In front of a rainbow assortment of new trolleys, the first completed tram for the First Hill Streetcar — sky blue — took a very important load of passengers for a 600-foot ride Friday morning as testing for the system has moved into full motion.
It only required one “reboot.”
“This is another step in our efforts to get streetcars running throughout Seattle,” passenger and Mayor Ed Murray said to the media assembled to cover the event at the system’s International District maintenance facility.
Inside, workers were assembling three more cars set to join the fleet including a hot pink number one Seattle Department of Transportation representative said captured the, um, “modern energy of the Capitol Hill neighborhood.” The colors of the multi-hued cars were “inspired” by the “different characteristics” of the neighborhoods the 2.5 mile streetcar route travels through — Pioneer Square, the International District, First Hill, and Capitol Hill.
Earlier this month, CHS reported SDOT’s new contract with the Czech Republic company manufacturing the trolleys to keep new streetcar project serving Capitol Hill from falling any further behind schedule. According to SDOT, the sixth and final car in the Inekom deal is due by June 30th. SDOT officials say that a seventh optional tram is also part of the deal and would be due by mid-June.
The testing now underway will be a slow, deliberate process, officials say, with an emphasis on tedious repetition like making sure each door on the trams has been opened and closed 100 times. One SDOT representative said the streetcars will travel a collective 500 miles before service begins. The tests, especially early, will stick close to the 8th Ave S streetcar barn.
Construction of the streetcar tracks wrapped up last year along with the construction of the Broadway bikeway. When service begins, the First Hill Streetcar 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 project will cost somewhere around $130 million before all is said and done. Sound Transit is footing the bill as part of mitigation for being unable to construct a First Hill station as part of the U-Link light rail project. That project along with Capitol Hill Station is slated to open in early 2016. The streetcar’s current northern terminus will deliver riders to Broadway and Denny — across the street from Capitol Hill Station. A plan to extend the streetcar and the bikeway north on Broadway to Roy by 2017 is underway. Meanwhile, the city is working to better optimize Seattle’s first streetcar route as the SLUT has seen a downtick in ridership as traffic in the corridor it travels has caused a slowdown in service.
Like the SLUT, the First Hill Streetcar will share Broadway and the rest of the streets it travels with other traffic types. Changes like curb bulbs and the elimination of some left turn signals have already re-shaped the route. Adjustments by drivers, riders, and pedestrians for a train cruising a lane of Broadway every ten minutes will be something else altogether.
Fares will be set by the Sound Transit board. The South Lake Union line’s adult fare is now $2.25. First Hill Streetcar fare is “anticipated to be similar to Link Light Rail and Metro peak hour fares.” Riders without ORCA cards will be able to purchase tickets at fare box machines located on station platforms.
Hours of operation will be 5 AM to 1 AM Monday to Saturday and 10 AM to 8 PM on Sundays and holidays. “The streetcar will run at 10-minute intervals during peak hours (Monday through Friday 6-9 AM and 3-6 PM), 12 minutes midday and Saturdays, and approximately 15 minutes at other times,” according to this FAQ.
“People living in the city are going to see these cars going up and down the tracks staring on Jackson but then to Broadway as we test them,” SDOT director Scott Kubly said Friday. And then later this summer we’ll launch service.”
Don’t expect to see the streetcar on Broadway until very late in the testing process this summer. SDOT officials say the testing won’t make it up the Hill until there are three or four cars ready for service conditions. At that point, SDOT can begin a process of mimicking standard service. An official said at that point, the streetcar needs to perform as planned for about two weeks. Once it passes that test, the new trams — including our special hot pink car — will be ready for business.
Kubly stopped short of predicting a start date for the delayed route. “We’ll come out with a launch date as we get further along in the testing service,” Kubly said.