A scanned map of the Forward Thrust transit plan (SPL)

Believe it or not, Seattle has had a long and illustrious history of public transit and exotic forms of transportation, dating back to the beginning of American settlement in the region midway through the 19th century. While rail nerds on the East Coast have the luxury of picking between hundreds (if not thousands) of good books about their local railroad and transit history, we’re stuck with comparatively few options (but that is improving). I’m here to guide would-be transit scholars into the world of online (and in-person) research, based on my own experience writing about local transit history for Wikipedia.

Researching the past is very similar to piecing together a jigsaw puzzle, and reaching the end result can be highly rewarding — to the point of being addictive. And it’s not hard to get started with the help of online and old-school resources that can answer pretty much any question you’ve ever had about our transit systems. This guide is meant to help budding transit nerds find their way in the jumble of resources out there, but hopefully seasoned readers can also discover something new here. Note that some of this information was written in the pre-pandemic era, so some resources will not be available until things return to near normalcy.

Your first step should be to gather a few library cards from the region’s largest systems. The cards can be obtained through reciprocal agreements between your home system and other counties/cities, granting access to the same online resources and book borrowing that makes research a breeze. Some systems, including Seattle Public Library, are currently offering instant digital cards to access digital resources.

The Seattle Public Library card is arguably the highest return on your (fee-free) investment, thanks to its array of newspaper archives available through NewsBank. Their catalog includes the full Seattle Times from 1895 to today and regional databases with partial, post-1990 coverage from the Tacoma News Tribune and Seattle Post-Intelligencer. These archives can be used 24/7 from the comfort of your home computer, so long as you don’t forget your library log-in.

For the many local newspapers that haven’t be made available digitally, there is another option: microfilm at a physical library or archive. It can be a cumbersome process, as it requires physically loading reels into a digital scanner and sifting through pages of various issues, so come prepared before making that trip to the library. If you’re lucky, you might find an online or card index that helps pinpoint certain articles by subject and date. The best microfilm collections in the area are at the University of Washington Libraries, specifically the Allen Library, which has local newspapers from around the Pacific Northwest up to the present day.

Sound Transit’s website, as seen in 2001 via the Wayback Machine

Beyond looking at newspaper articles, you can also browse through fansites and even transit system websites that have been archived using the Internet Archive’s excellent Wayback Machine. For example, here’s Sound Transit’s website from 2001, showing the older plans for Link running under First Hill, around the west side of Capitol Hill, and even on International Boulevard in Tukwila. Fansites like the CPTDB Wiki, Chicago Railfan, and even Wikipedia can also point you in the right direction for starting your research. There are also useful archive record explainers and documents, such as this guide to building history research from the Seattle Public Library.

Another useful resource is old maps, particularly those from transit operators (which can be hard to find) and the state/federal governments. SDOT has uploaded a few streetcar maps to its Flickr account, while other users have added their own scans of old Metro maps and planning documents.

When the libraries and bookstores reopen for full browsing, you may want to use that handy card to check out a few of the books that have been written about local transit. A few that I have read and recommend are as follows:

  • Better Than Promised: An Informal History of the Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle (1996) by Bob Lane: Written by a longtime Seattle Times transportation reporter and available digitally from the Metro Wastewater website.
  • Routes: An Interpretive History of Public Transportation in Metropolitan Seattle (1993) by Walt Crowley: The renowned local historian and HistoryLink co-founder wrote this for Metro Transit’s 20th anniversary in 1993. It covers details from Seattle’s earlier transit systems, including the long reign of the streetcars. Also available online from Metro.
  • Transit: The Story of Public Transportation in the Puget Sound Region (2019) by Jim Kershner: A newer entry that covers everything up to the present era, with wonderful pictures from every iteration of Seattle transit.
  • Back on Track: Sound Transit’s Fight to Save Light Rail (2019) by Bob Wodnik: An inside look at the early days of Sound Transit, including their close brush with a funding collapse in 2001.
  • Building Washington (1998) by Paul Dorpat and Genevieve McCoy: A general history of the state’s greatest infrastructure projects, with a good amount given to Seattle highways and transit.

In addition to these books, the libraries also hold collections of historic transit documents that may only be available for in-library use. The Seattle Room on the 10th floor of the Central Library has a few key documents, including the original Bogue Plan and Forward Thrust plans, that are worth reading for serious analysis.

The archives of the Seattle Times, as viewed on NewsBank

As an example of how to use all of these resources, I’ll retrace some of the steps I took in writing the Wikipedia entry for the Seattle Center Monorail, mostly using digital archives.

To begin, I set up a basic timeline using information I could find from sources like HistoryLink, the historic landmark designation report, and the Alweg Archives fansite. Using the timeline as a backbone, I combed through the online archives of The Seattle Times, narrowing down results with extra keywords (such as “monorail route” or “monorail contract”) or limiting dates around which I knew certain events would happen.

From there, it was a matter of summarizing these newspaper articles and forming a cohesive narrative of the monorail’s history. This process almost always raises new questions along the way, requiring ever more-complicated searching and turning towards alternative sources, like The New York Times (available from most libraries through ProQuest). When I hit a dead end for other research projects, I often sent emails to local librarians, who are able to track down information more efficiently.

With a good amount of spare time, any number of stories from Seattle’s transit history can be uncovered. For example, did you know that the monorail’s columns were manufactured in Tacoma and trucked up the then-unfinished Interstate 5 overnight? Or that serious thought was put into demolishing the monorail only a few years after the 1962 World’s Fair due to financial issues from the fairgrounds operator? It’s all in the papers, locked away for researchers to find!

89 Replies to “A guide to researching Seattle’s transit history”

  1. Nice post with lots of good resources :-)

    I find myself curious a lot on old transit maps myself and they tend to be extremely difficult to find if they’re not on the Wayback Machine.

    I got a kick out of that 2001 rendering of Link, that looks like Sound Transit colors painted on a Portland MAX train.

    1. Yeah, I agree — the old Metro maps are great. I’ve used the Wayback machine to look at some of Oran’s maps. Things have already changed significantly since his original maps were made, and my memory of such things are fuzzy.

  2. Fascinating. Have you ever thought about rather than writing wikipedia articles, write it up in an ebook and sell on Amazon or such?

  3. Looking at the planned First Hill Station, you can see that it would have been implemented as a detour on the existing line, by having it go southeast from Westlake Station, then turn around and go back north to Capitol Hill. Engineering issues aside, the combination of one additional mile and one additional station would have added about 4 minutes between downtown and every station to the north, all the way out to (eventually) Everett.

    Also, I’m not sure how deep the First Hill Station would have had to be, but I would imagine to keep the grade sufficiently gentle and fit under I-5 with sufficient clearance, the answer would have been plenty, likely leading to a Beacon Hill-style elevator-dependent access. Would have been nice for people going to First Hill from the north, but not sure it’s worth the 4-minute it would have imposed for everybody going downtown.

    1. I don’t know how you get an extra four minutes just for one additional station. The lack of a station will hurt ridership, which in turn will hurt frequency. It also messes up the bus grid, in that it pushes Metro to run extra buses there. You can see that with the planning for Northgate Link. They want to keep the express buses to South Lake Union and First Hill — and even add some additional runs — once Link gets to Northgate (and the express buses to the rest of downtown get truncated).

      1. Because that one extra station would not be “on the way”. The train would have to detour to serve it, adding an additional mile or so of distance, plus some tight curves. Assuming one additional mile at an average speed of 20 mph, that’s three additional minutes, plus one additional minute for dwell time. 3 + 1 = 4.

      2. It would not be an additional mile. It would be about another kilometer. Mike is right — that adds another couple minutes (if that).

        The original plan was to have a 4.5 mile (7.2 km) line to 45th. Right now the line is 3.15 miles long (5.1 km). Extending the line to 45th adds another 1.4 km at the very least. 7.2 km – (5.1 + 1.4) = 0.7 km.

        It is worth noting that the train curves quite a bit to serve Capitol Hill. It curves to serve the UW. Every stop is a “detour”. Every stop takes time. But a stop like First Hill is worthy, and improves the overall performance of the system.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_Link_tunnel (there are other references from there).

      3. Once Westlake Station was built with an east/west orientation, the “curve” to serve Capitol Hill was mostly unavoidable. Especially if the intention was to have another station near Husky Stadium/UW Med Center. So, the time cost of the station is basically just the dwell time. Capitol Hill is also, as you say, a very useful station.

