We Need You to Attend the Waterfront Meeting June 26; 1,500 Signatures; Ideas Wanted

Participation Critical at June 26 Waterfront Meeting

The planners managing the June 6 Open House for the Center City Connector don’t seem very interested in the Waterfront Streetcar. Please attend anyway, and make our voices heard.

But Tom Gibbs says that an upcoming meeting on June 26 will be critical:

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. I’ll have some suggestions on talking points after I meet with the City’s planning staff.
Please attend the meeting if at all possible. The meeting notice has a link for an RSVP.

Regards,
Tom

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Waterfront Seattle – Street + Transit Update June 26

Join us on Wednesday, June 26, for an interactive update on Alaskan Way design and options for waterfront transit.

Building on community input gathered during conceptual design, the design team will share street design and local waterfront transit updates for community feedback. The event is free and open to all – see you there!

Street + Transit Update
Wednesday, June 26
5:30 – 7:30 pm
Washington State Convention Center
800 Convention Place, Room 3A

Event is free and open to the public.
Click here to RSVP: https://el2.envirolytical.com/registration/form/9917

Questions or comments?
[email protected]
206.499.8040
waterfrontseattle.org

HOSTED BY: City of Seattle’s Departments of Transportation, Planning & Development, and Parks & Recreation
For special accommodations, including interpretation, please contact [email protected]erfrontseattle.org or 206.499.8040. Persons who are deaf or hard of hearing may make a request for alternative formats through the Washington Relay Service at 7-1-1.

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1,500 Signatures on Petition to Save Our Streetcar

Thanks to you, our online petition has surpassed 1,500 signatures! Please continue encouraging your friends to sign!

By the way, the petition raises the goal automatically when we reach a milestone. So congratulations and thanks to everyone who has signed so far.

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What Are the Next Steps to Save Our Streetcar? We Need Your Help!

Spencer Olson has volunteered to help Save Our Streetcar! He’s got some great ideas; we’ll be meeting shortly to plan the next steps, including how we should present the petition signatures. Contact us directly if you have ideas and/or would like to help.

Seattle Magazine: Will Seattle’s vintage streetcars make a triumphant return to the waterfront?

All Aboard? The Strange Case of the Seattle Waterfront Trolley

Seattle’s central waterfront is getting a huge, decade-long face-lift: a new tunnel for State Route 99, a new ferry dock, a new seawall, pedestrian promenades, maybe even a mist machine to remind summer visitors that they’re in Seattle. But so far, there’s no sign of those antique streetcars that rumbled down Alaskan Way in the 1980s and ’90s, captivating so many Seattle visitors.

James Corner Field Operations, the New York City–based firm designing the waterfront, did not include the George Benson streetcars in its plan last July, but earlier this year, the city commissioned a study to see if they could fit in. Recommendations are expected this month.

The reconsideration tempts the dreamer. Fans of the streetcar hope that the power of history and some real economic and transit benefits will prevail to resurrect this distinct transportation option.

…It does appear that mahogany has no role in Seattle decision makers’ love affair with modern streetcars. Sound Transit’s First Hill streetcar, to be launched in 2014, will complement a Westlake-to-South Lake Union service, which opened in 2007, likewise with sterile, modern cars heavy on the polymers. There’s talk of a “central” streetcar to connect those two services, probably along First Avenue, but the current city-sponsored study “is only looking at transit choices on Alaskan Way,” says city spokesperson Rick Sheridan.

…In its last year, the Benson streetcars recovered about 16 percent of their expenses through fares, but some of those expenses, advocates point out, could be cut next time around. …New fare-payment technologies could eliminate the conductor’s role, trimming labor costs. Or volunteers could contribute some labor… According to the American Public Transportation Association, many heritage streetcar operations already rely on volunteers.

In public transit, which is heavily subsidized, a 16 percent “farebox recovery” is not necessarily low. Indeed, vintage streetcars can be healthy revenue generators, especially when compared to buses. The boxy old Benson vehicles drew about 22 percent more riders (in 2004) than Metro’s replacement bus two years later, notwithstanding the latter’s nostalgic paint job.

