Several ideas for use of the waterfront streetcars have surfaced following reports of interest in acquiring them–but none of these ideas includes funding to buy or operate the streetcars. No offer is on the table today.
The City of Seattle bought the streetcars from Melbourne, Australia in 1978, and transferred ownership to Metro Transit a quarter-century ago as part of the agreement for construction of the downtown Seattle bus tunnel. Two cars were added in the 1990s. Metro was proud to operate the streetcars on Seattle’s waterfront for nearly 20 years and has faithfully stored them for the past seven.
But today the streetcars have no tracks, platforms, power supply or maintenance facility. They are stored in a warehouse that has only a few more years of useful life. Metro faces the prospect of having to spend significant money to relocate and store the streetcars, so it is important that we resolve questions about their future. We need to find them a new home.
The City of Seattle is working on plans for a new waterfront when the Highway 99 tunnel opens. In the coming years city leaders will be making decisions on whether they want a modern streetcar to serve the waterfront.
There is no offer on the table from any party now. The recent interest from another city has encouraged a public discussion on where the streetcars might operate locally.
Metro is interested in finding a local buyer and operator for the streetcars. We have reached out to local cities and to local entrepreneurs, to find someone who can put the streetcars to good use.
Metro is committed to exhausting all local options and will not forward legislation to the King County Council to sell the streetcars unless and until we have a viable local operator or are absolutely sure that none exists.