        Having a subway directly serve First Hill would be useful too. But you also throw in all those infill stations you’ve been advocating for (e.g. Pike/Pine, Montlake/520, Maple Leaf, and others), before you know it, the train ends up taking nearly 30 minutes to get to Northgate and close to an hour to get to Lynnwood.

        I personally think the right time to serve First Hill was with the second downtown tunnel in ST3. That would have been a gentle curve, not a sharp U-turn. Unfortunately, that ship has sailed.

      4. Even though the “ship has sailed” on the second tunnel alignment, First Hill could still be well-served with a diagonal or inclined elevator or a similar cable technology like a funicular.

        – Considering how deep even Midtown Station is, a diagonal shaft to Bowen and Madison would take only slightly longer to use than an elevator down to a deep First Hill station.

        – The Jefferson Street corridor from Pioneer Square is another corridor that could enable a First Hill connection. The buildings are pretty much all government ones so property owner issues are mostly non-existent. An aerial funicular could work there, ending at Harborview Park and a station midway up at about 5th looks possibly doable. A single track at the end stations with a double track in the middle could work like a counterbalance with a driverless vehicle leaving every 3 or 4 minutes. It wouldn’t require waiting for the second tunnel to be open. It could emerge as an attractive option for ST as ST could keep a promise for a Midtown Station at 5th as well as get the deferred First Hill Station added should the second tunnel becomes financially infeasible.

        Regardless, I think this whole virus event has so wrecked local tax funding as well as a desire to use transit for at least several years that I think the second tunnel may be in serious jeopardy anyway without significantly more funding. I also think that First Hill medical investments are so great and employ so many thousands of people that it will eventually get connected to Link.

    2. Oh, and in terms of depth, it probably would be somewhere between Capitol Hill and UW station and would likely have escalators like those stations.

      1. I’m with you on First Hill, Ross. Though again, for Reality’s sake, given advances in computer graphics, I REALLY want to see those section views, soils, rocks, hydrology and all. But main edit is grammatical. Let’s not use past tense.


    3. Capitol Hill to UW is three minutes, as is Westlake to Capitol Hill. My estimate is adding First Hill would add one or two minutes, including dwell time (20 seconds). For this we’d the the third highest-ridership stop in the system after Westlake and Intl Dist. (With honorable mention to downtown Bellevue, and because UW/UDistrict ridership is split between two stations that may be half and half.) First Hill has three 24-hour hospitals and legions of ancillary medical businesses, highrise apartments, elderly people with mobility limitations, and tons of new growth along Madison Street. For that Everett can wait two more minutes, and a significant portion of its ridership would be going to First Hill.

    4. I think it’s important to remember that not everything is past plans made engineering sense. They didn’t have as much pressure to build things cheaply in the 1960’s and 1970’s and didn’t have environmental restrictions (especially construction impacts) and neighborhood opposition as strongly as exists today so they could be a bit more visionary.

      Also, 60 percent of King County population was within the City of Seattle in 1960. A more Seattle-focused plan made sense in that situation.

      1. Past conditions, practice, events, and experience are critically important to know and understand. But they’re more important as guides than demands and prohibitions.


        Lot of things left lying around. Like the massive flow of water that the machine operator aboard the northbound Mighty Mole discovered in front of Century Square when their compartment began to flood.

        Couple decades’ worth of construction equipment and techniques later, would like for the computer graphics of 2020 to show us similar tunneling conditions that could affect our thinking on our every succeeding tunnel plan.

        Demographics, economy, and land-use are of course important, but geology and hydrology bat even farther last than the rest of Nature.

        But if I’ve got a reader headed for grad school, whenever virology says you’re safe to do it, it’s really Essential you do at least a term paper with this comparison for a thesis.

        Tunnel machine named “Mighty Mole” encounters flowing groundwater. Work shuts down while engineers bring up “de-watering” equipment that in effect redirected the natural flow by pumping its own high pressure stream of water alongside the flow.

        Which steered the entire stream on a course taking it clear of the bore. Legend has it that in a very short time, the ground was sucked so dry they had to add water so the cutter could keep digging. Doubt we lost a week’s work.

        But by contrast: Seattle Waterfront Deep Bore Tunnel machine called “Big Bertha” hit a piece of steel the crew knew was there. Unfortunate that what they should also have known was the time-tested method of extracting the steel before they did anything else.

        Effort to break or push the steel obstacle with the cutter resulted in the really-huge cutting head having to be dragged vertically out of the mud, and the machine re-assembled in place. You might conclude your paper with comparison of expense inflicted by demography and the housing market combined.

        My political demand on our country’s education? In addition to being trained in small-arms combat, every single American comes out of high school knows how to handle these calculations in the form of at least an essay, and never Multiple Choice.

        With enough “shop” to both pull that steel and fix that cutter, depending what their course-work got them hired to do.

        ST or Link or both, Lake Washington Tech will shortly not be the only trade school reachable with an ORCA-tap. Which itself will probably gone plastic-free by the time the CO(R)VID squawks his last.

        Mark Dublin

      2. Thankfully, in the hands of a good helmsman, over the ages, many Ships have avoided Saililng into a variety of icebergs.

        Only thing is, in the glory days of deep ocean sailing- think the grain ships from Australia were about the end of it in the 1950’s- everybody aboard knew how many miles that “Main Boom” would send you flying if you were standing up when “She came about.”


    5. Based on the North Link EIS from 2006, the platforms were to be 215 feet under street level. That’s double the depth at UW/Husky Stadium Station, and even deeper than Beacon Hill Station.

      1. Anything lost by being deep? Remember reading someplace that in aviation, all else being equal, the higher you are, the safer. And again with a lot of variables, in excavation, you’re safer being deeper.

        Reason I’m so eagerly looking forward to those new underground graphics. Bet some students left school-less by quarantine have already created the video I’m looking forward to. The knights and monsters will probably add considerable realism to the stations they create.

        If the new software needs a title, I’ll give ’em “Dungeons the Dragons Dragged In!”

        Mark Dublin

        Mark Dublin

  4. There’s a Facebook page called Bellevue: A Look to the Past. And someone named Tom Taylor posted a picture of an old bus and wrote this: “I found an original Overlake Transit bus #40 in California just recently, still in remarkable shape. It was new in 1962 and ran only about a year, when Metropolitan Transit was formed and Overlake merged into it. It ran Redmond-Kirkland-Bellevue-Seattle for the next ten years, until Metro was formed in 1973.”


    If anyone here has any information on some of the old (1940’s – 70’s) local bus companies, like Overlake Transit, or even Metropolitan Transit, and their routes or maps, I’d like to see it.

    1. Metro Employees Historic Vehicle Association – MEHVA is a great resource. Better than virtual research is to talk to the member/drivers when they host an event. Unfortunately they have canceled their excursions and activities for the 2020 season.

      1. I’m surprised I can’t find a King county, or even Seattle area transit route map from the 1950’s or 60’s online. Things much more obscure than that have been uploaded to the internet.

    2. I have plans to write up a full history of STS, Overlake Transit, and Metropolitan Transit on Wikipedia in the future. I may also summarize it here on the blog, so stay tuned.

  5. I was recently researching the history of Bothell which is intimately linked with Seattle as an early transportation hub. First the Sammamish River had steam boat service from Madison Park to Lake Wayne. The river was used to float logs and barge coal to the Montlake Portage (why it’s called Portage Bay). Then the Lake Shore and Eastern Railway Company connected Ballard to Issaquah along the Burke Gillman route. This became a major contender for connecting Seattle to the Canadian border. The Red Brick Road became part of the early State Highway system and Bothell Everett Highway was built before I-5 was ever conceived. Long a major transit arterial, SR-522 is part of the Sound Transit’s Stride Bus Rapid Transit project.

  6. Forward Thrust had a station at 17/20th and Market. Maybe the big sewer that appears to be such a problem today hadn’t been dug at the time. It also had a stations in Belltown, at Amazon, at Gates Foundation and Lower Queen Anne, though it skipped Smith Cove. It turned the original ST dip down for First Hill into a full-on two-extra-stop detour to Madison and Empire (Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard).

    There is Bus Rapid Transit to West Seattle and the Airport and nothing north of Lake City. The model clearly envisioned using the old Interurban right of way some time in the future, since the “Reserved Right of Way for Rapid Transit” ends right at Midvale just north of Northgate Way.

    I can see why King County outside the City voted “No” overwhelmingly, but it was definitely the most efficient system for a Seattle Subway ever proposed.

    1. Tom, every eighteen years there’s a fresh set of high school graduates not only eligible to vote, but to get sworn into the Washington State Legislature on their way home from the polls.

