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All aboard the new South Lake Union Streetcar

06:20 PM PST on Wednesday, December 12, 2007

KING5.com Staff and Associated Press

Seattle Streetcar up and running

SEATTLE - Seattle's new streetcar started rolling Wednesday.

The first official run of the South Lake Union Streetcar took off from Westlake Center at 12:12 p.m., with Mayor Greg Nickels hosting the opening ceremony.

Its inaugural run Wednesday was three minutes late. It was the speeches that ran over.

"We are taking a significant step, no matter how long that journey is, with this street car, to save our planet," said Sen. Ed. Murray.

Public officials were ecstatic, praising a project that took only 15 months to build.

"We're going to be able to connect people to jobs, to shopping, to parks, culture, nightlife, and homes," said Mayor Greg Nickels.

It makes several stops along the way, and ends up at Fairview Avenue. Construction cost is $52 million, paid by property owners along the route and local, state and federal tax money.


The South Lake Union Streetcar will make a stop every 15 minutes at 11 stops.

To ride the 1.3 mile route, it's $1.50. But they won't start charging until January.

"Disneyland has a lot of toys that are attractions as well, that doesn't necessarily mean they're good transit tools," said Nick Licata, Seattle City Council President.

Licata isn't sold on the idea. He questions how many people will pay $1.50 to ride just about a mile - and get stuck at stop lights.

He says operating costs are higher than first expected - money that won't be spent on buses elsewhere.

"We have 64 transit corridors that should be getting more attention than this one particular line," Licata said.

There's another more frivolous controversy that continued today.

Some neighborhood folks are dead set on calling it the South Lake Union Trolley. They obviously like the acronym, and they think officials are too uptight.

"Most people get the joke, I think Seattle's a pretty open-minded place, and I think the name's going to stick," said Don Clifton, neighborhood entrepreneur.

Meanwhile, there's another group not happy with the street car. Some bicyclists say the rails in the road are a hazard. They're planning a protest.

How it works

Passengers who ride the Streetcar during the first week of operations can pick up an "I Rode the Streetcar" sticker, which entitles wearers to receive discounts and freebies at participating shops, restaurants, businesses and attractions all along the line.

The streetcar will run daily at 15 minute intervals, with 11 stops between the corner of Fairview and Ward and the corner of Westlake and Olive. The 1.3-mile (each way) line connects the South Lake Union area with the downtown retail core around Westlake Center. The streetcars are designed to operate in traffic and share lanes with cars, trucks, and buses.

The line cost $52 million for the city to build and it will cost $1.7 million a year for Metro to operate.

Rides are free through the month of December. After that the fare is $1.50. Operating hours are Monday through Thursday, 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and Sunday and holidays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. PugetPass, Metro passes and all Metro transfers are accepted.