Some notes on recent activities regarding the Benson Streetcars:
- Met County Councilmember Larry Phillips to review our position on re-activating the Benson Trolleys to provide N/S transportation in the new Waterfront Park. Pointed out that the trolleys would be part of Seattle’s streetcar network and not a drain on Metro Transit resources. Larry is a strong supporter of streetcars having led the effort to get Sound Transit to fund the First Hill line. He believes the Benson Trolleys should be retained and wants to be counted as an advocate. He arranged for me to meet with Larry Gossett, the Council Chair.
- With Larry, I emphasized the importance to retaining the Benson Trolleys at least until the City makes a decision on the mode of transportation to be used in the Waterfront Park. He offered to have the Council staff review the URS re-activation report and prepare a briefing document for his use with the rest of the Council. It is likely that I will be asked to assist in that effort. Larry mentioned that he and the other Council members have each received over 100 letters and e-mails supporting the retention of the trolleys. He said when that happens it gets their attention.
- Had a good meeting with Kevin Desmond, Metro Transit GM. Kevin indicated that St. Louis hasn’t come back with an offer to buy the Benson Trolleys but said another organization is looking at them. He suggested that it would be prudent to keep the cars until the City makes a decision on its transportation needs on the waterfront.
- Participated in a panel discussion on the Waterfront Park and the Benson Trolleys at the Mirabella retirement community. Dr. Leo Sreebny, hosted the event which attracted about 150 attendees. Again, as he always does, Marshall Foster, the City’s Director of Planning, painted an excellent picture of what the proposed park can be. He mentioned that the transportation needs of the park will be met with either streetcars or small busses. He showed a picture of a Benson trolley and said that he has yet to find anyone who doesn’t want the trolleys re-activated on the waterfront. I described how George Benson started the Waterfront Streetcar line, how successful it was and why it was de-activated. I found some excellent images of the vintage cars and presented them to the group along with the pros and cons associated with them. Advantages that stand out are; (1) all 5 vintage cars can be refitted for operation on a 2-track line with re-wound motors for less money than the cost of one modern car, (2) a Benson trolley has a larger seating capacity (43) than a modern SLU car (30) and that with raised platforms the vintage cars are ADA compliant.
In my note on July 15th I mentioned a newly formed non-profit organization that will support governmental efforts to create the Waterfront Park and urged everyone to join. The address I provided was incorrect. It is ‘friendsofseattlewaterfront.org’.
If you haven’t already done so, please write our City and County council members. As we have seen already, numbers count. Ask the County Council to preserve the option of using the Benson Streetcars on the waterfront and ask the City Council to make sure that the new park includes a streetcar line.
Thanks for all your support and effort.