      Also one easy improvement in sight: follow the lead of Scotland few years ago and put voting age at 16. Now that SAT’s are DTT (Down The Tubes), huge amount of fresh air coming with them. No coincidence that country gave us both the steam engine and the cable car.

      Some interesting epidemiology, though, that could be snatched from Seattle Times headlines. In the 1600’s, tragic outbreak of haughty, beautiful girls of about age 17 dying of sorrow after causing sensitive young gentlemen to die of love for them.

      With accompanying plant condition that not only caused a rose to grow out of his grave but worse, from her backbone, a briar. Which, to the frustration of Church of Scotland groundskeepers borders-wide, would invariably climb all the way to the top of the wall and tie in a knot that’d leave all their garden gloves in rags.

      Think the link is Barbara.Allen@soundtransitboard.org

      Mark Dublin

    2. This shows the population distribution and trip patterns in the late 1960s. The main transit markets were expected to be toward Northgate, Renton, Redmond, and Issaquah. Notably missing are Northgate, Southcenter, Sea-Tac airport, Federal Way, Kent, and Shoreline. Southcenter and 405 were just being built then, no previous mall had been a “power center” at a remote freeway intersection, and Kent was still farmland. “The region” was this part of King County, and of the current region Seattle had 90% of the population.

      If Forward Thrust had been built, that might have created demand to live and work in its area, and that might have reduced demand elsewhere and created more urban density. I wouldn’t expect a lot of apartments in Renton, but if it’s on the subway it might increase demand for them there.

      1. Mike, a pair of turnouts could have been built south of the Boeing station and half the north-south trains sent to Sea-Tac and Midway. And something would have been needed in the Rainier Valley, probably surface rail all the way downtown (“Seattle MAX”). But this would have been a very good framework to build from.

      2. Also, as I mentioned, Shoreline was implicitly provided for by future expansion along the Interurban ROW along the west side of Evergreen-Washelli and on up Linden. Sure, it would have had to be elevated north of 125th, but it’s largely being elevated alongside the freeway anyway, so where are the savings in that?

        True, this design does not serve Shoreline / Snohomish to UW trips as well as Link will, but far North to Downtown would have been just about as fast.

      3. This would have been a very good framework to build from.

        I agree. The key thing is that it would have been built quite a while ago, and for a lot less money.

        There are things I would have done differently, but it is a decent framework. I think one of the more interesting things is the importance they place on bus service and connectivity. The West Seattle Bridge — from its inception — would have had transit lanes on it (which means no weave, no backup at SR 99 — just smooth sailing from West Seattle to downtown). Likewise, the train to Renton has stops next to the freeway, which means that with a little bit of work, suburban riders could transfer just fine and get to work faster then they will with ST3.

        I think the north end would have been in great shape — better than they will be with the current plan. It wouldn’t take much work to extend the Lake City train to the west, and end at some freeway station, with a good connection to all the buses coming from the north. The obvious choice is 185th (or is it 175th) that shows up on the map as a “transit center”. Meanwhile, the Ballard line could follow Holman Road to Northgate or Aurora (or both). Ideally you want both lines to connect, but that isn’t essential, and could happen up north (again, as a bonus to suburban riders).

        The south end seems a bit more problematic. The stations seem really bad until you get to Renton. But it could still be fixed, largely by building what they built with ST1. Run a line to Beacon Hill, Rainier Valley and the airport. At worst someone from Renton to Rainier Valley makes a transfer at whatever that station is, a bit south of Rainier Beach. At best, you reconfigure the lines (like they did in Vancouver) such that Rainier Valley station are connected to Renton, while the airport has an even faster one seat connection to downtown Seattle. That means the two lines converge, then separate.

        That allows for political symmetry. The south end has as many transit lines as the north end. Obviously this is important, otherwise, there would be no West Seattle Link.

        Eventually you add the Ballard-to-UW line, and then you are done. It is a bit awkward in places, but you really don’t need the Metro 8 subway, since the main line serves the Central Area so well. South Lake Union is still a long walk, or a frequent-but-not-especially-fast bus ride away, as it will be with ST3.

        Yep, it would have been great. OK, now can we imagine what life would have been like had the well meaning Theresa LePore not produced the “butterfly ballot” in 2000? A handful of old Jewish voters in Palm Beach would not have been confused, and would have made their intent known, and officially voted for Al Gore, instead of the anti-Semite, Pat Buchanan. Al Gore would then become President. No Iraq War, maybe no 9-11 ….

    3. I can see why King County outside the City voted “No” overwhelmingly…

      That is pretty common, no matter what is proposed for transit. I think the problem was the timing as well as the high bar (a majority of people voted for the original rapid transit proposal in 1968, but it needs 60% approval). I think the mistake was not starting smaller after the first one failed. It is fairly common for voters — especially conservative ones — to accept a smaller proposal after voting against the first one. Of course, in 1970 — in the midst of a local recession — just about anything would have failed (and did).

  7. Can I ask everybody reading today’s Seattle Transit Blog to join me in thanking Bruce for today’s posting? It’s like after a stale fretful stuffy locked-up quarantine room of a springtime, this sunny morning somebody finally opened a window.

    What’s being daylighted, is exactly what at this point in time we most need to see, contemplate, and discuss. What a lot of us have been working on for the relatively short space of time parenthetically including our own lifetimes, is really only one small part of an ongoing effort, of 150 years. With, whatever trouble’s in sight, no end.

    A sunray, please, aimed toward definitions of the term “Agency”.

    1. A business or organization established to provide a particular service, typically one that involves organizing transactions between two other parties.

    2. Action or intervention, especially such as to produce a particular effect. As in: “canals carved by the agency of running water”.

    At this writing, in the area of public transit, a huge source of waste and frustration is that Definition 1. has been allowed to throw a fussing, stomping, lip-stuck-out tantrum all over Definition 2.

    Holding a connection between ST 574 and IT 612 is a matter of what drivers DO with their machines, and radio supervisors with their phones. The same for an accountant programming a computer to move the proceeds of my ORCA account from one division to another.

    Possibly what’s needed is an interAGENCY agreement (in both definitions) to, for the next ten years, never preface the word “Agency” with the word “Separate.” Like with this morning’s condition of the West Seattle Bridge, we really are all in this together.


    If the archives have any files left over from the arts project of the Downtown Seattle Transit Project, it would be only fair and long past time to give credit to the artists, who originally created the giant cable-wheel that’s now on the mezzanine at Pioneer Square Station?

    They doubtlessly considered themselves skilled tradespeople. True art would show the thing in motion. Hologram, maybe? Some Body designed and built Some beautiful Thing whose purpose was Work.

    If journalism is an art- yeah, guess it depends on both the journalist and their editor- would be a massive boost to transit if DNA research could recreate Seattle Times Reporter Bob Lane.

    Perfect example of Agency lies with the Breda fleet. When Forward Thrust went down with sort of a clunk, for twenty years those machines carried many thousands of passengers whose public transit would otherwise have consisted of a one mile an hour parade down Third Avenue every rush hour. And for rail, a limitless proliferation of colored lines on flip charts, with dots for stations.

    STB editing suggestion: To [OT] and [AH], add [WWYD?] for “What Would You Do?” And also [WWB?] for “What Worked Before?” And Bruce, while we’re checking online for a classic bronze journalism award for you, tell us what we commentors can do to make your life easier. Oh, but also:


    Any history on how Seattle’s street rail system handled 1918?

    Mark Dublin

  8. The 1988 Metro Map is fascination and enlightening. In the Lake City area, It looks like a bus used to run on 35th, then doglegged to 37th north of 125th. There were also two turnaround spots for buses at 145th (that bus and another one). Once Link gets to Lynnwood, and the 522 BRT bus replaces service on SR 522, being able to turn around there would be great. Of course I’m not sure if would be acceptable any more to do what the old bus did.

    1. The bus that ran on 35th Ave NE was the #25 and its terminal was eastbound on NE 145th . On Sundays the #25 did not operate so it was #71 that turned north on 35th Ave NE at NE 65th to NE 145th. It alternated with the #71 that continued on its regular route to NE 85th. What I can’t remember if #71 replaced the #25 in the evenings and on Saturdays but I definitely know it did on Sundays. If you drive east on NE 145th from Lake City Way you will see a cut away in the sidewalk which was the terminal. This is just before 37th Ave NE. This is a residential area and not really suitable for a terminal or turnaround and if I remember the residents were happy when Metro discontinued running the # 25 and #71 there.

