Seattle Subways

The Seattle Monorail Project was far from the first abandoned transit plan for the city. Seattle had interurban and electric streetcars over a century ago, but by 1926, there was a desire for real rapid transit, like in Chicago or New York:

August 16, 1926.

At the regular monthly meeting of the Seattle City Planning Commission, held August 10, 1926, the following motion was carried unanimously:

That the report and findings of the Rapid Transit Committee be adopted and transmitted to the City Council with the following recommendations.

1st. That the City council of the City of Seattle should at once proceed to the end that adequate rapid transit facilities shall be provided the citizens at as early date as possible.

2d. Adequate rapid transit facilities for the immediate future can be attained, with reasonable and practicable financial accomplishment of construction and operation, as shown in the report hereto attached.

Respectfully submitted,


By 1928, there was a comprehensive proposal that included station drawings, route maps, projected traffic graphs and numbers, and lots of stuff you’d see in modern transit planning. More info on the 1926-1928 “Trimble plan”:

In 1957, planning for I-5 was underway and a engineer M. O. Anderberg authored a plan to run rapid transit via I-5 from Tacoma to Everett, with a tunnel through downtown. North of downtown it would have ran on the lower deck of I-5 with the express lanes. In other sections, it would have run in the median, similar to Chicago’s Blue Line. See the 1957 plan on Google Maps for route and station details.

In 1967, the newly formed Metro (Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle) put forth a transit plan that’s probably an ancestor of the light-rail now under construction. By 1985, the plan envisioned a rail transit line through downtown, Queen Anne, Magnoila/Interbay, Ballard, and Greenwood, another line from downtown through Capitol Hill to the U District, with a potential extension to Bothell, another line through Beacon Hill and Mercer Island to Bellevue, with potential extension to Redmond, another line through Rainier Valley to Tukwila and Renton, with potential connection to the Bellevue segment, and potential spur to West Seattle. Needless to say, the Metro plan 20 years after 1985 is significantly less ambitious. Check out the 1967 plan on Google Maps.

In 1979, there was a modest proposal to extend the monorail by adding a loop around Seattle Center, connecting the monorail to the edge of Queen Anne, and adding a stop in Belltown.

In 1997, Initiative 41 proposed a 40-mile two-line monorail, criscrossing the city. That led to the more modest Green Line, which, while closer than most of the other plans, never saw the light of day. Check out the Green Line on Google Maps.

Finally, I find that the more I dig, the more plans I find. I’ve seen references to a plan from 1920, Historylink reports a 1910 monorail plan, plus there have been various intermediate and scaled-back plans from Metro (like the Northwest Corridor plan) and others, and more informal plans and even a student thesis on the subject.

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