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U.S. Streetcar Systems- Washington 

Cities: Issaquah




Lake Union



Tacoma Yakima



South Lake Union Streetcar Line
Began operation: 2007
Route Miles: 2.6 (1.3 mile route)
Stops: 9
Org: transit agency
Schedule: daily
- Mike Bjork photo -

Seattle's initial modern streetcar line opened in December 2007. Running 1.3 miles north from the city's downtown area, the line connects the downtown retail area around Westlake Center to the vibrant South Lake Union neighborhood and its biotech campus. Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen's Vulcan company is a major player in South Lake Union redevelopment. The city has designated South Lake Union as an urban center, meaning that is should absorb higher concentrations of jobs and housing than some other neighborhoods. According to city studies, South Lake Union could have 10,000 more residents and thousands more jobs in 20 years. 

The streetcar project cost $52 Million, including the line's three vehicles and its maintenance facility. Half of the project's capital cost was covered by a Local Improvement District tax, the balance coming from federal and state grants, plus income from the sale of surplus city property.  

Operated by King County Metro as part of the city's transit system, the line connects with Seattle's famous monorail at its southern terminus. Service is provided with Inekon streetcars similar to those used in Portland and Tacoma. Development has indeed moved at an impressive pace along the alignment, and a network of other streetcar lines is presently being developed. The Seattle City Council has approved a concept network consisting of five corridors with nine potential routes, and in 2010 approved the route of the First Hill streetcar line, which is now under construction.

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Seattle Streetcar Map - click to enlarge

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Opening day, December 13, 2007. Seattle mayor Greg Nickels addresses the crowd. Inekon photos
  A trip over the line....  
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 Preparing for a northbound departure from the Westlake terminus

 The view north from the monorail station  Crossing Virginia St. Stopping at 7th Street, northbound 
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 Meeting the other streetcar at Denny St.

Turning off Thomas onto northbound Terry St. 

Northbound on Terry near Mercer. is building its new headquarters nearby 

 Turning off Terry onto Valley, approaching the Lake Union Park stop. Note all the construction cranes
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 The Lake Union Park stop

 The north terminus at Fairview and Campus Dr.

 The terminus is a simple affair.

 Preparing to depart the terminus on a southbound trip back to Downtown
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Southbound on Westlake at the Mercer stop  Southbound on Mercer near Republican

Southbound on Mercer near Republican 

 On-street parking is preserved, with a white line clearly delineating the streetcar's travel path

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 Closeup of the streetcar Tow Away Zone sign

 The streetcar ticket machines are converted from standard parking pay stations.

The streetcar stops and sidewalk blend together nicely   Southbound on Westlake approaching Downtown
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 Back at the Downtown terminus

 Downstairs is the Seattle Transit Tunnel, now carrying buses and the new LRT. Interestingly, trolley buses no longer use the tunnel

The north hub of the light rail is at Tukwilla, soon to be extended to the airport. 

The Metro Employees Historic Vehicle Association operates tours using historic trolley coaches 

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The maintenance facility is two blocks off the line on Harrison St. The new campus is under construction at left. Note the Space Needle in the background.

The maintenance facility has room for two vehicles inside and several others within a fenced yard. 

Tim Borchers photo

The facility is built on two levels to accommodate the large concentration of rooftop equipment found on low-floor streetcars.

A view from the top level. This level also accommodates admin offices and the employee break room.


John Smatlak photos September 2009, except as noted 

News and Updates

5/5/10- On May 3, the Seattle City Council approved the route for the First Hill Streetcar, marking the first major milestone for the project. The route will operate primarily on Broadway and Jackson streets between Capitol Hill, First Hill, the Chinatown / International District and Pioneer Square.  


Seattle Streetcar official website


Inekon Streetcar- Seattle page website


This page was last updated on 8/29/12



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