…The current review of the Benson line isn’t the first. A 2011 study performed for the Seahawks, Sounders and Mariners found that the Benson line could be reactivated for between $10.3 million and $12.7 million, depending on its northern and southern termini. The study did not include costs for minor improvements to accessibility for disabled travelers, and did not foresee replacing tracks that have since been removed to dismantle the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

Surprisingly, given who funded the study, the analysis favored a couple of different route alignments for a restored Benson, but rejected one that would serve CenturyLink and Safeco fields.

Referencing the defunct Benson route’s connections to the Pier 52 ferry dock, the First Hill streetcar, the Chinatown–International District’s light rail station and King Street Station, former Metro chief Tom Gibbs, who has championed the restoration, describes the route “as a fairly major gap today in the regional transportation plan.” To which, he adds, “You could put all [five] cars back on the street for less than it would cost to buy one new one.”

The Benson streetcar’s absence leaves a blank slate for myriad speculative route configurations, including some not in the 2011 study. In 2012, Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat proposed sending a revived Benson streetcar past both stadiums and the newly planned basketball arena, with a southern terminus near Starbucks’ Utah Avenue headquarters. And how about stretching Westneat’s route past Starbucks to connect with light rail at its South Lander station? And what about to the north? In 2005, the Port of Seattle proposed bringing the line up a little past Terminal 86. Paige Miller, then a port commissioner who championed that possibility, says the line could have gone even farther north, through Interbay. Not far north of that looms transit-challenged Ballard.

The central question, however, is not routing, but the value Seattle’s decision makers place on nostalgia. Nostalgia may be quirky, to use Sacharoff’s term, but it draws a crowd. “We would pack ’em in during the summer months,” he says. And, in this case, nostalgia’s coincidence with transit needs along a revived waterfront, and to and from major sports venues, may be enough to tempt the realistic planner, too.

Port Commissioner Creighton supports reviving the Waterfront Streetcar

Port of Seattle Commissioner John Creighton posts on Facebook:

I’d love to see the street car back. It would be great for those of us who work on the Central Waterfront as well as visitors to the Sculpture Park to the north, the waterfront in the middle, to the stadiums to the south! Particularly with the viaduct down, it would make the waterfront so much more inviting and accessible.

“Urban Connectors” Event March 28: What About the Waterfront Streetcar?

Please encourage “urban connectors” like the Waterfront Streetcar!

The Promise of Urban Connectors Series
Pioneer Square Session
Waterfront Project Inspirations

Join us for for a compelling Beer & Culture focusing on The Promise of Urban Connectors in Pioneer Square 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:

  • Occidental at the Stadiums
  • Railroad Way
  • Enhancing King Street
  • Ongoing Alley Activation
  • Retail Restoration: East Side Alaskan Way

Help us envision key elements necessary to bring The Promise of Urban Connectors in Pioneer Square into reality to further enhance the experience of Seattle’s Central Waterfront and neighboring communities. Belltown and Pike Place Market/West Edge areas will be discussed in upcoming sessions.

Panel & Speakers

  • Sally Bagshaw, Seattle City Council
  • Patrick Gordon
  • Cary Moon
  • Laura Bachman
  • Leslie Smith

Light Refreshments

March 28th
5:30 – 8:30 PM
Doors Open 5:30
Program 6:30

Location

The Kitchen
by Delicatus
309 First Ave S.
Pioneer Square

RSVP Requested
[email protected]
www.alliedartsofseattle.org

 

Study: Waterfront Streetcar important option for Seattle mobility

A study by transportation planner Peter J. Voorhees shows that the Waterfront Streetcar line is an important component of citywide transit mobility. Voorhees proposes frequent service, to be provided by both vintage and modern streetcars (as is done on San Francisco’s F-Market line along the Embarcadero). The study envisions eventual connections to other lines at both of the line’s endpoints, as well as additional service during events. From Ch. 6, p. 143:

