South Lake Union Streetcar

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South Lake Union Streetcar
Seattle Streetcar 301 leaving Pacific Place Station.jpg
A streetcar departing the Pacific Place
terminal, in downtown
TerminiSouth Lake Union
Westlake Center, Downtown Seattle
Daily ridership1,900 (December 2016)[1]
Ridership518,300 (annual, 2016)[1]
Line number98 (used on timetable, but not on headsign)
WebsiteSouth Lake Union Streetcar
OpenedDecember 12, 2007
OwnerCity of Seattle
Operator(s)King County Metro
CharacterAt grade, in mixed traffic
Rolling stock3 Inekon 12-Trio vehicles 1 Inekon Trio Type 121
Line length1.3 miles (2.1 km)
Track length2.6 miles (4.2 km)[2]
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
ElectrificationOverhead lines, 750 V DC
Route diagram

Fairview & Campus Drive
Lake Union Park
C Line Logo.png to Fairview & Valley
Westlake & Mercer
RapidRide C Line
Terry & Mercer
to maintenance facility
Westlake & Thomas
RapidRide C Line
Terry & Thomas
Westlake & Denny
RapidRide C Line
Westlake & 9th
Westlake & 7th
Westlake Hub/McGraw Square
to Center City Connector

northbound only stop
southbound only stop

The Seattle Streetcar—South Lake Union Line is a 1.3-mile (2.1 km) streetcar line, covering a total 2.6-mile (4.2 km) route,[2] connecting the South Lake Union neighborhood to Downtown Seattle, Washington. Service began on December 12, 2007.[3] It is one of two lines in the developing Seattle Streetcar system. The line was built by the Seattle Department of Transportation and is owned by the City of Seattle, but the line is operated and maintained under contract by King County Metro.

The line is popularly known by its nickname, the South Lake Union Trolley (abbreviated as "SLUT"), which is used on unofficial merchandise sold by South Lake Union businesses.[4]


The Seattle Electric Railway and Power Company laid streetcar tracks on Westlake Avenue, along which the present service primarily runs, in 1890.[5] 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);[6] both used Westlake Avenue to reach the Fremont Bridge from downtown.[7]

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.[8] 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.[9]

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.[10] The final cost was $56.4 million; additional costs were mostly utility work needed after the line opened.[11]

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.[12] The project was modeled after the Portland Streetcar, a similar modern-streetcar system that had opened in Portland, Oregon, in 2001.[13]

The city council gave final approval to the project in March 2006,[14] and construction began in July 2006.[13]

Some local residents and business owners opposed to the streetcar claimed that it was originally called 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.[4][15]

Opening day in 2007

Service was inaugurated on December 12, 2007, and until the end of the month, all rides were free.[16] 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.

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.[17]

In May 2011, increasing ridership led the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Group Health Cooperative, UW Medicine and to underwrite a third streetcar to operate during peak commuting evening hours (4pm – 6pm), reducing headways from 15 minutes to 10.[18]

In late 2012, as mitigation for its new high-rise campus in the Denny Triangle area, Amazon agreed to fund further improvements on the line.[19] The internet retailer purchased a fourth streetcar for the line and will pay its operating costs for 10 years, allowing service to operate every 10 minutes on weekdays.[20] The car was purchased alongside the vehicles for the First Hill Streetcar and was delayed for years. Car #407, an Inekon Trio Type 121, finally went into service in late 2015.

In early 2016, the Seattle Department of Transportation converted two lanes of Westlake Avenue along part of the streetcar route from mixed-traffic to transit-only.[21] The lanes are expected to improve reliability and speed along the line. The lanes went into service on March 21, 2016 and weekday headways were reduced from 15 to 10 minutes on March 28, 2016.


Car 301 in South Lake Union
Interior of Car 302
Car 303 laying over at the north end of the line, in the center of Fairview Avenue (beyond the last stop)

The system is owned by the City of Seattle, but currently is operated by King County Metro under a contract with the city government.[22] King County Metro Transit contributes 75% of the operating costs, net of farebox revenue, and the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) pays the remaining 25%.[23] The city retains sponsorship revenue and Federal Transit Administration funds.[citation needed]

Seattle Streetcar fares as of March 1, 2015 are:[24]

Fare type Single Ride Day Pass
(valid on streetcar only)
Adult $2.25 $4.50
Senior (65+) / Disabled / Medicare
(Regional Reduced Fare Permit required)
$1.00 $2.00
(ORCA LIFT card required)
(6–18 years)
$1.50 $3.00
(0–5 years)

The South Lake Union Streetcar operates every day with these headways:

Weekday Monday-


6:00am – 7:00am 15 minutes 15 minutes
7:00am – 7:00pm 10 minutes 10 minutes
7:00pm – 9:00pm 15 minutes 15 minutes
9:00pm – 11:00pm no service 15 minutes
Weekends Saturday Sunday/
[Note 1]
6:00am – 10:00am 15 minutes no service
10:00am – 7:00pm 15 minutes
7:00pm – 11:00pm no service


  1. ^ South Lake Union Streetcar does not operate on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.