      The other route was the #72. It went north on 30th Ave NE and then east on NE 145th to 32nd Ave NE and made a right turn to its terminal just south of NE 145th. After leaving the terminal it went south on 32nd Ave NE, made a right turn on NE 143rd to 30th Ave NE and turning south. Metro changed the # 72 terminal to further south on 32nd Ave NE to around NE 137th as the original terminal was a bad one because of businesses, homes and the traffic in the area.

      1. If you go east on NE 145th from Lake City Way you will see a cut away in the sidewalk which was the terminal. This is just before 37th Ave NE.

        Oh yeah — look at that: https://goo.gl/maps/VrRtnRL2Tg7h37iX8. You can still barely see the red and yellow on the curb for the stop. I think I’ve walked by there, and never knew quite what that was.

  9. A good history needs to include an awareness of the types of vehicles used. For example:

    – Seattle cable cars were like San Francisco to go up and down hills, rather than be a single incline with level floors like Pittsburgh. That made removal in favor of electric trolley buses easier.

    – The dual-mode Breda buses for the tunnel were innovative to get through the DSTT in their time, but a ride on them felt like riding in a tank.

    – The trolley bus wires were deemed unsightly in Madison Park and removed. I’m not sure what other neighborhoods pushed back against trolley wires. Wire issues affected which routes are diesel or electric today.

    1. Originally the trolley wires provided electrical power to customers. The transportation company was also a utility. That’s why electrified rail lines were run to places like Steilacoom.

    2. Al S., the reason the San Francisco cars didn’t go “flat-floor” was precisely so they could handle hills and curves like a regular train. Or trolleybus.

      It’s worth a visit both to see the museum containing the working motors that pull the cables, and also to get off along the line, look down the groove where the line turns a corner, and see the pulleys running under each leg of the curve.


      In addition to strength and a minimum personal weight limit, cable car operators need terrific timing and coordination. To take a curve, with split-second timing, operator must disengage the grip before the curve, and re-clench it when the car’s over the next cable.

      Not sure how far along batteries have come, but since their inception, trolleybuses have been the natural replacements for cable cars. Wiring fifty miles of mountain roads, I-90 from Rainier to Ellensburg, tempting but doubt Russians would do it now.

      Does anybody know how long we’d have to wait before our electric buses could ever climb either James Street from Third to Ninth, the Queen Anne Counterbalance on battery? Or the south end of the Route 27? Wish they’d wire it now.

      For the Breda fleet, everybody involved in its operation, including drivers, mechanics, and supervisors, deserves tremendous credit, as we indeed used it to get a twenty year start on our regional electric rail system.

      But I’ll blame myself forever that I didn’t lead a campaign to have that whole fleet declared “Nonresponsive” and sent back to be dumped in the ocean off Sicily for fish habitat. Risking a possible quake that would’ve triggered Mt. Vesuvius, as well as killing all those fish.

      As I’m alleging about a certain fare policy in regard to ORCA card holders, those buses injured drivers! Not only did driver’s compartment heaters have to be installed at gunpoint. But the angle of every single accelerator application sent its full force straight through the driver’s knee-joint.

      I was visibly limping as I walked off my last shift. If I’d stayed, knee-replacement surgery for sure.

      Especially since, to keep the bus moving at all, and especially at its closest pathetic approximation of highway speed, drivers had to hold that pedal flat to the floor with all our strength. Really would like to see the bill for road damage. Bet it’d cover more than one ST-.

      Passenger ride quality was indeed terrible. Stair-wells out of
      “Hunchback of Notre Dame.” Never personally hauled scrap-iron, but can testify that average Breda accelerated, braked, cornered, and rolled a lot worse than the building stone under DC and Maryland.

      Compounding the Sin of Silence was its reinforcement of Breda’s offenses against two civilian populations who both deserved and should have known better, Oslo, Norway and Gothenburg, Sweden.

      Honest, on last visit to Gothenburg, all I asked was a tour of the car-barn. But when the Chief Instructor sat me down in the driver’s seat of Ansaldo Breda Car 407, he told me as follows:

      “It’s brand new, it’s a Breda, and it’s not very good but it’s what we’ve got. You know how to work the controller, forward to accelerate, pull back to brake. I’ll throw the switches, and you just do what I tell you.”

      Which was to execute a mid-morning non-passenger trip through downtown Gothenburg. Heartbroken I hadn’t brought my wife, who’d stayed back at our hotel with a cold. For the “feel” of the machine, if I’d stayed DSTT for the duration of “Joint Ops” I would’ve kept on the bus side.

      But words “Low-Bid” ought to translate into a War Crimes trip to the Hague. Whose tramways run Citadis, Bombardier, and Siemens. So for our Breda fleet and its entire “ilk”, as they call it in Scotland, plea for the future is next time send whoever signed the order back to Sicily in the driver’s seat of Coach 5001. Especially if it’s me.

      Metro’s own mechanics whom I’d been counting on to fix it all, they were victims too. They’d pleaded for the Neoplan. And mercy also for the young Breda official in his Mussolini-epaulet uniform over espresso at First and Pine:

      “We can’t get a single decision out of the Metro Council. What we’re giving you….THIS IS NOT A BREDA!”

      “Agency” to blame, the one on the company letterhead. Sense of “Agency” that made a railroad-beginning bus system out of that rolling pile of junk…may its memory inspire us to next time heed my hero Union General Carl Schurz in his own pledge to our Country:

      “When it’s right, to be KEPT right, and when it’s wrong to be SET right!”

      Mark Dublin

  10. Linked video could’ve been our Tunnel fleet if Neoplan hadn’t refused to give us the performance bond our specs required. Not only did our mechanics like them, but they had the low bid, too.


    Perfect example of what happens when taxpayers who in addition to being mommies and daddies are also voters, allow Agencies to bully their well-behaved cousin named “Agency.”

    One thing we’ve got in 2020 that didn’t exist when we spec’ed out the DSTT fleet: Gotta at least be one really cute singer with freckles and turquoise-frosted hair, a dynamite football-star, and a pet cat only pretending to be a demon who can help us Crowd-Source that bond!

    Since, coming from Stockholm she’s familiar with the Route 12 Nockeby, a bargain ticket on Icelandair will inevitably put Greta Thunberg on-scene to steer our fundraising.

    The Allies should’ve hanged Hans Asperger, namesake for her syndrome, for all the kids he sent to the gas chambers for concentration that rendered them immune to either commercials or freshly-appointed cabinet-members on NPR.

    But in modern America, her autism is a huge advantage. Distractions like the transit-trashing disease-bearing homeless are powerless to take her mind off the performance bond West Seattle will need to balance off Everett.

    In every single way, the Best is just barely getting started toward its inevitable fate as Yet To Come!

    Mark Dublin

  11. the Seattle Municipal archives would be another good source for Seattle Transit schedules and maps. they may be on Yesler Way near 14th Avenue.

    Route 25 to Cedar Park was restructured in fall 1998; it had been through routed with Route 27; the latter was a phantom bus because Route 25 faced so much congestion Mountlake Boulevard NE.

    Route 72 had other oddities; it ran on NE 80th Street between 15th and Ravenna avenues NE, a non-arterial transit street. the Bredas made the houses shake.

    of course, the Forward Thrust alignments made more sense than those of ST.

    1. Metro proposed some years ago to move the # 72 to NE 75th and they backed off from the move because of opposition of riders who didn’t want to lose the service on NE 80th. The move was proposed because of the shaking of the houses as posted but also that the street between Ravenna Ave NE and 20th Ave NE was a winding street and made more so when a roundabout was installed at 22nd Ave NE. Of course that service was gone when the # 72 was cancelled because of the route changes made when Light Rail extended to Husky Stadium.

      Before the # 72 there was the old # 22 Roosevelt which had 2 terminals with one at NE 92nd and Roosevelt Way. It made a loop turning west on NE 84th, north on 5th Ave NE and then west to on NE 92nd to its terminal. The other terminal was at NE 80th and Ravenna Avenue and would get there by going east on NE 80th then going south on 20th Ave NE and then east on NE 82nd and then north on Ravenna Ave NE to its terminal. From the terminal west on NE 80th to Roosevelt.

  12. It’s interesting that Graham Street was planned in Sound Move as a deferred station. I didn’t know it was planned so early. I just assumed that it was not decided on as a stop.

    I have to wonder what they thought would be gained by building it later as opposed to building it then. The ST3 infill station at Graham is going to cost $30 million, in addition to disruptions on the existing line and road closures. I have to think that when they were building this thing in the early 2000s and MKL looked like this: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/34/Light_rail_construction_at_MLK_%26_Othello_in_the_Rainier_Valley_(2145113195).jpg,
    that just building the station then would have been nearly free by comparison, like single digit millions.