The
 Benson 
Waterfront 
Line
 has 
become
 an 
afterthought
 in 
Seattle, too
 easily
 forgotten
 since
 its
 discontinuation
 due
 to
 lack
 of
 a
 maintenance base. The set of alternatives for rebuilding Alaskan Way once the Viaduct is removed
 should
 include
 a
 streetcar
 median.
 The
 northern
 waterfront
 is sufficiently
 separated
 from
 First
 Avenue
 to
 justify
 consideration
 of
 a recreational 
trip 
streetcar
 connection.
 Future street closures at the railroad tracks along the North Waterfront will potentially isolate the waterfront even further.

One
 possible
 Waterfront
 Streetcar
 configuration
 is
 a
 hybrid
 modern and
 vintage
 waterfront
 streetcar
 line.
 Vintage
 Benson
 Line
 vehicles
 would operate and
 a
 maintenance
 facility
 would
 be
 located
 in
 Pioneer
 Square
 or
 the International
 District—ideally
 shared
 with
 the
 Jackson
 Street/First
 Hill
 Line. The
 Benson
 Line
 would
 feature
 high
 platform
 stops,
 including
 the
 existing stop on Main Street in Pioneer Square, and the line would be double tracked. Along 
the 
Waterfront, 
the 
line’s 
stations 
would
 be 
designed 
to accommodate future low-floor, modern streetcar service in addition to vintage car service.

The Benson Line northern terminus would be located along Alaskan Way at the
 Olympic
 Sculpture
 Park.
 Worth
 considering,
 however,
 is
 the
 future certainty of a roadway bridge over the railroad main line at Broad Street and Alaskan
 Way.
 If
 this
 bridge
 were
 designed
 to
 accommodate
 streetcar,
 it would
 enable
 a
 streetcar
 transition
 between
 Alaskan
 Way
 and
 Western Avenue.
 This
 line
 can
 conceivably
 join
 the
 First
 Avenue
 Line
 at
 Denny
 Way and
 extend
 to
 Uptown/Seattle
 Center
 West.
 Extending
 further
 along
 the north side of Seattle Center (Mercer Street/Roy Street corridor) would serve the Mercer Theater District and connect to South Lake Union. This line offers promise as a recreational connection linking the two downtown waterfronts. Connecting the line on its south end with the SODO line would link the line’s major
 attractions
 with
 the
 Stadium
 District.
 Aside
 from
 the
 Waterfront
 to International
 District
 segments,
 the
 line
 would
 logically
 be
 designed
 for operation with modern streetcar rather than vintage vehicles.

Waterfront Streetcar petition approaches 1,000 signatures! Please help get more!

We’re approaching 1,000 signatures on our petition! We’ll want to send it to the Mayor and Council when they’re considering options for waterfront transportation, likely sometime this summer.

We are increasingly optimistic about our ultimate success, and the petition will help immensely. Please ask your friends to sign!

Tom Gibbs and Charlie Hamilton

Puget Sound Business Journal: Could Seattle resurrect the George Benson waterfront trolley?

A quirky part of Seattle’s not-so-distant past could come back to life in the form of the George Benson Waterfront Streetcar Line.

Some prominent citizens are backing the plan, and city officials are interested.

“It is something we have been thinking about,” Peter Hahn, director of the Seattle Department of Transportation, said Monday. Officials will have more information this spring about whether or not to bring the old-fashioned green trolleys back, he said.

The idea is part of the $1 billion effort to rebuild the seawall, replace public piers, build new parks and make other improvements when a tunnel replaces the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

Initially, the waterfront plan did not include bringing the Benson back. James Corner Field Operations, the Manhattan landscape architecture company that’s designing the waterfront, said there would not be enough room for the trolley. Corner proposed moving the waterfront trolley to First Avenue.

