Council member O’Brien wants Central Co-op to anchor Capitol Hill Station development

Favorites-1-of-4-1-600x400Council member Mike O’Brien has made an unexpected endorsement, not for a political candidate, but for a Capitol Hill grocer.

In a letter to the developer of the four-site retail and housing project that will one day surround the Capitol Hill Station, the District 6 rep expressed his support for Central Co-op to become the development’s anchor tenant over Portland-based New Seasons Market. Both grocers are vying to occupy the future prominent retail space on Broadway, poised to be an extremely high-trafficked site given the thousands of light rail riders who are already moving through the block daily.

Members of the 16th and E Madison co-op announced in April to pursue a second location in the “transit orientated development” following reports that developer Gerding Edlen was in talks with New Seasons.

A group of labor organizations and Council District 3 rep Kshama Sawant previously voiced concerns about an “anti-union climate” at New Seasons stores. Citing Central Co-op’s early implementation of a $15 minimum wage and “spirit of sustainability,” O’Brien said the Capitol Hill-born grocer would be a better fit for the neighborhood.

“I was in the room when they announced their desire to pursue the TOD space,” O’Brien said in his letter. “I was inspired by the energy and excitement of hundreds of people, all of whom are owners of the business, turning their energy towards a common goal and vision.” Continue reading

U-Link construction workers sue Sound Transit contractor over discrimination

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Workers boring the U-Link tunnel in 2012. (Image: CHS)

Three African American construction workers who helped build the Capitol Hill light rail tunnels during 2011-2012 say supervisors gave skilled minority laborers menial tasks, denied overtime based on race, and were openly hostile to black workers.

The allegations were made in a civil lawsuit filed in a Seattle federal court earlier this month against Traylor Brothers, a company that had formed a joint venture with Frontier-Kemper to bore the the U-Link twin tunnels between Capitol Hill and the University of Washington stations. Continue reading

Study highlights pedestrian mobility ‘d’ohs’ around Capitol Hill Station

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Utility equipment blocks the crosswalk path to the Capitol Hill Station. (Image: David Seater, Central Seattle Greeways)

U-Link light rail service made it possible to effortlessly glide beneath Capitol Hill, but accessing the Broadway station above ground can still be a challenge for anybody. For someone in a wheelchair, some routes are impossible. Sidewalks obstructed by trash cans and utility equipment, drivers making dangerous turns into crosswalks, and awkwardly aligned sidewalk ramps are just a few of the access issues identified in a study of intersections surrounding Capitol Hill Station.

In February, Central Seattle Greenways and Seattle Neighborhood Greenways conducted an access audit of the subway station before it opened March. The analysis looked at five intersections around the station and how they ranked in three areas: street crossing safety, obstructions in crosswalks and along sidewalks, and sidewalk capacity. The intersections included: Broadway and E Olive Way, Broadway and E Denny Way, Broadway and Thomas, Harvard and E Olive Way, and 10th and E John.Map-1024x669

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6 ways to make Capitol Hill Station even better

Capitol Hill Station has served thousands and thousands of riders extremely well — but Monday night’s pepper spray closure and disruption of service at the peak of the evening commute was an example that there are still some improvements the station and the Sound Transit light rail system can make to be even better.

While we wait for Thursday’s release of the “final” plan for the proposed ST3 next phase of expansion and read about some of the big solutions the plan could bring to the region, here are some of the smaller issues we’ve heard about around Capitol Hill Station.

  • (Image: @mmitgang via Twitter)

    (Image: @mmitgang via Twitter)

    Platform communications: Somebody discharged pepper spray inside the station Monday and the result was a minor form of chaos. The station was cleared of people so the spray could be dissipated and trains were routed to skip Broadway and head straight to UW or downtown. But riders inside the station report that audio messages about the situation were not informative and hard to hear. The emergency announcement was also reportedly only broadcast in English and riders said there were nothing that would have helped inform passengers who were deaf or hard of hearing about what was happening.