    1. One possible consideration for a Link Station at Graham: unless construction includes either an elevated stretch or more likely an undercut, there’ll be headway problems the whole length of the line in both directions.

      Am I right, eddiew?

      Mark Dublin

    2. Dereferring meant that if it get built, it would be somebody else’s budget. Given that it is being built anyway, it’s probably a short-sighted decision.

      Of course, Graham St. Station is also a double-edged sword. It’s certainly great for the Rainier Valley. It not only provides more neighborhoods with access to Link, but it would also result in a better bus network. Imagine a bus that goes straight down Graham, connecting Georgetown, Link, and Seward Park all in a straight line.

      On the other hand, for everybody passing through, it just makes the slow train to the airport that much slower. Ridership-wise, it’s probably worth it, but if every time adding a station improves ridership, you do it, you end up with a line designed for travel no more than a few miles, and anybody needing to go further than that, it becomes painfully slow.

      Just like First Hill, every additional station, taken individually, always seems to result in more ridership. But, if you expect people to be willing to ride the train all the way from Tacoma, at some point, you have to draw the line.

      1. On the other hand, for everybody passing through, it just makes the slow train to the airport that much slower. … you end up with a line designed for travel no more than a few miles, and anybody needing to go further than that, it becomes painfully slow.

        So what?

        I think you are missing the main idea here. Mass transit makes lots of stops in crowded, congested, urban areas because that is what they do best. Mass transit works well with lots of stops because that is where the big savings come from. It is as if you are pointing out that the big tires on a monster truck make it difficult to park. Who cares? That isn’t what it is good for.

        If it is noon, and I want to get from Everett to Seattle, a bus (or car) is going to be just as fast as a train, even if the train makes no stops*. On the other hand, if I want to get from Pioneer Square to Capitol Hill, a train is much faster. It is that fundamental advantage of mass transit — urban stop to urban stop — which adds the most value. The more urban stops you add, the more time you save over the alternatives. This also increases ridership, which in turn creates more frequency, thus adding even more value.

        There are trade-offs with every approach. But if you want the greatest good for the greatest number, you build a standard mass transit system. That is because mass transit systems will *always* have more riders than a commuter rail system. Yes, it takes a while to go really far (say, 30 miles). But very few people make that trip, no matter how fast you go. Even when you build a system with very few stops, and extremely fast trains, very few people ride it from outside the urban core. That is the case with BART. BART was the great transit experiment that proved, once again, that everyone else in the world had the right idea (and the Bay Area didn’t). That is the case with every commuter rail system — even ones that involve high speed rail. Urban transit always has more riders than commuter rail. Always.

        I realize it isn’t intuitive. We can all imagine going down to Tacoma, or up to Everett. But very few people are doing that on a regular basis, and very few people will do that on a spontaneous basis, even if you build a faster system. Furthermore, the most popular commuter rail systems are those that connect into a robust inner city transit system. The argument for building a commuter rail system — or commuter-subway hybrid — without building a strong mass transit system is contradictory. It suggests that lots of people want to visit the big city, but only to a handful of stations. That is simply not true. For example, about 20% of the ridership from Rainier Beach is southbound. It is about 35% from Mount Baker. If Link skipped Rainier Valley, it is quite likely that ridership *at the stations south of Rainier Beach* would actually go down. You’ve gained speed, but only to some locations.

        Furthermore, a mass transit system will save those riders more time. Take this example: Everett to First Hill. Just to be clear, very few people make this trip, just as very few people go from Everett to downtown Seattle. But just consider the trip before and after Everett Link:

        1) Rider takes bus to Lynnwood Station. For sake of argument, 20 minutes.
        2) Lynnwood to Capitol Hill — 24 minutes.
        3) Capitol Hill to First Hill — 10 minutes.

        Now add Everett Link:

        1) Rider takes bus to Everett Station — 8 minutes
        2) Lynnwood to Capitol Hill — 34 minutes.
        3) Capitol Hill to First Hill — 10 minutes.

        The rider has saved 2 minutes, because the bus ride is shorter. Now backfill First Hill, but keep the ending at Lynnwood:

        1) Rider takes bus to Lynnwood. 20 minutes.
        2) Lynnwood to First Hill — 26 minutes.

        The savings are huge — much higher than when Link is extended to Everett! Again, it isn’t intuitive. But you can’t ignore the first trip to a suburban Link station, which is — for just about everyone — going to involve taking a bus. Having that bus spend less time on the freeway is probably a good thing — but it isn’t that good. In fact, I was probably generous to Everett Link. In all likelihood, the Everett rider can get to Lynnwood faster via a bus, meaning the typical Everett rider actually *loses* time. What they gain, however, is better connections *within* Everett — i. e. they have more stops — the very thing you want to get rid of!

        Sorry, it doesn’t add up. There is a very good reason why subway lines in London, New York, Paris, Tokyo, Seoul and just about every city don’t extend out as far as ours will. It doesn’t work. We are talking mega-cities here. Cities that are huge, both in population and space. Yet they don’t run their subways that far out, because it just doesn’t work. It isn’t worth it, and in many cases not only is a bus (or commuter rail) a better value, but better for the riders. More to the point, none of them would ever consider skipping a stop like First Hill just so that more distant riders would save a couple minutes to some other destination.

        * Obviously a high speed train is faster than an express bus (or car). But in areas where high speed rail exists, ridership is still tiny between cities compared to within cities.

      2. Note that First Hill wasn’t dropped because of travel time. The ST board and all the cities that led up to the decision to include it all agreed the travel time was acceptable. The same with Graham and BAR, which were deferred and then undeferred. And Beacon Hill, which was added. First Hill was dropped because later engineering revealed soil conditions that increased the risk of cost overruns and delays, right on the heels of the 2000 meltdown over Ship Canal tunneling that almost sank the initial segment. ST was risk-adverse and ran away from the station. And it and the neighborhood and city succumbed to the silly notion that a mixed-traffic streetcar would be an adequate consolation. In ST3, ST and the cities again overestimated the potential of a RapidRide on Madison.

        First Hill’s main problem is ST and the politicians don’t adequately recognize its regional significance. Officially it’s part of the downtown urban center, and car-centric politicians assume the downtown stations adequately serve it. But if you split it into a separate urban center, it would be as large as Everett, Tacoma, Lynnwood, Federal Way — all these must-serve areas. So why shouldn’t a First Hill station be top priority, if not in ST2 than ST3. But it’s invisible, not one of the must-serve areas.

        Graham came down to not being big enough — not regionally significant enough. Columbia City has a defined identity that draws people from elsewhere. Rainier Beach is the largest neighborhood in far southeast Seattle. It was big enough for the 106 and 107 to run express to it on their way to Renton when Link was being designed. That seemed to indicate it was worthy of a station.

        The extra Capitol Hill stations (Bellevue, 15th, and 23rd) were never really considered by ST. The first draft had Link on Broadway/Portage Bay with one additional station (Madison, Pine-John, Roy). When the Montlake alternative was chosen, the Madison and John stations remained but nothing replaced the Roy station, because 15th wasn’t considered regional enough. When they revived U-Link several years after mothballing it, they didn’t revisit the stations and consider whether any should be added; they just wanted to build the previous plan.

        Another issue is the high cost of underground stations. It costs several times more to build an underground station than a surface station, and even more when they’re deep. ST is packing a lot into each ST1/2/3 measure, and urban-spaced stations are just lower priority than must-serve stations in separate urban centers.

      3. There have been grumblings from some suburban boardmembers on the travel time of adding First Hill, Graham, and 130th, but none of it rose to the level of a board motion to hinder them. Where travel times most have influence is deciding between different alternatives. The Aurora alternative was four minutes slower than the I-5 alternative, and ST estimated it would lose more riders in Lynnwood than it would gain on Aurora. (If Aurora had had higher zoning and more existing urban villages, that would have changed the results.) The Aurora alternative had an additional station at 130th. That was ST’s addition. When the Aurora alternative was deselected, advocates tried to get that station transferred to the I-5 alternative but were unsuccessful. ST considered it, and a 130th-155th pair instead of 145th, but it had a very high threshold for deviating from the representative alignment which had only 145th.

        Ever since Graham and 130th were deferred there has been persistent advocacy from North King constituents to add them. 130th was the second-most advocated feedback during Lynnwood Link’s design, behind only not encoaching Scriber Lake Park in Lynnwood. In ST3 the agency ultimately did what it usually does: balance the political interests between cities. It added those stations to get more Seattle votes, and Shohomish and Pierce went along with it because they needed those votes to get their Everett and Tacoma extensions passed.

