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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Want to Bring Back the Waterfront Trolley?

Posted by on Thu, Jan 31, 2013 at 2:40 PM

Seattle has hired a consultant to study the feasibility of bringing back the antique waterfront trolley streetcar line. The trolley could be part of the billion dollar development of the waterfront when a tunnel replaces the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

The trolley wasn't supposed to be killed. It was only supposed to be suspended when SAM demolished the old trolley barn in 2005 to build the Olympic Sculpture Park, and officials expected the trolley to come back on line in 2007. That never happened, of course, and now we're here.

Honesty, I don't really care either way about a novelty antique car that does nothing more than jaunt up and down the waterfront. But I think extending the First Hill streetcar line could be awesome. I think it's worth studying a transit connection—one that uses rail and overrides traffic lights—that begins on Capitol Hill, over First Hill, through Little Saigon, down into the International District, and then takes a right hook up the the waterfront. That sort of gigantic U could connect lots of the city's densest neighborhoods while making the waterfront car more than a cutesy showpiece for tourists.


Comments (30) RSS

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Will in Seattle 1
Hey, we could use the money we're wasting on the 99 Tunnel Of Tripled Tolls to pay for it!
Posted by Will in Seattle on January 31, 2013 at 2:45 PM · Report this
Sir Vic 2
That thing was always a sad joke. Not worth the cost of operations and the minor traffic disturbance it causes.
A gondola, or something not-at-grade, might be an option.
Posted by Sir Vic on January 31, 2013 at 2:46 PM · Report this
California Kid 3
He'll yes!

Or after it bounces up to Union Station, have it go back to the waterfront, then up railroad ave, head down first to at least Royal Brougham or down to the new arena or even Lander.
Posted by California Kid on January 31, 2013 at 2:50 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 4
@2 How about the Conlin Memorial Zip Line, then, @2?
Posted by Will in Seattle on January 31, 2013 at 2:52 PM · Report this
California Kid 5
@2, it made a profit. So yeah, was worth it

The only thing wrong with it was it need to have more cars, so instead of 30 minutes between cars, it could be down to 15 or even 10
Posted by California Kid on January 31, 2013 at 2:53 PM · Report this
Sargon Bighorn 6
Lookit people, America is spending billions a week on wars in Oil rich lands, we simply don't have the money for mass transit in America. Give it a rest. I like the idea Mr Holden.
Posted by Sargon Bighorn on January 31, 2013 at 3:07 PM · Report this
Posted by Stranger'sWorstNightmare on January 31, 2013 at 3:12 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 8
@5 and @7 tied for the Rainbow Trolley of Magical Wedding Fun win.
Posted by Will in Seattle on January 31, 2013 at 3:13 PM · Report this
@7: I'm thinking the only reason you haven't been banned yet is because you're just too amusing. May you merrily troll along on your gay troll trolley forever!
Posted by Sam O. on January 31, 2013 at 3:17 PM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 10
Ring ring ring goes the trolly!!

We can bring it back ONLY if it's done as musical theater.
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on January 31, 2013 at 3:19 PM · Report this
The real tragedy of not having the streetcar at this moment in time is that the tunnel projects would supposedly have been required to replace it had it existed when that plan was approved. Now it's probably too late to get something useful
Posted by NMSpaz on January 31, 2013 at 3:22 PM · Report this
Matt the Engineer 12
"making the waterfront car more than a cutesy showpiece for tourists"

I'm ok with appealing to tourists. Most cities would die for our quantity of tourists, but we mostly ignore them. Before I moved to Seattle I knew about: The Monorail (though assumed it was a full system), The Space Needle, and The Waterfront Trolley. I hadn't even heard of Pike Place Market.

I'm also fine with using a modern streetcar and bringing the First Hill line to the water. But sometimes the transit world just looks at hard facts and numbers (hey, a bus would be cheaper!) and ignores softer benefits like our city through the eyes of tourists.
Posted by Matt the Engineer on January 31, 2013 at 3:33 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 13
You know, we could even make one of the trolley cars be an MJ espresso bar for adults only, offering only fine WA products.

