Blogs Aug 23, 2010 at 2:16 pm


I certainly would be happy to have the old West Seattle streetcar network back in service.
I'm pro-rail, but the #49 is one of Seattle's finest routes and more than adequately serves this stretch of road (on electricity no less).
It's pretty mind-boggling that Seattle didn't retain and expand its streetcars. Check out this map of our transit service from 1933. Ah, progress.
And at this rate Seattle will have the same level of mass transit that comparable cities in Europe had in 1975!!! Yes, America really is NUMBER 1!!

*shakes head in embarrassment*
they sold the cars to mexico and buried the tracks. same story all across america post-war.
We ripped up tons of trolley tracks to put in light rail. The light rail wouldn't have run on the trolley tracks, though.
Except, Max, the destruction of Seattle's streetcar network occurred before WWII. The last line closed in April 1941. The reason was that the system was so deteriorated that it needed total rebuilding, but with War already begun in Europe, there were just no resources for that. Best they could do was keep the electrical substations in place and use them to power new trolleybuses (after the overhead system was rebuilt with two wires instead of one).

No tears from me over the loss of the 10th Ave. streetcar. I'm sure our forefathers (and foremothers) made plenty of mistakes in their day, but this wasn't one of them. They did what they had to do, with what they had available.
Damn the railroads and their ever changing gauges!
Sorry, but I'd rather drive my car.

Subways, on the other hand, are real nice.
... and expensive death traps
Agree. I rode by that site on the bus (49) Friday. There are trolley tracks all over the city that are covered over. Some tracks even peak through. Look at any uber-wide street and I'm pretty certain tracks are underneath the pavement. Boy, I would love that service back.
Why would a trolley on rails here be better than the bus that plies that route today? It's not like it was a real subway or anything.
Actually the street cars from that era were pretty primative. They were slow and could not pull out of traffic so they created backups. The electric trolly busses were a big step forward because they were clean, quiet, faster and would pull out of traffic at bus stops. The deisel buses they were replaced with were a huge step backwards. They spewwed particulates, were noisy, and had less low end torque for pulling out of bus stops. The electric buses also, like hybrids, would generate electricity while engine braking that would power other buses going up hill. The only advantages deisels had was the ability to detour and drive to on freeways. When Seattle tore down its bus trolly lines we really lost something. We have been putting them back in slowly for the last 30 years
i'm learnin shit today, like seattle trolley history, and that ww2 hadn't started in april of 1941. thx, @7 & 13.

According the urban geography class I took in college, Seattle reached peak transportation efficiency -- defined as the amount of time it takes to travel through the urban core -- around 1910, when street cars and cable cars ruled.

I often bemoan the state of public transit in Seattle, but reading this article about car-mad Moscow made me realize that it could be much, much worse.
I understood that the demise of the Seattle trolley system was sponsored by the tire industry... so I looked it up, and lo, indeed it was. The citizens voted to keep the trolleys.


Seattle-Everett interurban service ends. Seattle residents vote to retain local streetcars, but automakers block needed financing.

Cable-car lines on Yesler, James and Madison streets are abandoned, despite citizen protests.

The federal Reconstruction Finance Corp. lends Seattle $10 million to retire streetcar debt, and to fund buses and trackless, rubber-tired electric trolleys.
@16 - just goes to show you, the Powers That Be hate Seattle and our desire for transit.
@9 Agreed.
Just so most people know, Street cars and railways were bought up by the automobile industry in that time to push people off of those street cars and into "cars" themselves.

Look it up. Tacoma, where i lived, was littered with street cars. Used to be one that went out front of my house, now its this super wide road!

Just to be specific, the U.S. did not officially get involved with WW2 until December, 1941 (you know why). The conflict, however, had already started: Japan invaded China in 1937 (and had been mucking all about East Asia all throughout the 1930s) and Germany and Russia had invaded Poland in 1939. Russia had already concluded its little Finland Fiasco before this, as well.
Mistakes were made?
They dun goofed, I guess.
One day they will uncover the Seattle Center monorail and say "man, if only we would have kept the transit infrastructure they had back then!"
Ah the magical ability of sticking steel rails in pavement to cause transit cars to speed through other traffic and pedestrians and streetlights! It's amazing, and only works -- in your mind. Let's build more of these boondoggles so we can have less real bus service less frequently!
Probably the biggest loss is not the tracks themselves, but the street right-of way available for transit vehicles. In the streetcar days, a typical roadway cross section was street railway in the center, with traffic lanes next to the curb. After the tracks were taken out of service, the center became the traffic lanes, and the curb lanes became parking. Now we have buses operating in mixed traffic, serving bus stops in pullouts where they get trapped by traffic in the center. Reclaiming this right-of-way for transit use, as it was originally intended, is like pulling teeth becuase the parking has become so established.
re # 16. How about more info than a snippet from the newspaper? In 1935 the U.S. Congress passed the Public Utilities Holding Act which required the electric companies to sell off their trolley businesses. That set the stage for the end of the streetcars.
12, 13, & 23:

In the era when streetcar coverage was widespread and usage pervasive, the things ran near-constantly. 30-60 per hour on routes that now run 2-4 buses. Which more than compensated for the "primitiveness" of the vehicles themselves. (See nearly any mid-sized Eastern European city for a modern analogue.)

And 13:

So nice that the trolleybuses can "pull out of traffic at bus stops." How're they doin' pulling back in these days?

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