        The Capitol Hill stations never had organized advocacy, only three or four people, and most of it was after the tunnel had been built and U-Link was about to open. Underground stations are expensive, and retrofitting underground stations after the fact is prohibitively more expensive because you’d have to unseal/reseal the tunnel, dig ahole from the surface (destroying the village in order to save it), and interrupt active service for months with, what, buses on I-5 caught in congestion? And U-Link was going to be the big showcase of success, not something you’d want to interrupt. So the fault was both ST and Seattle and the activists. And a political system that didn’t just prioritize these stations from the beginning and didn’t need activists to spend years screaming for them.

      4. Cost was also a factor in the Aurora/I-5 decision. The I-5 estimates were lower. That didn’t turn out to be completely true because I-5 is so old that ST has to go around it gingerly, because if it damages it it have to pay for the replacement. Ultimately I think the primary reason I-5 was chosen was cost, and those four minutes were a secondary factor.

      5. “Ultimately I think the primary reason I-5 was chosen was cost,…”

        I agree with that assessment. ST was clearly counting on the WSDOT ROW to keep the cost of their LR extensions as low as possible. In the case of Lynnwood Link, the savings from this approach (with its walkshed trade-off) have been completely wiped out anyway with the overall cost escalation of the project. Additionally, even with the alignment running primarily along I-5 the property acquisitions have increased dramatically (almost 3x) since the ST2 package was passed. The before-and-after study on this particular extension is going to be very interesting to read when we finally get to see it some nine or ten years from now. One cannot help but wonder about the lost opportunity of a 99 alignment from the perpective of the time saving argument being deemed immaterial and the I-5 cost savings being reevaluated (and considered to have been vastly overstated).

      6. One thing I rue about is taking freeway right-of-way for relatively slow trains. It precludes building higher-speed trains at a reasonable cost along the same land. The land was taken for high-speed travel and building for/ running only a 55-mph maximum train seems wasteful. It’s one reason that I feel like we should be building for faster trains in those corridors and have level cross-platform transfers to get on a light rail train closer to Downtown Seattle.

    3. It was just cost related. By deferring, they could go farther for the same amount of money. From the very beginning, Link was geared towards distance, not quality. It is a backwards approach. Yes, people from farther away get there faster. But the end result is fewer riders, and a less frequent train.

  13. One of my favorite books is “Johnny and the Bomb”, about a time-traveling boy in a small town in England. In 1942 it’s a manufacturing town with a famous pickle factory and motorcycle factory. In 1996 it doesn’t manufacture anything; the principle business mentioned is a shopping mall.

    Forward Thrust going through Georgetown; it’s not the Georgetown of today but the Georgetown of forty years ago. That got me thinking, what did Seattle manufacture in the 1940s that it doesn’t now? What was in Georgetown and SODO and SLU then? There’s the Rainier Brewery. What else?

    1. Radio conversation I heard a couple of days ago. Like JC Penney in Capitol Mall uphill and to the west, the days are past when “Anchor” stores at malls can even pay their rent. Is it Macy’s that’s the same example in Downtown Seattle?

      Now can anybody give me any reason why the Greater Puget Sound region can’t develop the industrial base to rejuvenate the world’s supply of PCC streetcars?

      And since we’re next to water, whether it’s Boeing or somebody else, might not climate change itself start providing a market for amphibious aircraft?

      I always thought their manufacture would provide a perfect use for when electric freight trains are added to the waterfront streetcar line whose present dormancy I’m not sure was ever intended to be permanent.

      Should be able to share both maintenance and communications when the South Lake Union Trolley, the First Avenue Connector, and the First Hill Streetcar. But in addition to finally getting us vehicles that’ll handle the traffic that our new Waterfront will generate, my freight line will also render it self-supporting.

      For a manufacturing industry, this has always been second choice, the first being electric rail transit:


      For a climate-changing Seattle, can’t think of anything more fitting. And Google: “Freight Trams In Germany”. Which history proves can also “hook on” a passenger car, maybe picturesquely antique.

      Waterfront chief Marshall Foster once told me that he’d redone some underground utilities to make Alaskan Way friendlier to light rail.

      Personal image, as I watched the George Benson line get dishonestly removed one streetcar at a time from the renewal plans, was to be-jewel Elliott Bay with a necklace of an electric railroad, with streetcars for gemstones.

      A caution, of course, being the rise of sea-levels. Though wouldn’t be first instance of an entire neighborhood built on very large floats. Experience and outcome of grooved rail on I-90 might offer some lessons that’ll both improve and shorten construction.

      And incidentally, tenth floor of the Downtown library has a fairly thick comprehensive study on Waterfront electric rail extension both north and south of Downtown. Maybe thirty years old. But definitely seriously [ON] topic tonight.

      Mark Dublin

      1. Bernie, the term is “Ground Effect Aircraft”. Subset of what used to be called a “Flying Boat”.

        A plane designed so that at certain speed, at very low altitude like about ten feet, its own motion creates a very calm cushion of air for it to float on.

        Seems like a natural for Puget Sound between Everett and Olympia, as well as the shoreline of Elliott Bay between Alki and Magnolia. Russia seems to use a lot of them.


      2. Yes, but Boeing still makes planes here, even if not within the city limits. And the Duwamish plant area was in Seattle until Boeing got the city to exclude it so Boeing wouldn’t have to pay city taxes.

        But what I was getting at is, what’s completely gone? Most large American cities started as industrial cities, then the US de-industrialized in the 60s and 70s and the work moved to Asia. So what disappeared or left in Seattle?

      3. But what I was getting at is, what’s completely gone? Most large American cities started as industrial cities, then the US de-industrialized in the 60s and 70s and the work moved to Asia. So what disappeared or left in Seattle?

        I think it is lots of little things. For example, there are no more lumber mills in the city. Ship building has shifted more to ship repairs. Military spending no longer has such a big influence on the region (since the Cold War is over) but there is still plenty of that. Likewise, there is still lots of manufacturing, it is just a little bit more spread out and diverse. In general the economy is a lot more diverse than it used to be.

      4. Lake Union is probably the clearest example. The entire lake was an industrial area, now just a corner of it on Northlake is what I would call “industrial.”

        Some cities, like NYC and SF, have mostly redeveloped their urban industrial neighborhoods, but not all. Chicago is just now starting to punt of their industrial zones and redevelop them for more mixed-use+white collar+light industry (sorta what Portland has done with the Rose district). Other cities like LA and Houston still have large, active industrial areas like Seattle. So it’s really a mix.

      5. On the east side of Lake Union there is some industry as well. There is a drydock, as well as a fish processing plant (https://goo.gl/maps/U3SvLcQWo2gd5UoJ8) off of Fairview. That is what I was getting at when I mentioned the existence of lots of little bits of industry hear and there.

        But yeah, most of Lake Union is now marinas for privately owned boats, parkland, or restaurants.

    2. “Macy’s that’s the same example in Downtown Seattle?”

      Macy’s closed the Seattle store before the covid panic started. It had a closeout sale in January and Februrary, but the decision to close it was made last year. It’s not that Macy’s couldn’t pay the rent at downtown or Northgate, just that its corporate owner needed to downsize and these were the ones chosen. And Northgate would have had to close soon anyway for mall renovation. The downtown store was really getting shabby. I hadn’t shopped at Macy’s for years but last summer during the Bellevue Arts Fair I found a towel pattern I liked and was on sale, so I got it at the Seattle store, and later I got sheets there. The escalators were just run-down and creaky and the decor looked old-fashioned. Macy’s hadn’t been investing in it for years. I hope the Macy’s sign comes off the outside and it can just have the Bon Marche sign when Amazon presumably consumes it.

      1. I had read that when the Macy store in downtown closed that the plan was for the Bon Marche sign to go back up on the building and that the Christmas star would continue as it is a big part of the holiday season. But that was before the virus crisis so if they will carry through with those plans now is unknown.

        You mentioned that Macy had not invested in the building and it looked run down and that reminded me when I went the Sears store at 155th and Aurora Avenue some years ago and found a building that was so run down it was not surprising that there was almost no shoppers as it was not inviting at all. I was there to pick up a part for my dryer and I couldn’t wait to leave asap. The store is now closed and I can understand why.

