The Seattle Streetcar is a system of two modern streetcar lines operating in the city of Seattle, Washington. The South Lake Union line opened first in 2007 and was followed by the First Hill line in 2016. The two lines are unconnected, but share similar characteristics: frequent service, station amenities, and vehicles. Streetcars typically arrive every 10–15 minutes most of the day, except late at night. The streetcar lines are owned by the Seattle Department of Transportation and operated by King County Metro. The system carried 1,326,500 passengers in 2023.

Seattle Streetcar
Streetcar at Lake Union Park
Streetcar at Lake Union Park
OwnerSeattle Department of Transportation
LocaleSeattle, Washington
Transit typeStreetcar
Number of lines2[1]
Number of stations17 stops[1]
Daily ridership4,200 (weekdays, Q1 2024)[2]
Annual ridership1,326,500 (2023)[3]
WebsiteSeattle Streetcar
Began operationDecember 12, 2007 (2007-12-12)
Operator(s)King County Metro
CharacterStreet running
Number of vehicles
System length3.8 miles (6.1 km)[4][5]
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
ElectrificationOverhead line, 750 V DC
Seattle Streetcar
Fairview & Campus Drive
Lake Union Park
Westlake & Mercer
Terry & Mercer
Maintenance facility
Broadway Streetcar
Westlake & Thomas
Terry & Thomas
Broadway & Denny
Link light rail
Broadway & Pine
Westlake & Denny
Broadway & Pike
Westlake & 9th
Broadway & Marion
Westlake & 7th
Broadway & Terrace
Link light rail Seattle Center Monorail
Westlake Hub /
McGraw Square
Yesler & Broadway
3rd & Stewart
14th & Washington
1st & Pike
12th & Jackson
1st & Madison
to maintenance facility
Pioneer Square
7th & Jackson
Occidental Mall
5th & Jackson
Link light rail Sounder commuter rail Amtrak

Current lines


South Lake Union Streetcar


The South Lake Union Streetcar is a 1.3-mile-long (2.1 km), seven-stop line[4] serving the South Lake Union neighborhood of Seattle. Its route goes from the Westlake transit hub to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in South Lake Union. The South Lake Union Streetcar connects with Link light rail (at the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel Westlake Station), the Seattle Center Monorail (at the 3rd floor of Westlake Center) and the RapidRide C Line (at several stops). The line opened to the public in 2007.

First Hill Streetcar


The First Hill Streetcar is a 2.5-mile-long (4.0 km), 10-stop line[5] that connects Pioneer Square and Capitol Hill via Chinatown, Little Saigon, Yesler Terrace, and First Hill. The First Hill Streetcar connects with Amtrak and Sounder Trains (at King Street Station) and Link Light Rail (at both the International District/Chinatown and Capitol Hill stations). The line opened to the public in January 2016.[6]

Future expansion


Culture Connector


The Culture Connector project, formerly known as the Center City Connector, would connect the existing South Lake Union Streetcar at Westlake to the First Hill Streetcar with new tracks along 1st Avenue and Stewart Street in Downtown Seattle.[7][8] It is planned to serve popular downtown destinations like Pike Place Market, the Seattle Art Museum, Colman Dock and Pioneer Square.[9] The two existing lines would overlap within downtown, increasing frequencies, and the streetcars would operate in an exclusive transit lane. The project is expected to greatly increase ridership on the Seattle Streetcar Network to 20,000–24,000 riders per day (compared to about 5,000 today).[10]

The project was scheduled to begin construction at the beginning 2018 (with utility relocation work starting in mid-2017) and be completed in 2020.[11] In June 2017, the city accepted a $50 million federal grant for the project.[12] In October 2017, members of the Seattle City Council debated cancelling the project and re-appropriating the funds for bus service,[13][14] but no budget amendments were made.[15]

In March 2018, Mayor Jenny Durkan ordered an investigation of the project and a construction halt for the duration of the review—estimated to take up to three months—in the wake of rising capital costs that were estimated to leave a $23 million shortfall in an overall $200 million budget for building the line.[16] Mayor Durkan announced in January 2019 that the project would be revived if funding is found to cover the entire $286 million cost; due to new engineering and design work that would be required, its opening was pushed back to 2026 at the earliest.[17] As of 2023, the project remains on hold and unfunded.[18]

