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Originally published Thursday, December 13, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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To tune of "Love Train," streetcar goes on a roll

Curious riders filled the new South Lake Union streetcars Wednesday, starting what politicians hope will become a streetcar network. After some opening speeches...

Seattle Times transportation reporter

Riding the streetcar

Fare: Rides are free through December. After that: $1.50 at peak times, 6 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday; $1.25 off-peak; 50 cents for those 65 and older and people with disabilities; ages 6 to 17, 50 cents; ages 5 and younger, free. King County Metro passes and Puget Pass accepted.

Hours: 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays/holidays.

Curious riders filled the new South Lake Union streetcars Wednesday, starting what politicians hope will become a streetcar network.

After some opening speeches, the orange train left downtown at 12:15 p.m. with Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and dignitaries aboard. The O'Jays hit "Love Train" played over the speakers.

Then, the public crammed the purple and red trains to their 140-passenger capacity. By late afternoon, many trains still carried 100 people or more, said Pat Daniels, an operations supervisor for King County Metro Transit. He said the trains ran flawlessly.

"It was nice and quiet and very soft, with no bumps," said Denise Antoine, a nanny who brought 18-month-old Carter and Quentin Chamberlain, of Seattle, for a ride.

The only mishap was at 5 p.m., when a train was jolted by a ball bearing, a bit bigger than a golf ball, that was found wedged in the track along Terry Avenue North. Police located a few more, and the train was delayed 10 minutes, Daniels said.

Generally, the streetcar — which runs from the Westin Hotel to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center — is faster than walking, slower than a bicycle.

A tax on nearby properties covers about half of the $52.1 million cost; the rest is funded by federal and state grants, plus income from sales of city land nearby. Cost overruns added $1.6 million to the $50.5 million estimate, since construction began in July 2006.

John Fox, head of the Seattle Displacement Coalition, said the city's investment amounts to a "frill" to benefit Paul Allen's development company, Vulcan.

Officials at the opening ceremony, attended by about 600 people, portrayed the line as a small measure to resist global warming.

"This isn't just about a 1.3-mile line; this is about how we're going to build cities in the future, and how people are going to live in proximity to work, and not rely on the internal combustion engine," Nickels said.

Patricia Lenssen held a "Watch for Injured Cyclists" sign at the opening ceremony. Lenssen said she broke her jaw and two front teeth May 29, when her bike wheel became caught in a rail groove.

Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or mlindblom@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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