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Topic: Streetcars

11:52pm Sunday, 20 Jul 2008

I was in Seattle last week and got to check out their new streetcar line: The South Lake Union line. This is technically their second streetcar line, but is currently the only one running, as the George Benson Waterfront line has been out of service since 2005 pending the construction of a new car barn. Regrettably I forgot my camera, which is really too bad because I happened to catch the crew washing one of the cars outside of the barn when I went by. Click below for more information about the line.

The S.L.U.T. as it's more affectionately called, consists of a fleet of three Inekon Trios: red, orange, and purple. These cars differ greatly from the Perly Thomas cars in New Orleans, as they are actually three separate trolleys joined together like accordion buses. They have fixed seats and the control areas for the driver is separated from the passengers by doors. Inekon's web site has some pictures of the cars, the line, and the new car barn. It looks like during normal operations they run two cars and keep the third at the barn.

The line has some neat features like electronic signs at the stops that show you when the next car will arrive. They also have ticket kiosks at the stops and on the car that let you buy a ticket with cash or credit card. It appears however, that the transit authority in Seattle doesn't really care about making any money on the line as payment is pretty much on the honor system. The driver is locked away in his little compartment and passengers are allowed to board from three different doors, so no one checks to see if you have the proper fare. Additionally, when you buy a ticket from the kiosk it is valid for a hour after you purchase. No one I talked to on the car could tell me whether or not that meant that you got unlimited rides for an hour or if you had to still buy a ticket after each ride even though no one actually collected the tickets. According to Wikipedia Paul Allen is fronting some of the money for the line, so I guess that's why they don't take fare collecting seriously.

All in all it was a neat streetcar line with lots of neat technical innovations, but it seemed like a novelty compared to the St. Charles or Canal lines.

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