Broadway Extension


The currently halted Broadway Streetcar project would have extended the First Hill Streetcar a half-mile farther north on Capitol Hill into the commercial core of Broadway with two stops near Harrison Street and Roy Street at a cost of $28 million. The project would have also included an extension of the protected bike lanes to Roy Street and improvements to the surrounding streetscape.[19] In December 2016, the project was placed on an indefinite hold after the city had completed design work to the 90% stage at a cost of $3 million. The planned extension was halted due to a lack of support from businesses for the design (particularly a shortage of loading zones for delivery trucks) and the financial plan, which would involve taxing properties located along the alignment.[20][21]

Other proposals


The city government approved the study of a larger, citywide streetcar network in December 2008, estimated to cost up to $600 million.[22] Among the lines studied were a central connector between Seattle Center and the Central District; an extension of the South Lake Union line to the University District; a line traveling to Fremont and Ballard; and an extension of the First Hill line via Rainier Avenue.[23]


Ridership Statistics
Year annual weekday
SLU line FH line total
2007 78,325[24] 78,325[24] -
2008 414,200 414,200 1,300
2009 451,300 451,300 1,400
2010 520,800 520,800 1,800
2011 714,700 714,700 2,500
2012 750,300 750,300 2,500
2013 760,900 760,900 2,600
2014 707,700 707,700 2,200
2015 622,000 622,000 1,800
2016 518,249 840,049 1,358,298 -
2017 535,288 882,219 1,417,500 4,800
2018 513,523 1,159,904 1,685,700 5,500
2019 503,374 1,360,035 1,863,400 6,000
2020 89,414 660,029 743,600 1,700
2021 107,145 698,975 806,000 3,100
2022 n.a. n.a. 1,093,500 3,600
2023 n.a. n.a. 1,326,500 4,200
  • APTA Ridership Reports[25] - years 2008-2015 and 2017-2023 (annual total and weekday average)
  • SDOT 2021 Annual Streetcar Operations Report[26] - year 2016 and 2017-2021 (annual SLU and FH line)

Rolling stock

An Inekon 121-Trio streetcar operating on battery power on the First Hill Streetcar line in 2016

The Seattle Streetcar system uses a fleet of streetcars manufactured by Inekon Trams in the Czech Republic. The original South Lake Union fleet, consisting of three double-ended low-floor Inekon Trio-12 streetcars measuring 66 feet (20 m) in length were delivered in 2007[27] and are numbered 301–303.[28] A decade later, six Trio Model 121 streetcars were manufactured for the First Hill line, along with an additional streetcar for additional service in South Lake Union; these are numbered 401–407.[28] Three of the model-121 streetcars were assembled in the Czech Republic and four were assembled, under contract, by Pacifica Marine in Seattle. The Trio Model 121 streetcars are equipped with electric batteries, which are used for a portion of the First Hill route. The delivery of the cars fell behind schedule, leading to delays in opening the First Hill Streetcar.[29]

Before the Center City Connector was put on hold, in 2018, it was planned that the original South Lake Union fleet would be replaced with battery-equipped streetcars when the new connection opened. To this end, in October 2017, the Seattle Department of Transportation awarded a contract to Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (CAF) to supply 10 100-percent-low-floor streetcars of CAF Urbos series for the Seattle Streetcar system. All were to be equipped with an on-board energy storage system enabling them to operate away from the overhead wires.[30][31] Seven of the 10 were for the fleet expansion needed for the opening of the Center City Connector, then projected for 2020, and three for replacement of the oldest South Lake Union cars (Nos. 301–303, Inekon model Trio-12), which were to be sold after their replacements entered service.[31] Cars 301–303 lack the capability of "off-wire" operation, which means they can only be operated on the South Lake Union line.[31] However, SDOT canceled the contract with CAF in 2019 in view of the ongoing pause in the project amid escalating cost projections.[32][33]

