Shared-Lane Streetcar Still Sucks

From Seattle, just yesterday:

The red South Lake Union streetcar has been taken out of service after a midday fender bender.
The train hit a parked pickup that protruded into the streetcar’s path, near Terry Avenue North and Harrison Street, said Rick Sheridan, spokesman for the Seattle Department of Transportation. No one was hurt.
The streetcar’s left bumper is dented near the driver’s seat on one end, and a white scrape runs about six feet down the side. The right-rear corner of the pickup was damaged.
For now, only the purple streetcar is serving the 1.3-mile route, instead of the usual two trains. Crews were doing routine maintenance on the orange train and are trying to put it into service this afternoon, Sheridan said.
Streetcars have been in three minor collisions since the line opened in mid-December.

Note that this is quite different from the Houston scenario with their light-rail teething pains – there’s no technological solution which will allow this service to continue on this corridor (Houston basically solved their idiot driver problem with a combination of traffic signal changes and gates). Can’t put a gate between a shared traffic lane and on-street parking.
From Seattle Transit Blog, in response, some quotes:

This is now the third accident in the short 4 months the line has been open. This clearly shows that the future additions to the line need to be away from traffic preferably in its own lane with space to clear all objects. That last part is most important. I don’t get how people still park their vehicles incorrectly, however, clearly there needs to be better information out about this. I have had to get off twice due to illegal parkers and the streetcar not being able to get around it. Perhaps banning parking on the line? That would eliminate that problem.

When we have a desperate need in Seattle for real mass transit, and for fast and reliable service, it’s depressing to see the city promoting streetcar service that is even slower than buses. Transit can be an amenity, but it will be a more effective amenity if it also provides a transportation function. We can’t afford to put all of our money into making yuppies feel more cosmopolitan, and making their condos more upscale. If we’re going to put money into rail, please put it into something fast in a reserved right of way, not into an inflexible and slow amenity that serves only a secondary transportation purpose.

Rather than banning parking along the line to accommodate a poor choice in transit options, how about ditching the streetcar and just using busses — a transit solution which can, AMAZINGLY, maneuver around a parked car.

For whatever it is worth I agree with Quasimodal… We’ve been kinda bad a picking the right transportation technology to fit the application. We use buses where we should be using light rail (or real-BRT) and street cars where we should be using buses.

5 Replies to “Shared-Lane Streetcar Still Sucks”

  1. Mike I’m curious about the comment that Capital Metro will “never do this” with regard to reserved guideway. Why would Capital Metro be against any plan having substantial portions on reserved guideway? Speedier service; less chance of a disruptive accident; lower operating costs — if it was offered I would think Capital Metro prefer it.

  2. Capital Metro doesn’t have the money or the political will to go back to street rail after announcing how much better the 2004 commuter rail plan was because it never went in the street. They very quickly eliminated any form of reserved guideway in the “Future Connections” circulator study.

  3. Cap Metro recognizing that they don’t have the money or political will to get reserved guideway built is not the same as not supporting it if TWG and CAMPO found the political will and money and could make it happen.

  4. The fact that they never gave it serious consideration in ASG-FC is what was telling for me, but then again I’m kind of bruised from 2003-2004 on that account.
    I don’t believe the leadership, even if they DO now believe me when I said that commuter rail will be a disaster if it relies on shuttle buses, can afford to say that street rail in reserved guideway is a good way to go after all the energy spent in 2004 convincing us that commuter rail on freight tracks was so much better than light rail.
    It’s very easy to say “we’ll run it if you pay for it and build it” – especially when the degree of choice allowed is questionable.

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