Express your opinion on Center City Connector streetcars!

Tom Gibbs encourages everyone to take the city’s survey about the Center City Connector. It will be open through November 15, so please respond now!

Hello all,

For those of you who couldn’t attend Tuesday’s Open House on the Center City Connector, I invite you to explore this material and let the City know how important it is to include the vintage Benson cars in the fleet for this line.

The City’s Project Manager, Tony Mazzoli, specifically asked attendees to comment on the use of vintage cars on the Connector.  Several folks appended supportive notes on the board describing the  Benson cars.  If you are inclined to respond to the City, I suggest you mention the following:

  • A fully retrofitted Benson trolley will cost $2M less than a modern car.
  • Using the Benson cars to connect  the two most historically significant attractions in the city – Pioneer Square and the  Market – would be a wonderful way to demonstrate a  commitment to embracing our heritage.
  • The Benson cars will seat 50% more passengers than the modern cars in use today thus providing more comfort to the riding public.
  • If the CCC is tied to a streetcar line on the waterfront it would be possible to ride from the Olympic Sculpture park to MOHAI- a very useful and attractive element of our transportation system.

I hope you will take time to respond to the City’s request for input on the Connector and the use of the Benson Streetcars.  While I haven’t abandoned our effort to restore the Waterfront Trolley line, the CCC might be the only opportunity to see the vintage cars on our streets again.



From: Seattle Department of Transportation

Subject: Center City Connector Streetcar Survey

Center City Connector
Share your ideas for a new streetcar on 1st Ave!

Thanks to everyone who made it out to our open house this past Tuesday at Pike Place Market! We heard from Mayor McGinn, and the project team shared new information about how a streetcar on 1st Avenue would perform in mixed-traffic versus its own lane.

Couldn’t make it? Or maybe you didn’t have time to fill out a comment sheet? No worries. We’d still love to hear from you.

Check out all the meeting materials online, then take this brief survey to share your feedback. The survey will be open through November 15, 2013.

Moving forward, the project team will review and consider your feedback as we develop a recommendation for a locally preferred option that we’ll present to the Mayor and City Council in late 2013/early 2014.

PS – we’ll hold off on sending another project email update for a little while. Just wanted everyone to be aware of the opportunity to review new materials and provide input. Thanks!

Streetcar Open House at the Market October 29: Attend and express your opinion!

From Tom Gibbs:

Hi everyone,

Just got word that the City is going to hold an open house on the 29th to discuss the Center City Connector (CCC) on 1st Avenue.  This is the proposed streetcar line that will connect the South Lake Union and the First Hill lines. The project team will present analyses of operation on 1st Avenue in mixed traffic and on an exclusive lane.

As you know from an earlier message from me, the CCC planners are considering the use of the George Benson cars along with modern streetcars on this line.

Recently voiced opposition from the Port and some freight interests to the use of any streetcars on the waterfront might result in the CCC being the only opportunity for the vintage cars to be restored to service here in Seattle.  That being the case, I urge as many of you as possible to attend the open house and voice your support for including the Benson cars as part of the CCC fleet.

The open house will be at the Market on the 3rd floor of the Pike Place Market Economy Building.  It will be held in the Elliott Bay room which is located above the newsstand and Rachel the Pig.  The session will run from 5 to 7 PM next Tuesday, the 29th.

I hope to see many of you there.



Tom Gibbs on the latest Streetcar news

Hi everyone,

Recently the City announced the preferred alignment for the Center City Connector – the streetcar line that will provide a connection between the South Lake Union  and First Hill lines.  It will run on 1st Avenue from S. Jackson Street to either Pike or Pine where it will turn east to connect to the SLU terminus on Westlake.  The 1st Avenue alignment for the CCC  is strongly supported by the Seattle Streetcar Alliance. The Alliance includes representatives from Pioneer Square, Vulcan, the Port, SAM, the Pike Street Market and freight haulers.

Senior City staffers told me that they are evaluating the use of the Benson Trolleys on the CCC.  They indicate that there is space for a maintenance facility for the vintage cars adjacent to the SLU base.  The cars would have to be retrofitted for use on the CCC to include a second door, modified motors and lifts for the handicapped.  According to LTK (a firm specializing in streetcar systems) in a report prepared for the City in April, the cost of such modifications would be about $3M per car.  This is $1.5 million less than the cost of the modern cars purchased for the First Hill line. I have learned that the CCC is favored by the Federal Transit Administration which makes a Federal grant likely.

What does this mean for our efforts to re-activate the Waterfront Streetcar line?  Some will say that restoring the Benson cars to operate on 1st Avenue is a win and we should accept that result.  Others, myself included, believe that  connecting the waterfront with Pioneer Square, the Market and MOHAI is a very attractive  option and creates a very useful transportation network.  If retrofitting the vintage cars and building a storage facility is part of the cost of the CCC the remaining cost attributed to the waterfront park would only be that for the rails and overhead contact system – about $17M.

