Seattle's First Hill streetcar: One year later

by: BY DYER OXLEY, MyNorthwest.com Writer Updated:

Seattle’s First Hill Streetcar celebrates its one-year anniversary this week. It was a rough start, but the Seattle Department of Transportation reports that things are going a bit better than expected.

Related: Connecting the South Lake Union and Capitol Hill streetcars

To celebrate the one year milestone, SDOT is giving free rides on the streetcar over the upcoming weekend — Jan. 27-29.

According to SDOT, the First Hill streetcar is providing rides for 3,050 riders during the weekdays — that adds up to about 78,000 monthly riders. That’s slightly more than the low mark estimated just one year ago when SDOT was hoping to get between 3,000 – 3,500 daily riders.

Beyond the First Hill streetcar

SDOT began preliminary work on an extension to Seattle’s streetcar system. There is currently a line in South Lake Union and a separate line between First Hill and Capitol Hill.

But the goal is to connect both lines through the center of downtown, along First Avenue. SDOT crews scoped out the route in late 2016 to determine where utility lines were or any other obstacles. The project is expected to begin sometime in 2018 and will open sometime in 2020.

In the end, Seattle’s streetcar line will run five miles, include 23 stops, and is expected to have at least 20,000 riders in its first year — which is setting the bar fairly low given that SDOT is promoting that the First Hill streetcar is taking on 78,000 riders each month.

The center connector streetcar line will run down First Avenue. After the streetcar lines are built, drivers will lose a lane in each direction. Drivers will also lose about 200 parking stalls along that stretch.