Boosters Hope Streetcar Could Breathe New Life into Downtown Seattle

Supporters of a stalled streetcar project say reviving the line would create more transit connections and boost economic development in the area.

2 minute read

December 21, 2022, 12:00 PM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Gold Seattle Streetcar on street against stormy gray sky

Seattle streetcar in Capitol Hill | Stefano Politi Markovina / Seattle Streetcar

A shelved streetcar project in downtown Seattle could be revived under a plan by the Downtown Seattle Association (DSA), with support from the new director of the city’s department of transportation (SDOT).

According to Doug Trumm, writing for The Urbanist, “The Center City streetcar would run along First Avenue and Stewart Avenue and close a 1.3-mile-long gap between Seattle’s existing but unconnected lines: the South Lake Union Streetcar and the First Hill Streetcar.” The added segment would bring the Seattle streetcar system to five miles and serve up to 20,000 daily riders, according to projections.

Boosters like the DSA hope the streetcar will stimulate more economic development in the downtown core and encourage more transit-oriented development along the route, particularly if paired with zoning changes. SDOT director Greg Spotts “proposed a ‘cultural connector’ app to pair with the streetcar and encourage its use by offering the all-day ride pass and wayfinding and tips for nearby attractions.”

While the vision is there, funding for the project, which was last estimated at $285 million in 2019, is less clear, though supporters argue federal grants could cover much of the cost. Trumm adds, “The Downtown Seattle Association is hoping that the City can take steps toward lining up funding and restarting the project in 2023, potentially clearing a path to opening the Center City streetcar by 2026 in time for the World Cup matches in Seattle.”

Tuesday, December 20, 2022 in The Urbanist

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