Eric Scigliano  |

I like streetcars as much as the next ride-hopping tourist or transit booster. I’ve happily ridden them in Hong Kong, Toronto, Rome, Milan, Rio, San Francisco, and New Orleans — not to mention Seattle’s late, lamented waterfront ‘streetcar,’ which didn’t run in the street for most of its length. And Monday marks a signal day in Seattle’s streetcar history.

At midday the city will break ground on a new First Hill streetcar line, running from Broadway and Denny to the multimodal hub at 4th and Jackson. But unlike the South Lake Union streetcar informally known as the SLUT, the First Hill line didn’t start out as a one-off boost for a jumbo redevelopment project. It’s a downpayment on an entire network. Already the city hopes to extend the line to Aloha Street.

And so I was doubly glad to join the transportation wonks and mavens for a semi-debate between two transit gurus with very passionate notions of why transit does or doesn’t work and how we can make it work better. Together, Davenport, Iowa, city designer Darrin Nordahl and Portland transportation consultant Jarrett Walker offered a 3-D pair of lenses for considering the First Hill project and the network that looms beyond it. And together they nearly filled Town Hall’s lower hall and left interrogators lined up at the mikes when shut-off time arrived — an indication of how much Seattle cares about such things.