MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Seattle considers closing stretch of South Lake Union for streetcars

Mar 23, 2015, 12:21 PM | Updated: 4:01 pm

The City of Seattle is weighing its options for making streetcar service more reliable. (AP)...

The City of Seattle is weighing its options for making streetcar service more reliable. (AP)

(AP)

A study being done by the Seattle Department of Transportation could result in the closure of lanes to cars along a one-mile stretch of roadway through South Lake Union.

The department is considering its options for Westlake Avenue North, which includes completely closing up to two lanes from South Lake Union to Westlake Center for general traffic to speed up streetcar transportation.

Related: Jason Rantz says the city of Seattle continues assault on drivers

The reason for the focus on public transit has to do with the area’s economic boom, according to SDOT Rail Transit Manager Ethan Melone.

“If we want that economic growth to continue, we have to help transit perform better,” he said.

The department is also studying the idea of closing lanes, except for vehicles to make right turns; or allowing cars to travel in the right lane, but for only one block.

The study comes during a time when streetcar use is down. According to information from The Seattle Times, average weekday ridership is down from 2014. There were 2,486 riders in 2014; up through March 14, there has been an average of 2,217 riders. Ridership peaked in 2013, the Times reports.

“Travel time for South Lake Union streetcar and its reliability have started to decline, mainly during peak periods,” Melone said.

Streetcar service frequency is expected to increase in the near future. Making those trips faster will also be a goal.

“Those trips need to be more reliable and faster,” Melone said. “That’s why we’re looking at these options.”

The department would also like bus service to become a reliable service in the area.

“We’re about to be adding significantly more bus service through funding Seattle voters approved last fall,” Melone said.

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