Launched in 1982, the two-mile Benson line ran from Main Street in Pioneer Square to the entrance of Myrtle Edwards Park. It was one of the of the country’s first experiments in creating and operating a “vintage rail” system. With its conductors and mahogany interiors, the quaint line was a waterfront signature.

George Benson, the late city councilman, worked for eight years to start the service. He found the 1920s cars in Melbourne, Australia, and five coaches were acquired.

The Seattle Times reported that 450,000 people, many tourists, rode the Benson line in 2003, two years before service stopped in 2005, after the line’s maintenance barn was removed to make way for the Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park. Since then, the cars have been stored in a Sodo warehouse.

Now Tom Gibbs, a retired director of King County Metro, is working to resurrect the Benson.

Gibbs, a member of the Washington State Major League Baseball Public Facilities District that oversees Safeco Field, was looking at the city’s plans for the First Hill Streetcar line, which is now under construction. He noticed the new line came within 50 feet of the old Benson and was surprised to find out that the city did not plan to restart the Benson.

He got the facilities district board to study the possibility. The state Public Stadium Authority, which oversees CenturyLink Field, and the Mariners and Seahawks backed the 2011 study, which cost $76,000, he said.

URS, the engineering company that did the investigation, found the streetcar could be reactivated for between $10.3 million and $12.7 million.

Some high-profile people are lining up to support the cause. Gibbs is assembling a steering committee, and said that former Gov. Dan Evans, Boeing Chairman Emeritus Frank Shrontz and activist Jim Ellis are among those who have agreed to help.

But saying that the system should be resurrected, and actually doing it, are different things.

Launching the original line took eight years, and along the way, it “encountered a daunting succession of political, bureaucratic, financial and engineering obstacles,” Benson said in a 1992 speech to the Vintage Trolley session of the TRB International Light Rail conference, held in Calgary, Canada. Development costs ballooned from a few hundred thousand dollars to nearly $10 million.

Now, some of the old trolley tracks have been ripped out and would have to be replaced. A new maintenance barn would need to be built, although the barn for the First Hill line could be expanded to accommodate the old cars, said Gibbs. This is just some of the work that would need to be done.

The idea to relaunch the Benson is preliminary. Travis Phelps, a spokesman for the Washington State Department of Transportation, said his agency has not yet been contacted about the plan.

Yet WSDOT already is balking at having anything to do with the funding. Gibbs thinks the agency should help pay as mitigation for removing the viaduct.

In 2009, the state and city signed an agreement that states it is the city’s responsibility to evaluate a First Avenue streetcar. “That pretty much throws the responsibility of the streetcar onto the city,” Phelps said.

And Phelps said that under an agreement with King County Metro for the demolition of the viaduct, the county is responsible for transit along the new waterfront. “The streetcar does not fall under our responsibility,” he said.

Full article at http://www.bizjournals.com/seattle/news/2013/01/31/flurry-of-activity-surrounds-proposed.html?page=3

KIRO-TV, KING-TV cover effort to bring back Seattle’s waterfront trolleys

Group hopes to bring back Seattle’s waterfront trolleys

SEATTLE — A plan is in the works to bring back a piece of Seattle history — the vintage trolleys on the city’s waterfront.

The group behind the effort said the plan to demolish the Alaskan Way Viaduct and remodel the waterfront offers a big chance to revive the trolleys.

Streetcar backers said they like the idea of reusing the original route down the waterfront, and much of the track is still here.

But parts of it have been ripped up for the tunnel construction, and there are questions about where the south end of the line would go.

Full story here:

http://www.kirotv.com/news/news/group-hopes-bring-back-seattles-waterfront-trolley/nWB2G/

Seattle to study bringing back waterfront trolley

Seattle has hired a consultant to study the feasibility of bringing back the antique waterfront trolley streetcar line.
The trolley could be part of the billion dollar development of the waterfront when a tunnel replaces the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

Full story here:

http://www.king5.com/news/Seattle-to-study-whether-to-bring-back-waterfront-trolley-189245911.html