Go take a ride on the First Hill Streetcar. Saturday, the 2.5-mile line connecting Pioneer Square, the International District, First Hill, and Capitol Hill begins service. During the “promotional service” period, rides are free. The first streetcar should be leaving the Broadway and Denny end of things around 11 AM Saturday. Got a picture or video of your first ride? Send it to CHS.
UPDATE 1:35 PM: A bright yellow streetcar on the grayest of Seattle days was filled with around 60 riders and a driver named Tom for the first departure of the First Hill Streetcar from the Broadway/Denny stop Saturday morning.
With a “clang clang” and a round of applause, the streetcar departed just after 11:20 AM after getting the go ahead from operations that the train carrying Mayor Ed Murray and a huddle of dignitaries and community representatives had departed from Pioneer Square on the other end of the 2.5-mile route. On a day when the launch of the new $138 million streetcar line had already been downplayed by Seattle Department of Transportation officials, Murray also distanced himself from the brightly painted set of six shiny, new, Czech-designed cars. The mayor said he inherited a project that was delayed but was now happy the line was running.
Mayor Murray said he inherited a project that was delayed, but happy the FHSC is now running pic.twitter.com/GRtbS0aSIj
— Bryan Cohen (@bchasesc) January 23, 2016
On the Broadway end of things, there was a little more enthusiasm. Some riders said they thought they would use the new line to visit the International District to shop at Uwajimaya or go out to eat in Pioneer Square. Some said they doubted they’d ever ride again except when tourists are in town to visit. A few riders said the line represented a more solid, perhaps more dependable kind of transit that they could be more confident in trusting to show up with regularity and provide a comfortable ride.
But it will be a slow ride. Even in light, Saturday morning traffic and with rather quick boarding and exits at the 10 stops along the line, it took nearly 25 minutes to travel from Broadway and Denny to Occidental Square. With the streetcar sharing lanes with with vehicular traffic and on a route that comes sometimes perilously close to cars parked on the street near the tracks, expect slower times when the line is needed most during rush hours.
Nobody but the media photographers trying to capture a small moment in Seattle history really seemed to be in a rush for Saturday’s first rides, however. Most riders were out to see the new streetcars and enjoy a free ride. The $2.25 fare will remain waived through a few weeks while the system ramps up. SDOT director Scott Kubly, who was part of the first ride out of Pioneer Square, is promising a larger celebration complete with lion dancers and a ribbon cutting when the line is ready for a “grand opening” in a few weeks.
The six streetcars travel the 2.5-mile line’s 10 stops every 10 to 15 minutes from 5 AM to 1 AM Monday through Saturday, and Sundays from 10 AM to 8 PM. The streetcar travels in the traffic lane sharing space with automobiles and buses. Most left turns along the route have been eliminated and signals are now 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 with fares set by Sound Transit. The standard adult fare is $2.25. After the free period, riders without ORCA cards will be able to purchase tickets at fare box machines located on station platforms. You can learn more at seattlestreetcar.org.
— Rob Johnson (@heyrobbyj) January 23, 2016
— Lisa Strube-Kilgore (@LisesPiecesWA) January 23, 2016
Why is there a stop request button on board the streetcar?
— Atomic Taco (@AtomicTaco) January 23, 2016
bikes on the new streetcar. pic.twitter.com/yLkC7aOrCc
— Charles B (@Charles_B_STB) January 23, 2016
Im on the first hill streetcar!!! It’s fucking packed!!!!! pic.twitter.com/2ultzPYa2e
— ☔ただの小さなＴｏｒｉです☔ (@8C) January 23, 2016
Great first ride on the First Hill Streetcar! Come check it out. Ride free for the next few weeks. pic.twitter.com/au4jaRPC2r
— Ed Murray (@MayorEdMurray) January 23, 2016
— is it running yet? (@1sthillstrtcar) January 23, 2016