The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

09 March 2005

WA: Seattle Shortsighted Again

Seattle's so-called "leaders" still put grandiose schemes to make the city "world-class" (a hopeless, delusional dream) ahead of common sense and practicality.

Here's the only appealing, cost-effective form of public transportation available in the area, especially for tourists, so of course that means the waterfront streetcar line is on the chopping block.

Why? To make way for a silly $85 million sculpture park slated to open next year. Many tourists and locals alike use the line to get to Pioneer Square and the International District. Businesses will suffer greatly without it particularly in the summer months.

They claim 600,000 people will visit the sculpture park in the first year. Anyone familiar with Seattle knows it will quickly turn into another dumping ground for winos, bums and needle-exchange tables. Families will stay away in droves.

What's amazing is how successful the Melbourne streetcar line has been. It's cheap to operate and fun to ride. It also brings a rare bit of character to an otherwise boring area. Local leaders always seem opposed to charm as it doesn't fit "The Seattle Way" they stubbornly push.

Between Seattle, King County and Metro, there seems to be a race underway to see which agency can run the area into the ground the fastest. With these people in charge the city's future looks especially bleak.

(Seattle Times-Stuart Eskenazi)

Metro's top officials say they have little option but to shut down the waterfront streetcar indefinitely this fall so the Seattle Art Museum can move forward with building its Olympic Sculpture Park — a prospect that angers at least one of the downtown neighborhoods served by the vintage trolley line.

"We would lose an important transportation link from the waterfront to our neighborhood," said Craig Montgomery, executive director of the Pioneer Square Community Association. "It's as if no one is considering the impacts to the districts along the route."

The waterfront streetcar, a popular Seattle tourist attraction, carries 400,000 riders a year, peaking during the summer. It bears the name of its champion, former City Councilman George Benson, who died last October. The line, which began in May 1982 and cost $3.3 million to build, has nine stops stretching from the Chinatown International District to Pier 70.

The museum's $85 million sculpture park, set to open in the summer of 2006, will be a green space for people to experience art for free. Being built on a former industrial site north of Broad Street, the park would extend to the Elliott Bay seawall and Myrtle Edwards Park.

But the streetcar system's maintenance facility takes up 2.5 acres of the 8.5-acre site, and museum officials have been resolute that the barnlike structure, which is integral to the operation of the streetcar system, does not fit into the park's design. The museum plans to begin constructing the sculpture park in May and figures the maintenance barn would have to be demolished by September.


  • Brian, don't forget that in next year's summer tourist season, our visitors will also be out of luck with the Bus Tunnel.

    Thanks very much, unSound Transit.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 09 March, 2005 14:00  

  • bmvaughn, excellent point. What a traffic nightmare sending all those buses up to surface streets as well.

    By Blogger Brian Maloney, at 09 March, 2005 18:53  

  • Just incredible!
    You know, now that I think about it, the Space Needle doesn't fit in with the new design direction the Seattle Center would like to go. It takes up valuable acreage and needs to be torn down.
    Is that next?
    Also, why don't they just move the maintenance facility to the other end of the line? There is a lot of older run down buildings and/or open lots on the outskirts of Pioneer Square. Do you suppose they have thought of that?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 09 March, 2005 19:54  

  • Thom:

    Don't give them ideas!

    Don't forget, quite a few have pushed to send the monorail right through the middle of the place.

    Good idea on moving the facility to the other side. It might involve extending the line a bit. I've always felt they should expand the streetcar line anyway, not get rid of it.

    I don't know about you, but whenever I've had out of town visitors, the streetcar was always something they wanted to do. Kids love to ride it. Just asinine to take it away.

    Maybe Melbourne will buy back the cars.

    By Blogger Brian Maloney, at 09 March, 2005 23:05  

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