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City planning 2017 changes to speed up First Hill Streetcar

Denny-and-Broadway_6033-600x400Capitol Hill pedestrians you might soon have to up your pace to beat the First Hill Streetcar in a footrace.

The Seattle Department of Transportation is planning a roster of changes in three sections of the 2.5-mile line to help boost the performance of the streetcar connecting Pioneer Square, the International District, First Hill, and Capitol Hill including the addition of a “southbound Business Access and Transit lane” to Broadway.

According to SDOT, the planned southbound lane changes would occur in the Marion to Pine section of the line and would create a new transit and turning lane while converting the center lane for southbound through traffic on Broadway. Additionally, SDOT is planning to add better signal priority for the streetcar along the same stretch. Planners also thinking better management of crosswalk access along the route will help and are planning to restrict “pedestrian crossing for right-turning cars” from Broadway.

The department said it also determined in studies last year that two other sections of the First Hill Streetcar route on Yesler and Jackson could benefit from tweaks to speed performance.

A ride from end to end on the First Hill Streetcar typically takes more than 20 minutes — add 15 minutes or more in the busiest traffic. Hobbling the line’s speed, the streetcar shares lanes with with vehicular traffic on a route that comes sometimes perilously close to cars parked on the street near the tracks. Most riders, fortunately, don’t need an end-to-end ride and can put the much faster light rail to use for that. SDOT’s plans could help shave a few minutes off for riders heading toward Capitol Hill Station from First Hill’s medical facilities or Seattle U.

SDOT plans to implement the changes this summer, according to the announcement. UPDATE 3/1/2017: A SDOT spokesperson says none of the planned changes to Broadway are final and that more analysis and outreach must come before the plans are implemented:

The SDOT blog post inaccurately stated the improvements will be made this summer. The only improvements this summer are some signal tweaks along Jackson St. The other improvements under consideration are still subject to additional analysis, design and public outreach.

Here is what the Seattle Transit Blog says about the planned “BAT Lane”

After some additional design and feasibility work, SDOT will look at adding a Business Access and Transit (BAT) lane on southbound Broadway between Pike and Marion, the only place on the FHSC corridor with surplus ROW. In this section, there is no parking in the southbound direction and the streetcar hugs the curb. This leaves a roughly 9′ median lane that currently lies empty. In a blog post last week, SDOT said that it intends to try to convert this median space into a southbound general purpose travel lane, turning the southbound streetcar lane into a BAT lane. Functionally, this means only streetcars, buses, and right turns will be permitted.

Last week, CHS reported on “record transit” numbers around Seattle and the region boosted in part by expanded light rail and streetcar service. In December, CHS reported that the new line was averaging around 3,000 riders per day. The First Hill Streetcar began service in January 2016 after a lengthy delay over issues with testing the trolleys. You can check out the line’s stops here.

The 10 stations of the First Hill Streetcar


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12 thoughts on “City planning 2017 changes to speed up First Hill Streetcar

  1. I have a suggestion to make it faster….Let’s get rid of it completely! My walking speed is faster than the Streetcar.

    And if I wanted to get to ID faster, I’d just take the lightrail.

  2. while SDOT is at it, they should nix street parking from denny to pine southbound so that buses and west bound turns don’t block the street car. Furthermore, they should bypass the absurd14th ave stop behind the school and instead south on 12th and west on jackson. They could run the “full” route once an hours or something like that.

  3. I think we should embrace more technology from the 1800’s. Then let’s cram it all onto one street!!!! Street car, bikes, peds!!!!! It. will. Be. Awesome. I demand posts where I can tie up my horse!!!!!!

  4. Remember that this streetcar exists for one reason, because Sound Transit deleted the First Hill light rail station. The streetcar was built to get people from Capitol Hill or International District/Pioneer Square to Swedish and Seattle U. The rest of the stops are just because. We probably would have been better off with a center road running line with only 3 or 4 stops. Of course, that would have led to people along the line decrying the lack of access. Moral: If no one is happy, it’s a good compromise.