Seattle Streetcar Lines

From nycsubway.org


South Lake Union Skoda-Inkeon Trio 302 streetcar at Westlake/Denny Way, outbound. Photo by Peter Ehrlich, November 2008.

(This page incorporates text and photos from the former "Seattle Waterfront Streetcar" and "Seattle South Lake Union Streetcar" pages.)

Waterfront Streetcar

Seattle's first post-World War II streetcar startup was the "Waterfront Stretcar" line. A cross between a vintage streetcar operation and actual transit operations, it operated 1.6 miles along Alaskan Way using former freight tracks. The fleet consisted of a total of five rehabilitated ex-Melbourne, Australia W2 trams. In 1990 service was extended along Main Street to a street terminal on 5th Avenue and Jackson, near the International District/Chinatown Station of the Transit Tunnel. Service ended abruptly in 2005 when the maintenance barn land was handed to the Seattle Art Museum to build the Olympic Sculpture Park. Later, most of the rest of the right of way was removed during the construction of the tunnel replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Vestiges of the Main Street extension can still be seen along Main from 1st Avenue to 5th Avenue. Three of the Melbourne cars were sold to St. Louis for its Delmar Loop Trolley, and two remain in storage in Washington state.

Photo locations: Kanikkeberg Carhouse, Alaskan Way/Broad, Alaskan Way/Vine, Alaskan Way/Wall, Alaskan Way/Bell, Alaskan Way/Virginia, Alaskan Way/Pine, Alaskan Way/Pike, Alaskan Way/Union, Alaskan Way/University, Alaskan Way/Seneca, Alaskan Way/Spring, Alaskan Way/Madison, Alaskan Way/Marion, Alaskan Way/Columbia, Alaskan Way/Yesler, Alaskan Way/Washington, Main/Alaskan Way, Main/1st, Main/Occidental, Main/2nd, Main/4th, Main/5th, Jackson/5th Terminal, (Misc/Unknown)

Five Random Images

Image 18803

(101k, 789x519)
Photo by: Steven J. Brown
Location: Main/5th

Image 25881

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Photo by: Peter Ehrlich
Location: Alaskan Way/Bell

Image 25882

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Photo by: Peter Ehrlich
Location: Alaskan Way/Broad

Image 50468

(253k, 1024x707)
Photo by: Herman R. Silbiger
Location: Alaskan Way/Pine

Image 91007

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Photo by: Brian J. Cudahy
Location: Alaskan Way/Columbia

More Images: 1-41

South Lake Union Streetcar

Even as the Waterfront Streetcar service was winding down, the area just north of downtown and Lake Union was experiencing much new construction and research institutions, primarily botech, and including the University of Washington's Cancer Research Center, were moving into these new developments. The City of Seattle, noting the overwhelming success of the Portland Streetcar in stimulating neighborhoods and promoting smart growth, proposed a new 1.3-mile line between Westlake Center, in Seattle's busy retail shopping district, and the south and east shores of Lake Union. To finance the new line, a local assessment district on area property owners provided half of the $50+ million budgeted cost of the line, with federal, state and local funds providing the rest.

Construction, using low-cost methods similar to what Portland Streetcar used, began on July 7, 2006 and was completed a year later. Three new Skoda Inekon Trio low-floor trams, nearly identical to Portland Streetcar's newest units, were ordered. A new carbarn was constructed on city land at Fairview and Harrison, two blocks east of the northbound trackage on Terry Street North. Service opened on December 12, 2007.

The streetcars operate from Westlake Center via Westlake Avenue as far as Thomas Street, where northbound cars jog one block to Terry, while southbound cars remain on Westlake. The tracks rejoin at Valley Street, on the south shore of Lake Union. At Fairview Avenue N, the line turns northward to a station at Fairview and Campus Drive. This is the tram's outer terminal, but the cars change ends a block further at Yale Ave. N. Trams from the carbarn access the line at Terry N and Harrison. Between Harrison and Valley, remnants of rails used by the railroads serving this one-time warehouse district are still embedded in the street.

Service operates on 12-15 minute intervals from 5:00 am to 10:30 pm (starting 6:00 am Saturdays). Sunday service is a relatively poor 18-25 minute interval. There are 11 stations located every 2 or 3 blocks apart. At Westlake Center, it's a short walk to the Monorail terminal and the LINK subway line station.

