• South Lake Union Streetcar Line Opens

  • General discussion of passenger rail systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.
General discussion of passenger rail systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.

Moderators: mtuandrew, gprimr1

  by Vincent
Wednesday, December 12 was the official first day of Seattle's South Lake Union Streetcar (but you can call it whatever you want). The line runs from the north end of downtown Seattle to Lake Union, about 1.3 miles away. The area along the route is being developed as a close-in mixed residential and business corridor, mostly condo towers with ground floor retail and some bio-tech research facilities. Paul Allen is the major landlord in the area and his company supplied a large chunk of the financing through the creation of a LID (Local Improvement District) along the streetcar route.

The streetcars are similar to the Skoda/Inekon units being used in Portland and Tacoma. The only differences I could discern on my first rides are a different design for the steps up to the high section of the streetcar and while running, these streetcars don't make the annoying rattling/jingling sound that you hear on the older cars. The 3 cars in Seattle's fleet are painted in colors that are described as Orange, Grape and Strawberry. Rides are free until the end of December and normal Metro fares will be charged starting January 1, 2008.

The streetcar has been somewhat controversial around Seattle. Anything that is associated with Paul Allen is always polarizing and the first run of the streetcar was protested by bike riders who say the rails in the street create a hazard for bicyclists. Oh well. If this line works out well there is hope of extending it a few miles north through the Eastlake neighborhood and then on to the University of Washington campus.
  by railfanofewu
I have managed to ride it a few times, and it is interesting. I think it does seem to look like it has lower ridership than what Metro and the city are saying, but I think it still has potential, especially if extended to the University District to the North, and South to King Street Station to link up with SOUNDER. The irony is, if this line had another branch(which I think is being studied) that veered west at Mercer/Valley Couplet and continued on Westlake to Fremont, it would be running on the right of way of the original Interurban between Seattle and Everett. Ripped up in 1939.
  by railfanofewu
84% of people riding who were carded by the inspectors used a Metro Pass or Transfer, interesting. Wonder how many more riders they would have if the line went to King Street Station? At least the Central Line will connect the two.

Here is an older Op-Ed where someobody suggested using Guided Light Transit which is rubber-tired, but I still like the idea of a loop system.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/o ... rth22.html

Here is an artist's sketch of what a SOUNDER(North)/Streetcar interchange at Pier 70 might look like.

http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB ... .php?id=97
  by CarterB
Is this the famous S*L*U*T line that was on the news because of its name?
  by railfanofewu
That's the line. The mayor wanted to call it the South Lake Union Modern Streetcar, but that would have given it another acronym. On a local forum we were talking about what if this ended up in Ballard, and another Light Rail line had taken over the route of the monorail, the name for the hub in Ballard of the streetcar and Light Rail. It would have had an even more vulgar acronym!
  by Vincent
The Seattle City Council is pondering an extension of the streetcar network and has scheduled a series of community open houses to discuss possible extensions and listen to community comments. I attended a meeting in Ballard and I would say that the Council is going to get an earful from the anti-rail factions. There also are plenty of supporters for the idea of community streetcars, but I don't know how many will be still be on board when it comes time to pay for the service. Seattle is proposing to finance the expansion by levying a fee on the property owners near the streetcar lines to pay for the cost of construction. Ironically, several of the proposed lines will duplicate lines that were built about 100 years ago and torn out about 70 years ago.

Here's a link to the proposed streetcar expansion plans: http://www.seattlestreetcar.org/future.asp
  by railfanofewu
It is ironic that some of these routes were once done before. It is one of the reasons anti-Light Rail people have their problems with it, forgetting that two of their alternatives, have their beginnings in the 19th Century as well, Monorail and Buses.

The 98 already runs on the route of the old Pacific Northwest Traction Interurban from Stewart to Mercer, then the PNT line veered West on Westlake up through Greenwood to Aurora, and continued to Everett. Not saying that line should be totally brought back.

I would love to see the city and Metro upgrade Route 7 a little, either boost frequency, add passing wires, or make it a streetcar, as it has the potential to not just be a trunk line, but feed into LINK at several stations, and if the I-90 LINK route ever gets built, the 7 will be in a position to provide a quicker connection between the two lines without going to International Ditrict.
  by CarterB
Seattle's I-5 I-405 traffic from Tacoma to Everett is a growing mess. My son lives there, so I have experienced it first hand many times. The "powers that be", including the railroads who don't want more commuter traffic, need to get together to extend/expand rail, heavy, light or otherwise to Olympia and to Everett or even beyond to Bellingham. They also need an East Shore line, up from Renton - Kirkland - Everett. A line certainly needs to be built to Sea-Tac.
  by railfanofewu
Some of the Powers that Be include the NIMBY's on the Eastside Line that would rather see it turned into a trail than more train traffic pass through. If it were upgraded, especially to run faster outside of the Bellevue-Redmond-Kirkland area, we could have a SOUNDER loop.

As for the South Lake Union Streetcar, that is a Seattle-only project, the city and the property owners along that corridor paid for it. Some say the other property owners went along with it because they felt they could not challenge Paul Allen's money, and he was a big supporter of the project. Sound Transit is regional, but it has some rules designed to prevent one subarea from stealing the other subareas money, that leads to more pet projects. I would rather have preferred a LINK LIght Rail Loop built in stages meeting up in the center.

SOUNDER is showing some signs of success. Before SOUNDER, there was no Puyallup-Seattle commuter route, other than driving on SR167. Now the train station in Puyallup has run out of parking. Maybe Pierce Transit might be seeing more riders on the bus routes connecting the station.
  by Vincent
There are 3 layers of transit management in the Puget Sound area:

1) Sound Transit manages Sounder heavy rail, LINK light rail and express buses that serve Pierce County (Tacoma), King County (Seattle/Bellevue/Eastside) and Snohomish County (Everett). Any transit service that operates in more than one county is probably funded by ST and operated with ST liveried vehicles.

2) Each county then has its own transit system (Pierce Transit, KC Metro, Community Transit) with its own management team, vehicles and service.

3) And then there is the South Lake Union Streetcar, owned by the City of Seattle. I think the Monorail and in-limbo Waterfront Streetcar are also City owned and operated, but I'm not sure.

From the Seattle City Council's view, one of the advantages of the proposed streetcar system is that the city would own and control it. Seattle City Council is frustrated with King County Metro's service allocation formula. South County and East County EACH get 40% of new service and Seattle/North County gets 20% of new service hours. The result, according the Seattle City Council, is that buses in Seattle are packed and suburban buses are rolling around empty. Because the City would own the streetcars, they would control hours of service and scheduling and not have to beg Metro for service.
  by railfanofewu
I understand why the MKCC did what they did in 2002, but I was against it then. Their reasoning was nobody will ride if it was not there, but at the time, nobody would ride the bus in the suburbs when gas was $1.50 per gallon. Seattle has had higher ridership, and it dates back to the era that makes the suburbs hate the city, when Seattle had more people than them. Seattle had the better transit network, and it dated back to the streetcar era, especially the portions South of N.85th St, which back then was the city limits. There are some bus routes that are former streetcar routes that one would think a streetcar of that time could not handle, such as the 14-Mt. Baker. Some are concerned that streetcars might not handle the Fremont Bridge. It depends on how badly the city messed it up during the recent remodel of the bridge. In the old days, there used to be traffic jams of streetcars on it, including the Interurban.