    The investigation into how the pepper spray was released has closed and appears to have been related to a dispute between a woman and a man inside the station. Surveillance video showed an incident in the south stairwell near Cal Anderson that apparently included a cloud of pepper spray. Sound Transit is also aware of the communication issues and a spokesperson said they are talking about how to improve:
    As for the customer communications, we could have done a better job – especially with announcements on the platforms. Our folks tell me that PA announcements were made, but they could have been better. This isn’t a regular occurrence (thank goodness), so the focus at the time was on the operations side and venting the station. We’ve been debriefing about it and looking at where the communications needs improvement.
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As ridership booms, economic impact of light rail on Capitol Hill a guessing game

South Wall, Broadway/Denny Entrance: Link Light Rail Capitol Hill Station

Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 4.40.20 PMSome numbers around light rail on Capitol Hill are clear. According to Sound Transit’s latest service report, April light rail boardings are up nearly 80% compared to April 2015 thanks to the opening of UW Station and Capitol Hill Station. If you’re looking for signs of a likely Capitol Hill effect, while weekday ridership is up 78%, and Sunday has climbed around 64%, Saturday boardings have leapt 108%. Since the Capitol Hill light rail station opened in late March, ridership has exceeded expectations. Adding to the hype have been reported anecdotes from Capitol Hill businesses who said they had seen a spike in customer traffic due to the new station. Ridership is booming. Is it possible to empirically measure light rail-related economic activity on Capitol Hill?

Both the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce and the city’s Office of Economic Development — the two entities that would have the best sense of how to approach such a question — say that while it is possible, it is far too early to tell and the methods of measuring are limited. There are also other variables to consider, such as general population growth on the Hill.

“While we’re optimistic Link Light Rail will have a positive impact on Capitol Hill’s economy, at this point, it is too soon to draw a conclusion until we have data to evaluate,” OED’s Economic Intelligence Advisor, John Crawford-Gallagher, tells CHS.

“There’s not [any substantial evidence] yet mainly because the window time has been so short,” said the Chamber’s Sierra Hansen. “Right now the quickest way to get some hard numbers is to partner with some businesses on Broadway to tell us how they’re doing.” Continue reading

Sound Transit to spend $1.8M on Seattle Times, TV/radio, CHS advertising

Sound Transit blew out the stops with a weekend of parties celebrating the launch of its new $1.9 billion — under budget, ahead of schedule — light rail extension and UW and Capitol Hill stations. There was the giant party for VIPs and dignitaries. And a giant party on Capitol Hill and at Husky Stadium to celebrate the first passengers on the new line.

Now, at the prodding of an anti-Sound Transit group, the Seattle Times is making a big stink about the $858,379 price tag for the Capitol Hill party and the launch festivities:

In all, taxpayers spent $858,379 for Sound Transit’s March 19 grand-opening party for the Capitol Hill and UW stations. It was a big celebration. Some 30,000 people boarded trains there, to see how the UW connection could help them beat gridlock. Most of the money went to planning or logistics: crowd management ($209,436); police overtime ($29,520); and event management ($260,200), which included planning over the course of a year. An additional $130,198 was spent for an ad campaign on radio, the Web, print, billboards, movie screens and gas pumps.

Later in the article, the Times includes a nod to the huge early success for the new line. But it also tries to compare the Sound Transit parties to the WSDOT grand opening of the new 520 which, according to the Times, used corporate sponsorships to fund much of its celebrations. The Times ignores any costs involved in pitching, signing, and executing those sponsorship deals.

The newspaper also ignores its own part in the promotional costs of Sound Transit. According to the agency’s approved 2016 budget, the Times and all the TV and radio stations jumping on the party story will collect $1.8 million from Sound Transit this year. CHS will get a puny — but well-spent! — chunk of that.

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Later this year, voters will decide on the $50 billion Sound Transit package. It’s a critical moment for Sound Transit — and, maybe, “the most important decision our generation will be asked to make.” Given the circumstances and the opportunity to showcase its achievements and win tons of free press, maybe Sound Transit should have spent even more on the party.

Central Co-op wants to be center of Capitol Hill Station development

New development will rise to 85 feet along Broadway -- a grocery store will be at the center of the mixed-use project. Will Central Co-op fill the space? (Image: CHS)

New development will rise to 85 feet along Broadway — a grocery store will be at the center of the mixed-use project. Will Central Co-op fill the space? (Image: CHS)

Capitol Hill’s homegrown food cooperative wants to return to its roots by doubling down in the the neighborhood with a new store in Capitol Hill’s future gateway development on Broadway.

Central Co-op announced Sunday night it is pursuing the anchor tenant space in the Capitol Hill Station “transit orientated development” — the four-site, mixed-use project that will surround the recently opened subway station. The yet-to-be-built building it could call home along Broadway between John and Denny is just two blocks from where the grocer got its start on 12th Ave in 1978.

