The First Hill Streetcar went back into operation at 5 AM on Monday after a sliding incident on March 1 took it out of service. Short-term fixes and precautions have been put in place until a long-term solution is ready, which could take months. And, while a bill for the 20-day outage and repairs is still being tabulated, officials told a City Council committee Tuesday afternoon that Seattle shouldn’t be on the hook for the costs.
“If we go the direction that we’ve kind of talked about, some of those components have to be specifically ordered and manufactured, and that’s a two month period just to get the components made in Germany,” Michael James, with the Seattle Department of Transportation said. “So we’re probably talking months not weeks.”
SDOT did not provide an estimated cost due to the service failure, but James said it appears to be manufacturer Inekon’s or its insurance company’s responsibility to cover costs from the service closure, which could include work to get the streetcar operating again and bus service provided during peak travel times on the route by King County Metro.
About 3,500 riders use the streetcar daily, according to SDOT.
If a similar incident occurs in the future, council committee member Rob Johnson suggested SDOT more closely mimic the service lost instead of just providing rush-hour service.
Inspections determined that the sliding streetcar incident happened when a load contactor, a circuit-breaker-like component, failed. Both braking systems ran through the single component. In the interim, SDOT has rewired the streetcar brakes so that if a similar failure occurs, the rear brakes would be available, similar to Sound Transit’s light rail system.
Plans for the larger fix include reconfiguration of the brake system so it has two load connectors instead of one.
Additionally in the meantime, where the failure occurred the streetcar has been slowed to 7 MPH and makes two “safety stops,” James said.
“We expect very minimal impact to the overall operational reliability or timing of the First Hill Streetcar service (due to the slowdown),” SDOT’s Andrew Glass Hastings said, noting that day-to-day traffic also impacts the service as well.
However, SDOT hopes to accelerate plans, originally planned for early summer, to reconfigure traffic signals to help during the slowdown of the streetcar.
The vehicle that slid, car 405, is not back in service either for additional service.
The streetcar hasn’t experienced any incidents since it went back into service.
This Friday, SDOT will submit a report to the state documenting the failure and a plan for final mitigation.
The line had 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 manufacturer Inekon after problems at the Czech company delayed the launch of the First Hill route by months.
UPDATE 3/23/2017: The First Hill Streetcar just can’t catch a brake, er, break! Thursday morning, SPD was on the scene after a car exiting the Harvard Market parking garage smashed into the white streetcar as it traveled south on Broadway. The fender bender scuffed the streetcar and did little damage to the vehicle that hit it — but the body of the trolley was cracked just in front of its door. Service was disrupted during the response and traffic was a little knotted up on southbound Broadway but there were no reported injuries. It appeared the streetcar was empty except for its driver. Service was restored about an hour after the just before 11 AM crash. We haven’t heard if the white streetcar will need to be pulled out of service. The First Hill fleet is already down a car with the trolley involved in the March 1st incident still banished to the maintenance barn.