      2. The Bon Marche logo is sculpted into the wall and part of the historic landmark. The Macy’s star is still there last I looked and the business community wants it to stay (although I disagree). There was also one Macy’s sign the last time I looked, and that’s the one I hope won’t remain long term. The Bon Marche was a local company from before the days of Wall Street ownership and short-termism, and they built an eight-story vertically-oriented City Beautiful art deco building that deserves to be honored. Macy’s may be a similar company in New York but when it got here it was a suburbanesque out-of-state coroprate generichood whose name shouldn’t mar the building after it’s gone. (Why people love the Macy’s star I don’t know; it looks like the Soviet star.)

    3. Boeing was on Marginal Way South, plant number two. Boeing expanded to Everett, Renton, Fredickson, and South Carolina.

  14. Mike, since topic here is history, nobody’s questioning your right to investigate what used to be here, that either left or disappeared.

    Really beneficial, though, if your goal is to learn lessons as to what we’d be wise either rejuvenate and continue, or be sure we never do again. Like Olympia Roasters and Batdorf, manufacture in this area has room for flying boats, hydrofoils, and jetliners all three.

    COVID’s worst danger is that it’s rendering our electorate unable to combine our efforts to redirect our country’s politics, in the face of an existential threat to the Republic.

    Worldwide and throughout History itself, this isn’t the first time, and won’t be the last. Especially regarding the transit system we need and have proved we’re capable of building, what I won’t sit back and hear is that past mistakes have left us doomed.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Good point. The idea just occurred to me yesterday so it will take time to think about that. I knew that Seattle had been an industrial city, and that the US deindustrialized around the time of the Boeing Bust, but I had never put the two together and thought about what did Seattle lose like Blackbury (the ficticious town in the book). But when I reread the book yesterday I thought, “What’s our pickle factory? What’s our motorcycle factory?”

      There’s no technical reason the northwest can’t become a premier streetcar/light rail manufacturer. But it’s so far off the radar of business and political leaders that it’s practically inconceivable. There’s no political support for European levels of urban/commuter rail in the US. Boeing is focused on the more space-age and lucrative airplane market. (Although recent changes in that market may force a rethink.) PCC in Portland tried streetcar manufacturing and failed. It got streetcars out the door but couldn’t find enough market long-term, plus it could only get had-been designs from Europe. The Everett Industrial Center is looking for clients, so conceivably a railcar factory could go up there, if any local or foreign company is interested. Also, Washington is a unionized state, and several foreign manufacturers have chosen right-to-work states for their US plants so they can pay minimum wage and eliminate the possibility of strikes.

      1. What I’ve been saying about “Agencies” and “Agency.” If streetcar manufacture is “off the radar”, might it not be time that somebody put it “on” the radar?

        I guess it’s been awhile, but I seem to remember a time when my screen didn’t have all those spiky little covid viruses all over it. Different world, Mike, different day.

        JC Penney used to take up a great big lot of the screen.
        Face it and deal with it.

        Mark Dublin

    2. I have been advocating supporting the local manufacturing base, because we may need it in the future. Climate change, wars, or oil prices could shut off long-distance shipping and make local manufacturing and urban agriculture an necessity. And if we already had that now we’d be more resilient in the current covid crisis. Just like Europe in the 1970s invested in urban rail transit and renewable energy (and in France nuclear) to be more resilient to mideast oil shocks and all kinds of catastrophes. I want Seattle and the US to be the same.

      That’s why I’ve been ambivalent about rezoning SODO for housing. We benefit from the warehouses and small manufacturing/industrial offices. Even if some companies fold, others will replace them, and new industries will emerge. And the employees can take frequent transit to work. They can’t do that in the outskirts of Bothell or Issaquah or Snohomish or Everett. Even if a station is in downtown Bothell or Issaquah, it’s not within walking distance of the plant. Unlike in Brooklyn, where similar businesses are in multistory buildings on neighborhood grid streets within walking distance of subway stations.

      1. Also, Mike, since I once saw an illustrated map from 1900 showing Sodo as a saltwater bay- had some pretty good-sized ships in it- might it not be a good idea to put the housing someplace else? Lord knows what-all else is in there from quakes in previous centuries.


  15. Looking at that old ST Link map, First Hill is what will stand out for most people, but I was really struck by the alignment south of Rainier. We will get the BAR eventually, but that alignment through Tukwilla was really smart with two stations to separate the urban station from the P&R station. I wonder if a future plan will fix this by straightening out the alignment and give Tukwilla a new station away from the P&R and freeway.

    Choosing the follow I5 rather than 99 is a constant theme throughout Link expansion, and this short section seems the easiest to fix with a future project.

    1. AJ, could be we need two different kinds of trains.



      In Swedish Pronounced “Pogue-a-togue” and meaning “Little Boy Train”. Bathrooms. Either I-5, or present Amtrak shoreline past the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, or both.

      Along this stretch, too bad Link can’t do less I-5 and more SR99, but not fatal either. Real fast ride either way. Economy and population, this region will only get bigger.

      Mark Dublin

    2. What urban station in Tukwila? Tukwila had no urb then, and still doesn’t. The closest is a sprawl mega-center called Southcenter. Tukwila City Hall is all alone in a random location off 154th. As far as I can tell from the map, Forward Thrust wouldn’t have served Southcenter.

      1. Urban meaning station type, not the current land use (particularly in the absence of a station). A station with no parking, where ridership is all pedestrians and bus transfers. “future urban village at South 144th” would have been more specific. My point was that by placing a station away from I5/518 and providing no parking, in addition to serving the commuter P&R at station that became TIBS, it was a very good plan on how to serve the ‘along the way’ between the Rainier Valley and SeaTac.


    3. I looked for Tukwila’s historic downtown and when I asked around, there was none. There’s a Tukwila museum in the northwest which I haven’t gone to, but from what I could gather online it was really just a rural area with a few scattered institutions; no walkable village. It went straight from that to Southcenter.

      Kent in contrast had a compact town around the railroad station. It converted its northwest farmland to sprawling car-dependent industrial, Tukwila did the same with sprawling car-dependant retail from Southcenter down to it, but without the town Kent had.

      When I took the 150 to Kent occasionally in the 80s, 68th Ave S was practically empty, and west James Street felt like the middle of nowhere.

      1. Tukwilla is an odder shape than most, but like many of Seattle’s suburbs, it has more than one neighborhood. There was an opportunity for Link to well serve the corridor along 99, which is filled with tons of small businesses & is a world away from Southcenter.

        Kent has a lovely downtown well served by Sounder, but Kent was never going to get Link down in the Valley so they making a new urban node centered on the community college. Tukwilla could have done the same, and the initial plan was good with 2 stations, but in the end all they got was TIBS.

      2. I thought Tukwila’s “two stations, one urban” referred to Forward Thrust. I don’t see the relationship between Forward Thrust’s stations and Tukwila. Maybe it referred to the first Link design when it was surface on 99 and 154th; I don’t know how many stations it had then. Tukwila was a smaller area in the 1970s; it annexed land in the west and north later. The Tukwila International Boulevard area was part of that annexation I think.

        I don’t understand how Tukwila, which didn’t have a town like Kent, managed to get incorporated and so big by the 70s that it was able to host Southcenter and become the dominant and most influential city in Burien-Tukwila-Renton corridor.

      3. What urban station in Tukwila?

        It is all relative. AJ is talking about this area here: https://goo.gl/maps/xKnbEvPLzw3MLSg5A. It likely would have added a bunch of TOD, since there is a lot of undeveloped land there. The library acts as a nice anchor, along with the high school. There are already some older apartments not too far away. A few new apartments with ground floor retail and it would be kinda-sorta like Othello. It would definitely be an improvement over the current routing.

        But we are only talking about one stop, and still a long ways away from downtown. It would be a good suburban stop, but not likely to get huge numbers of riders.

        Choosing the follow I5 rather than 99 is a constant theme throughout Link expansion

        Yeah, and it makes things tougher. The main flaw with Link is the infatuation with distance. This is their mandate (Tacoma to Everett) but the mandate is a mistake. Being focused on such a long line means that you have fewer stations. It also means that you make shortcuts, in the interest of completing the line to its distant endpoints — the opposite of how most agencies build a subway.

        A station at 144th is simply one of the casualties of this approach. Having fewer stations means having fewer riders. Having stations close to the freeway means having fewer riders. A very long line is more expensive to operate. All of that adds up to less frequent transit, or non-existent transit (e. g. no direct bus from Monroe to Seattle, even though it is clearly within ST’s mandate).

        It is easy to focus on individual stations, and admire their high ridership. But from a system standpoint, it is much better to have a bunch of stations in a line. SeaTac is by far the most popular station south of downtown, with almost 6,000 boardings a day. But the four Rainier Valley stations have twice as many boardings. Once Graham is added that number will go up, *for every station*. That is because the train is used for people going a mile or two up the road. That effect gets more pronounced the closer you get to town.

