From MyNorthwest.com: The Seattle Department of Transportation provided misleading information about the cost to operate an expanded streetcar network to the Federal Transit Authority and the city council, according to King County Metro.
“SDOT appears to have ignored Metro’s estimated labor cost for streetcar O & M by $8 million and submitted information to the FTA and to the Seattle City Council that significantly underestimates the annual cost of operating the Seattle streetcar system when C3 is added.
“Metro’s Rail Section has communicated to SDOT information that contradicts published information about estimated labor costs for Streetcar operations staffing, but neither FTA nor the Seattle Council appear to be aware of contradictory information,” the document states.
Essentially, SDOT’s labor cost estimates were much too low. According to the document, SDOT assumed it would cost just over $16 million to operate the line. A total of $8.15 million was budgeted for staffing. Metro says more staff is needed to meet the expectations put in place by SDOT. It will cost an estimated $8 million more to pay for additional staff — raising total operating costs to $24 million.
Metro is concerned because it will be running the system.
It’s yet another black mark for the Center City Connector project that will cost an estimated $177 million. It will add a 1.2-mile streetcar tack that connects the line in South Lake Union and First Hill line.
The project broke ground last year. City leaders questioned the project just days before crews began their work. The concerns raised then are what sparked the financial report by SDOT that is now in question.
The price tag of $177 million was higher than initial estimates. Funding for the project includes a $75 million grant from the FTA, about $30 million from City Light for utility relocation, and $45 million from the city’s budget through 2020.
Actual ridership numbers are also in question. Currently under-utilized, SDOT projects the streetcar lines will get 22,000 riders per day in its first year of expanded service. By 2035, 30,000 riders will ride the streetcars.