Gallery: TRANSPORTATION TUESDAY: Seattle’s Sexy New SLUT Streetcar


It’s not New Orleans, but city officials are optimistic that their latest transit project will spark desire…to ride the streetcar. It’s Seattle’s South Lake Union Trolley (yes, the acronym is SLUT), and it made its maiden voyage last week with an offbeat nickname and the upbeat goal of bringing eco-friendly transit to a city that has experienced gridlock unbefitting its progressive environmental outlook.

The trolley line is 1.3 miles long connecting South Lake Union, the new waterfront park, the Denny Triangle, and the Downtown Retail Core. The trolley stops every two-three blocks, offering up to 140 passengers a lift every 15 minutes. The transit connects to the light rail, regional buses, and the monorail at Westlake.

Depending on whom you ask, the new system is called the South Lake Union Trolley, South Lake Union Streetcar, or is dubbed by its acronym, SLUT. The many names tell an underlying story of mixed emotions in response to the city’s new project.

Supporters tout the trolley as an expansion of the regional transit and as a conduit meant to connect people to jobs, housing, recreation, and retail – a way to encourage economic development and create vibrant neighborhoods. The local area serviced by the trolleys are undergoing redevelopment that is projecting tens of thousands of new jobs and housing units.

Other residents question the construction budget of $50 million plus and annual operating costs of $1.7 million. Nearly half of the costs are covered by a local property tax through a Local Improvement District, while the rest will come from federal, state, and local governments.

While the trolley may move people, many local residents would’ve rather seen the funds go towards more affordable housing and feel the city’s initiatives have brought unwelcome changes. A local campaign was launched out of the local Kapow! coffee shop, both promoting the new transit system while poking fun at the myriad issues behind the trolley project.

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels told the Seattle PI, “I don’t care what you call it as long as you ride it.” And likely they will. The city is expecting 330,000 passengers in the first year with projections growing to over one million annually. This month rides are free and then $1.50 – pretty good deal considering that a trolley, by any name, beats cars and buses in both people moving and fuel efficiency.

+ Seattle Streetcar


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  1. Mike February 9, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    Brian and others who say it’s faster to walk – please realize that it’s faster for YOU to walk. Unfortunately, in society, there are many people who have mobility issues that public transport systems might benefit. So, just because you can walk it faster doesn’t mean everyone can.

  2. brian February 3, 2008 at 12:15 am

    don’t get me wrong, I love the technology and I hope it prospers and grows…but with a 15 minute headway it’s certainly faster just to walk

  3. Bill December 27, 2007 at 12:06 am

    You are right on all accounts Scott, except it’s the SLUT not the SLUS? as everyone around the Old Cascade neighbohood knows. For those of you new to the story, the Cascade is the real name for the 100 year old neighborhood that Paul Allen’s Vulcan Inc.and the City of Seattle have recently renamed South Lake Union. They have also backtracked on the original and real name they gave to the South lake Union Trolley and now after figurining out the unfortunate acronym this creates are calling it a streetcar. Everyone in Seattle still calls it the S.L.U.T.

  4. Scott Mercer December 20, 2007 at 3:33 pm

    Typical complaints by train-hating elitist snobs.

    “It doesn’t GO ANYWHERE!” (Translation: it doesn’t go everywhere.)

    “It’s an abomination” (Translation: Just because thousands will ride it, it is a waste because I will never ride it.)

    “It’s just a bus contained to a set of rails.” NO. It is an urban AMENITY, like a library, museum, or a sports stadium. The fact that it is planted in one place is an ADVANTAGE, not a hindrance.

    You people have been proved wrong before with the trolley in Portland, and you will be proved wrong, ONCE AGAIN, with the SLUS. The system will be expanded eventually, and it will go to plenty of places. It will be an invaluable addtion to the Seattle cityscape and most people will wonder how the city ever got along without it.

    Mark my words.

  5. JC December 20, 2007 at 3:28 pm

    $65 million (with favorable interest rates) wasted to do what 5% of that would do by updating bus service.
    A tribute to megalomaniacs Paulie A and Mayor Dimwit, neither of whom contributed a penny!

