LOCAL NEWS

The argument to complete Seattle’s streetcar line: It’s getting crowded

Sep 12, 2018, 5:23 AM | Updated: 11:21 am
seattle streetcar...
The Seattle Streetcar. (SDOT)
(SDOT)

While many are critical of Seattle’s halted streetcar plan, the Downtown Seattle Association argues that the rail line is very much needed — despite the inflated price tag.

“We’ve got two streetcar lines today that don’t connect and a gap in the middle,” said Jon Scholes, President and CEO of the Downtown Seattle Association. “We know that filling that gap, we will have 20,000 riders a day and about six million riders a year on that line. And we know streetcars work. This is not a new invention … we used to have dozens of them in the city and then we ripped them up. It’s an efficient way to move people around our city. We are hopeful that this project moves forward.”

RELATED: More people moving to Seattle, but fewer miles on area roads

The Seattle streetcar project was stopped by Mayor Jenny Durkan earlier this year as costs continued to balloon. An outside auditor was brought in to investigate the project. It was discovered that not only had the project grown to $252 million (originally slated for $143.2 million), the new streetcars that Seattle ordered won’t fit the existing gauge of rail in the city. The increased price was partially blamed on the rise of construction costs.

“Construction costs on buildings and everything in our region have gone up because of material and labor,” Scholes said. “It’s nothing unique to the streetcar. Anybody who is trying to build anything in this region, whether you are remodeling a kitchen or building a high rise, is dealing with increases in construction costs.”

“We think the value and benefit of this project outweighs the cost,” he said. “It’s something we need to do.”

Seattle population booming faster than expected

Expensive streetcars and other transportation projects are needed because the region’s population is booming dramatically faster than expected, according to the DSA’s 2018 mid-year update report. The city’s comprehensive plan states “the City of Seattle expects 120,000 new residents and 115,000 new jobs by 2035.” But the DSA expects that Seattle’s population will meet 2035 projections by 2022 — 13 years ahead of schedule.

Also from the DSA’s report:

  • Downtown Seattle had more office space added in 2017 than any other U.S. downtown — 20 percent of all central business district office construction completed in the nation.
  • Residential development comprises 60 percent of the current projects.
  • A record $5.6 billion worth of projects were under construction at the end of the second quarter of 2018 — 27 percent higher than in 2017.
  • Downtown Seattle will add a record 2,192 new hotel rooms in 2018, including the largest hotel in the region – the 1,260-room Hyatt Regency.

“We’ve got a good problem, people want to be in Seattle,” Scholes said.  “…but there’s no doubt that the pace of this growth has put a lot of pressure on our public infrastructure, on transportation, streets, and transit system and our housing market. We’ve got a lot of catching up to do …”

More is needed. More transportation, for example. And more housing in particular.

“The jobs have come faster than housing,” Scholes said. “We’ve increased the total number of jobs in downtown at a faster rate than housing units … the good news is we are seeing some leveling off of rents because of the addition of supply in the last couple of years, but we need more – all different shapes and sizes of housing. High rises, yes, but also low-rise housing, town homes, and accessory dwelling units across the city.”

In the end, Seattle residents have little choice but to deal with some massive growing pains that will likely grind traffic to a halt. It’s what Seattle officials have titled a “period of maximum constraint.

“Frankly, the next two to three years are going to be pretty difficult for folks who are working in downtown,” Scholes said. “We got all this private development right now impacting travel, but a lot of public infrastructure as well with the construction of the convention center addition and other public projects. We are encouraging employers and people who work downtown to think about flexible work schedules.”

“It’s going to take all of us having a little bit more patience, and a little bit more kindness for our fellow traveler over the next two to three years to get through this,” he said.

Local News

foster...
Kathryn Stone

Oregon kidnapping suspect taken into custody after standoff

Law enforcement officials were able to determine that Foster had been accessing dating applications on his phone.
1 day ago
Friends kitchen...
Micki Gamez

The Friends Experience pop-up opens in Seattle on Feb. 1

The FRIENDS Experience invites fans to step inside the world of the iconic series, relive their favorite moments, and celebrate the show.
1 day ago
dead road rage...
L.B. Gilbert

Greenwood road rage fight involved knife, baseball bat

Police are investigating a road rage incident involving a bat and a knife in a QFC parking lot in Seattle's Greenwood neighborhood.
1 day ago
The logo for OpenAI, the maker of ChatGPT, appears on a mobile phone, in New York, Tuesday, Jan. 31...
Associated Press

Cheaters beware: ChatGPT maker releases AI detection tool

ChatGPT is trying to curb its reputation as a freewheeling cheating machine with a new tool that can help detect if artificial intelligence wrote it
1 day ago
lake stevens...
L.B. Gilbert

Case dismissed against Lake Stevens HS employee accused of sexual misconduct

A Lake Stevens School District employee is under arrest after being suspected of improper sexual contact with at least one child.
1 day ago
bristol bay...
L.B. Gilbert

Bristol Bay salmon runs protected as EPA halts mine development

The EPA won a 12-year battle for a cleaner habitat by taking big steps to protect Bristol Bay salmon runs, the most productive in the world.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
The argument to complete Seattle’s streetcar line: It’s getting crowded