UW Transportation, Past and Future

As part of a recent historical research project, I georeferenced a ton of old plans and maps of the University of Washington campus and surrounding neighborhood. One of the things that has stood out in my mind about this project is the old transportation patterns, and how our society relied so much more heavily on rail to get around.  The University District was served by several streetcar lines in addition to the rail line that was used by passenger trains–now the route of the Burke-Gilman Trail.

Modern Subway, Historical Streetcar

We are slowly returning to an era of mass transportation. This 1920 map shows the location of at least two streetcar lines, as well as the old heavy-gauge NPRR line and depot. I have overlaid the alignment of the Sound Transit North Link subway and platform location of the new University of Washington Station. The detail that jumps out is the location of the old streetcar turn-around loop, now the location of the subway station. We’re looping back around to an abandoned form of transportation that should never have been abandoned. This time, we’re making sure that the passage of the rail cars isn’t hindered by private cars.

I sat on a bus for over half an hour yesterday, getting from the U-District to downtown. I’m looking forward to the eight-minute ride that the subway will enable.


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