YESTERDAY MARKED THE INAUGURAL run of the South Lake Union Streetcar in Seattle, opening a 1.3 mile track in the downtown area for public use. The completion of the streetcar is the first in a string of several projects to give the traffic-choked Seattle area better transportation alternatives.
Prior to completion, the streetcar picked up the unfortunate (if logical) name, the South Lake Union Trolley – or S.L.U.T. A neighborhood coffee shop began printing t-shirts reading “Ride the S.L.U.T.,” which have been selling out. It’s unlikely that Mayor Greg Nickels was too thrilled about the acronym, though he concedes that it’s here to stay. “I don’t care what you call it,” he said, “as long as you ride it.” (P.I.)
On the more serious end, the trolley has gotten flak from the local cycling community, which argues that the embedded metal tracks are hazardous. From experience riding in the area, and in Portland and San Francisco – where tracks are much more ubiquitous – a little extra caution near the rails and you should be fine. Seattle’s Cascade Bicycle Club has pushed for future trolly tracks to take either inside lanes or the median, so riders don’t get pinched – I wholeheartedly agree.
Amid all the hubbub about the streetcar being a new viable transporation alternative, it’s also worth pointing out that the track could easily be walked from start to finish – one has to wonder how much this will really affect traffic conditions.
But the new trolley system should be looked at within its greater context; when the area’s light rail system is completed in 2009, travelers will be able to step off a plane at Seatac and be zipped from the southern suburbs to north downtown without setting foot inside a car or bus. As the Seattle area grows as both a city and tourist destination, this is a step in the right direction towards cutting carbon emissions and creating a better quality of life.
Learn more about the Seattle Streetcar.