Recently I attended a meeting of the  Port Commissioners where the transit options for the waterfront were presented by the City’s Waterfront Project Manager.  All 5 Commissioners expressed concern about any transit option that could impede freight movement along the new Alaskan Way.  Their concern is based on the fact that when the viaduct is demolished this new street and I-5 will be the only routes available to move freight north and south through the city. Unfortunately, streetcars of any vintage have become a negative catchword for those concerned about freight movement. This despite the  fact that far fewer streetcars would be operating on the waterfront during the summer months than would the small battery powered buses seemingly favored by the Waterfront Advisory Committee.

What does all this mean to us?  There is much education necessary to familiarize our elected officials with the facts associated with waterfront transit options.  I’ll be working with a noted PR firm to develop material that we can use with the media and with the City Council. Also, we need to pay close attention to the EIS for the waterfront transit options being undertaken by the City.

I’d like to hear your reaction to the idea of using the Benson cars on 1st Avenue.  Do we achieve our goal of preserving the vintage cars even  if they  don’t operate on the waterfront?

More later as the situation evolves.



Mike James supports restoring the Waterfront Streetcar

Mike James, the former News Anchor/Reporter at KING-TV, posted on Facebook:

I’m still ticked that the waterfront streetcar, a realized dream of the late George Benson, was big-footed off the tracks by the Sculpture Park construction, apparently never to return.
In fact, much as I enjoy the park, I never go there without remembering that the streetcar, years later, is still mothballed – or dead, depending on my state of despair/hope.
So, before it’s too late, let’s bring it back with the new waterfront/tunnel scheme; if it’s good enough for Lake Union/Westlake, it’s good enough for the waterfront.
I just bought a couple of T-shirts to keep hope alive.

Support the Waterfront Streetcar with our official t-shirt!

The Save Our Streetcar campaign’s t-shirts are officially available online!

We have set a goal of selling 50 shirts in the next 10 days in order for them to be printed.

The shirts are selling at cost, meaning we are making no profit from the sales.

Show your support of the Waterfront Streetcar and purchase a shirt (or several)!

Help us spread the word by sharing this post.

Buy your shirts here!

The website to order your Seattle Waterfront Streetcar T-Shirt is working again. Buy one for all your friends!

shirtFront shirtBack

Happy 4th! Share your support for the Waterfront Streetcar!

From Tom Gibbs:

Happy 4th everyone.

Many, many thanks to all of you who attended the waterfront transit meeting last week. For those of you who couldn’t attend, you’ll find a summary of the presentations below.

About 300 folks were at the meeting and almost everyone wore one of our Waterfront Streetcar labels. Attendees were asked to comment on five transit options that had been studied and a vast majority of folks ‘voted’ for the two vintage car concepts. Almost no one thought the two bus options were acceptable.

City officials noted privately after the meeting that the huge show of support for the Benson cars had materially advanced the prospects for their selection as the preferred transit option. The final decision on a transit option will be made by the City Council late this year or early in ’14.

It will be important to let our elected officials know that support for the Benson Trolleys is growing. To that end I urge everyone to write the City Council members and the Mayor and let them know that you are among thousands who want the vintage cars selected for use on the waterfront. I say ‘thousands’ because almost 2,000 people have already signed the petition on If you haven’t already signed the petition please do so now.

Here are the e-mail addresses for your letters.

[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
Mike [email protected]

Community support for streetcar evident at waterfront meeting

From Tom Gibbs:

Many thanks for all you did to make Wednesday evening’s event a success.

I was impressed by how many folks we got to attend the affair and how uniformly they voiced their support for the vintage cars. The labels are a real hit with everyone. I got great ‘vibes’ from senior city officials who indicated that our cause took a very large step forward.

Now, we have to maintain momentum through the next 6 months so that the City Council and the Mayor are convinced that the Benson Trolleys should be re-activated. I believe we should urge that letters be written to the elected officials is important to capitalize on last night’s energy.

Maintenance base location available, and other good news

From Tom Gibbs:

I met the City’s senior engineering staff last week and reviewed their findings regarding transportation options for the waterfront. The GREAT news is that they found a site for a maintenance base for the vintage cars!!  The site is under what will be Alaskan Way as it rises from the waterfront to join Western Avenue just north of the aquarium. It’s very close to the existing tracks and would require very little new trackage to access the site.

I was shown a draft matrix showing the evaluation of  five  transit options.  Two of the options use the Benson Trolleys, one uses modern streetcars and the other two use battery powered buses – a small vehicle  and one the size to a METRO bus.  One of the vintage streetcar options requires very little capital to put all five of the Benson cars on the street – less than the cost of one modern car – but requires raised platforms and two operators. The second vintage car option requires several changes to the old cars  including installation of a lift for operation with low platforms, automatic doors allowing operation with just one motorman and updated motive power to permit operation on other higher voltage streetcar lines in the city.  The highest capital cost is for the modified Benson car option while the other two streetcar options cost about the same. Placing rails in the new Alaskan Way, equipment costs and  building a maintenance base pushes the cost of the streetcar options to $31M –  $55M depending on the option. Interestingly, the O&M costs for all options are very similar @ $3.1M – $3.5M.

