First Hill Streetcar ready for November rides?


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.

Officials have also produced material about how to coexist with streetcars for walkers…Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 9.56.57 PM

bikers…Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 9.57.13 PM

and drivers…Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 9.56.11 PM Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 9.56.20 PM

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.

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25 thoughts on “First Hill Streetcar ready for November rides?

  1. Six cars, wow. These are some really expensive streetcars! I’m understanding from this that the delays are because the Czech manufacturer is tooling up to make some special streetcars. So we’re going with a unique design for a 6-car system. I guess existing streetcar designs in use in SF and other cities aren’t good enough for our Seattle system. Interesting approach, building 6 unique items instead of going with designs that have been tested for durability and usefulness. I guess our DOT has brilliant planners who are coming up with something better than anyone else has tried. Hopefully at least 2 of the 6 cars are reserve for the down time as we work the kinks out of this new car design.

    Meanwhile, liability issue: who’s going to pay when someone breaks an ankle? (If I read these warnings correctly, if you’re crossing Broadway on a bike and need to swerve to avoid a car or walker, you’ll need to remember not to turn your wheel too far. ) These warnings probably should be posted near the tracks at regular intervals, anyway. Oh, and a suggestion for the DOT — one more of those nice warning sets — how about baby strollers? Something like the warnings for bikers?

    • I just don’t understand street cars at all. I’m looking forward to using it, and I’m kinda excited it’ll be built, but I just don’t understand how in the world this is better than a bus, specially with the overhead power infrastructure that we already in place. You can even build dedicated hop on/off stations for a bus if you want!

      Can someone honestly, please explain what the advantage of a street car is? The way I see it, electrical buses can do everything a street car can do, except better since they can go around obstructions, and don’t require expensive tracks.

      • Ways they are better than buses:
        1. Load and Unload at grade (no steps), making it easier for all kinds of people to load and unload quickly.
        2. Quieter, more pleasant to ride, meaning more types of people are willing to ride them than buses.
        3. More room inside for stuff other than people (like bikes, bags, boxes, etc.), increasing the types of trips people use the streetcar for compared to a bus.
        4. Hard, set routes means businesses, commuters, etc. in and around stations can count on a certain amount of access to transportation LONG TERM. Creates reliably good places for coffee shops, cleaners, grocery stores, apartments, etc. to be sited.
        5. Less polluting – street air is cleaner than those with diesel buses.

      • 1. The cars load at curbside, not at grade, like the South Lake Union cars.
        2. Electric trolley buses are also quiet and run along most if the same First Hill street car route
        3.more room if not filled to standing room only capacity
        4. Electric trolley buses are also fixed (hard, set) long term routes
        5. Electric trolley buses are equally less polluting than diesel buses

        and…. what is the advantage again??

    • the streetcars we’re getting are the same as the South Lake Union ones … the only difference is that they have to run on battery power downhill.

      These trams are used all over the world and locally other than South Lake Union variants are used in Tacoma, Portland, DC, and Tucson.

      And if you can’t manage to cross rails on your bike (most people all across the earth seem to have managed this for like over 100 years now) then you probably shouldn’t be riding a bike.

    • ” I’m understanding from this that the delays are because the Czech manufacturer is tooling up to make some special streetcars. So we’re going with a unique design for a 6-car system.”

      Your understanding is wrong. The streetcars are a proven design that are used in many cities, including Seattle and Portland. The only difference is these will have a battery power system. The delays are because they had to find a different material for the interior flooring.

    • have you looked at the length of the platforms? they can’t operate with six cars connected – riders would be forced to use the front car to enter and exit otherwise they would be adjacent to parked cars and stepping into the street.

    • These are the first of hopefully many cars with this design and contractors. New set of contractors coming together, and new set-up of overhead/battery streetcars to use throughout U.S. and elsewhere. Seattle streetcar builder is working on these with hope to furnish this design of cars elsewhere.

  2. Yes, a very very expensive toy train. Expect traffic and pedestrian accidents galore, as well. Broadway is trying to accommodate too many modes of transportation.

    • You’re right. And the other problem will probably be long vehicle backups as the streetcar loads/unloads, especially in high-demand stops such as at SCCC. The only way this will not happen is if enough motorists decide to avoid Broadway altogether.

      • ” The only way this will not happen is if enough motorists decide to avoid Broadway altogether.”

        That sounds like a great outcome to me

      • how will the police be able to respond to trouble calls on Broadway given the single lanes of travel and the train of motorists behind the streetcar? abandon their cars and run? segways? hmm.

    • yes, because there’s been so much of that in south lake union with all the amazon pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicle traffic. btw, the sky is falling.

  3. the other trolley is the “SLUT” = South Lake Union Trolly. This is the Capitol Hill line (CH) , so I’m calling it the “CHUT”)

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