It's simple, save the waterfront streetcar

OH, NO. Say it ain't so. The city's beloved waterfront streetcar should not have to go.

The Seattle Art Museum, King County and the city ought to return to the drawing board, because collectively they have produced a clunker. The waterfront streetcar may be shut down indefinitely this fall to accommodate the new Olympic Sculpture Park. The maintenance barn that services the streetcar lies on city property within the planned park. The art museum won't build on that part of the park with the maintenance facility still standing. That much was known early on. Not known was that the streetcar was ever at risk.

The park is a stunning new project featuring works of art in open space along the waterfront. It is expected to open the summer of 2006.

But the fact that no one at King County Metro, which operates the streetcar, or the city so far has offered a reasonably priced, workable site for the streetcar barn can be attributed to a lack of imagination and flexibility.

Seattle has always been open and enthusiastic about new projects, such as the sculpture park. At the same time, a new project need not displace an icon of the central waterfront.

"Life is full of Hobson's choices; this is not one of them," said Walt Crowley, founder of, which is leading a Save Our Streetcar effort on its Web site. "We can have both with a little imagination and creativity."

The streetcar, which opened to great fanfare in 1982, mixed a blend of sentimentalism about old-fashioned transportation with a desire to connect Pike Place Market, the waterfront, Pioneer Square and the International District. Seattle is a leader in preserving historic areas. The streetcar is part of that.

Former Seattle City Councilman George Benson pushed his vision of a streetcar over many years of hard work. Before he died last October, he urged local historians to protect the streetcar if something like this occurred.

If the streetcar is shut down, our community leaders will have failed.

Solving this cannot be so complicated. It is a maintenance facility, after all, not an epic engineering feat.

Representatives of the art museum and county point out that the streetcar will have to shut down temporarily when the Alaskan Way Viaduct is rebuilt, and there is truth to that. The streetcar could be shut down for several years. But that also becomes an excuse for not working hard enough. The streetcar remains part of long-term plans for the waterfront after the viaduct work is finished.

The streetcar is worth saving. It provides roughly 400,000 rides a year, with the highest ridership in the summer. It has been part of the charm of the waterfront for a long time.

Many locations for a streetcar barn have been discussed and considered. Keep working.

A vibrant city can have both a waterfront streetcar and a beautiful new sculpture park.