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Unofficially, 3,000-plus daily First Hill Streetcar riders


The trams aren’t as full as they were during the free preview days like this scene from January but, unofficially, First Hill Streetcar ridership is right on track (Image: CHS)

screen-shot-2016-12-14-at-1-49-08-pmAs CHS broke the news about the First Hill Streetcar’s extension plans being put on hold by the city, here is a look at just how many people are riding the 2.5-mile line every day.

Data provided by the Seattle Department of Transportation shows that the streetcar line served more than 3,300 riders daily in October and that ridership appeared to have been slowly climbing since the streetcar’s early 2016 start of service. In addition to the many delays in beginning service on the route, SDOT had to tackle a bug with its automated passenger counters that left the department without access to the information.

The First Hill Streetcar opened in January 2016 to little fanfare after long delays to begin service on the new line connecting Pioneer Square to Capitol Hill via First Hill.

Despite the slow start, the totals provided to CHS appear to indicate that the First Hill line carries more daily riders than the more well known South Lake Union Trolley. According to data available from, the South Lake Union line carries around 2,000 riders per day.

For comparison, the entire Sound Transit light rail system averaged more than 68,000 daily riders in October, up 84% compared to 2015 thanks to the new stops at UW Station and Capitol Hill Station.

While it is too early to draw definitive conclusions, the daily totals for the First Hill Streetcar continued to rise with October turning in a tally about 7% higher than the route’s first months of service. SDOT planners had expected the First Hill line to carry between 3,000 and 3,500 riders per day putting the current totals right in line with expectations… for the year 2030. The line, by this measure anyway, appears well ahead of its apparently modest goals.

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8 thoughts on “Unofficially, 3,000-plus daily First Hill Streetcar riders

    • Or a bus route, which could provide exactly the same service, but without the cost of tearing up the street for rails. (And with the flexibility to get around obstructions.) In fact, it’s really misleading to talk about how many people ride the streetcar without mentioning, (a) how many of these people were riding the bus before the streetcar went in, and (b) how many people would ride a bus routed along the same streets the streetcar now runs on.

      But wait! The city is part of Metro, so if it didn’t have the rails, it couldn’t be under control of the city government. So, in liberal Seattle, political considerations trump practicality. Speaking metaphorically, of course.

    • But wait! There’s now a bike lane! Think of all the thousands, I mean dozen, of bike riders a day that pass it in the street!

    • I think you are misreading that Metro report. The route 9 is about 10 miles long, it requires more service hours than the streetcar, even if operating with less frequency and a shorter span of service. It does not carry 2,900 riders on the short (<1-mile) segment that overlaps with the streetcar; that is the total ridership for any trips on any segment of the 10-mile route.

  1. Discounted Über cheaper? Maybe on the surface. Supporting an organization which isn’t safe, discriminates and opposes a union? The streetcar is a public service for the public, designed to provide those with or without access to private transportation a safe route to work, to secure health care, to attend school and to get to our sports stadium district.