First Ride On The Streetcar

Many years ago, Sound Transit presented to the public several plans for extending Link light rail north to the U District. One plan involved running track along Eastlake Avenue. Another involved tunneling under Capitol Hill.

The public approved a tunnel under Capitol Hill, with stations at First Hill and Capitol Hill.

Once the plan was put into action, however, Sound Transit discovered that it would not be able to build the First Hill station. (I don’t remember why. I’m guessing it was due to geology.) Sound Transit apologized – it would not be able to give the people what they’d asked for. It presented two alternatives: a light rail system which would not serve First Hill, or a dedicated streetcar line which would connect First Hill to both the Capitol Hill and the International District light rail stations.

The public approved the First Hill Streetcar.

The streetcar line was completed on schedule. The streetcar manufacturer was not able to deliver the streetcars on time, however. This weekend, finally, after significant delay, the First Hill Streetcar had its “soft opening”.

This afternoon, Phillip and I took our first joyride on the streetcar. I am very pleased.

We walked up to Broadway, making stops at an ATM and into Phoenix Comics. We got to the beginning of the line just as a streetcar was leaving. The sign said the next streetcar was due in 20 minutes. The one after it was due in 21 minutes. We puzzled about that, but we waited.

The streetcar arrived in about 7 minutes, actually. It left 13 minutes later, as the sign had promised. Even before we got underway, it was packed – standing room only. (During this soft opening, the streetcar is free to ride. Once it “officially” opens, fare will be $2.25 – the same as a bus. ORCA cards are accepted.)

I am impressed with our new streetcar. I found the recorded stop announcements a little hard to understand, and we never did figure out how to tell if the “stop requested” actually got requested. But the ride was quiet and smooth, and moved along at a reasonable pace.

We exited at 5th and Jackson – not quite to the end of the line. We browsed around that bookstore inside Uwajimaya Village, and in the housewares section of Uwajimaya.

We considered visiting The Pinball Museum, but Phillip’s been under the weather, so we decided to save that for a future streetcar ride.

Then we went down into International District/Chinatown Station and caught Link light rail to Westlake Mall, where we had Cajun chicken in the food court.

Then we caught a 47 bus home. Our joyride lasted three hours, all in all.

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