More transit prep on Broadway: If you spot ‘smoke,’ don’t worry — Capitol Hill Station airflow test

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A cutaway view from the north of Capitol Hill Station's main entrance at Broadway and John (Image: Sound Transit)

A cutaway view from the north of Capitol Hill Station’s main entrance at Broadway and John (Image: Sound Transit)

If you see smoke Friday night coming from the under construction Capitol Hill Station, you can probably relax. Sound Transit says contractors will be conducting tests of the station’s “airflow”

Friday, May 22, from 4:30 p.m. – 10 p.m. Sound Transit’s contractors at both the Capitol Hill and University of Washington Stations will perform airflow tests in the University Link tunnels. Nearby residents and passersby may notice artificial smoke (a dense vapor produced by a fog machine) exiting vent shafts at the station sites. Additional airflow tests will also be performed on May 30-31 and June 6-7 during daytime hours.

If this were an actual emergency, never fear — Capitol Hill’s Fire Station 25 is home to Seattle’s only special tunnel firefighting machine.

(Image: CHS)

(Image: CHS)

The work is part of preparations through the rest of 2015 to open Capitol Hill Station and the U-Link light rail extension connecting downtown to Montlake by way of Broadway.

You can get a sneak peek here of the UW station and a look here at what it’s like inside the 3.1 mile tunnels. Riders will descend around 90 feet via escalators and elevators to reach the Capitol Hill Station platform, according to Sound Transit diagrams. In addition to the main entrance near Broadway and John, the station will also be accessed by an entrance near Denny on the west side of Broadway and a third entrance on the south end of the site. By 2030, about 14,000 Capitol Hill riders are expected to board the light rail trains each day.

Above ground, the process to develop the sites around the Broadway light rail site with a mix of affordable and market-rate apartments, a community plaza, and commercial space — including a home being planned for a new grocery store – is underway and planners are adjusting bus routes in anticipation of the new transit service coming online. Meanwhile, the surface level streetcar has begun testing on Broadway with hopes of opening the service to riders later this summer.

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Developer shows off plans for Capitol Hill Station housing and The Market Hall

unnamedSiteMapv4-W-Map-1024x807-600x472-1-400x315For the first time since they were selected to develop the housing and retail sites that will one day surround the Capitol Hill light rail station, developers Gerding Edlen met with the Capitol Hill community Saturday to show off its early designs for the project.

The Portland-based developer set up posters inside E Pine’s Century Ballroom for a public viewing of the company’s winning proposal, which Sound Transit selected and made available last month. The event was co-hosted by Sound Transit and Capitol Hill Champion, a neighborhood group that’s worked for years to insert community priorities into the “transit orientated development” project.

Members from the Gerding team and architects from Schemata Workshop were on hand to answer questions and take public feedback during the three hour open house. The event was a kickoff of sorts to a new round of community engagement on the project as Sound Transit spent much of the past six months scoring proposals from four teams.

A dog swimming pool, music practice spaces, a newsstand, and more vibrant color palettes were just a few of the colorful suggestions attendees offered after viewing the designs Saturday. Continue reading

Bus Stop | Metro releases less ambitious plan to restructure routes as light rail comes to Capitol Hill

proposed-midday-frequenciesThe proposals for improving the bus network in Capitol Hill that have been coming from King County Metro over the past few years have varied pretty widely. From an emergency service proposal to staunch the effect of massive bus cuts, to a Seattle-only expanded service proposal that hasn’t even taken effect yet, the ideas for changing bus service on the Hill have been all over the place, and it would not be unreasonable to assume that the average Hill resident has not been able to keep up with them.

This week, Metro released its latest University Link restructuring proposal for Capitol Hill and northeast Seattle, set to take effect in the first quarter of 2016. After taking comments regarding its two alternatives, Metro has released a third proposal, dropping most of the really frequent service and retaining almost every area’s direct connection to downtown. The result is a proposal that falls short of a frequent service grid that was its clear ambition with alternative 1.

Here are the proposed changes, with the most dramatic stuff first. Continue reading

Sound Transit ready to select developer for Capitol Hill Station retail+housing sites — UPDATE: ‘Master Developer’

Rendering of the future Capitol Hill Station "site A" from top-ranked developer Gerding Edlen

Rendering of the future Capitol Hill Station “site A” from top-ranked developer Gerding Edlen

SiteMapv4-W-Map-1024x807-600x472-1The multi-site retail and housing project that will surround the Capitol Hill light rail station between John and Denny will be one of Broadway’s defining features for decades to come. Now it’s time to find out who gets to build it.

After having nearly six months to score bid proposals from four development teams, Sound Transit is expected to announce the winning developers this week. The four-site project will include 100,000 square feet of “transit oriented development,” including housing, commercial, and community spaces.

The winning developer team will need to be confirmed by the Sound Transit Board, which is expected to happen at this Thursday’s meeting.

UPDATE 1:28 PM: Sound Transit has announced that Portland-based Gerding Edlen Development’s bid as a “master developer” for all properties has ranked highest in the selection process. Plans call for 418 apartments with 38 percent of units to rent for below market rate for 12 years and 86 units designated for “permanent affordable housing.” A third of the units will have at least two bedrooms.

