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Trackless trolleys and buses replace streetcars in Seattle Transit System on April 13, 1941.

HistoryLink.org Essay 2536 : Printer-Friendly Format

On April 13, 1941, trackless trolleys and buses replace streetcars on the Seattle Transit System. The last streetcar run is along 8th Avenue NW in Ballard.

Seattle purchased its transit system from Stone & Webster in 1919, but there was never enough money for maintenance or improvements and service declined as the system aged. In 1937, a plan to replace streetcars with buses was defeated at the polls, but the city still struggled for funds. Mayor John Dore was forced to seize nickel and dime fares to pay workers and to default on the loans owed Stone & Webster.

In 1939, the Resolution Trust Corporation, an agency of the U.S. Government, loaned Seattle $10.2 million to pay off the loans and to purchase diesel buses and trackless trolleys -- buses that ran on electric power from overhead wires. Streetcars were driven to scrap yards and rails were pulled up or paved over.

Walt Crowley, Routes: A Brief History of Public Transportation in Metropolitan Seattle (Seattle: Metro, 1993), 14-17; A Century of Service: The Puget Power Story ed. by Robert C. Wing (Bellevue: Puget Power & Light Co., 1987), 59-60; Richard C. Berner, Seattle 1921-1940 (Seattle: Charles Press, 1992), 416-434.
Note: This essay was revised on March 28, 2002.

Travel through time (chronological order):
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Trackless trolleys, Union Street and 4th Avenue, Seattle, 1940s

Streetcar on Ballard Avenue, Seattle, ca. 1940
Courtesy Warren Wing

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