The City will present its evaluation of the five transit options at the upcoming meeting on the 26th at the Convention Center. Please attend if at all possible as we will have an opportunity to express our support for the Benson Trolleys.  If you are present you can obtain a label like the image attached to this e-mail. A link to the meeting notice is shown below.

One bit of discouraging news is that the vintage cars cannot operate on the new First Hill line because that line will not have an overhead contact system on lower Jackson Street.  The new streetcars for the FH line will use battery power in this area to avoid the interference with the wires supplying power to METRO trolleys

The attached meeting notice is self-explanatory.  It is critical that we have a large contingent at the meeting.  The future of the Benson Trolleys in Seattle might be determined that night.
Please attend the meeting if at all possible.  The meeting notice has a link for an RSVP.

Seattle urban and transit planning: a failure of vision

David Brewster writes in Crosscut about the failure of Seattle to have a strong planning vision. While his article doesn’t have much to say about transit, it echoes something Charles Hamilton wrote just a couple of days ago.

Seattle’s piecemeal approach to transit planning is having huge negative impacts on its residents and its business community. By doing one unconnected project after another, we’re subjecting ourselves to years and years of uncertainty, ripped-up streets, and the wholesale displacement of people and businesses. …

The waterfront tunnel [is an example]. This project will cost a fortune and have no benefit for downtown Seattle while increasing surface-street traffic, and it may well kill some of Seattle’s most well-known businesses. Do we honestly think Ivar’s, Elliott’s, the Edgewater and Argosy Cruises are going to survive a decade of being cut off from foot traffic, without access to the Waterfront Streetcar that could have provided some connectivity?

It’s inevitable, of course, that communities evolve over time. But we as citizens and business owners need to make sure that we’re guiding that evolution, and that it matches our vision of what we want Seattle to be like in rest of the 21st century.

Those of us who want to make a better vision for our community should participate in several upcoming events. We’ve mentioned the June 26 event previously. Here are some more places where we can express our views.

The Promise of Urban Connectors Series: Belltown | Elliott Way Connections To Pike Place Market

Join us for for a compelling Beer & Culture focusing on The Promise of Urban Connectors in Belltown/Pike Place Market to discuss opportunities for new connection(s) to the waterfront and other urban design possibilities resulting from, or otherwise inspired by, the Waterfront Project. Topics include:

  • Enliven Elliott Way
  • Elliott Way Streetscape & Access to Pike Place Market
  • Activate Blanchard Street Hillside
  • Refine Landscape Plan for Battery Street Overlook
  • Appropriate Uses – Blanchard/Western Surplus Property
  • Cultivation of Green Streets: Bell, Vine, Broad

Help us envision key elements necessary to bring The Promise of Urban Connectors into reality to further enhance the experience of Seattle’s Waterfront and neighboring communities.

Panel & Speakers

  • Ben Franz-Knight, Pike Place Market, Victor Steinbrueck Park
  • Ron Turner, Belltown Housing & Land Use
  • Martha Barkman, Harbor Urban
  • Lesley Bain, Weinstein A|U

June 20th, 5:30 – 8:30 PM, The Pomeroy, 2323 First Ave. Belltown
Doors Open 5:30, Program 6:30

RSVP Requested: [email protected]
Light Refreshments Provided
Suggested Donation: $20.00 | Students: $5.00

Waterfront Seattle at Community Events

While you’re attending community festivals this summer, stop by the Waterfront Seattle booth and let them know that you want to bring back the Waterfront Streetcar!

Waterfront Seattle’s free photo booth is one more great reason to visit your favorite fairs, festivals and parks this summer. Come find us in your neighborhood for free photos of your family and to learn more about how we’re designing a waterfront for all.

June 9 Waterfront Whimsea Fun Day, Waterfront Park
June 15-16 Festival Sundiata/Black Art Exhibit, Seattle Center
June 29 Youth Baseball Tournament, Lower Woodland Park
June 30 Seattle PrideFest, Seattle Center
June 30 Youth Baseball Tournament, Riverview Playfield
July 13-14 Chinatown-International District Dragon Fest,
Chinatown-International District
July 20 Rugby Tournament, Magnuson Park
August 1 First Thursday, Pioneer Square
August 3 Umoja Fest, Judkins Park
August 17 Rainier Summer Streets, Rainier Valley
August 24 Big Day of Play, Magnuson Park
August 29 SAM Dancing Til Dusk, Olympic Sculpture Park
August 31 – September 1 Bumbershoot, Seattle Center
September 5 First Thursday, Pioneer Square
September 7 Salmon Return Family Festival, Olympic Sculpture Park
September 8 Live Aloha Hawaiian Cultural Festival, Seattle Center
September 19-20 Salmon Homecoming School Days, Waterfront Park
October 3 First Thursday, Pioneer Square
October 27 Trick-or-Treat on the Waterfront, Waterfront Park