Amazon Buys in to Same-Day Employee-Delivery System Called “Streetcar”

Additional streetcars, of course, bring the possibility of streetcar races. Taken in Nice, France. (Photo: MvB)

Even though The SunBreak is a proponent of gondolas–especially where Amazon is concerned–we’re actually mode-agnostic. So it’s worth mentioning the news from late September that the online retailer has offered the city $5.5 million to add to streetcar service and improve bicycling infrastructure. This isn’t corporatesse oblige: it’s intended “to compensate for Amazon taking city-owned alley space to build its high-rise Denny Triangle campus,” as Mike Lindblom reported in the Seattle Times.

On the streetcar side, Amazon would buy a fourth streetcar and so reduce the wait between trains to just 10 minutes, instead of the current 15 (it does run more frequently during rush hour weekdays, from 4 to 6:30 p.m.). Though it travels just 1.3 miles, the South Lake Union streetcar now carries 2,900 passengers each weekday, and Mayor McGinn has announced that he wants to allocate $2 million to study a downtown-to-University District transit line via Eastlake.

Transit and Amazon seem to go together, no matter how you slice it, because it’s Amazon’s land grabs that fund all this talk. Its $1.16-billion purchase of 11 buildings it leases from Vulcan will deposit almost $6 million into the city’s coffers through real estate excise taxes. That does not include the taxes received from its planned purchase of three Denny Triangle blocks from Clise Properties.

Amazon is also proposing, as Seattle Bike Blog informs you in-depth, a cycle track on 7th Avenue, from Denny to Pine Street. A cycle track, if you’re wondering, is a bicycle path physically separated from both the sidewalk and car traffic. It’s generally regarded as the safest form of bike infrastructure, especially in urban settings.

Ironic is not quite the right word for Amazon’s rail/bike alignment. Rookie mayor Mike McGinn has been tagged with the epithet “Mayor McSchwinn” for his support of a citywide bike network and the City Council has questioned his “rush to rail,” but McGinn’s political future is looking much brighter.

Taking Amazon as representative of a new Seattle voting bloc–well-educated, well-paid, bike-toting urbanites who have a thing for rail–McGinn finds himself positioned nicely for re-election, with tax revenues getting a substantial boost between now and 2014, allowing him to spend money on all the things that get mayors re-elected: “McGinn is increasing the City’s annual investment in street repairs and maintenance by over $5 million.” And if his opponent is anti-bike and anti-rail, then they’re also going to be anti-Amazon, and by extension, anti-business.