Why the Waterfront Streetcar?

The George Benson Waterfront Streetcar Line, named for the city council member who worked for its establishment, ran along Alaskan Way on the Seattle waterfront from 1982 through 2005. The Streetcar was popular with citizens and tourists alike, as it provided the only public transportation along the busy Seattle waterfront.

The semi-official history of the Waterfront Streetcar was written by George Benson, and is available at HistoryLink. Another summary history, and some nice pictures of the line in operation, may be found at RailwayPreservation.com.

The Streetcar’s maintenance barn was torn down when the Sculpture Park was built, and the cars were placed in storage during what was to have been a short temporary hiatus. A maintenance facility was to have been included in a development in Pioneer Square. That development did not happen, and the future of the waterfront has been uncertain during the debate on replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct. There are now big plans for redeveloping the waterfront, but those plans do not include any transit components.

There has never been a publicly-announced decision regarding the future of the Waterfront Streetcar. However, some of its tracks and facilities have been removed, and the cars themselves are reportedly for sale. The Waterfront Streetcar would be an attractive and practical means of moving citizens and tourists along the waterfront, and would be a tourist attraction in its own right (just as the F-Market streetcar line is in San Francisco’s revitalized Embarcadero district).


Join the Conversation


  1. Time for a non-profit/kickstarter effort to save the cars at a minimum so that we have something to work with on getting tracks laid along the new waterfront.

  2. The trolly should go along the waterfront to the new stadium. If they are going to spend money to build a 3rd sports stadium, they can bring back the trolly to transport the sports fans and tourists.

  3. I miss the streetcars. When I lived in the Portland area, I’d take a Cascades train north, then catch the streetcar to get up to the Pike Marketplace…When San Francisco’s elevated Embarcadero Freeway came down after the 1989 quake, they were able to add a new streetcar line from their train station, along the Embarcadero Waterfront to Fisherman’s Wharf. I’d welcome the Seattle streetcars back, hopefully continuing north to the Seattle Center. I wouldn’t be easy, but then good things often aren’t. FYI, Portland still has it’s replica streetcars. Funding for them is paid by private sponsors.

  4. I loved the street cars! It was often too much to walk one direction, shopping and eating along the way, to then have to walk all the way back to my car. I rarely go down to the waterfront now. DON’T YOU DARE SELL THOSE STREETCARS!!

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