Gerding estimates the project to cost $124 million for three sites, not including the affordable housing site. According to the 262-page bid document, construction for Site A is slated to start around summer 2016 and last through August 2017.

Site B North (Image: Gerding Edlen)

Site B North (Image: Gerding Edlen)

In a win for neighborhood activists, the developer plans to include space for a community center and daycare with subsidized rates, and signaled its intention to sign a 24-year lease with the Broadway Farmers Market. Letters of intent from the farmers market and Bright Horizons were included in the winning bid packet, as was a proposal for a LGBTQ office space called OutSmart Co-working.

On the retail side, Gerding says it heard the neighborhood’s calls for smaller storefronts to accommodate local independent shops and will include such spaces in the project. The developers are also seeking an anchor tenant for a larger space, and are already in talks with “a northwest-based neighborhood grocer interested in expanding operations to Seattle.”

Plans for a retail “bazaar” at Site A-North, called The Market Hall, envision “a mix of local retailers, served by booths of varying sizes to accommodate the start-up entrepreneur as well as more established specialty retailers.” Gerding says it plans to work closely with the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce to select a retail broker and future tenants.

Seattle architecture firms Hewitt and Schemata Workshop were both tapped by Gerding to help design the buildings, which will be subject to a streamlined design review process.

“This development will be a neighborhood asset for decades to come,” said Sound Transit Board member and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray in a statement. “As a centerpiece of the Broadway business district, with affordable housing, a farmers market and a daycare, this proposal envisions a community for all to enjoy.”

The project’s affordable housing building, Site B-North, was intended to be developed and run by a nonprofit housing organization, but Gerding’s nonprofit partner pulled out from the project last year. Gerding says it intends to find another nonprofit partner to run the site.

Scenarios for leasing and purchasing the two acre Broadway property were both included in Gerding’s bid document. Sound Transit has valued the properties at $25 million. Contract negotiations are expected to last through the end of the year.

Continue reading

Capitol Hill Station’s next stop: Transportation Choices shows sneak peek of UW Station

More teaser pics from UW Station and an update on the transportation happenings in Olympia here from Transportation Choice

More teaser pics from UW Station and an update on the transportation happenings in Olympia here from Transportation Choices

Last Tuesday, we told you the Big Red Wall around the future Capitol Hill Station was beginning to come down in preparation for U-Link’s expected 8% under budget, six or so months early depending on who’s counting, early 2016 (March?) start of light rail service between downtown and the University of Washington via Capitol Hill.

Pfew! That’s exciting!

So, how about a look at the other end of the equation! Here’s a peek inside your northern light rail destination adjacent Husky Stadium, courtesy Transportation Choices:

TCC got an inside look at both stations today, and here are some pictures of the highlights of the gorgeous UW Station (Capitol Hill station pictures are embargoed but we assure you, it looks great!).

We’re only a little envious of you, TCC, and your embargoed pics of the Broadway light rail station. At least we know what Capitol Hill Station art will look like integrating works by Capitol Hill artist Ellen Forney and a massive “Jet Kiss” sculpture by artist Mike Ross. And, of course, we did get to do this:

Bus Stop | Considering the alternatives

Metro is clearly trying to get you to think about frequency.

In the early 1980s, as Portland was building its first light rail line from downtown Portland to Gresham, the public transit planners in that city decided to make substantial changes to its bus network. Like Seattle now, Portland was served by a large number of bus routes that all headed downtown; if you weren’t going downtown you frequently found yourself there anyway because that was the only place to catch a bus to a different neighborhood.

After the reorganization, the redundancy that came from having so many buses running downtown was reduced, freeing up money to provide service between neighborhoods that were not connected before by bus, and to increase frequency of service along those routes. Service every 15 minutes all-day became the standard, making it easier to transfer between buses. The number of places that could now be reached in the same amount of time that it used to take you to only get downtown increased dramatically.

Last month, King County Metro released two proposals for what bus service could look like after the opening of two new light rail stations north of downtown in 2016. Capitol Hill Station and the University of Washington station are clearly envisioned as jumping off points for a reorganization proposal that will trade current levels of coverage for frequency of service. The first round of public feedback on the proposals closed with the end of March.

With a trip between Montlake and Westlake shaved down to 6 minutes, it makes sense to ask riders to transfer when their trip could become much faster overall. Alternative 1, the more ambitious of the two proposals, has the potential to mirror the transformation that Portland saw 30 years ago. What remains to be seen is how reliable the portions of the new, more frequent transit network that are not in their own tunnel will be. Continue reading

Broadway’s Red Wall art coming down in preparation for opening of Capitol Hill Station

“Tim Marsden hands a section of Stefan Gruber’s artwork “Both Worlds” to an assistant. De-installation of artwork and dismantling of the red wall next to Cal Anderson Park continues over the next several weeks.” – (Images: Jennifer Babuca)

UPDATE 4/6/2015: See?!? :)

Piece by piece, Broadway’s Red Wall is finally coming down, we wrote last October. The comedown continues — and is picking up pace.

