Even in light traffic, the streetcar is incredibly slow. And because nothing will ever make it fast, we have to live with and make some use of this slowness in the middle of our fast-growing city. The German critic Walter Benjamin wrote in his masterpiece of notes and quotes Arcades Project (the great-grandfather of Rem Koolhaas S, M, L, XL, which itself is the father of blogging) that near the middle of the 19th century it became fashionable for flâneurs (the lovers of all things urban) to walk turtles in arcades (the ancestors of the mall) and plazas.
"The flâneurs liked to have the turtles set the pace for them," noted Benjamin. We must exhume the essence of this dead practice and revive it on the First Hill Streetcar. When entering one of the cars on the line (between Pioneer Square and Capitol Hill), you must surrender your control of time and let it set the pace for you. And as you move as it moves, the essence of another forgotten flâneur practice can be revived: that of stopping on the middle of an urban bridge to absorb not so much the sight but the ambiance of a city. The slowness of the streetcar is as good as stopping on a bridge. You can look out the window and reflect on the towers of market power rising from downtown or the buildings that displaced Seattle's most heroic effort at public housing. If you want time, there is plenty of it on these streetcars.