Photo locations: Westlake Hub - Pacific Place, Westlake/7th/Virginia, Westlake/9th/Blanchard, Westlake/Denny, Terry/Denny (Northbound), Terry/John (Northbound), Terry/Thomas (Northbound), Terry/Harrison (Northbound), Terry/Republican (Northbound), Terry/Mercer (Northbound), Terry/Valley, Lake Union Park, Valley/Fairview, Fairview/Aloha, Fairview/Campus Drive, Fairview/Yale, Valley/Westlake (Southbound), Westlake/Mercer (Southbound), Westlake/Republican (Southbound), Westlake/Harrison (Southbound), Westlake/Thomas (Southbound), Westlake/John (Southbound), Harrison/Boren (Car Barn Access), Harrison/Fairview Car Barn

Five Random Images

Image 93198

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Photo by: Peter Ehrlich
Location: Fairview/Campus Drive

Image 93214

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Photo by: Peter Ehrlich
Location: Westlake Hub - Pacific Place

Image 106190

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Photo by: Peter Ehrlich
Location: Fairview/Campus Drive

Image 106192

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Photo by: Peter Ehrlich
Location: Westlake Hub - Pacific Place

Image 160775

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Photo by: David Pirmann
Location: Westlake Hub - Pacific Place

More Images: 1-46

First Hill Streetcar

With the success of the South Lake Union Streetcar, the city made plans to bring streetcars to other parts of the city. The next to start operation is known as the "First Hill Streetcar", operating from downtown at 2nd and Jackson/Occidental Mall, east on Jackson to 15th Avenue, north on 15th to Yesler Way, west on Yesler Way to Broadway, north on Broadway to Capitol Hill, a total distance of 2.5 miles. The somewhat circuitous routing along 15th Avenue was chosen to ease the climbing grade that the streetcars would have to tackle to get to Broadway. The First Hill line used new trackage on Jackson between 1st and 5th Avenues, despite the existing Waterfront Streetcar (see above) trackage along Main Street one block to the north.

Transfer can be made to the Seattle LINK light rail line downtown at International District/Chinatown (Jackson & 5th), and at the north end at Capitol Hill. Service operates with a 10-12 minute interval six days a week (18-25 minute early mornings, late evenings, Sundays, and holidays).

The fleet consists of six brightly painted Inekon 121 Trio trams numbered 401 to 407. The trams are powered by traditional overhead wire plus an onboard battery, allowing the streetcars to run off-wire on the downhill portion of the route, the battery being charged through regenerative braking. (In 2023, car 407 was seen operating on the South Lake Union line.)

Extensions to the First Hill line are being considered at both ends: from Capitol Hill to Aloha via Broadway at the north end, and along 1st Avenue to connect to the South Lake Union Line. The 1st Avenue project, called the "Center City Connector" began preliminary construction in 2017 but was suspended in 2018.

Photo locations: Jackson/Occidental Mall, Jackson/5th Avenue, Jackson/7th Avenue, Jackson/12th Avenue, 14th Avenue/Washington Street, Yesler Way/Broadway, Broadway/Terrace Street, Broadway/Marion Street, Broadway/Pine Street, Broadway/Denny Way (Capitol Hill), First Hill Carhouse

Five Random Images

Image 160792

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Photo by: David Pirmann
Location: Jackson/5th Avenue

Image 160793

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Photo by: David Pirmann
Location: Jackson/5th Avenue

Image 160794

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Photo by: David Pirmann
Location: Jackson/Occidental Mall

Image 160800

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Photo by: David Pirmann
Location: Jackson/Occidental Mall

Image 160804

(500k, 820x1220)
Photo by: David Pirmann
Location: Yesler Way/Broadway

More Images: 1-18


Official Site - Seattle DOT South Lake Union Line. South Lake Union Line official information page.

Official Site - Seattle DOT First Hill Line. First Hill Line official information page.

Waterfront Streetcar - Wikipedia

South Lake Union Streetcar - Wikipedia

First Hill Streetcar - Wikipedia

Page Credits

By Peter Ehrlich and David Pirmann.

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