South Lake Union Streetcar
Stop Neighborhood Notes
Northbound Southbound
Fairview & Campus Drive Cascade Serves Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Lake Union Park South Lake Union Serves Lake Union Park, Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI), Center for Wooden Boats, Northwest Seaport
Terry & Mercer Westlake & Mercer Serves University of Washington School of Medicine, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, campus
Terry & Thomas Westlake & Thomas Serves Cascade Playground, Seattle Times, campus
Westlake & Denny Westlake & 9th Belltown/Denny Triangle Serves Denny Park, REI flagship store
Westlake & Seventh Belltown Serves campus
Westlake Hub Downtown Connections to Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (Buses and Light Rail), Seattle Center Monorail.

Serves Westlake Center, Pacific Place

End of line


The South Lake Union Streetcar's maintenance facility, with car 302

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.,[25] which was met within the first year of operation. During the summer months, good weather and tourism boost streetcar usage. Ridership increased substantially as moved into its new campus beginning in 2010.[26] In June 2011, the streetcar recorded its highest-ever ridership level of 2,812 riders per weekday.[27]

Ridership statistics are provided in the table below. Figures are rounded to the nearest 100 riders.[28]

Year Per average
2015 2,200 n/a
2014 2,200 707,700
2013 2,600 760,900
2012 2,500 750,300
2011 2,500 714,700
2010 1,800 521,000
2009 1,400 451,000
2008 1,400 414,000

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b American Public Transit Association, Public Transit Ridership Report, Fourth Quarter 2016 & End-of-Year Report 2016 (March 25th, 2017)
  2. ^ a b "South Lake Union Streetcar". King County Metro Streetcar Operations. Retrieved August 22, 2013.
  3. ^ "The Seattle Streetcar Network". King County Metro Streetcar Operations. Retrieved August 22, 2013.
  4. ^ a b Murakami, Kery (September 18, 2007). "SLUT -- Streetcar's unfortunate acronym seems here to stay". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Archived from the original on June 23, 2009. Retrieved March 16, 2016.
  5. ^ Kit Oldham,, Officials break ground for Seattle's South Lake Union Streetcar on July 7, 2006
  6. ^ University of Washington Libraries, Guide to the Seattle Municipal Street Railway Photograph Collection, accessed October 2009
  7. ^ Seattle Municipal Street Railway, system map, January 26, 1941
  8. ^ Todd Bishop (June 14, 2002). "Allen envisions streetcars serving South Lake Union". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved March 3, 2007.
  9. ^ Neil Modie (January 25, 2003). "Lake Union streetcar plan has council skeptics". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved March 5, 2007.
  10. ^ Kathy Mulady (October 5, 2005). "South Lake Union streetcar cost shocks neighbors". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved March 3, 2007.
  11. ^ "Streetcar cost overruns: What about the next line?", by Mike Lindblom, Seattle Times, December 23, 2009
  12. ^ George Howland, Jr. (January 18, 2006). "Vulcan's Inside Track". Seattle Weekly. Retrieved June 10, 2009.
  13. ^ a b Mike Lindblom (July 6, 2006). "Seattle breaking ground today for South Lake Union streetcar". The Seattle Times. Retrieved June 10, 2009.
  14. ^ Lange, Larry (March 27, 2006). "City Council approves South Lake Union streetcar". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved August 11, 2016.
  15. ^ Ethan Trex (August 17, 2010), Acronyms that accidentally turned naughty, CNN, retrieved December 30, 2013
  16. ^ Seattle Times Staff (December 12, 2007). "Streetcar starts service". The Seattle Times. Retrieved June 10, 2009.
  17. ^ "South Lake Union Streetcar -- a loser in this campaign season", by Susan Gilmore. Seattle Times, October 6, 2009
  18. ^ Employers near South Lake Union streetcar offer to fund increased service
  19. ^ Bejan Parast, Adam (September 21, 2012). "Amazon to Buy 4th Streetcar, Fund 10-Minute Headways". Seattle Transit Blog. Retrieved April 4, 2016.
  20. ^ Lindblom, Mike (September 21, 2012). "Amazon plan adds more streetcar trips". Seattle Times. Retrieved April 4, 2016.
  21. ^ Green, Josh (December 30, 2015). "SLU streetcar service reductions could go through March". KING-TV. Retrieved April 4, 2016.
  22. ^ "About the Division (section: 2007 in review)". King County Metro Transit. Retrieved January 31, 2011.
  23. ^ "City of Seattle 2011‐2012 Proposed Budget" (PDF). City of Seattle. Retrieved January 31, 2011.
  24. ^ "Fares". Seattle Streetcar. Retrieved April 4, 2016.
  25. ^ Aimee Curl (January 23, 2008). "Won't You Ride the S.L.U.T?". Seattle Weekly. Retrieved January 25, 2008.
  26. ^ "Past, present, and future" Archived July 21, 2011, at the Wayback Machine., By Oran Viriyincy, Crosscut, October 10, 2008, accessed March 18, 2010.
  27. ^ Seattle Transit Blog, SLU Streetcar Ridership Growing Fast, July 12, 2011
  28. ^ APTA Ridership Report Archive. Accessed April 11, 2013

External links[edit]

Route map:

KML is from Wikidata