On May 29, 1982, the Waterfront Streetcar, aka the George Benson Waterfront Streetcar Line, took its first trip along the Puget Sound. Benson was a city councilmember who proposed the idea of building a streetcar line in 1974 in the hopes of drawing more tourists and local residents to the waterfront, which was just beginning its transition from being an industrial district to the kind of tourist-y shopping area we know it as today. Eventually, after Benson had garnered sufficient support from the public and other council members, enough funds were allocated to make the project a reality.
Using vintage streetcars that came all the way from Melbourne, Australia, the route covered 1.6 miles along Route 99, Alaskan Way facing Elliot Bay, under the Viaduct, and up to the International District. That last stop was added in 1990 as an extension from the Occidental Park station. It ran every 20 minutes and charged a normal fare.
When construction began on the Olympic Sculpture park in late 2005, the cars’ maintenance barn and Broad Street station were demolished, ending service for good. Three of the five total cars were sold to the Loop Trolley Transportation Development District in St. Louis, for their own heritage streetcar line. In 2004, its final full year in service, the streetcar carried 403,600 passengers.
Since then, many locals have expressed their support for a new comprehensive Seattle streetcar system, but between budget snafus, the pandemic, and plain ole politics, the project has struggled to get off the ground. That being said, last year the city council gave the downtown streetcar project a $2.4 million kickstart to resume work on the project, so who’s to say what’s next.
Thanks to Cynthia for sharing her information and photos with us. For more pictures, and to check what other locals are saying about the streetcar, check out Vanishing Seattle’s full post here.
I’m excited to say that we’ll be highlighting a piece of Seattle history in The Evergrey with the help of Vanishing Seattle once a month. That being said, we want to know what parts of Seattle’s history you’re curious about and maybe even make this into a bi-weekly series. We can do that with your guidance!
Is there a particular piece of Seattle’s past you want to learn more about? Whether it’s a person, building, tradition or otherwise, we need your help figuring out what parts of Seattle’s past you want us to dig into! Send an email to [email protected] with the subject line “Flashback Friday” and tell us what local ghosts you can’t stop thinking about.