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U.S. Streetcar Systems- Washington Seattle Lake Union


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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day, December 13, 2007. Seattle mayor Greg Nickels addresses the
crowd. Inekon photos
  A trip over the line….  
Seattle Sep09 SLUS Westlake terminus sm.jpg (155017 bytes) Seattle Sep09 SLUS view from monorail sm.jpg (150002 bytes) Seattle Sep09 SLUS Westlake Virginia b sm.jpg (137391 bytes) Seattle Sep09 SLUS Westlake 7th NB sm.jpg (148541 bytes)

for a northbound departure from the Westlake terminus

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

off Thomas onto northbound Terry St. 

on Terry near Mercer. is building its new headquarters

off Terry onto Valley, approaching the Lake Union Park stop. Note
all the construction cranes
Seattle Sep09 SLUS Lake Union Park station sm.jpg (150750 bytes) Seattle Sep09 SLUS Lake Union terminus sm.jpg (154494 bytes) Seattle Sep09 SLUS Lake Union terminus b sm.jpg (121742 bytes) Seattle Sep09 SLUS streetcar side view sm.jpg (132970 bytes)

Lake Union Park stop

north terminus at Fairview and Campus Dr.

terminus is a simple affair.

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

on Mercer near Republican 

parking is preserved, with a white line clearly delineating the
streetcar’s travel path

Seattle Sep09 SLUS Tow Away sign sm.jpg (125086 bytes) Seattle Sep09 SLUS ticket machine sm.jpg (166165 bytes) Seattle Sep09 SLUS Westlake Thomas stop sm.jpg (155477 bytes) Seattle Sep09 SLUS Westlake 8th SB sm.jpg (149022 bytes)
of the streetcar Tow Away Zone sign

streetcar ticket machines are converted from standard parking pay

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

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

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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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.

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

Borchers photo

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.