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City of Seattle

April 11, 8:48 AM click here to comment > 20

Bringing the Streetcar to North Broadway

Later this month we will be breaking ground on the First Hill Streetcar. Approved in the 2008 Sound Transit 2 vote, it will connect Capitol Hill to the International District and expand our growing network of high capacity rail options.

Originally, the streetcar was going to stop short of the heart of the neighborhoods at each end: Pioneer Square and the Broadway commercial district. The First Hill Streetcar had initially been conceived as a way to get travelers from the Capitol Hill light rail station to the hospitals and other large institutions on First Hill. But we know that extending the route deeper into the neighborhoods will increase the streetcar’s utility, give more people a new transit option, and help these commercial districts prosper.

That’s why we have worked hard to extend the streetcar. Seattle Department of Transportation staff and our consultants worked with Sound Transit to bring the streetcar into Pioneer Square while meeting our performance and cost targets.

Now we are turning our focus to extending the line north on Broadway through the heart of the commercial district. This summer, the City will use a mixture of $50,000 in federal funds and $450,000 in local funds to begin environmental review on the north Broadway extension. That’s the first step toward competing for the federal funds we’ll need to build it.

We are also applying for regional funds to pay for engineering and final design. With the help of Councilmembers Jean Godden and Mike O’Brien, the streetcar extension was selected as one of twelve projects that the Puget Sound Regional Council is considering funding. If successful, the PSRC funds can help pay for the $2.5 million cost of the engineering and final design in 2013.

The construction cost for the extension is estimated at $22 million. We still have a lot of work to do in order to secure the local funding and federal grants we’ll need to pay for construction, but we’ve made a good start by identifying funds to begin the environmental review process. I want to thank Councilmember Tom Rasmussen for his longstanding support for this project and helping get it closer to reality.

Photo by: Jen Nance

Posted by: Mayor Mike McGinn


Comment from Gordon Werner
Time April 11, 2012 at 11:18 am

Might I make a suggestion …

at the Broadway terminal of the line … for now … it would make a lot of sense if y’all installed a switch/turnout on the northbound track so that when the extension is funded … the line won’t have to be halted for construction of the new track. The switch could be locked into the correct route for now and the track would just have to dead-end about 10 feet or so forward of the switch.

This way, the existing track crossing over to the west-side of Broadway would become an instant cross-over track … and the new track heading northwards could just connect to the existing switch.

This is done all the time where future extensions are planned (in Reims, France for instance) … and it allows for extending the line without halting existing service.

Since we are going to rip up the street anyway … it would make a lot of sense to do this now as opposed to the future. I would imagine the cost of the additional switch components (which would be needed anyway) would be a lot cheaper to buy/install now than later

Comment from jack whisner
Time April 11, 2012 at 8:39 pm

To extend the streetcar north, Seattle would have to fund additional track, overhead, a streetcar, and service subsidy to maintain the 10-minute headway. The extension would also be redundant to existing Route 49. Should Seattle raise those millions, it that the best expenditure?

Comment from Randi G
Time April 12, 2012 at 7:36 am

I think planning ahead is a great idea! At 2nd avenue and at 4th and 5th avenue similar steps could be taken because the two streetcar routes are going to be joined so get ready now until a decision is made where to join them.

Comment from Michael G
Time April 12, 2012 at 10:03 am

I don’t get it. We know that we are woefully behind at road maintenance in the city, but we are prioritizing a redundant streetcar that will require subsidy to operate? Mayor, it doesn’t appear to me that you know what it means to prioritize.

Comment from Michael Kucher
Time April 12, 2012 at 10:21 am

Please extend the SLU Streetcar up Eastlake and to Brooklyn and 45th to make a stronger transit hub there. Then, we can start thinking about a Shilshole to Sand Point line, dipping down to 45th to make East-West travel easier. Perhaps even elevated?

