Seattle Streetcar Network

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The Seattle Streetcar Network will be a system of streetcar lines in Seattle, radiating out from Downtown, in the U.S. state of Washington. One line has been in operation since 2007, and others are planned.

The first streetcar to run in Seattle since 1941, the Waterfront Streetcar, opened in May 1982, but its operation was suspended indefinitely in November 2005; it was a heritage streetcar line. A second line, the South Lake Union Streetcar, opened in December 2007, using modern cars. The First Hill Streetcar is under construction and targeted to open in 2015, and future lines to the University District, Fremont and Ballard, the Seattle Center, and the Central District are planned. The South Lake Union Streetcar is owned by the City of Seattle and operated by King County Metro, a scheme which was used on the Waterfront Streetcar and will probably be implemented for the future lines as well.

Map of proposed lines of the Seattle Streetcar (as of 2009).

Current lines[edit]

South Lake Union[edit]

The South Lake Union Streetcar is a 1.3-mile (2.1 km)-long low-floor modern streetcar line serving the South Lake Union neighborhood of Seattle. Its route goes from the Westlake hub to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in South Lake Union. Transfers can be made at Westlake to many bus routes on the surface streets, and to some bus routes and Link Light Rail in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel's Westlake Station. In 2008, about half a million people rode the Seattle Streetcar, averaging out to about 1,400 riders per day.[1]

Future lines[edit]

First Hill[edit]

Main article: First Hill Streetcar

The First Hill Streetcar will connect Pioneer Square with Capitol Hill via Chinatown, Little Saigon, Yesler Terrace, and First Hill beginning in 2015. Construction began in April 2012.[2] Sound Transit planned its University Link light rail extension to Capitol Hill and the University of Washington to include a stop at First Hill, but this stop was cut from the plan in 2005 due to budget constraints.[3] To compensate for the elimination of the station, Sound Transit included funding for First Hill Streetcar in its Sound Transit 2 ballot measure in 2008. First Hill will be connected by this streetcar to the Capitol Hill and Chinatown Link Light Rail stations, although the route has not been determined.[4]

Aloha extension[edit]

The First Hill Streetcar may be extended about a half-mile north along Broadway from John Street to Aloha Street. This extension was not funded by the Sound Transit Phase 2 ballot measure, though, so it would have to be funded by some other source in the future.[5]


The Central Line streetcar, sometimes called the First Avenue Streetcar, is planned to extend from the Seattle Center near KeyArena to the Central District at 23rd & Jackson via First Ave and Jackson Street. It will serve downtown destinations like Pike Place Market, the Seattle Art Museum, the Olympic Sculpture Park, and the Lower Queen Anne, Belltown, Pioneer Square, Chinatown, and Little Saigon neighborhoods along the way.

In July 2014, the Seattle City Council approved a resolution adopting the Central Line streetcar as the preferred option for connecting the South Lake Union Streetcar with the First Hill Streetcar.[6]


The University Line streetcar, or U Line, would be a 3.5 mile-long extension of the South Lake Union Streetcar to the University District. The University District is the second largest urban center and transit destination in Seattle after Downtown. The streetcar extension is in the planning stages but the route outlined in the 2008 Streetcar Network Report would extend north to the U District via Fairview Avenue North and Eastlake Avenue. Once on Campus Parkway it would jog down to the University of Washington Medical Center then come back up University Way (The Ave), ending at a turnback terminus north of NE 50th Street. While no funding has been secured for this route, it is noted in the 2008 Street Network Report that it has "the strongest relationship to interests in the Washington Legislature" of all the currently planned but not funded routes.[7]


The Fremont-Ballard streetcar is a planned extension of the South Lake Union Streetcar to the Fremont and Ballard neighborhoods of Seattle. It is in the planning stages, but the route mentioned so far would go up along Westlake Ave N, possibly adjacent to it in dedicated right of way, then cross the Fremont Bridge and continue up Leary towards Ballard, ending at 22nd & Ballard in the center of the Ballard business district.[8] Seattle City Council President Richard Conlin has said that he would like to build this streetcar (along with a light rail line out to West Seattle) in the next few years.[9] Funding for the design and planning for this line was approved in late 2012 through a partnership between the city and Sound Transit. This will allow for planning and routing studies as well as possible enhancements to grade separate much of the line in the form of rapid streetcars. [10]


An extension of the Fremont-Ballard line from Fremont to Woodland Park Zoo is shown on streetcar planning documents. Although planning is not finished, it appears that it will continue north along Fremont Ave N from the Fremont neighborhood to 50th. It may continue all the way through to Downtown, or only be a shuttle, requiring zoo passengers to transfer in Fremont.

Past lines[edit]


Main article: Waterfront Streetcar

The Waterfront Streetcar line was a 1.6-mile (2.6 km)-long streetcar line run by Metro Transit, so named because much of its route was along Alaskan Way on the Elliott Bay waterfront.[11] Service began on May 29, 1982,[12] which was the first streetcar run in Seattle since April 13, 1941. It was operated by vintage streetcars built between 1925 and 1930. Service was suspended on November 19, 2005, when the maintenance barn and Broad Street station were demolished to make room for the Seattle Art Museum's Olympic Sculpture Park. While some of the track and eight of the nine stations remain in place, the line is not expected to return to operation before 2018.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "City's generous South Lake Union streetcar ridership numbers raise questions". Seattle Post Globe. Retrieved 2009-12-06. 
  2. ^ "City of Seattle and Sound Transit Break Ground on the First Hill Streetcar" (Press release). Sound Transit. April 23, 2012. Retrieved 2012-08-21. 
  3. ^ "First Hill Streetcar Project". Sound Transit. Retrieved 2009-12-06. 
  4. ^ "First Hill Streetcar alignment". Seattle Transit Blog. Retrieved 2009-12-06. 
  5. ^ "Streetcar Extension John Street to Aloha Street" (PDF). Sound Transit. Retrieved 2009-12-06. 
  6. ^ "Morning Fizz: The Supposed Gap". Seattle Metropolitan. July 22, 2014. Retrieved 2014-07-22. 
  7. ^ "Streetcar Network Report--May 2008" (PDF). Seattle Department of Transportation. Retrieved 2009-12-09. 
  8. ^ Butler, Ann (May 5, 2008). "List of new streetcar routes revealed". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  9. ^ Holden, Dominic (November 3, 2009). "Meet Your New Mayor". The Stranger. Retrieved 2011-11-24. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Waterfront Streetcar Line". King County Metro Transit. Archived from the original on 2011-08-18. Retrieved 2013-08-11. 
  12. ^ "The Steep Grade from Idea to Reality by George Benson" Retrieved 2009-12-08.
  13. ^ Eskenazi, Stuart (April 11, 2008). "Waterfront streetcar: Is it gone for good?". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2013-08-11. 

External links[edit]