We don’t yet know exactly when the first First Hill Streetcar will travel Broadway. But we’re getting there. This week, a Seattle Department of Transportation official is visiting with the Czech manufacturer of the streetcars that will serve the First Hill line. Following that status check, SDOT officials should have a better idea of when service will begin.
UPDATE: Bad news! SDOT says the streetcar won’t run on Broadway until 2015 due to manufacturing problems.
Earlier this year, CHS reported on an issue with fire testing that caused delays in manufacturing the six streetcars ordered by SDOT for the line. Czech Republic firm Inekon partnered with Seattle-based Pacifica to build the trams that were to be manufactured in the Czech Republic but assembled, painted, tested, and maintained in Seattle. Initially due to arrive from the manufacturer by April, CHS was told SDOT expected the streetcars to be delivered between June and October. SDOT was evaluating options including “ramping up service as vehicles are delivered, or beginning service after all six vehicles have been delivered.”
In either option for how SDOT chooses to roll out service, the streetcars will need testing and training time before deployment. CHS’s earliest prediction — made before the testing issue came to light — has already come and gone.
The current trajectory puts the project on pace for a November debut. An SDOT spokesperson said there wasn’t “any new information to share at this point.”
In July, the department included this in an update on the project:
In the months ahead, you will see streetcars without passengers running on the tracks between Pioneer Square and Capitol Hill as streetcars are tested and operators are trained. Motorists, pedestrians and people on bikes should be aware of this addition to the street scene.
In the meantime, SDOT officials met Tuesday night with Capitol Hill neighbors from the area near the proposed terminus of the Broadway Streetcar extension in a “drop-in session” to answer questions that came up during an earlier community meeting when a possible E Prospect endpoint was still in play. CHS reported here on the Roy terminus plan and what should come down the tracks for north Broadway in 2017.
When it opens, the First Hill Streetcar will run from Pioneer Square to a temporary Capitol Hill terminus at E Denny Way. It will have ten stations along a 2.5 mile route from S Jackson and Occidental to Broadway and Denny Way and will connect Pioneer Square, the ID, Little Saigon, First Hill and Capitol Hill. The streetcar will travel in the traffic lane sharing space with automobiles and buses. Most left turns along the route have been eliminated and signals will be coordinated to help keep the streetcar moving. From Pioneer Square to Broadway, the streetcar will operate with power from a single overhead wire. Hybrid batteries will provide power generated through “regenerative braking” on the mostly downhill return trip.
3,000 riders are expected to use the First Hill line every day. Fares will be set by the Sound Transit board. The South Lake Union line’s adult fare is $2.50. Riders without ORCA cards will be able to purchase tickets at fare box machines located on station platforms.
The Broadway Streetcar is being planned as a half-mile, two-stop extension north from Denny that will also include an extended Broadway bikeway. Construction of the two stops, the tracks, and the bikeway could begin in 2016 with an opening in 2017.
While Sound Transit footed the bill for the $132 million First Hill route’s construction, the city is still sorting out how best to fund the $25 million estimated cost for the Broadway extension.
As streetcar construction begins on north Broadway, Sound Transit expects Capitol Hill Station and the U-Link light rail line between downtown, Broadway, and Montlake to begin service by early 2016.