Comment from Leo Kabigting
Time April 12, 2012 at 10:26 am

Will this streetcar expansion contribute to dependable transportation during snowy weather that paralyzes our current types of buses and electric trolleys in the First Hill and Capitol Hill areas? I doubt it. Let’s get back to a realistic drawing board and consider a less expensive, proven alternative before we waste more taxpayer money.

Comment from Maribago
Time April 12, 2012 at 10:31 am

What’s great about the South Broadway section of the First Hill street car is the bike lane. In fact, that would be a good place to stop. 🙂

Adding the actual street cars on Broadway, well…
– Street cars & cars share a *single* lane northbound? Think multiple car/tram accidents/month.
– Parking, incl parking for food trucks, reduced by 1/2?
– And this street car connects what and serves who? Not commuters–who don’t really travel this route. Metro didn’t find enough demand to warrant even buses.
– Connect the bars in Pioneer Sq with the bars in Pike/Pine? Oops, too infrequent service after midnight … and does Cap Hill really want to share the Pioneer Sq vibe?

Overall, you have to wonder if this project is happening because LightRail offered the $$, rather than due to thoughtful analysis.

I think there is a misconception being propagated by the pro-streetcar consultants. This misconception is that the vote on extending Sound Transit way back when was a vote for street car expansion. This was not at all the language of the proposition.

The only document provided to most voters for the ST2 Vote in 2008 was a color “proposed system map” which said nothing about a street car, referring only to a “First Hill Link Connector” … no more detail than that, even in the “Detailed Description of Facilities …” Appendix (

We “pro-transit” voters were presented with a large basket of goodies in 2008 and we could “take all” or “fail all”. And, of course, in 2008 we hadn’t yet experienced the pain and problems of the So Lake Union experiment.

Build the bike lane part of the project, then use the balance of the budget for more important things!

Comment from Joyce H.
Time April 12, 2012 at 11:01 am

Combining the streetcar with bike lanes makes no sense on Broadway. Broadway is already jammed with traffic–cars getting onto the freeways (Madison, James & Cherry) and turning onto side streets—plus the buses.

The scenario you’re creating with cars, bikes and a street car, plus buses all on what is currently a very crowded and busy street simply will exacerbate the conflict between drivers and bikes.
A sensible approach is to create bike lanes on the side streets–not major thoroughfares where they must compete with car traffic. The bike lanes should be on 12th Avenue, 15th Avenue or even 19th Avenue. I rarely see bike riders on north Broadway. Why create more conflict and traffic congestion? Between the street car and buses (which hopefully you will keep running on Broadway since they run from 10th Avenue East all the way down Broadway), any time they stop, it will create a traffic back-up. Have you considered this in your planning? Traffic is already jammed on north Broadway.
As for connecting the ID rail station with Capitol Hill, that will happen when the light rail station is complete on Broadway. Why would you need a street car to accomplish and duplicate that?
Many of the people using the hospitals on First Hill must take a car or taxi since many are not in the best health. They are NOT going to ride a bike or even use a street car since it has even more infrequent stops than the bus.
This project is a complete waste of money and the addition of bike lanes makes no sense. If your main purpose is to move people, you’re dreaming. You’re creating traffic congestion. There is no advantage to having a street car over a bus. Use the money to actually reduce traffic congestion in the Seattle. More people are NOT going to be riding their bikes. How many City Council members use bikes as their primary method of transportation?

Comment from Shawn Jezerinac
Time April 12, 2012 at 12:59 pm

If only the streetcar didn’t require tracks. Tracks are a hazard to cyclists. Tracks are not campatable with the city’s support for cyclists. Put the street cars on rubber wheels. Use electric buses that are as long as street cars. No rails on Seattle streets!

Comment from Teresa S
Time April 12, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Am I the only one who is wondering why we’re building incompatible transit systems? Anyone who wants to connect from light rail/buses to the streetcar has to pay double fares each way. Only tourists will do this, and the citizens of Seattle will be left funding yet another wasteful, short-distance train that few residents find useful (like the Monorail, SLUT…).

