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Broadway streetcar+bikeway extension: How far north, first, improvement district levy, later

Artist depiction of the coming Broadway bikeway (Image: SDOT)

With $3 million sorted out to pay for planning an extension of the streetcar route a half-mile north on Broadway, planners have more than a few decisions to make. How should the bikeway and streetcar elements be laid out north of Denny? How close to Volunteer Park should the last Capitol Hill streetcar stop be?

Thursday night on the other end of Broadway, representatives from the Seattle Department of Transportation will be on hand at a community open house to talk about those options. And, though it’s too early for the workshop to tackle the topic, CHS also has more information on a possible local improvement district being considered to raise a portion of the $25 million construction estimate required to extend the route.

So, just how far north will the extension go?


“It’s largely about community preferences,” SDOT’s Ethan Melone tells CHS about one big question that the workshop and extension planning process needs to answer, “We don’t see anything technically that will be a big challenge for any of those options.”

The three options SDOT will bring to the table Thursday are within a few blocks of one another beween the north end of Broadway E and Volunteer Park — Roy, Aloha and Prospect.

How the plan shakes out will be based on feedback provided by people who live and work in the area — especially residents, businesses and institutions that fall within a potential local improvement district that could be formed to pay a portion of the construction budget.

Reporting on a complicated civic budget process at this early point is a challenge — multiple funding sources will come together and a large menu of planning and environmental review is yet to come. But current models for covering the $25 million start with $11 million in “local funding” from the City of Seattle for the extension to be operational by 2016. Half of that $11 million would be raised by a levy from a local improvement district formed in the neighborhood around the streetcar’s northern reach. To layer more what ifs on top of those what ifs, just which property owners would be included in the district and how much each would end up paying over the duration of the levy would need to be worked out. LIDs are common tools in the city and are subject to votes by the participants. As far as LIDs go, $5.5 million is a relatively small amount. Of course, that’s easy for Broadway property-less CHS to say, no?

The half-mile extension’s price tag broken down by category. Half of the $11 million in local funds could come from a local improvement district. (Source: City of Seattle Budget)

Here’s how the $25 million breaks out by year

Following the start of construction in spring 2012, the First Hill streetcar is expected to be operational in 2014 and eventually serve around 3,500 riders per day, according to transit planners. The initial $133 million, 2.5 mile route was paid for via Sound Transit as mitigation for its decision to not build a light rail station on First Hill. 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. A study concluded that extending the route to Aloha would add about 500 riders per day and 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 the 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.

Before all of the money to pay for constructing the streetcar extension gets worked out, there will be more questions to answer. Another area planners will be gathering feedback on Thursday night will be how the various streetcar, bikeway, pedestrian, traffic and parking elements should fit together north of Denny.

“We want to hear what their priorities are,” Melone said about fine-tuning the changes being planned for north Broadway. Below is the basic layout that was proposed for Broadway before Denny where there is far less street parking.

The Seattle Bike Blog is already licking its chops at the prospects for improved riding all the way to E Prospect. “Once completed, the entire length of Broadway would have a two-way protected cycle track, securing inviting bicycle access to the city’s most dense and bustling commercial street,” the site breathlessly reports.

You can share the blog’s ardor — or make your case for a north Broadway redesign Thursday night.

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Eric
7 years ago

What do people think about proposing this for Broadway/John?



Pat
Pat
7 years ago

So wrong in so many ways.

Pat
Pat
7 years ago

A neat idea, but one problem…getting the cyclists to follow the rules of the road. Until that happens, its just throwing money away…

Alas!
7 years ago

Our city “leaders” can’t find money for upkeep of Volunteer Park. They’re going to start charging for the Conservatory – and then, if people don’t pay, probably cut that too.
Yet, lots of money for a streetcar down Broadway to — Volunteer Park. Apparently one of our chi-chi restaurants is leading the boosterism for this boondoggle, because they hope it will bring more chi-chi patrons who feel they are too good to take the bus.
Our city “leaders” have their priorities very mixed up!

calhoun
7 years ago

I think the terminus should be at E Roy St. There would be very few non-residents (tourists, etc.) who would visit Volunteer Park just because the streetcar gets a little closer. And it’s not unreasonable to expect residents living north of Roy to walk a few blocks to get home, or they could continue to use the bus as they are now. This would presumably save alot of money for taxpayers.

The parking spots along 10th Ave E between Roy and Prospect are heavily-used. If a streetcar and also a bikeway were put in there, alot of those places would have to be sacrificed.

Alan
7 years ago

Agreed. It just feels like a more natural place for it to end as well.

Eric
7 years ago

Care to elaborate?

Joe
Joe
7 years ago

Might be a better fit at Broadway and Pine, since there’s already a bike route coming up Pine. 12th and Pine also, since you’ve got bike routes on both streets.

To be honest, on my bike I avoid Broadway in general and Broadway+John in particular — that corner was a hazard (for everybody — peds, cyclists, and cars) before they started running dump trucks through the area. Now it’s just death with four exits.

Joe
Joe
7 years ago

I agree. Back when the CHill metro tunnel was still in the discussion stages I kept asking about two stations at either end (Broadway/Pine under the Performance Hall, and Broadway/Roy in what was then the empty lot at the “head” of Broadway where Roy Coffee and Kinkos now are). But when the Beacon Hill station got cut for cost reasons there was no chance of that (the tunnel now bends before Pine) and we got the streetcar instead. It still makes sense to run the streetcar up to Roy, though we lost the chance for a nifty little turnaround there.

