First Hill Streetcar fleet ready to return to Broadway after repairs

IMG_0029-600x400 (1)The Seattle Department of Transportation announced late Sunday night that a fix was identified and executed and the First Hill Streetcar will be back in action Monday morning starting at 5 AM — albeit at a speed-restricted 7 MPH through the stretch where the March 1st sliding incident occurred:

Prior to returning to service, the entire fleet of vehicles had a modification installed, tested, and documented individually. The modifications and operating orders have been reviewed and approved by the required safety officials. With these modifications, operating orders, and safety approvals in place, the vehicles are safe and operational for return to service.

To date, SDOT has been working diligently to resolve the issue and has developed an electrical modification to ensure power to the track brake in the event of a loss of power. In addition, SDOT and King County Metro (KCM) will implement an operating speed limit of 7 M.P.H. and two safety stops on the section of track where the issue occurred and steep gradient exists.

All streetcars from the FHS line and one car from the South Lake Union (SLU) Streetcar line were taken out of service after one of the FHS cars, 405 (Gold), had an electromechanical malfunction that caused it to lose power on Wednesday, March 1. Out of an abundance of caution, the rest of the FHS line streetcars and Car 407 from the SLU line (same model as FHS cars) were pulled from service.

The line has been out of commission since March 1st when one of the cars lost power and slid more than 2 1/2 blocks down its Broadway tracks. The incident was the latest failure for the fleet of seven cars from manufacture Inekon after problems at the Czech delayed the launch of the First Hill route by months. Seattle City Council members have asked SDOT to provide more information about the latest failure and possible financial compensation from Inekon.

SDOT said Sunday night the malfunction was caused by the “Load Contactor” a circuit breaker-like component identified by engineers early in the investigation as the probable culprit in the March 1st incident.

“SDOT and King County Metro would like to thank the public and our riders for their patience,” the agencies said in the bulletin announcing the re-start of service.

 

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12 thoughts on “First Hill Streetcar fleet ready to return to Broadway after repairs

  1. I would love to see ridership numbers of the bus running in the streetcars place and compare them with the actual streetcar.

    • I don’t think that would be a very accurate comparison. It didn’t serve all of the same stops and it only ran during rush hour, so it just wasn’t a viable alternative for everyone who normally rides the streetcar. I ride the streetcar daily, but only took the shuttle once.

  2. Seven miles per hour and two safety stops in that two-block segment? Doesn’t that sound ridiculous, especially for a line that is already viewed by so many as too slow? If they fixed the problem, why is there need to make two “safety stops” while going down that hill? That just sounds absurd to me. I’ve only been on streetcars in a handful of cities, but none of them had “safety stops” because of a little hill.

    • It needs to go really slow. It’s a streetcar, not a bus. Rail vehicles do not do well on steep slopes. So, 7 mph is probably a prudent speed limit for a rail vehicle.

      The streetcar costs about 8X as much per ride to build/operate. Everything the streetcar does could be done by a bus, only safer and not quite so slowly.

      Really, is there anyone who would take a streetcar who wouldn’t take a bus on the same route? Or anyone who would take a bus who would not take a streetcar on the same route? (Unless they were worried about streetcar crashes like the recent one) So, it being Seattle, let’s go for the more expensive, slower option!

    • Streetcars do not need to go that slow to stop on a hill. The only reason the problematic car was unable to stop on the hill was because it had lost power to its track brakes, its primary method of stopping. Track brakes can stop it rather quickly, even when traveling downhill at normal traffic speed.

      It is not true that a bus can do everything a streetcar can do. A single streetcar can hold a lot more people than a bus. Streetcars provide a much smoother ride. Buses, with their rubber tires rolling on less-than-perfect asphalt, will always be a bumpy ride compared to a streetcar. Steel wheels on steel rails provide an inherently smoother and vastly more comfortable ride. A smoother ride means it’s easier to ride standing, maximizing capacity.

      I ride the streetcar regularly between my house in the CD to Capitol Hill, but I prefer taking an Uber over the bus, because the bus is more often late, doesn’t run as frequently, takes much longer to get to the hill, goes far out of the way, usually smells bad, and is a bit loud and bumpy compared to the streetcar.

    • Taylor — if you like streetcars better, you should pay the 8x cost of streetcars over buses, not the rest of us. You say the choice for you is between Uber and streetcar, because of the smelly people on buses and because streetcars have such a smooth ride. (I’m surprised at the Uber plug — Lyft pays their drivers better and doesn’t have the baggage of Uber management.) You also say you don’t like the bus because it goes out of the way – in other words, because it’s following a different route.

      Buses of course can run just as frequently as streetcars on the same routes. Electric buses are just as quiet, and buses have the advantage, if you run into a traffic obstruction they can go around. My point is, a bus on the same route would be much less expensive and serve the same purpose, except of course for riders who think buses smell bad and prefer Uber.

  3. This thing is a flop, but maybe we can save it. Perhaps we could put some homeless tents on it? Could it work as a rolling safe shoot up site? I’m sure that would get Ed and Khsama excited.