Six Seattle City Council members voted today in favor of a citywide streetcar network, which could give political momentum to a project that would cost millions of dollars.

Share story

Six members of the Seattle City Council voted today to support a citywide network of streetcars. The other three voted not to, saying buses can do the job just as well.

Their votes don’t actually do anything except put their opinions on the record, but the attention may give political momentum to a project that would need millions of dollars to become a reality. Only one of four additional proposed streetcar lines has funding from Sound Transit; the other three are just lines on a map.

“If you don’t have a plan, why, then you don’t have any possibility of putting it into practice,” said Councilmember Jean Godden.

She supported the resolution along with members Sally Clark, Jan Drago, Richard Conlin, Tim Burgess and Nick Licata.

Licata initially opposed the measure — even co-sponsoring a competing measure — but he voted to support it when the council agreed to an amendment requiring more specific information before the city spends any money on a new line.

Members Bruce Harrell, Richard McIver and Tom Rasmussen opposed the streetcar resolution. Rasmussen compared it to the failed monorail and said the city should invest in the transportation system it already has.

“We shouldn’t get caught up in supporting one person’s favorite type of vehicle,” he said.

This week marks the anniversary of the South Lake Union streetcar line, a one-mile loop that cost $50 million to build and requires a $2 million annual subsidy to operate. Approximately 500,000 people have ridden the South Lake Union line this year, more than the city projected.

Supporters say streetcar lines provide reliable public transportation, draw new riders and encourage development. Opponents argue buses can do the job just as well and more cheaply.

Today’s votes follow a city report envisioning $685 million worth of additional streetcar lines, a four-line network that would include:

• A waterfront line along First Avenue and South Jackson Street to 23rd Avenue East.

• A line across First Hill and Capitol Hill along Broadway.

• A line from downtown, along the west side of Lake Union to Ballard;

• A line from downtown, through Eastlake, to the University District.

The study didn’t specify how to pay for the lines, but voters already have approved funding for the First Hill line. City Council members hope money for the waterfront line will come with the Alaskan Way Viaduct rebuild.

Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or