The only way it would make sense to extend it further would be if Cornish was planning on expanding their old campus or something, and I don’t think the neighborhood would allow that anyway.

Joe
Joe
7 years ago

Actually, I doubt Jerry Traunfeld thinks many of Poppy’s customers will be arriving by streetcar. But I think he’s understandably worried about a shift in the center-of-gravity on the hill. It’s already well underway, with Pike-Pine becoming the focus of the hill; once the subway stop is open, Broadway/John will be the place where most people emerge into CHill. If the streetcar only runs one direction from there, what direction are most people going to head? Even if they’re not using the streetcar, the very infrastructure of the neighborhood is telling them to walk south, not north.

Anyway, capital improvements aren’t the same as ongoing maintenance for things like parks. Whatever the streetcar costs to run, it’s not going to cost that much more to run it up and down a few extra blocks. And that’s the money — ongoing, every year, paying to keep the lights on money — that the parks department is fighting for. If you’re going to argue that money should get cut from other things to keep the parks strong (and I’m in total agreement with you there) then you should be arguing to not build the street car at all, thus avoiding paying every year to run it.

pinguina
7 years ago

Good points made by Calhoun! Roy St. just feels like a natural terminus – I’m not quite sure I think its worth it to extend it another block. (and yes! City should fund Conservatory in the park so no admission is charged!!!) North of Roy St. is not densely populated so the extension won’t serve that many people. It’s a lovely walk from Roy St. to the park so it will still be a pleasant experience for tourists and other park visitors. And the parking spots on 10th Avenue are sorely needed and allow a place for visitors to retail/restaurant Broadway to park (as well as residents).

Reddog
7 years ago

Calhoun is right – Roy would make the most sense as a terminus. And even with the streetcar, some of us will have to continue to drive (hate to break it to you), and Aloha is a major east/west artery that should not be blocked or slowed down by streetcar traffic. I’m not convinced that the streetcar has to go further north than was originally planned, but if it does, then Roy is the best terminus.

Filbert
7 years ago

I wish this city would develop a usable rapid transit system, but this sure is not it. The streetcar routes just do not really go anywhere and they are not even connected to one another, or even to a meaningful transit center. Worst of all is the cost of this proposed Broadway extension. 5 million for engineering studies to design tracks going down a street another 2000 ft? Nice contract if you can get it. Then 25 mil to build. That’s over $12,000 per foot! Think about that next time you’re crossing Broadway. 12 grand for a piece of rail about the length of your shoe.

alexjonlin
7 years ago

Extending the streetcar as far north as possible, to Prospect Street, is the best option for a few reasons. First of all, that part of Capitol Hill is quite dense and getting denser, despite its less-urban feel. Most of the buildings along 10th itself are 2-3 story apartment buildings, and some of the lots on adjacent, smaller streets are apartment buildings as well. The area between Prospect, Highland, Harvard, and 10th has several major apartment projects that have been recently completed or are currently in development. Secondly, the access to Volunteer Park is important. It already attracts some out-of-town tourists and quite a few people from other Seattle neighborhoods or the suburbs. With an easy way to get there by transit, it could bring more tourists to Capitol Hill, as it provides several attractions to draw people into the area before they wander around and experience the neighborhood. Finally, extending it as far north as possible will get us that much closer to connecting this line up to the future Eastlake streetcar so that the 49 can be replaced. As long as the streetcar ends somewhere on Capitol Hill, it is resulting in quite massive service duplication, which should be gotten rid of as soon as possible.

Reddog
7 years ago

The streetcars are actually a downgrade from buses from my perspective. As they are configured on Broadway (and presumably 10th) they block traffic when they stop to pick up passengers. Plus they are wildly more expensive than buses. Route 10 will already get you closer to Volunteer Park than the streetcar line is proposed to do at $25 million more. Route 49 already gets you just as close as the streetcar extension would. Why get excited about replacing Route 49 with more a expensive streetcar? The local government dollars can be spent in better ways.

Jay
Jay
7 years ago

They should just loop it around Aloha like the trolley buses used to do.

Also, the streetcar frequency is going to be every 10 minutes during the day, not every 15 minutes like the post says.

calhoun
7 years ago

I question your assertion that the area north of E Roy St is “getting denser.” The only new building that I know of there is the apartment under construction at E Highland.

I agree that a better rapid transit system is needed for someone to get north from the Broadway business district, but please note that this is already being built…in the form of light rail to the UW, and before too long to the U District and Northgate. Once this route is in place (admittedly a few years down the road), a streetcar along 10th Ave E will be redundant and alot of money would have been wasted building it.

RK
RK
7 years ago

I genuinely don’t understand how the street cars are superior to buses in this scenario. They have to use the same traffic lanes, so it’s not like they are faster. Why not just go with bus service?

JohnS
7 years ago

The argument is that people who won’t ride Metro will take a streetcar. There are also economic development arguments, that developers are more likely to want to be near perceived higher-benefit infrastructure.

I’m not sure either of these are particularly true here, and I am perpetually annoyed with our inability to capitalize on our electric trolley bus infrastructure. Metro’s new low-floor trolleys (hopefully with 2+1 seating, to make it easier to move around inside) are going to speed up boarding; if we went to off-board payment like RapidRide, we could really enhance the trolley bus experience for relatively low cost.

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[…] of a community survey process that took place this winter asking respondents for feedback on three proposed terminus locations and layout preferences that could mix traffic lanes, turn lanes, parking and a separated bikeway the length of Broadway […]