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Calling all streetcar riders! The South Lake Union Streetcar resumes service this Saturday, Sept. 19.

South Lake Union Streetcar on a sunny day in Seattle. Photo Credit: SDOT Flickr.

Get ready – the Seattle South Lake Union Streetcar line will resume operations September 19! 

Service was suspended back in March for the South Lake Union Streetcar line in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we’re excited to get riders back on track during our revised service hours.

These service hours will be:  

SOUTH LAKE UNION Monday – Friday Saturday Sunday 
Hours6 AM – 9  PM 7 AM – 9 PM 10 AM – 7 PM 
10 – 15 min. 15 min. 15 min. 
FIRST HILL Monday – Friday Saturday Sunday 
Hours5 AM – 10:30 PM 6 AM – 10:30 PM 10 AM – 8 PM 
12-15 min. 15 min. 20 min. 

Please note that Metro fares will be suspended through September. King County MetroSound Transit, and First Hill Streetcar service changes will also go into effect September 19.  

The streetcar has become an integral part of our public transportation network in the City. Restarting service in South Lake Union and continuing service in First Hill enables people to safely make important trips and makes sure we have transit capacity as we move toward economic recovery.

SDOT Director Sam Zimbabwe

The Seattle region is currently experiencing dual crises of COVID-19 and wildfire smoke.  

Public health officials advise everyone to stay indoors as much as possible for the duration of the unhealthy air quality. For those who need to travel, King County Metro is taking active steps to keep transportation clean using safety partitions and upgraded air filters, disinfecting every vehicle every day, requiring masks, sending more buses for busy routes, and more.  

To ensure safety, face coverings are required on the streetcar, buses, other public transportation, and outdoors when you cannot remain 6 feet apart – as well as in all other public indoor spaces.  Please note that cloth face coverings – while critical to preventing the spread of COVID-19 – do NOT prevent respiratory harms that could be caused by unhealthy air quality. 

The South Lake Union and First Hill Streetcar lines are owned by the City of Seattle and operated by King County Metro. These streetcar lines are an important and growing part of our public transportation system, as shown in our most recent Streetcar Operating Report

Map of the Seattle Streetcar routes. 
(Click on the image for a larger view.)
Map of the Seattle Streetcar routes.
(Click on the image for a larger view.)

The First Hill Streetcar is a vital transportation service line for those working in healthcare throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Reopening the South Lake Union line will further support mobility during these times. 

Ridership has recently increased on the First Hill line, after demonstrating a big dip from the statewide stay-home order. At the height of the pandemic, First Hill streetcar ridership on weekdays was about 1,300 people per day, which has recently climbed to 2,000 people per day. This streetcar serves neighborhoods around several medical providers, including Swedish Hospital’s First Hill campus and the Virginia Mason Seattle Medical Center.  

The South Lake Union Streetcar line also serves many essential workers with stops near the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, among many other health facilities. This line is part of a variety of transit and mobility options to support people and local businesses in the dense and vibrant South Lake Union neighborhood (which also has 170 acres of parks, pedestrian-oriented infrastructure, public art, historic buildings, and lakefront access)!  Bus service through the South Lake Union neighborhood began in 2016 and is among the higher ridership routes in the King County Metro system.


The First Hill Streetcar. Photo Credit: SDOT Flickr. 
The First Hill Streetcar. Photo Credit: SDOT Flickr. 

The First Hill Streetcar has been a workhorse through the pandemic and has seen steady growth in ridership over the past few years. Transit service has been reduced across the board since the outbreak of COVID-19, so we are thrilled to see the City resuming Streetcar service for Belltown, Denny Triangle and South Lake Union. These are three of Seattle’s densest neighborhoods, representing many small businesses that have reopened, as well as a good portion of the 100,000 people who live in downtown. 

Don Blakeney with the Downtown Seattle Association

Our 2019 Streetcar Operating Report shows positive changes in ridership, revenue, reliability, and safety. Read on for more highlights

South Lake Union Streetcar. Photo Credit: SDOT 
South Lake Union Streetcar. Photo Credit: SDOT 

Ridership on the Seattle Streetcar continued to grow in 2019, exceeding 2018 ridership by 11% (182,000 riders!). 

More and more people using the First Hill line was a major factor, while South Lake Union ridership has held relatively steady. 

Fare revenue grew on both lines. 

ORCA fare revenue grew in 2019 by approximately 18%, or $252,000. Increased ORCA usage could be the result of factors like increased ORCA distribution through employers.  

The City of Seattle and King County executed a new 5-year agreement for streetcar operations and maintenance. 

The city and county worked together to execute a new Interlocal Agreement (ILA) for the operations and maintenance of the Seattle Streetcar. This replaces the 2014 ILA and includes improvements to the City-County relationship like improved budgeting and invoicing procedures and more efficient maintenance. 

Our Streetcar Operations staff prepared to implement new federal safety requirements 

We are taking on new responsibilities for streetcar safety to meet changes to federal requirements. Our Public Transportation Agency Safety Plan, which we adopted in July 2020, will work in conjunction with a similar plan from King County Metro.  

We continued work on spot improvement projects to improve safety and reliability 

Our transit spot improvements program worked on several spot improvements to increase safety for bicyclists around streetcar tracks, reduce congestion and streetcar travel time, and increase reliability. Some of these improvements include: delineation of the streetcar-only lane on northbound Terry Ave between Thomas and Mercer streets, along with signage, street markings, and relocation of a bus zone along Yesler Way between Broadway and 14th Ave. There’s more to come; read more in our report

Don’t forget to read our tips for navigating in and around the streetcar safely.

Thanks for riding!