The giant wall surrounding the five-acre Capitol Hill Station site home to a well-regarded collection of public art projects is starting to be prepared for removal as construction on the light rail facility wraps up in preparation for a start of service in early 2016. Here is an update on one section of art recently removed from STart on Broadway’s Jennifer Babuca:

It’s a beautiful spring Thursday on Capitol Hill in Seattle. Tim Marsden of Sound Transit stands in the basket of a scissor lift, efficiently working an electrical screwdriver as artist Stefan Gruber looks on.  Starting on this sunny Thursday, the attached pieces of artwork and signage are being removed from the section of wall that faces Cal Anderson Park.
Continue reading

With expanded light rail a year away, Metro rolls out proposed route changes

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(Images: King County Metro)

(Images: King County Metro)

Earlier this week, CHS reported that the agency’s planning is pointing at a March 2016 opening for light rail service through Capitol Hill Station — though Sound Transit is still officially saying only that they’re planning for the first quarter of the year. CHS reported last fall that part of ramping up for the new transit option would be a plan to optimize Metro bus routes around the city in anticipation of the new service.

This week, Metro has rolled out two alternative plans for changing service on Capitol Hill and beyond when U-Link extension is fired up at the beginning of 2016. Here is Metro’s project page for the “Link Connections” planning.

As the Urbanist site reported earlier this week in a preview of the announcement, Metro’s “Link Connections” Alternative 1 is the more aggressive of the plans while Alternative 2 represents an incremental approach. If past optimization exercises with the county are any indication, you can expect Alternative 1 to be held up as a kind of marker at the edge of possibility while the second alternative ends up being closest to the final plan.

Some key details on the proposals for Capitol Hill and Central Seattle are below. Please let us know what we missed and what others should be aware of. Continue reading

Light rail plans call for Capitol Hill Station to open in March… 2016

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(Images: CHS)

(Images: CHS)

March 2016 will be a big month for Capitol Hill transit. If everything goes to plan — and it has, mostly, through four years of work so far — Broadway’s Capitol Hill Station and the 3.1 mile University Link extension of Sound Transit’s light rail network will begin “revenue service” a year from now.

In the agency’s “2015 Service Implementation Plan” (PDF), Sound Transit planners lay out the timeline for the $1.8 billion project to begin carrying passengers next March as part of its regular schedule of service changes through its various bus and rail services.

Trial runs on the line are expected to begin “in Fourth Quarter 2015,” according to the document produced last December. “Testing for the University extension is expected to begin either at or sometime during the September 2015 service change,” the document notes elsewhere in the plan.

According to Sound Transit, the project remains around 8% under budget with the total cost expected to come in around $1.8 billion. A March opening would put the project about six months ahead of some of its early planning and keep to the pace the agency has been talking about publicly since 2013.

UPDATE: We’ll let you parse this response from a Sound Transit spokesperson:

We really don’t know that U Link will open in March, 2016. All we know right now is that it will be in the first quarter – could be anytime Jan-March at this point. The service changes that the SIP referred to are any changes that happen as/after U Link opens, not the usual service changes that happen in February.

The spokesperson tells us that Sound Transit is planning to update the document “to say U Link opens in Q1 next year.” The original wording? “Testing for this alignment will begin in Fourth Quarter 2015 with revenue service anticipated to begin with the March 2016 service change.”

Continue reading

Also coming to Capitol Hill’s underground light rail station and tunnels in 2016: wireless service

IMG_3562-2The Sound Transit board is set to approve a contract on Thursday to add cell phone service inside its light rail tunnels and stations. The bad news: no more phone silence when your train goes underground.

Last year, the company Mobilitie was selected to build out the neutral host 4G LTE cell network (i.e., a multi-carrier network with data) to service all underground light rail stations and tunnels. Installation is expect to start in the coming months, but service won’t be available until mid-2016.

Under the proposed contract (PDF), Mobilitie would be responsible for funding, installing, and maintaining the cellular system. The company will also pay Sound Transit $7,500 a month and a one-time $250,000 payment when the University Link tunnel comes online. The company will profit by selling network access to cellular providers.

University Link light rail trains remain on track to start rolling through Capitol Hill Station by early next year. The University Link line will extend underground from downtown to connect with Capitol Hill and University District stations. Sound Transit began boring for the Northgate Link tunnel in November, which will add three more stations north of the University Station: U District, Roosevelt, and Northgate. As of last month, construction on the Capitol Hill Station was around 78% complete.

In addition to enhancing rider experience, Sound Transit anticipates cell service could be used for direct communication with passengers:

Installing wireless communications coverage will improve safety, security, and information opportunities for transit passengers travelling in the underground facilities. It will also create opportunities for additional communications methods and media for transit operations.

Meanwhile, the Sound Transit board is still evaluating proposals to develop the housing and retail properties surrounding the Broadway light rail station. The board is expected to announce the winning contractor(s) in early March.