Doubts Raised About Revenue Model for Seattle's Expanded Streetcar

Can an expansion of Seattle's streetcar system somehow outperform its previous iterations, and all other public transit modes in the city?
September 26, 2017, 7am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Richard Eriksson

Critics are pushing back on the financial plan for 1.2-mile Center City Connector streetcar line that will run along First Avenue, according to an article in the Seattle Times

According to David Gutman, planners are expecting a newly expanded streetcar along First Avenue to generate revenue from the fare box to cover 56 percent of the system's operating costs.

That would require a serious improvement on fare recovery on all other modes in the region. "Your fares cover about 40 percent of operating costs for Sound Transit’s Link light rail. Fares cover about 31 percent of the cost of King County Metro buses. Seattle’s two streetcar lines cover 23 percent of their costs with fares," writes Gutman.

The article includes a direct statement about the financial projections from Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, as well as other indications that staff outside the Seattle Department of Transportation doubt whether the new streetcar is going to as popular as assumed. Gutman provides a lot more detail about the plan for the streetcar expansion, which is expected to cost $177 million and break ground early in October 2017.

For the record, the Center City Connector has recovered from reports of its demise late in 2016.

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Published on Monday, September 25, 2017 in The Seattle Times
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