See also



  1. ^ a b Seattle Streetcar Map (PDF) (Map). Seattle Department of Transportation. December 2015. Retrieved February 27, 2016.
  2. ^ "Transit Ridership Report First Quarter 2024" (PDF). American Public Transportation Association. May 23, 2024. Retrieved May 31, 2024.
  3. ^ "Transit Ridership Report Fourth Quarter 2023" (PDF). American Public Transportation Association. March 4, 2024. Retrieved March 14, 2024.
  4. ^ a b "South Lake Union Streetcar". Seattle Streetcar. Retrieved February 27, 2016.
  5. ^ a b "First Hill StreetCar Construction - Frequently Asked Questions". Seattle Streetcar. Retrieved February 27, 2016.
  6. ^ "First Hill streetcar opens". KING-TV. January 23, 2016. Retrieved January 25, 2016.
  7. ^ Kroman, David (May 30, 2023). "Hopes for a downtown Seattle streetcar find new life in Mayor Harrell". The Seattle Times. Retrieved August 30, 2023.
  8. ^ "Center City Connector". Seattle Streetcar. Retrieved February 27, 2016.
  9. ^ "Seattle Streetcar/Culture Connector - Transportation |". Retrieved May 20, 2024.
  10. ^ Lee, Jessica (March 27, 2017). "What's with Seattle's 'constant' drawbridge openings?". The Seattle Times. Retrieved March 27, 2017.
  11. ^ "Center City Connector Schematic Design Update" (PDF). Seattle Department of Transportation. March 16, 2017. p. 7. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 27, 2017. Retrieved November 19, 2017.
  12. ^ Lindblom, Mike (June 30, 2017). "Seattle accepts $50M grant for First Avenue streetcar, while ridership lags on existing routes". The Seattle Times. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
  13. ^ Robertson, Kipp (October 18, 2017). "Seattle's streetcar connection questioned days before groundbreaking". KIRO-TV. Retrieved October 31, 2017.
  14. ^ Ryan, Dan (October 17, 2017). "Seattle Budget Threatens the Center City Connector". Seattle Transit Blog. Retrieved October 31, 2017.
  15. ^ Ryan, Dan (October 31, 2017). "Seattle Council Proposes Budget Without Further Threats to CCC Streetcar". Seattle Transit Blog. Retrieved October 31, 2017.
  16. ^ Wanek-Libman, Mischa (April 4, 2018). "Seattle: One transit project progresses, while another is halted". Railway Age. Retrieved April 5, 2018.
  17. ^ Gutman, David (January 17, 2019). "Mayor Durkan wants to build First Avenue streetcar, but even more money is needed". The Seattle Times. Retrieved January 17, 2019.
  18. ^ Kroman, David (August 4, 2023). "Plans for long-delayed Seattle streetcar line hit City Hall snag". The Seattle Times. Retrieved August 30, 2023.
  19. ^ Hamlin, Kelsey (October 26, 2017). "Moving on from streetcar extension plan, city also ditches Broadway bike and street improvements". Capitol Hill Seattle blog. Retrieved October 26, 2017.
  20. ^ "Broadway Streetcar Information - Project Overview". Seattle Streetcar. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  21. ^ Osowski, Kaylee (December 13, 2016). "Seattle City Hall presses pause on Broadway streetcar extension". Capitol Hill Seattle. Retrieved March 3, 2017.
  22. ^ Mulady, Kathy (December 8, 2008). "Council OKs streetcar network". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. p. B1. Retrieved January 13, 2019.
  23. ^ Seattle Streetcar Network Development Report (PDF) (Report). Seattle Department of Transportation. May 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 24, 2013. Retrieved January 13, 2019.
  24. ^ a b Curl, Aimee (January 22, 2008). "Won't You Ride the S.L.U.T?". Seattle Weekly. Archived from the original on January 9, 2019. Retrieved January 7, 2024.
  25. ^ "Ridership Report Archives". American Public Transportation Association. Retrieved May 12, 2024.
  26. ^ "Reports and studies". Seattle Department of Transportation. Retrieved January 7, 2024.
  27. ^ "Street Vehicle FAQs: Inekon Trio-12 Streetcar" (PDF). Seattle Streetcar. Retrieved September 12, 2017.
  28. ^ a b "Seattle accelerates its light rail plans". Tramways & Urban Transit. August 22, 2016. Retrieved January 12, 2019.
  29. ^ Stiles, Marc (January 28, 2015). "SDOT director heads to Prague to check on streetcar delays". Puget Sound Business Journal. Retrieved September 12, 2017.
  30. ^ "CAF wins Seattle streetcar contract". Metro Report International. UK. October 2, 2017. Archived from the original on April 15, 2019. Retrieved January 7, 2018.
  31. ^ a b c "CAF trams to join Inekon cars in Seattle". Tramways & Urban Transit. UK: LRTA Publishing. December 2017. p. 446. ISSN 1460-8324.
  32. ^ "Seattle DOT cancels streetcar contract with CAF USA". Progressive Railroading. September 12, 2019. ISSN 0033-0817. Archived from the original on September 13, 2019. Retrieved January 6, 2024.
  33. ^ Groover, Heidi (September 9, 2019). "Seattle to cancel $52M deal to buy streetcars but says First Avenue project still on track". The Seattle Times. Archived from the original on September 28, 2019. Retrieved January 6, 2024.
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