City considers more transit-only lanes to keep Seattle streetcars moving

SEATTLE — The Seattle City Council will discuss creating more transit-only lanes to keep streetcars from getting stuck in traffic.

The Seattle Department of Transportation began study in 2016 on how to improve speed and reliability for the First Hill and South Lake Union streetcars. Six problem areas and their solutions were identified.

One of the big problems is vehicles blocking streetcar tracks during traffic.

So the city is looking to create a northbound transit-only lane between Terry at Thomas and Mercer Street and also restrict left turns from Thomas to Terry during peak afternoon traffic.

The city estimates the changes would reduce the travel time on the streetcar between one and two minutes in the afternoon.

Tuesday afternoon's presentation to a city council committee includes the idea of a southbound transit-only lane on Broadway between Pine and Madison on Capitol Hill, which is expected to shave two to three minutes off the travel times for the streetcar in the afternoon.

There will be transit-only lanes along First Avenue where a new streetcar line is being built.

Critics of streetcars say they're expensive, don't move enough people and creating more transit-only lanes could make it harder to get around by car.