February 01 2013

New Streetcar Lines in Seattle, Washington

Most people associate cable cars with San Francisco. However, it was only 125 years ago that cable cars were a popular form of transit in Seattle. In 1884, a horse-drawn trolley between Occidental Avenue and Pike Street in downtown Seattle marked the beginning of public transit in the city. Because of the similarities to San Francisco’s topography, it made sense to convert Seattle’s transportation system to cable cars as well.

Construction for Seattle's First Hill Streetcar at Yesler Way and 14th Avenue

From 1902 to 1912, the cable car system was at its peak, and the routes were extended to most of Seattle’s popular locations. The cable car system began to decline in 1922, when a State Supreme Court ruling caused the eventual bankruptcy of the system. Subsequently, by 1940, all of the cable car routes were converted to bus routes.

Today, streetcars are making a comeback in Seattle. In 2007, the city completed its first contemporary streetcar project: the South Lake Union Streetcar. Now, the city is building another line, called the First Hill Streetcar. The new streetcar lines will provide connections to the Sound Transit Link light rail, an important step towards creating a comprehensive, regional transit network for the city.

Map of Seattle's streetcar linesSeattle’s new First Hill Streetcar, which will be operational in early 2014, reflects historic cable car routes. The historic Lake Washington and Yesler Way Cable Car lines connected Downtown’s Pioneer Square to the Central District to Leschi Park, which physically linked people from Elliot Bay to Lake Washington. Similarly, the new streetcar will connect the neighborhoods of Capitol Hill, First Hill, Central District/Yesler Terrace, and Pioneer Square.

Historically, urban morphology patterns are linked to streetcar or cable car lines. With stops at short intervals, the streetcar created walkable, continuous corridors. Early residential and commercial establishments were within a 5 – 10 minute walk from a stop. Urban designers today hope that the revival of the streetcar will spur similar development patterns. For more information regarding Seattle’s new streetcar lines, click here.

How do you think Seattle’s new streetcar lines will affect future development and growth in the city?

Credits: Images by Amanda Bosse. Data linked to sources.

Amanda Bosse

Amanda Bosse is a former writer for the GRID. At the time she was writing, she was in the Master of Architecture program at the University of Washington. Growing up in the Midwest, she became interested in the dialogue between the individual structures and the urban fabric (including those structures not typically designed by architects). With a background in both architecture and urban design, Amanda was primarily interested in applying architectural thinking to solve larger scale design problems.

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This entry was posted on Friday, February 1st, 2013 at 9:02 am and is filed under Transportation, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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4 Responses to “New Streetcar Lines in Seattle, Washington”

  1. 街車重回西雅圖 | This Big City 城事 Says:

    [...] 作者:Amanda Bosse(《城事》夥伴網站Global Site Plans – The Grid成員) [...]

  2. Streetcars Make a Return to Seattle | This Big City Says:

    [...] Amanda Bosse at Global Site Plans – The Grid, a This Big City partner [...]

  3. Visszatérnek a villamosok Seattle-be | This Big City magyarul Says:

    [...] Írta Amanda Bosse, megjelent a This Big City partneroldalán, a Global Site Plans – The Grid-en. [...]

  4. Streetcars Make a Return to Seattle | noticiasmovilidad Says:

    [...] By Amanda Bosse at Global Site Plans – The Grid, a This Big City partner site. [...]

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