For the past few years, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has been working on a plan to extend the First Hill Streetcar northward. Terminus options explored were to Roy Street, Aloha Street, and Prospect Street (near Volunteer Park). Earlier in the process, the Aloha option had been eliminated. However, an extension toward Volunteer Park was always a long-shot. SDOT consistently referred to the project as the “Broadway Extension” and often indicated relative doubt of an extension beyond Roy Street.
This week, we learned for certain that the First Hill Streetcar extension had been curtailed to Roy Street. Cost and benefit were the primary cited reasons for cutting the project scope down. With the current decision, an extension beyond Roy seems unlikely for the foreseeable future. But SDOT has indicated that an extension on 10th Avenue is possible. Conceivably, with a larger streetcar program, expansion far beyond Prospect would make the investment much more palatable.
For a comparison of the previous Prospect Street terminus and the now official Roy Street terminus preferred alternative, see the street configurations below.
While the streetcar extension beyond Roy Street is indeed an unfortunate casualty, it’s not the only one. The Broadway Bikeway (cycle track) is inexorably linked to the streetcar improvements. SDOT plans to extend the cycle track just beyond the Roy Street streetcar terminus. The cycle track will terminate at the intersection of Aloha Street and 10th Avenue, which is a managed intersection.
The good news here is that the cycle track will remain a cycle track the whole length as opposed to cycle lanes on both sides of 10th Avenue. So while this may be a disappointing outcome for streetcar supporters, it could be an even better outcome for cycle track supporters in the mid-term. Cycle track supporters eventually want to push the cycle track all the way to Roanoke Street (as detailed in my previous article). The Prospect Street streetcar terminus option not only split the cycle track in two, but this design precluded the ability to later realign to a two-lane cycle track if such a project was taken up as part of the Seattle Bicycle Master Plan.
It is also important to note that the Roy Street terminus design does not specifically preclude the possibility of extending the streetcar further down 10th Avenue or a bike couplet of 10th Avenue and another parallel street at a future date, should funding and the desire to extend the line arise.
Charles is an avid cyclist that uses his bike as his primary mode of transportation. He grew up in the Puget Sound, but is currently overseas living in Japan. He covers a range of topics like cycling, transit, and land use. His time in Tokyo really opened his eyes to what urbanism offers people and has a strong desire to see growth happen in Seattle.