        So, yeah, that station should have been added. But I really doubt Sound Transit will ever serve it, simply because it is only one station.

      4. I suggest looking at BART’s Central and East Contra Costa Line to see how différent station areas evolve and why. What were known as Downtown Orinda, Lafayette and Concord were the closest existing downtowns to the line’s stations but Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill have more adjacent activity now. It’s an example of how zoning and height limits are way more impactful than what was the historic commercial core when that historic core is kept small because of local land use regulation.

    1. Best thing I’ve seen in a very long time, biliruben. It’s not uncommon for a railroad to leave millions of dollars worth right of way and embankment lying patiently in the ground ’til next they’re needed. Bridge footings too.

      An excellent and highly-visible example is the linear park in the form of a trail between South Kirkland Park and Ride, running along the slope above Downtown to at least Totem Lake. And from the P&R south to Bellevue.

      What it says to me is that there’s no reason that tired bicyclists and hikers, as well as passengers, can’t have a stately articulated set of benches come by every few minutes, with catenary and pantograph overhead.

      Yes, trolleybuses are equally quiet and environmental but in my experience in places like City Hall Park in Oslo, because their lateral distances are so tightly controlled, streetcars and crowds are much more comfortable with each other.

      But best thing of all is that, especially for Kirkland and also Tacoma-Steilacoom, political roadbed can start getting put down any time, and with no particular hurry. Though for post-COVID employment no time like the present.

      First move? Start collecting contemporary pictures- paintings are great- of the streetcars themselves in their own day, and donate them to the schools. To be presented at first meetings of student-government sponsored streetcar clubs.

      Lake Washington Technical Institute…..show pics of some funeral cars to Funeral Services, Precision Machining, and Auto Shop all three. They’ve got wheels and motors, don’t they?

      Politics? Campaign groundwork should open with research into how many Link passengers and their kids are already inheriting their grandparents’ homes and Kirkland voting rights. Since they can already serve in the Legislature at 18, all the more reason they need to vote at 16.

      Opposition will do scare campaign about carbon and copper dust in the bloodstream. Well, gas fumes and burnt rubber are worse. When CO-VID’s O-VER, start paying attention to children on trains, and attending school-board meetings to testify as to what you saw. Future’s ours any time we want it.

      Mark Dublin

    2. What’s that long diagonal from 15th & Sprague southwest to 38th & Tyler? Was that a streetcar-only right of way? There doesn’t seem to be a street along most of it now, and it goes through the golf course. Was it a tunnel?

    3. Click on the line, and it has details, often with photos, though many of the links to the photos are broken:

      Description: 1915; Lavish gardens and grounds of Thornewood on American Lake, Tillicum. A.H. Barnes Photo. Courtesy, Univ. of Washington Photo Collection. !Click Photo for Source Page!]

      Originally part of the Tacoma & Lake City Railroad, the American Lake Line underwent many incarnations before falling under the guise of the Pacific Traction Company; one of four major service providers that made up the whole of Tacoma’s traction system. Note: All of these companies, with the exception of the Tacoma Municipal Belt Railway, were owned by the Stone & Webster Corp. of Boston, Mass.

      The American Lake Line serviced the Lakewood area from So.11’th and Sprague Streets, via the Hilltop, Oakland, Manito(u) Park, Clover Park, Interlaken, Lake City, Ponders, Thornewood and American Lake (Tillicum) neighborhoods, as well as Camp Lewis.

      It’s quite possible the American Lake line originally provided service to accommodate the stately mansions, lavish gardens, and the first golf course west of the Mississippi (Tacoma Golf & Country Club), that still grace the shores of Gravelly and American Lakes.
      Eventually, the American Lake Line provided a Tacoma connection to the relocated Steilacoom Line, which converged at Steilacoom Boulevard and today’s Bridgeport Way. Note: Before this connection began service (pre-1914), the Steilacoom Line was a continuation of the Tacoma Rail & Power Company’s 11’th Street Line, via Regents Park (Fircrest).

      Next time you’re at the Tacoma Target shopping center, realize that this line ran directly through the middle of the parking lot.

      1. Doesn’t really answer your specific question though, it doesn’t seem.

    4. Thanks for showing this map showing Tacoma’s systems 100 years ago!

      It’s notable that the for-profit rail interurban was astute enough to run the car all they way through Downtown Tacoma to 9th and Pacific rather than stop at the train station.

  16. Sunset Hill Community Club used to have alot of archival footage of Ballard. Some showed pictures of streetcars, as I remember.

  17. RossB, sorry about the repetition, but making a point:


    Our tool kit of trains needs a 16″ wrench in addition to a 12″. Thing I’d like to know right now? The Link track we’re building along I-5 south of Sea-Tac, will it carry trains with toilets?

    Being evolved from really fast streetcars (trust me, those things were monsters, especially the roar), light-rail’s strong-point has always been its versatility. Personally doubt we’ll force Link to handle the radius of a streetcar curve, and should never have to handle RapidRide signalling, let alone stop signs. Elevate or Cut-and-Cover. Period.

    But serious solution might be to send Link trains down SR99, and “Next Caliber Up” down I-5, to re-join at Tacoma Dome. Present BN track? Really up to us. Does anyone know what Railroading’s got in mind for all those scenic miles?

    Anchorage to Patagonia, the mag-lev freights probably won’t even need windows for the engineer if there is one, let alone any scenery that isn’t either underneath a mountain range or scenery for a Western.

    But as a worldwide attraction, western edge of North, Central, and South America should give us a tourist industry that can certainly finance the end of landslides.

    Mark Dublin

  18. This was a fun piece. Great comments too. Thanks for posting this, Bruce.

    Just a few follow-up thoughts…

    I second the recommendation for “Building Washington” (1998) by Paul Dorpat and Genevieve McCoy. I read that some years ago, really enjoyed it and still refer to it from time to time.

    In regard to the discussion above about the extra few minutes that a First Hill station would add to the travel time on LR from the north end, this Snohomish County commuter would gladly accept that end result. It’s unbelievable to me that ST is spending tens of billions of dollars building a light rail line that ultimately will not serve First Hill directly. Skipping First Hill in the initial segment was shortsighted; skipping it again in ST3 is akin to malpractice.

    In regard to MikeOrr’s question above about what manufacturing “Seattle” has lost over the years, one of the first examples that came to mind was Paccar’s (Pacific Car) closure of its steel plant and eventually its replacement, its Kenworth plant.


  19. Transit History – Lost/Found
    Most Puget Sound History has been chronicled in public documents that are kept in the State archives (hard to access) and Public Universities. Most of the anecdotal information I have come across in the last 60 years has been through newspapers and employees. Puget Sound transit has long history that is only known by a few people who were really wanted know more about transit than the passing newspaper accounts.
    My 1st encounter was with Harre Demoro a San Francisco newspaper man that wrote about Transit Topics. Harre self published a book on Seattle Trolley Coaches in 1970. Prior to that Book a Seattle Engineering Employee wrote the definitive Seattle Streetcar Book again a self publish effort around 1969.
    I would later meet Warren Wing a retired postal employee that had a vast knowledge on Seattle Streetcars and interurban operations. Sadly Warren passed away nearly 10 years ago.
    When I was hired at metro Transit in 1978 I wanted to gain access to more information. Most information came from employees. I was able to search the Agency achieves in my spare time , but that ended when an “organized effort” to send unneeded materials to the Washington state achieves.
    When MEHVA was formed I gained a new power to explore and ask questions about operations history. After awhile people started “dumping stuff” on MEHVA there by increasing the amount information on various topics, sort of a license to poke around ask how come this is or who do I talk to about such and such!

    If you go to any Transit agency…. you can find the keeper of information they can be found any where they might be mechanics , drivers or schedulers .
    I have found that our European counter parts are lot more interested in general transit history than their North American counter parts.
    So do what the railfan groups does form an interest group……to further your goal of preserving history!

  20. Terrific post – thank you. I’ve been fascinated by the city of Seattle (and the surrounding region) since I started researching the 1962 World Fair for a university project. This interest blossomed into a postgraduate research thesis on Seattle’s park spaces. Once I had visited the city (a UK resident here…) for the first time in 2016, I became interested in its transit history too, and pursued it as a sort of hobby pursuit and offshoot of my interest in transit and transport in UK cities and regions. I regularly visit this blog due to the insights you give, the topics you cover, the links and research you provide. Great piece, and great discussion!

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