“We are the only grocer that was born and raised in this neighborhood, and that means something,” said Central Co-op chief Dan Arnett.

Arnett tells CHS he has already pitched the idea to developer Gerding Edlen. The co-op says it has no plans to close its 16th and E Madison location, where it recently signed a longterm lease.

Central Co-op’s expansion aspirations were announced after it came out that Portland-based New Seasons Market was an early frontrunner to take over the anchor space. A Gerding representative told CHS they were in talks with New Seasons, but the company has not made any final decisions on a tenant. Continue reading

‘High 50s’ — First ridership estimates show light rail boosted to new level by UW, Capitol Hill Stations

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(Image: Sound Transit)

(Image: Sound Transit)

By our count, the anecdotes of excitement around the opening of Capitol Hill Station and the U-Link light rail extension are off the charts. By the first solid ridership counts, that excitement is fully justified.

Sound Transit announced this week that its first estimates for U-Link ridership have set new records for Seattle subway traffic:

Average weekday Link ridership is settling into the high 50s range in the few weeks since UW returned from spring break and our partners at King County Metro implemented a major restructure of their Northeast Seattle bus service to integrate with U Link. That’s a roughly 66% increase over the 35,000 average weekday ridership before U Link opened. Sound Transit estimated average weekday ridership of 51,800 for the year.

Sound Transit said Friday, April 8th marked a new highpoint for its light rail service with more than 72,000 estimated riders. An estimated 71,500 rode the train on February 5, 2014 to be part of the Seahawks Super Bowl victory parade. You can credit the Mariners home opener and Emerald City Comicon for the new record, by the way. Continue reading

Plans for safer 10th/John crossing to Capitol Hill Station, Melrose enhancements make street fund cut

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Some of the crosswalk design concepts being kicked around by the Melrose Promenade group

Two important pedestrian areas of Capitol Hill should be on a faster track to safer streets after proposals for Neighborhood Park and Street Fund projects to build a raised intersection at 10th and John and new curb bulbs and colorful crosswalks on Melrose between Pike and Pine came out on top of a 2016 community ranking process, it was announced this week.

The East District Council in a meeting Monday ranked the proposals as the top choices for funding in the area. The $90,000 continuation of improvements from the group organizing the Melrose Promenade project and the Central Greenways-championed 10th and John project must be approved by the Seattle Department of Transportation before implementation. SDOT will also provide a more complete estimate on what the department expects the cost of implementation will be.

10th and John has long been a challenging crossing for pedestrians and drivers and the situation is even more critical with the increased activity in the area with the opening of Capitol Hill Station. The raised intersection could help make it easier to cross and help make the intersection safer for travelers of all types. Another project to create a safer approach to the station from the streets around 12th and Denny is also in the works. The group working on the 10th/John crossing say raised intersections in other cities “have costs ranging from $12,500 to $114,150” — expectations are this one would come in on the higher end of that range.

10th and John as it appears today (Image: Central Area Greenways)

10th and John as it appears today (Image: Central Area Greenways)

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Petition calls for extending light rail service after bars close  

UW Station (Image: CHS)

UW Station (Image: CHS)

Seattle’s appetite for light rail is virtually insatiable at the moment. Sound Transit announced its plans for a $50 billion light rail expansion over 25 years and more rush-hour trains starting next week. Still, transit riders want more.

As the light rail line heads into its first full weekend serving the nightlife hubs of around Capitol Hill and University of Washington, a campaign is underway to get Sound Transit to extend its late night hours to safely shuttle crowds back home.

A MoveOn.org petition is calling on the Sound Transit board to extend Link light rail service by nine hours a week to 2:30 AM on Fridays and Saturdays and to 1:30 AM on other days. More than 2,000 people have signed the petition in three days. Currently, the last southbound Link train leaves Capitol Hill Station at 12:38 AM. The last northbound train leaves Capitol Hill at 12:46 AM.

Matthew Powell, who created the petition, said light rail’s current closing times rob bar crowds and late night workers from a safe and easy option of getting home. “There were a lot of people who expected to be open later,” Powell said. “It has really limited the ability to maximize the benefit.”

It’s not the first time Sound Transit has been approached about extending late night service. The regional transit agency has a page to explain how crews have a small window to do required daily maintenance on the tracks. Still, late night service is not completely out of the question. Continue reading