A streetcar serving First Hill, Capitol Hill, and the International District, slated to be complete in 2013, should run up and down Broadway instead of along alternative routes to the east and west, Seattle Department of Transportation officials told Mayor Mike McGinn on March 17. While that's not the absolute final word on the subject, Ethan Melone, manager of the project, says McGinn "thought that our recommendation made some sense."
The Broadway route prevailed with transportation planners because it would travel fastest (16 minutes from end to end), have high estimated ridership (up to 9,000 people a day), and come in under budget ($125 million total cost).
Officially, the route is still up in the air, but it would be incredibly tough to beat the Broadway route at this point. A February study of streetcar alignments found that the other routes had major flaws. A proposed couplet using both 12th Avenue and Broadway would have consumed parking spaces and had the lowest estimated ridership. Meanwhile, routes focusing on the hospitals on First Hill would have had the longest travel times and run up to $15 million over budget.
McGinn expects to make his recommendation by the end of the month; then the decision goes before the city council. City council member Tom Rasmussen, chair of the council's transportation committee, says, "I want to make sure that I have given full consideration to neighborhood proposals before making a decision on this."
One proposal that's sure to come up: Many Capitol Hill neighborhood activists want the line extended to East Aloha Street, about a half mile north of its slated terminus on East John Street (right next to the incoming light-rail tunnel stop). But an extension to Aloha would cost about $20 million more, says Melone, and there's not enough money.
Voters approved $132 million for the First Hill streetcar as part of the light-rail package passed in 2008. Originally, Sound Transit planned to build an underground light-rail stop on First Hill, but when that was found unfeasible due to soil conditions, the agency promised the neighborhood a streetcar instead.
The streetcar alignment presented to McGinn on March 17 still runs through First Hill, but it doesn't meander through the neighborhood as some First Hill activists had hoped.
Officials expect streetcars running along the favored Broadway line—which will connect two light-rail stations, the one coming to Capitol Hill (due to be completed in 2016) and another in the International District—to arrive every 10 minutes during peak hours and every 15 minutes during off-peak hours.