  6. Bill December 20, 2007 at 2:12 am

    You can get the origianl shirts that started the worldwide uproar exclusively at Kapow! Coffee in Seattle or at

  7. brendan December 19, 2007 at 6:45 pm

    what a step backwards! first off, this does nothing to improve on the existing bus system (it is simply a bus contained to a set of rails)

    and don’t even get me started on the rails. as a cyclist, the rails spell disaster for bicycles whose tires can easily be swallowed by the conveniently wide gap in the pavement. don’t worry, i have already confirmed this by wrecking my bike in front of fred hutchison research center — thanks paul

    the money would have been better spent improving the bus system or better yet, funding the light rail system which will NOT be subject to the daily gridlock traffic of downtown seattle.

    i, for one, and extremely dissapointed in this waste money.

  8. Naomi December 19, 2007 at 4:38 pm

    Someone/something has to be “the first on the dance floor”, right? Perhaps even with the controversy, this will be the begining of an expanded public transit network for Seattle. But first, it seems, there has to be an expansion of the public’s imagination. That’s where these initial efforts can play a role, I think. Not perfect, maybe… but it’s a start.


  9. Kat December 19, 2007 at 7:05 am

    wow, lots of fellow seattlites, it seems. save the world, ride a slut? why haven’t i heard about this? how embarassing.

  10. Dave December 19, 2007 at 3:36 am

    Too bad it doesn’t GO anywhere. It would be great if Seattle could get public transportation that didn’t suck. But even when we adopt a great idea, like Portland’s light rail system, we still screw it up.

  11. kormmandos December 19, 2007 at 2:20 am

    I can’t help but think of this pun.
    “You’ve gotta ride a SLUT to go places in Seattle.”
    hur, hur, hur…

  12. Patrick December 18, 2007 at 11:04 pm

    Well, on the topic of new mass transit systems, Charlotte opened its new light rail line – LYNX – on November 24. It has averaged 12,000 daily riders (over the projected 9,100 daily ridership), which follows its blockbuster opening free-fare weekend ridership of over 100,000 people. It’s the first piece of Charlotte’s 2030 plan, which includes more light rail, commuter rail, and streetcars.

  13. Scott December 18, 2007 at 8:35 pm

    I rode it last week and think it will be a nice addition to the city. I wish it offered access to more of the Seattle (like Portland’s great system). Perhaps that will come in time.

  14. bv December 18, 2007 at 7:02 pm

    having lived in seattle and hated the lack of mass-transit… its great to see this. i’m pretty sure, if my memory serves me correctly, this was funded at least in part by paul allen (?) either way. nice job!
    cheers. bv.

  15. chelsea December 18, 2007 at 5:40 pm

    I WANT to love the streetcar, but I cannot.

    There is only one loop, and it serves the “up and coming” south lake union area, which is predominantly owned by Vulcan. Coincidence? I think not.

    At such an expense, it seems like the money would be better suited to improve the existing bus system. Without grade separation, the trolley system has the potential to get stuck in the same snarled traffic as all of the existing buses and cars on the road, with the added hazard to bicyclists of rails embedded in the road. No extra lanes were added for the trolley, so any “dedicated” lane is simply cutting existing capacity in half.

    What Seattle needs is grade separated public transit which can rush past those traffic snarls, the number one reason to ride public transit in many minds. Like the doomed, single-loop monorail, I suspect the trolley is going to become a one-off novelty ride.

  16. Ryan December 18, 2007 at 4:44 pm

    This is a toy train for Paul Allen. It’s literally faster to walk the 1.3 mile route than it is to ride the train. This thing is an abomination.

  17. sir jorge December 18, 2007 at 1:37 pm

    I rode it, it’s ok, but it is more novelty than anything else.

  18. Ian December 18, 2007 at 1:19 pm

    Well, in typical Seattle killjoy fashion, it was officially named the South Lake Union Streetcar. But you only ever see that name preceded by phrases like, “Officially known as the…”

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