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A Streetcar Hangs in the Balance in Seattle

A new streetcar extension would complete Seattle's streetcar network in a particularly busy corner of the city's downtown. The mayor doesn’t seem enthused with the idea, even if riders are already enthused with streetcars.
July 23, 2018, 1pm PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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South Lake Union Trolley

Jon Talton writes a column to lament the failure of the Center City Connector, a 15-block streetcar extension that would complete a streetcar network in several neighborhoods around Downtown Seattle.

"For a city with so much luck, Seattle has done repeated face plants in attempting to build necessary rail transit," writes Talton. "Never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Shoot ourselves in the foot and reload."

This take on Seattle's lack of transit investment might come as a surprise to outsiders, who regularly read of transit success in the city, from increasing bus ridership to increased ridership on waterborne transit to declining solo car commuters. But, Talton cites a significant historical episode to make his case for Seattle as a public transit cautionary tale: "The most notorious mistake was the 1970 failure to pass bonds to build a regional subway system, which would have been 75 percent funded by the federal government."

With the Center City Connector, Talton notes that Mayor Jenny Durkan shelved the project in March (as reported at the time by David Gutman) to study project expenses. According to Talton, the lack of a complete streetcar system would be shame. Unlike other streetcars around the country, Seattle's current system is transporting increasing numbers of users.

"The Center City Connector, which would mostly run along First Avenue from Pioneer Square to meet the South Lake Union line, would be an especially sweet spot for passengers. Among the destinations: Pike Place Market, the Seattle Art Museum, and, nearby, the waterfront and the ferry and cruise terminals," according to Talton.

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Published on Tuesday, July 17, 2018 in The Seattle Times
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