No alcohol, cause that would be bad. Except for specific licensed events, like weddings.
Posted by Will in Seattle on January 31, 2013 at 3:36 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 14
@11 not if we cancel them.
Posted by Will in Seattle on January 31, 2013 at 3:37 PM · Report this
Having lived in Melbourne for a few years, where that trolley originally came from, I want to endorse Dominic's suggestion. Melbourne has a fantastic streetcar system that's accessible, functional and useful, covering the entire metro area. When I moved here, riding that waterfront car was a nice bit of nostalgia but also kind of sad, because it's none of those things -- just a novelty. Put in a proper streetcar line, and then put in a dozen more after that.
Posted by go the roos! on January 31, 2013 at 3:43 PM · Report this
Fnarf 16
It wasn't even OUR novelty antique car. It was an old Melbourne tram. If you want to see those in action, just rent the lovely Australian movie "Malcolm", with Colin Friels. It looked dumb here in Seattle. But yeah, extend the real one, that's fine.
Posted by Fnarf on January 31, 2013 at 4:06 PM · Report this
Connecting it to the First Hill line? Excellent. First Hill Line and Ferries? Even better.
Posted by Subdued Excitement on January 31, 2013 at 4:16 PM · Report this
treacle 18
Hey, I know! Let's build a whole bunch of unconnected, un-coordinated separate little trolley lines, each with their own infrastructure (eg. trolley barns), and their own purposes, and run by separate groups! They can each charge a different amount to ride them too, just to make things more confusing! No centralized website or information so riders can use them effectively, and definitely don't make them part of the Metro transit authority! Heck no! We can have hyperlocal light rail, and be lauded as some sort of visionary transit "innovators." Hey look! A monorail that goes all of 10 blocks! Fake BRT! A half-dozen trolleys! A pequeño light-rail system! Three different bus companies! SO CUTE!
Posted by treacle on January 31, 2013 at 4:29 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 19
Hey, if it goes to First Hill, and extends all the way to Broadway, it really would be a Gay Wedding capable tram!


Now for the Bubbleator ... where do we put that?
Posted by Will in Seattle on January 31, 2013 at 4:38 PM · Report this
fletc3her 20
Did you ever try to ride the waterfront trolley? It looked good going by, but damn it was slow.

I wouldn't mind seeing an actual streetcar in the same route, but I doubt even that is the best use of our transit dollars.
Posted by fletc3her on January 31, 2013 at 5:21 PM · Report this
Uhm, speaking as a [dreaded?] tourist to Seattle, can I ask that your city provide some way to cross the tracks to get from the sculpture garden to the waterfront park? Please? 'Cause I felt like Alice trying to get to the top of the hill when I wanted to go from one park to the other: Just couldn't get there without walking miles out of my way.
Posted by Jared Bascomb on January 31, 2013 at 5:22 PM · Report this
seatackled 22
It was lame. If there had been two sets of tracks and cars had left every ten minutes or fifteen minutes, it'd have been fine, but I think departures were 20 minutes apart, and then along the way the car would have to wait at one of those passing areas for the trolly traveling the other direction to come.
Posted by seatackled on January 31, 2013 at 5:44 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 23
@20 actually, I used to use it about once a week. But, yeah, it was slow and infrequent.
Posted by Will in Seattle on January 31, 2013 at 5:45 PM · Report this
biffp 24
God dammit Seattle, make up your mind on thing and stick with it.
Posted by biffp on January 31, 2013 at 6:16 PM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 25
@24 so you're saying we SHOULDN'T tell you about the airport escalator sidewalks we are putting in around Wallingford and Fremont to help with the east-west commute?
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on January 31, 2013 at 6:54 PM · Report this
stinkbug 26
@21: Huh?

By Waterfront Park you mean the one at pier 57-59?
By "sculpture garden" do you mean the Olympic Sculpture Park?

That's a fairly straight shot of less than mile.

I suppose you are referring to entirely different places though.
Posted by stinkbug on January 31, 2013 at 7:02 PM · Report this
Frank Blethen's vodka distiller 27
How about connecting it to Interbay...maybe even Ballard?
Posted by Frank Blethen's vodka distiller on January 31, 2013 at 9:31 PM · Report this
No reason not to bring the cars back - you could easily run them in conjunction with modern cars, just need high and low platforms on the same stop. Done in plenty of places.

You'll first have to convince the City that actually having transportation that isn't cars on the waterfront is an important goal. Then figure out which right-of-way in the Corner proposal you're willing to shrink in order to have dedicated trolley track, or accept street-running a la the SLUT and FHSC.

George Benson was a great Councilmember. Those cars are part of Seattle's history, even though they didn't begin life here. And as Matt the Engineer points out, plenty of tourists rode and loved them, including plenty of non-Seattle Washington tourists whose dollars helped keep hotels, bars and restaurants busy.

So yeah, bring it back. You wanna run modern streetcars down there too, go for it.
Posted by BensonLine on February 1, 2013 at 2:42 PM · Report this
Yes, please bring the trolley back, and I LOVE the idea of connecting it to the First Hill streetcar! I work near the waterfront miss riding the trolley. It's ridiculous that the trolley has been inactive for as long as the sculpture park has been at its base. Also, the jillions of tourists coming off the cruise ships really need an option besides taxis for getting to the Market and P-Square.
Posted by mitten on February 1, 2013 at 5:02 PM · Report this
stinkbug 30
@29: During cruise ship season you'll find many pedicabs between Pier 66 and Pioneer Square.
Posted by stinkbug on February 1, 2013 at 5:23 PM · Report this

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