SDOT responds to CHS First Hill Streetcar delay report — UPDATE

The tracks are in... now we just need the streetcars (Image: Stacy Witbeck)

The tracks are in… now we just need the streetcars (Image: Stacy Witbeck)

Here is an official statement from the Seattle Department of Transportation about CHS’s report that a SDOT official has told Capitol Hill Block Party organizers the 2.5 mile First Hill Streetcar line connecting Pioneer Square to Capitol Hill will not be ready for service in time for the annual July event.

This is the response sent to CHS about the status of the line. We’ll let you parse the statement:

As previously announced, the manufacturer of streetcars for the First Hill Line has failed to meet the delivery milestones for the six-vehicle fleet, which has delayed both testing and the start of passenger service. SDOT is assessing liquidated damages against the contract price and tracking the manufacturing progress on a daily basis. SDOT cannot establish an opening date until we are satisfied that the manufacturer can meet commitments to a revised schedule for all six vehicles.

A spokesperson for SDOT also referred us to http://seattlestreetcar.org/firsthill.htm for more info and “ship tracking for the very first streetcar coming from the Czech Republic.”

The Sound Transit-financed, SDOT-built $132 million First Hill Streetcar project includes the tracks running through streets up Jackson from Pioneer Square to Broadway across First Hill and Capitol Hill as well as a separated bikeway designed to improve the area for bikers and steer them clear of the dangerous streetcar trackbed.

The spokesperson confirmed that manufacturer Inekon continues to accrue a daily $1,000 penalty “until all six vehicles are ready for passenger service (delivered and tested).” The six streetcars for the First Hill line were planned to be ready by October 7th as per the $26.7 million contract with SDOT. Starting with a $25,000 base fine, we’ll also let you calculate the total penalty owed.

In the meantime, it might be time to find some alternative uses for the underutilized tracks.

UPDATE: SDOT also announced some good news Wednesday afternoon: successful tests of the streetcar rechargeable battery system that will allow the First Hill cars to operate with power from a single overhead wire as the hybrid batteries provide power generated through “regenerative braking” on the mostly downhill return trip toward Pioneer Square.

(Image: SDOT)

(Image: SDOT)

Here’s the SDOT update:

Battery Drive System Impresses in First Tests of New Streetcars
January 21, 2015 by Norm Mah
The first performance tests of the new streetcars on order for the First Hill Streetcar line were completed in December. In addition to testing acceleration and braking, the performance tests featured off-wire operation powered by a rechargeable battery system, known as the On-Board Energy Storage System (OESS). When operating on the First Hill Streetcar line, the streetcars will be powered by the OESS on each inbound trip from Capitol Hill to Pioneer Square (2.5 miles). The batteries will be recharging whenever the streetcar is braking, and will also recharge on the outbound trip from Pioneer Square to Capitol Hill, while being powered from the overhead wires (known as the Overhead Contact System, or OCS).

Initial tests were performed on a test track at the factory where the first streetcar was completed in the Czech city of Ostrava. The streetcar operated off-wire for 3 miles, using 25% of the battery capacity of the OESS. Subsequent tests were performed on the Ostrava streetcar system. This allowed for uphill and downhill operation and simulation of traffic conditions that may be encountered in Seattle. During this testing, the streetcar operated on battery drive for distances as great as four miles and durations as long as 37 minutes. The testing also demonstrated that batteries recharge rapidly from regenerative braking and during operation on the OCS.

SDOT says the test results “indicate that the OESS will be more than adequate for the requirements of the First Hill line, and can also be used for significant segments of the planned Center City Connector streetcar extension.”

SDOT says the special system was developed for the First Hill Streetcar to reduce overhead wire conflicts with the Metro trolley bus system and that other cities plan to use battery drive developed for the Seattle system. A similar system has been in use in Nice, France since 2007, SDOT says.

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13 thoughts on “SDOT responds to CHS First Hill Streetcar delay report — UPDATE

  1. It would be nice to get an explanation why they didn’t buy streetcars made by the company in Oregon. The only US manufacturer of these vehicles and our neighbor. Who bribed who?

    • ah, so a whooping 0.49% of the $26.7 Million contract so far. The .0036% (1/27,600 total price tag) per day penalty seems a little light, although I assume they can’t up it b/c of the contract terms.

    • Yes…..but….the $26.7 million contract is the “gross price” paid to Inekon for the streetcars. If you just consider their profit figure, whatever that would be, then the fines become more significant.

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  3. I read the link of the awarding the contract outside of the U.S. I never read a valud reason why we would not award the contract to our neighbors in Portland. So now our streetcars are coming from the other side of the planet and mega delayed. Seattle leaders suck when it comes to public transportation. Too late to dump the much delayed streetcars and order them from where we should have? Hmmmm

  4. Pingback: First Hill Streetcar delays are prompting SDOT director to visit Czech manufacturer | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle