Sound Transit Impacts to Streetcar Operations


Did you know that Sound Transit’s West Seattle to Ballard Link Extensions Project may threaten the operations of the current and future Seattle Streetcar system? Construction at the new Chinatown International District and Westlake stations could truncate operations of the First Hill and South Lake Union streetcar lines at precisely the time that the Center City Connector is scheduled to begin operations connecting the two lines. We think this is a serious issue. We submitted our comments to Sound Transit as part of the scoping period that ended on April 2, 2019. Check it out and let us know what you think.

Sound Transit                                                                                                                                                     April 1, 2019

c/o Lauren Swift
401 S. Jackson St.
Seattle, WA 98104

Dear Ms. Swift,

The Seattle Streetcar Coalition ( represents a broad partnership of residents, nonprofits, businesses, arts, healthcare, educational and cultural institutions in neighborhoods spanning the length of the current line as well as neighborhoods to the north and south. We are committed to realizing a connected and robust streetcar network in Seattle.

We are strong proponents of multiple transit options as we realize that no single transportation solution can meet the travel demands of our rapidly growing city. In current planning, the Center City Connector (C3) Streetcar is the only high-capacity transit coming to Seattle prior to the completion of the West Seattle to Ballard Link Extensions (WSBLE) project. And come 2035, we are excited for meaningful, multi-modal connections for riders.

However, based on your present level of analysis, it appears that there are serious impacts to the Seattle Streetcar system that threaten its functionality for users during construction and could threaten the operations of the system as it recovers from ST3-related impacts. It’s important to note that many of the present streetcar users are members of vulnerable populations along the First Hill line – including residents of Yesler Terrace, and elderly or low-income residents of Chinatown International District and Pioneer Square. Additionally, please consider that the First Hill streetcar was built as mitigation for Sound Transit failing to deliver a First Hill light rail stop. Now you threaten the very mitigation you proposed and funded.

We support ST3, a 100-year investment in transportation. However, its success cannot disrupt the vitality of another essential transportation mechanism. Sound Transit should study the impacts to the Seattle Streetcar as part of the transportation section of your Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Specifically, please:

  • Study alternative construction methods that could either keep the Streetcar running or minimize disruption

  • Study the impact on ridership to all segments of the system associated with truncating the lines at CID and Westlake

  • Study potential options for re-routing, using shuttles, and other interim measures to provide streetcar riders with uninterrupted levels of service

  • Include the impact of constructing the Ballard-Chinatown tunnel, station locations at Westlake and the Chinatown-International District, construction traffic, staging areas and any other incidental impacts that might interrupt the regular and reliable delivery of system-wide Streetcar service. Consider utilizing off-ROW, private and alternate properties for staging areas to avoid line disruptions. Consider other mitigation based on the impacts identified in the study.

  • Study the ramifications of eliminating access to streetcar maintenance facilities and how that impacts the Center City Connector streetcar overall operability

Additionally, in evaluating environmental justice impacts, Sound Transit should study:

  • Impacts to vulnerable populations along the First Hill and South Lake Union Streetcar alignments

  • Loss of access to clean, predictable and efficient transportation in the communities served by the two existing lines and the future C3 streetcar

To eliminate the full connection that is being realized through C3 is unacceptable. The C3 establishes a linked streetcar system and will be complete in 2025 - around the time you will go to construction with WSBLE. Anything Sound Transit does to threaten this system needs to be clearly articulated through the environmental process and with stakeholders that depend on the streetcar. Additionally, any mitigation costs to keep the Seattle Streetcar System running need to be assumed by Sound Transit.

Again, we support clean, efficient, high-capacity transit through a variety of means. But we cannot irreparably harm one mode in favor of another.


Seattle Streetcar Coalition

Emily Mannetti