetcar extension is being mainly funded, so far, with federal funds, then that means rich people are paying for most of it.

    By the way, please look at the figures for the number of people using the SLU streetcar….it’s become quite popular, mainly due to all those Amazon workers in the area. It’s successful, and so will be the streetcar for our neighborhood.

  12. @ pragmatic…I’ll answer your question…he favors the extension because it will (theoretically) bring more business to his restaurant, and probably is either unaware or doesn’t care about the traffic congestion the configuration will cause.

  13. While I’m not necessarily McGinn’s greatest fan, I do think he has been great on issues of mass transit. If he was able to cement his promise of lightrail, or streetcars, to Ballard and West Seattle, I would actually vote for him next year.

    The mayor is not at all to blame for the streetcar plan that was to end mid-way through Broadway. You have to remember WHY we’re even getting this line in the first place: Sound Transit opted out of the First Hill lightrail tunnel/stop and promised to build an alternative (the streetcar), but they only care about connecting station to station (in this case the ID station and the Capitol Hill station). Left alone, ST would never have opted to extend the line. The community has garnered a lot of support for this extension, and the major and city council have wisely gotten behind it. Makes no sense to cut half of the business district off from another transit option that WILL bring people to the Hill.

    I lived in San Francisco when they put in the historic streetcar line. It duplicates the MUNI portion below ground on Market Street, but tourists flock to it and locals love riding it, too. I’m hoping the streetcar will help reinvigorate a Broadway corridor that has been, frankly, quite sad and lackluster the past 5-8 years, when compared to a decade ago.

  14. It pays for more than a study. It funds complete design and engineering so that the project is “shovel ready” when it comes time to compete for construction funding.

  15. As a kid just out of high school and raised just down the street from Roy and 10th, I have been hoping for the construction of a streetcar on Broadway for a long time. The extension to Volunteer Park and North Broadway not only makes sense for the diverse and thriving businesses of the area but also the many families in the residential neighborhood. This extension allows Cap Hill kids an easier, safer, and less expensive option to get around Broadway and to see sports events before the completion of the light rail. I can speak for a lot of the youth on Cap Hill and say that this project is more lucrative and important than many think, counter to what those number punching grumpy old men said earlier.

  16. I really dont understand this. For convenience’s sake it might be nice, but if tourists WANT to go to volunteer park, can’t they just WALK from denny to the park? it’s a ten minute walk, down the main stretch of broadway. walking down federal is beautiful too. Wouldnt a streetcar mean less foot traffic and fewer walk-ins in a vibrant sector of capitol hill? For this “convenience” it seems like shops on north broadway will suffer.