New streetcars might be running through downtown Seattle in a few years, under a plan announced Monday by Mayor Mike McGinn. The new route would be a link between the existing streetcar route in South Lake Union, and the one under construction that will serve Capitol Hill, First Hill and Pioneer Square.
Officials said the new streetcar link would help provide transit for the additional 8,000 commuters expected by 2030. It’s the latest step in the city’s effort to expand its transit system.
To link the South Lake Union and First Hill streetcar lines, the city has narrowed down its choices to two possible routes. One would be along First Avenue. The other would go along Fourth Avenue in one direction and return on Fifth Avenue because those are one-way streets.
The mayor argued that streetcars are more efficient than buses. “One railcar can hold 160 plus people and if you can string together two or four at a time, you’re talking about moving a lot of people with only a single operator. And that’s a lot more than buses can carry,” he said.
McGinn noted that there are tradeoffs to the different ideas. First Avenue would better serve Pike Place Market and Pioneer Square businesses; on the other hand, the route along Fourth and Fifth Avenues would be closer to more offices and could be better for most commuters.
The Mayor estimates the project would cost between $55 million and $75 million; construction could start in 2017 or 2018. But it’s far from a done deal, the city needs to get federal funds to build the project. The city is scheduled to host an open house about the plan on June 6 at the South Lake Union Discovery Center, which is located at 101 Westlake Ave. N.