In the comments to this post, Matt the Engineer and Gordon Werner provided great links to our City’s own streetcar maps.

Matt provided this map of the system in 1941. The image was originally uploaded by Andy Filer, who I know.

1941 Seattle streetcar map

As EricN pointed out, many of the current single and double digit Metro city bus routes match to streetcars with the same number.

Gordon provided two more images, which are a little easier to read, here below the fold.

Here’s the system in 1933:

And here is 1939 downtown:

These are awesome, thanks for providing the links!

34 Replies to “Seattle Street Car Maps”

  1. Let’s build them:

    1) Higher-capacity streetcars (maybe 20′ longer?)
    2) Streetcar boxes at certain intersections (to the right of right turn lanes, go before cars turn) and other “traffic troublespot” mitigation
    3) Relaxing parking restrictions on new developments that grant public parking, then remove some potentially troublesome street-side parking (would be helpful on Union, for sure)
    4) Certain percentage of fleet would be optimized for cyclists (more slots for bikes, perhaps seatless in the central portion)
    5) Free for students, the elderly
    6) Heritage fleet to run on weekends


  2. I knew this city was built around streetcars, but I had no idea the system was this extensive. I can’t imagine we’ll ever get back there, which is kind of heartbreaking.

    1. Yeah. If they had been underground, we’d still have them.

      The problem is, we’ve never had enough density to warrant subways until right about now.

      1. We had the density to warrant grade separation back in the 60s. I don’t think we’re much more dense now.

  3. Wait a minute- this is a Seattle Transit System Map, not the Seattle Municipal Railway Map (STS was created from the ashes of SMR in 1939). Consequently, these are all routes, including motor bus and trolley bus. It’s not just streetcars. For instance, there were never streetcars on the Aurora Bridge. The last streetcar was yanked in April 1941. I don’t know enough to know the order of abandonment of the lines, but I do know for example that the Fort Lawton went to motor bus earlier than some because it was such a money loser.

    1. Yes, you’re quite right – this is the first time I’ve looked at the post. The top one is a trolley bus map. The 1933 streetcar map is the most complete.

  4. in my office we have a bunch of awesome photos of Seattle in the 1900s … with streetcars going every-which-way …

    it is a real shame that Seattle (and other West Coast cities) went to rubber

    1. Oh wow. Sorry about that. I was amazed that they spent the effort to make a map just before they changed to buses. It makes more sense that they were telling people where the new service runs.

      Let me just call MAin 6000 to find out which ones are streetcars…

    1. There’s a book in the Seattle Room at the SPL downtown that shows the streetcar profits versus the same lines losing money on trackless trolleys.

  5. Interesting – I was just making a similar map to compare historic streetcar lines with current urban villages in Seattle. This is based on a 1933 map (from the wonderful collection and staff at the Seattle Room of the downtown library.)

    The images (both the original map and the overlay of lines and villages) are at:

    The overlay map only includes streetcar, cable car, steam train, and “Foreign Electric Railway”, not buses.

    I don’t know if the overlay map shows anything significant – any thoughts?

      1. yeah, as you can see I’m new to Flickr. I have a higher resolution version – I’m trying to upload it…

    1. I think looking for buildings more than 80 years old and more than 1 story, together, will give you the best overlay match.

  6. Okay, so I think the spam filter ate my comments. I have a couple maps and documents of interest.

    Starting with a list of trackless trolley routes operated by Seattle Transit. Some are long gone like the West Seattle and Ballard trolley routes, while many are still here. I also have a chart of Seattle Transit System’s 32 Year Net Loss & Profit History and a map of the 1983 Trolley Expansion Project which would’ve more or less restored the former trolley system with some new additions. Check my flickr page for details.

  7. A bit off topic, but does anyone have maps of the proposed Rapid Transit system from the Forward Thrust proposal?

      1. Why are we not proposing this now? I’m certain that if we got more people in line with this idea, ST3 would be as easy as pie to pass with this working on the wayside.


      2. We can’t fund this with 0.5%. The ST long range plan looks a lot like this, but they can’t promise things for ST3.

      3. Actually, look at the station distribution. It and LINK have the same problem – outside of the downtown business core, the stations are spread out far too much. Forty blocks between stations is about fifteen blocks too many. Not that it (and LINK) isn’t better than the nothing we’ve got now but uh, it’s a suburban system even in urbanized areas. I certainly hope there is some planning and land acquisition in line with future station additions.

      4. I’ve seen this one before, but never noticed while there is a 3rd bridge showing, more than half the major freeways today are piecemeal.

      5. Yeah, 405 was some 2 lane highway back than, much like 167 used to be and other major highways today. Although the numbering system was all different than, I think 405 used to be called 1A or something like that.

  8. Yes, this map still shows the last streetcar line (8th Ave NW). This should narrow down the date on the map. I noticed that some of the bus numbers are still letters, which was used as bus routes when the streetcars were in full swing.

  9. SO the 15 and 18 would have been re-electrified if that plan had gone through. Very interesting. I wonder if the events of June 11, 1978 had anything to do with the eventual decision to not go forward with that, in addition to the cost of the bus tunnel?

    As for one point AJ had, I was thinking, besides the streetcar boxes, start teaching certain tricks motorists in Melbourne have learned to avoid streetcars. The Hook Turn is one of them.

    1. There’s no question that the destruction of half of the old Spokane Street Bridge spelt the end of any hope for electric transit to/from West Seattle in what remained of the 20th century. Long delayed and much discussed plans for a “freeway” style bridge went into high gear and after 5 years, voila! The WS high bridge opened in 1983. It would seem possible to hang bus wires over the curb lanes, but it is most unlikely that’ll ever happen. Now is the time to plan a reasonable way to get rail to West Seattle from where LINK branches off to Beacon Hill south to Spokane street and west from there sometime in the next quarter century – ’cause that viaduct ain’t never gonna get rebuilt!

  10. Correction: The Madison Line was, IIRC, a cable car, not an electric streetcar.

    Of course back then the 520 bridge was a Ferryboat from the end of the Madison cable car to Kirkland.

    1. One can imagine how very different Madison Park would be if the Madison Street Cable had continued and become even half the tourist attraction that the cable cars have become in San Francisco. Cactus and Bing’s in Mad Park? Nope post cards and t-shirts and hordes of people every 20 minutes all over the place in our neighborhood all summer long.
      And wouldn’t it be nice if (once Metro can buy another 200 electric buses) the #11 were electrified (along with the 8, 27, and the 48 south of the Roosevelt LINK station)?

  11. If we spend money that is anywhere near the amount we spend for cars, we could easily rebuild this system.

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