South Lake Union Streetcar
|South Lake Union Streetcar|
A streetcar departing the Pacific Place
terminal, in downtown
|Termini||South Lake Union
Westlake Center, Downtown Seattle
|Opened||December 12, 2007|
|Owner||City of Seattle|
|Operator(s)||King County Metro (Route #98)|
|Character||At grade, in mixed traffic|
|Line length||1.3 miles (2.1 km)|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
|Electrification||Overhead lines, 750 V DC|
The Seattle Streetcar—South Lake Union Line is a 1.3-mile (2.1 km) streetcar line connecting the South Lake Union neighborhood to Downtown Seattle, Washington. Service began on December 12, 2007. Currently it is the only operational line of the developing Seattle Streetcar Network.
The Seattle Electric Railway and Power Company laid streetcar tracks on Westlake Avenue, along which the present service primarily runs, in 1890. In April 1941, the Seattle Municipal Street Railway converted its last two streetcar routes - 19 Eighth Avenue Northwest and 21 Phinney Avenue - to buses (now numbered 28 and 5, respectively); both used Westlake Avenue to reach the Fremont Bridge from downtown.
Restoration of rail service on Westlake Avenue was originally envisioned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen to help improve the South Lake Union neighborhood, in which his venture capital company, Vulcan Inc., is heavily invested. Allen's main supporter from the beginning was Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, but he was not universally supported by the Seattle City Council, which was concerned about the lack of public support for the line and questioned if it should be moved ahead of Seattle's other transportation needs.
After heavy lobbying by South Lake Union businesses, including Vulcan, the Seattle City Council approved the development of the neighborhood into a biotechnology and bio-medical research center. Included in that plan was funding to investigate a 1.3-mile (2.1 km), US$45 million streetcar line. The line was approved in 2005 at a cost of $50.5 million, with $25 million paid by property owners along the streetcar's route and the remainder paid by federal, state, and local funds. The final cost was $56.4 million; additional costs were mostly utility work needed after the line opened.
The majority of property owners along the alignment supported the project, despite being asked to pay increased taxes to fund its construction. Only 12 of 750 affected property owners formally objected to the proposed "Local Improvement District" tax. The project was modeled after the Portland Streetcar, a similar modern-streetcar system that had opened in Portland, Oregon, in 2001. Construction began in July 2006.
Local residents claim that during construction it was originally known as the South Lake Union Trolley, which abbreviates to S.L.U.T. While there is no evidence that this name was ever used as an official name, the acronym's popularity has caused it to become an unofficial one.[dead link]
Service was inaugurated on December 12, 2007, and all rides were free until the end of the month. Streetcars run every fifteen minutes, seven days a week. The line uses three 2007-built Inekon 12-Trio three-section articulated streetcars: one red, one orange and one purple, internally numbered 301, 302 and 303, respectively. There were minor collisions with motor vehicles and several service stoppages when the Seattle Streetcar first began service.
In 2009, election candidates in local Seattle politics, including almost all for city council and both candidates for mayor, said the streetcar was a bad idea. The City Council President, Richard Conlin, was an exception, and wants to expand the line through Fremont to Ballard and use stronger traffic signal preemption (as is used with Central Link) to allow the streetcar to move quickly through traffic.
The system is owned by the City of Seattle, but currently is operated by King County Metro (Metro Transit) under a contract with the city government. King County Metro Transit contributes 75% of the operating costs, net of farebox revenue. Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) pays the remaining 25%. The city retains sponsorship revenue and Federal Transit Administration funds.
During its inaugural period, December 12, 2007 to December 31, the streetcar was free to ride. The fare was then increased to US$1.50, was later increased to $1.75, and is $2.50 per trip as of December 2011. The streetcar was again free to ride in the latter half of December 2008.
In May 2011, increasing ridership led the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Group Health Cooperative, UW Medicine and Amazon.com to underwrite a third streetcar to operate during peak commuting hours, reducing headways from 15 minutes to 10.
Streetcar ridership started off slowly and has consistently risen as the redevelopment in South Lake Union has progressed. After an initial free ride period in December 2007, the city predicted 950 riders per day, 7.5% of the system's capacity of about 12,600 per day., which was met within the first year of operation. During the summer months, good weather and tourism boost streetcar usage. Ridership increased substantially as Amazon.com moved into its new campus beginning in 2010. In June 2011, the streetcar recorded its highest-ever ridership level of 2,812 riders per weekday.
Ridership statistics are provided in the table below.
See also 
- Seattle Streetcar Network
- First Hill Streetcar
- Waterfront Streetcar
- List of town tramway systems in the United States
- List of town tramway systems in North America
- Streetcars in North America
- Kit Oldham, HistoryLink.org, Officials break ground for Seattle's South Lake Union Streetcar on July 7, 2006
- University of Washington Libraries, Guide to the Seattle Municipal Street Railway Photograph Collection, accessed October 2009
- Seattle Municipal Street Railway, system map, January 26, 1941
- Todd Bishop (2002-06-14). "Allen envisions streetcars serving South Lake Union". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2007-03-03.
- Neil Modie (2003-01-25). "Lake Union streetcar plan has council skeptics". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2007-03-05.
- Kathy Mulady (2005-10-05). "South Lake Union streetcar cost shocks neighbors". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2007-03-03.
- "Streetcar cost overruns: What about the next line?", by Mike Lindblom, Seattle Times, December 23, 2009
- George Howland, Jr. (January 18, 2006). "Vulcan's Inside Track". Seattle Weekly. Retrieved 2009-06-10.
- Mike Lindblom (2006-07-06). "Seattle breaking ground today for South Lake Union streetcar". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2009-06-10.
- Kery Murakami (2007-09-18). "SLUT -- Streetcar's unfortunate acronym seems here to stay". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2007-09-19.[dead link]
- Seattle Times Staff (December 12, 2007). "Streetcar starts service". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2009-06-10.
- Seattle Times Staff (2007-12-19). "Streetcar hits SUV that ran red light". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2008-04-02.
- Seattle Times Staff (2008-04-02). "South Lake Union accident takes red streetcar out of service". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2008-04-02.
- Perry, Nick (2008-07-25). "Crash dims fun of trolley race". The Seattle Times.
- "South Lake Union Streetcar -- a loser in this campaign season", by Susan Gilmore. Seattle Times, October 6, 2009
- "Meet Your New Mayor", by Dominic Holden, The Stranger, November 3, 2009
- "About the Division (section: 2007 in review)". King County Metro Transit. Retrieved 2011-01-31.
- "City of Seattle 2011‐2012 Proposed Budget". Seattle. Retrieved 2011-01-31.
- Aimee Curl (January 23, 2008). "Won't You Ride the S.L.U.T?". Seattle Weekly. Retrieved 2008-01-25.
- Employers near South Lake Union streetcar offer to fund increased service
- "Past, present, and future", By Oran Viriyincy, Crosscut, Oct. 10, 2008, accessed March 18, 2010.
- Seattle Transit Blog, SLU Streetcar Ridership Growing Fast, July 12, 2011
- APTA Ridership Report Archive. Accessed April 11, 2013
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