Ballard is another neighborhood heavily dependent on the Viaduct. The untimely demise of the monorail leaves transit riders dependent on bus routes made increasingly slow and unreliable by congestion on 15th NW and Westlake. After the break, a modest proposal to rectify the situation…
The Transit Now! proposal also calls for providing “RapidBus” BRT service to Ballard via 15th NW, roughly paralleling the proposed monorail route.
This route will not be nearly as successful as the West Seattle proposal. From a speed point of view, it would be worse than the existing 15/18 express: serving the Seattle Center via Mercer is S-L-O-W. Not to mention the congestion on 3rd Ave and Denny Way.
While the city claims to be considering bus lanes on 15th NW:
I’ll believe that when I see it. It upsets local businesses who lose parking and new urbanists who need a row of parked cars to provide a sidewalk buffer. It would speed buses, but condemn 15th to forever being a nasty urban freeway like Aurora.
So, the most likely outcome is buses running on the same old streets, more frequently but horribly bunched and slower than ever.
The better solution? Streetcar. While most people think of a streetcar as done in Portland, acting a slow neighborhood circulator with lots of stops, a streetcar can in fact be rapid transit. Below is my modest proposal to connect two of Seattle’s densest neighborhoods to Downtown.
Westlake is the perfect right of way: wide and flat. The city caved to demands of business when they repaved this area, leaving tremendous amounts of surface parking. There is more than enough room for a double streetcar track without removing all the parking. This portion of the route would have only parking lot access grade crossings, and a few stops for local businesses and condo owners. A fast trip up to Fremont.
Since the Fremont Bridge is inappropriate for streetcar tracks, the line would have a stop under the south end of the Fremont Bridge to serve Fremont. With an elevator, this would still provide convenient access to the Center of the Universe.
Further along, there would need to be a new bridge crossing the canal. The Mayor’s bike plan is already proposing a new bicycle crossing, but why not one for all modes? I give you the FreeLard Bridge:
Adding a crossing at 3rd W would provide a new route for streetcars, pederstrians, bicycles and trucks to cross the Ship Canal would reduce congestion on the existing bridges and provide for better connections between Queen Anne, Fremont, Ballard & Phinney Ridge.
Following Leary to 45th, the line would serve the Fred Meyer/DSHS area, and enter Downtown Ballard on Ballard Ave. The terminus would be at the Market St transit hub, perhaps eventually extending to 65th and 24th to serve the dense heart of multi-family Ballard. Another potential extension would be up wide 14th NW to serve the exploding condo population.
Even just getting the line to Market Street would represent a tremendous advance for central Ballard & Fremont. A nearly dedicated right of way along the water and frequent service would make getting downtown quick and easy.
How much would that cost, you ask?
1: Four route miles of streetcar track. Portland pays about $25 million a mile. About $100 million.
2: A new drawbridge. The replacement South Park bridge, a similar size drawbridge, is going to cost $90 million.
So, for $200 million Ballard & Fremont could have rapid transit. Nearly half of that is also a road and freight improvement, and so eligible for RTID money. What’s not to like?