The streetcar will create new and useful connections within the downtown transportation system, integrating with light rail, buses, ferries, and Sounder and Amtrak trains.
The people have spoken: Whether they currently ride public transit or not, they want more of it; they want it in dedicated lanes; and they want the Center City Connector Streetcar. As a recent Seattle Times poll confirmed, despite recent uncertainty about the future of this key project, the public appreciates its merits. Mayor Jenny Durkan made the right choice to move the streetcar forward.
Dedicated transit lanes on First Avenue will make the new streetcar line fast and reliable. Moreover, it will create a connected system that allows the two existing lines to reach their full potential, unleashing massive ridership growth. The city’s independent consultant predicted a connected streetcar will attract about 23,000 daily riders in its first full year of operation — that’s more than Metro’s highest-performing bus route.
The streetcar lines serve the fastest growing part of the city. Since 2010, the areas along this route have added more than 43,000 new residents — a 66 percent increase — and have seen a 27 percent increase in employment. These trends require additional transit capacity to move more people in the downtown core. The Center City streetcar will provide just that, and a decade sooner than the second downtown light rail tunnel, which will arrive with Ballard Link in 2035.
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Connecting the two existing streetcar lines keeps promises made to neighborhoods such as the Chinatown-International District, whose residents and small businesses were promised a downtown connection when they agreed to disruptive construction work back in 2012. First Hill was also promised a streetcar connection through downtown when Sound Transit was unable to deliver a Link Light Rail station as part of ST2. Linking these neighborhoods with Pike Place Market will boost locally-owned businesses all along the line.
A completed streetcar system will also touch a culturally and economically diverse cross-section of the city, and will serve more than 10,000 new affordable homes along the completed line by 2025. The streetcars’ 7 million-plus anticipated annual passengers will include transit-dependent locals and tourists alike.
The streetcar will create new and useful connections within the downtown transportation system, integrating with light rail, buses, ferries, and Sounder and Amtrak trains. By funneling transit riders to more locations without inconvenient transfers or walks up steep hills, it will make getting around easier, especially for people with mobility limitations.
Knitting together our varied transportation infrastructure as a cohesive whole and making public transit accessible and useful to far more people have been key asks of advocates united as the Move All Seattle Sustainability (MASS) coalition. MASS advocates for more bus lanes, bike lanes and signal priority to whisk people walking, rolling and riding transit through intersections.
The MASS coalition also wants to ensure these modes of transport support each other. We expect the streetcar tracks to be designed carefully to ensure the safety of people who bike and roll alongside or across the tracks. Safety and interconnectivity are crucial components of a transportation system that ensures mobility for all people and moves Seattle — and our entire region — toward the urgent goal of carbon-neutrality.
The Center City Connector Streetcar is one important step toward this vision of an equitable, sustainable transportation system that can carry Seattle into the future and fulfill our aspirations of being a climate action leader. The public supports it. Studies show this is a valuable project. Let’s get busy building it.