streetcar

Portland Streetcar courtesy of Portland State University Web site

Seattle's new transit darling has a long way to go before she catches up to Portland's

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SLUT: She's fast, but...

streetcar

Portland Streetcar courtesy of Portland State University Web site

Seattle's new transit darling has a long way to go before she catches up to Portland's successful streetcar. The Seattle Transportation Department reports that the SLUT totaled 78,325 riders in her inaugural month, and 12,369 Jan. 1 through the 13th. Though that's a big dip, DOT spokesman Rick Sheridan says it was expected now that riders have to pay. He says the streetcar's achieving the average the city predicted-- about 950 riders daily. (Total weekday capacity for the SLUT is about 12,600 passengers.) Portland's streetcar, by comparison (and even without the snappy acronym), averaged 5,000 riders every weekday during its inaugural summer in 2001.

Vicky Diede, streetcar project manager for Portland's Office of Transportation, says that number dipped in Portland too once the novelty wore off-- down to 3,700 daily in the fall of 2001. After that, however, she says ridership has increased and it's never stopped since. The Portland streetcar currently averages 10,900 passengers per weekday.

It began as a 2.4-mile line that ran from Portland State University to the densely populated neighborhood surrounding Northwest 23rd Avenue. The streetcar has subsequently been extended three times and now travels 4 miles one way to the burgeoning South Waterfront district, which houses an arm of Oregon Health & Science University, biotech firms and high-end condos.

The SLUT (aptly called the lunch trolley by one local business owner) travels 1.3 miles from Westlake Center to the smattering of condos and research-based businesses that line the banks south of Lake Union. The hope is that the trolley will help this neighborhood take off-- and some council members already have designs on extending it-- but while transit often drives development it also needs to fit one primary requirement: take people somewhere.

 
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