Waterfront buses to be unwrapped; do we care?
February 2, 2011  |  Announcement, Call to Action, Complaining, PI, Politics

A few weeks ago, Metro announced route changes, including changes to the waterfront bus (route 99), which will now run on a loop that goes south on the Waterfront, and north on 1st Avenue.

They also noted the following:

Buses will no longer be “wrapped” to look like the old waterfront streetcars.

The positive: The route changes will serve the downtown even better, moving tourists from the Waterfront, through Pioneer Square, the ID, and into downtown by way of 1st Avenue.

The negative: We are potentially losing the last sliver of hope that the trolley will come back. Metro wrapped the buses to offset our loss, just until we could get the trolley back, and now they want to unwrap them as not to confuse tourists on 1st Ave.

To give some history – the streetcar was implemented in 1982 as a tourist amenity. Riders could hop on and off as they chose, making it a great way to experience the waterfront and Pioneer Square/CID. In 2000, the streetcar carried approximately 450,000 passengers.

It was shut down in 2005 when Metro was unable to find a new location for the streetcar maintenance facility (removed for the Waterfront Sculpture Park  project). Although Metro claimed that it would come back, the development by Urban Visions/Greg Smith never materialized, and our neighborhoods are left with nothing but empty promises.

Websites have popped up in the last few years, trying to speak out for the return of the streetcar, including Save the Waterfront Streetcar, Facebook page – Save the Waterfront Streetcar (again), as well as recent discussions on the Seattle Transit Blog. I didn’t live in Seattle while it was running, but this video helps me visualize how great it was, and how perfectly it tied into our historic neighborhood.

I talked to Sarah Driggs at Metro, who says that they tried to get public feedback by sending out postcards [seen here] to over 10,000 residents and businesses, as well as attending a few meetings. All in all, she says, they only received 6 – 7 comments. But is it because we don’t care? Or is it because not enough people know about it?

An estimated 5 buses currently run on route 99, and Metro isn’t sure what percentages are made up of tourists and residents. It seems to me that tourists would be more willing to get on a quaint, different looking bus than any of the regular metro buses that run through downtown. Being wrapped also makes it clear that it’s the bus that runs on the Waterfront.

As the changes are proposed to take place this Saturday, it’s not clear whether or not it’s futile, but if you have feedback, and want to keep those buses wrapped, please comment here, or contact Sarah Driggs at 206-263-5277 or Sarah.Driggs@kingcounty.gov.

And while you think about speaking out for the wrapped buses, take a look at these photos of the trolley taken by Rebecca Nelson, former resident, current writer/editor of the Ravenna Blog, and remember how awesome they were. And how awesome snow is.


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