Comment from Brian Cromer
Time April 12, 2012 at 1:20 pm

The city is crippling itself by building low capacity public transit that moves at a snails pace and blocks traffic.

Comment from JB Hoover
Time April 12, 2012 at 2:40 pm

How many potholes could be filled, bus routes maintained, or bike lanes, not mention bike trails, created, with $22 million? What can a street car do that a bus route cannot? Are they that much cheaper to maintain or run than buses? I lived in Japan for 15 years and I am huge fan of subways and light rail. But streetcars strike me as a huge waste of money, not to mention are a real danger for bikers. If only this boondoggle could be reconsidered.

Comment from douglas petersen
Time April 12, 2012 at 4:16 pm

Id like to know why the waterfront streetcar couldn’t be continued and connected to the paul allen streetcar and the capitol hill streetcar to add mileage and make transfering and connecting with bus and train(sounder commuter) easier

Comment from douglas petersen
Time April 12, 2012 at 4:19 pm

thankx for allowing my comment,hope to hear from a transportation route planner and transit expert,:D:-)

Comment from Richard Augastino
Time April 12, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Another great project coming from our Mayor and City Council! Public Transportation ROCKS! Let’s keep it going!

Comment from Judith Hance
Time April 13, 2012 at 9:12 am

I believe that streetcars are too expensive, not a good use of city funds, and impede the flow of traffic on narrow streets like Broadway. Have you ever been stuck behind one at a stop? I have, on my way to a medical appointment. Why don’t the citizens, users of the streets, count anymore?

Comment from Scott Allison
Time April 13, 2012 at 10:12 am

I would really like to see ALL of the stop be COMPLETELY solar powered as well as solar ALL ALONG the route so that this transportation is self powered and thus would not become subjected to self sustainable ( meaning not electrical rate increases )
The technology is there. One need only to look as far as germany,china, england

Comment from Scott Allison
Time April 13, 2012 at 10:20 am

Sorry my tablet submitted before I could correct a few things.
I will re submit my posting.
I would really lime to see the street car service powered by Washington made solar modules mounted on top of all the stops and all along the line when possible.
It would be very simple and logical to install 10-50kWh systems that would generate power worth $.48 per kWh because of state incentives. That would enable the system to cut down costs and protect it from cost overruns due to electrical rate increases.
If the city were to do it right they could build community solar projects and offers public buy-in thus creating a duel purpose for structures and again cutting costs.
It is time for the city to start making some REAL sustainable investments in its future by installing SOLAR SYSTEMS.
If this city wants to be an international metropolitan city.

Comment from SGC Burge
Time April 14, 2012 at 6:26 pm

Street cars and bike ways may be practical for a future date when Seattle is in good financial condition. But, now Seattle’s streets are beginning to resemble those of a third world slum. The pot holes are a danger to safe driving (and bicycle travel). Swerving around potholes is a real hazard! Why has Seattle let the streets go so badly?

Comment from Ron
Time June 25, 2012 at 4:28 pm

I agree with much that is said about our history of isolated, slow transit projects. I never really “got” the destination of First Hill / Pioneer Square. I mean there is bus service along Bway to First Hill now (#60) and downtown (multiple). Apparently it is mainly to service the health care-related facilities of First Hill. Hmm.

But as a N.Cap hill resident I really do hope they extend it north. It seems unfinished to not go the last few blocks. N. Cap hill has been largely left out of the transit improvements of the last 10 years, yet it is one of the most densely populated areas in the city.

Relying on the 49, as I have for years, is not ideal or convenient. Busses are subject to all the delays of car traffic, that is a known flaw in relying on busses for getting somewhere on time or making a connection. World class transit is not at the mercy of single occupant vehicles.

For me to walk to the light rail station is about 8 blocks. (I wish it had been possible to have a “Volunteer Park” station for the light rail…)

And finally I think the rejuvenation of N.Broadway that has been going on deserves a brightly colored streetcar to service all the new condos and apartments. It was getting really seedy for about ten years there, and now it is thriving and pleasant.