Seattle businesses along the entire streetcar alignment have made investments with the promise of a connected streetcar in mind. These investments, these costs have not been factored in to the risks recently published in the KPMG report released by Mayor Durkan’s office.
We represent a wide-reaching coalition of social-equity, environmental and business leaders who have united to ensure that the Center City Connector (CCC) streetcar project is completed. Why? Because our city’s values of fairness, environmental sustainability and economic prosperity allow no other course.
In our city, we believe in keeping our word. We cannot spend 10 years promising to connect the small and minority-owned businesses in Seattle’s Chinatown International District and Pioneer Square to Pike Place Market’s 15 million annual visitors, tear up these neighborhoods for lengthy construction, but then never deliver the economic benefit.
Businesses along the entire streetcar alignment have made investments with the promise of a connected streetcar in mind. None of these investments, or these costs, have been factored in to the findings recently published in consultant KPMG’s report released by Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office. While this report confirms the streetcar’s high ridership estimates and reasonable operating cost assumptions from the Seattle Department of Transportation, it omits significant opportunities for value engineering and community involvement to reduce capital costs and manage risk — possible solutions that are the basis for the Seattle Streetcar Coalition.
We believe in equitable access to opportunity and services. The CCC will provide high-quality, high-capacity transit serving 10,000 low-income housing residents and connecting thousands of people to social services, jobs and medical care. As Seattle and King County advance their commitment to expanding access to public transit, for example by delivering ORCA passes through affordable-housing and service providers — which we recommend — the CCC will become a critical link for people still impacted by the loss of Metro’s Ride Free Zone.
We believe in doing all we can to combat climate change and create a sustainable city. Our biggest path to victory is through the transportation we use every day, because transportation is Seattle’s largest generator of greenhouse gases. The CCC will run on our state’s clean electricity. It will connect the two existing streetcar lines, causing ridership to soar along the whole span. With nearly 20,000 daily riders, the CCC will be filled with people who might not otherwise use transit, who cannot fit on our strained bus system or who are not well-served by transit stops located blocks away. The CCC will contribute significantly to greenhouse-gas reductions and is therefore the clear environmental choice.
We all believe in the greatness of our city. Our natural splendor and cultural richness attract tens of millions of visitors per year, each of whom spends nearly $200 per day in downtown Seattle. This can be a boon to small businesses but only if they can find us, and according to a JD Power survey, they can’t. Much of our great city is under-discovered, with the greatest impacts on small and minority-owned businesses. But with the CCC, people can enjoy the Pike Brewery and the Wing Luke Museum. They can eat Ethiopian Food in the Chinatown International District and take their kids to MOHAI. Nearly every major tourist destination is on the CCC route along with many others that should have lines out the door but currently do not.
There was never a serious case to be made about other methods to serve this corridor. After 10 years of work and almost $55 million already spent on this project, the only legitimate question is not “if we should make this work,” but “how are we going to make it work, together?” Had Sound Transit thrown in the towel at the first sign of difficulty on budgets or the Beacon Hill tunnel, we would not have Link Light Rail, which we know now is essential to our city’s future. Had the Washington State Department of Transportation stopped when Bertha got stuck, we would still have a six-story boring machine buried under our city. If Seattle had flinched at projected cost overruns, we would have abandoned the new seawall — a critical safety project and the foundation for the remaining downtown transformation.
The bottom line is, Seattle is not a city of quitters. We are a city of doers. We are problem solvers. We are innovators. We work together, figure out how to proceed and complete what we started, together.
It’s time to do the same with the Center City Connector. Our values demand no less.