The Seattle Transit Blog weighs in today on a proposal to move the First Hill streetcar to Capitol Hill—a proposal that numerous Capitol Hill businesses, including The Stranger and the Capitol Hill Housing Improvement Project, have gotten behind.
Yesterday, I pointed out seven reasons the 12th Avenue route is a bad idea. Among them: The fact that Sound Transit voted to place the streetcar on First Hill as compensation for eliminating the neighborhood's light rail stop; the fact that the route has the lowest ridership of any alternative; and the fact that First Hill has much more development potential than 12th Ave.
STB adds several compelling arguments:
• Adding four minutes' walking time "here or there," which proponents have dismissed as no big deal, is actually a major barrier to ridership.
This four-minute detour could would turn, for instance, a seven-minute walk into a eleven-minute walk, which is about the point where people decide to stop using transit and start driving cars. This walk is even slower if you’re with children, an old grandma, a patient going to a hospital, or disabled — there’s a reason why longer walks make ridership drop off dramatically. ...
Proponents should not dismiss an extra four minutes “here or there,” because time is a factor in any commute. If your car gets you to work 10 minutes faster instead of just 6 minutes faster, you’re much more likely to drive. It’s these rational decisions that can cause bad alignment choices to lead to lower transit ridership.
• The type of two-way "couplet" 12th Avenue proponents want hasn't been built anywhere in the US—including Portland, which proponents cite as an example where a similar line has been built successfully.
While one-block couplets do work and are common, three-block couplets, with one block on a hill and the other in a valley, do not work and are not even remotely common.Not all couplets are the same, and even SDOT has told us in public meetings that a two-block couplet is about the limit of what passengers will allow. The couplet being proposed is nearly twice as long as the longest separation between the two Portland Streetcar directions — the example 12th proponents use. ...
In Portland the streetcar is separated by a maximum of 520 feet and a much lower average separation, while Broadway to 12th is around 980 feet, almost twice the distance.
• Bus service on First Hill doesn't duplicate the proposed streetcar, as 12th Avenue proponents claim.
The streetcar connects Capitol Hill, First Hill, and the International District — not Downtown.
The benefits of a streetcar are not just speed, but also frequency, capacity, and easy-of-use. And again, if First Hill is as accessible from 12th as proponents claim, then this same bus service is available to residents on 12th meaning they may not need a streetcar either.
Read the whole thing here.