Sound Transit seeks feedback on light rail to West Seattle, Ballard… and beyond

Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 9.28.17 PMSound Transit 3, a “sales-tax, car-tab tax, and property-tax increases”-powered $15 billion package of projects for the agency to take on once its currently planned investments are complete in 2023, will go to the ballot in 2016. Right now, Sound Transit wants your help shaping the package:

The Sound Transit Board needs your help to determine which projects should be included in the ballot measure. The Board will also consider the findings of technical analysis about each project, feedback from the public and key stakeholders, and project cost considerations. The Board is made up of 17 elected officials throughout the Puget Sound region and the Secretary of the Washington State Department of Transportation. It is scheduled to release a draft plan for system expansion in early 2016 for public review and comment before advancing a final ballot measure for public vote in late 2016 or afterward.

Sound Transit is conducting a survey through Wednesday, July 9th collecting feedback on 39 alternatives on a “draft priority projects” list including multiple variants of light rail options connecting to Ballard and West Seattle. You can learn more about ST3 and take the survey here.

The Madison Bus Rapid Transit project is also included in the draft list.CHS reported on SDOT’s Madison BRT planning here. We’ll have to follow up to find out how the new Sound Transit package funding would mesh with the current planning process.

The survey provides the opportunity to weigh in on the individual importance of each of the draft items on the project list and also provide “top 3″ rankings for the regions Sound Transit serves. It also includes question #8 which seems to inform as much as it queries:

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Sound Transit’s Capitol Hill light rail project, meanwhile, is on pace to begin service by early 2016. Isn’t that? a) awesome b) totally awesome or c) all of the above

Sound Transit selects Pride flag as Capitol Hill Station icon

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20150630_SignageThough it will be rendered only in blue and white, Sound Transit has selected a symbol of Gay Pride as the legally required identification icon for Broadways opening-soon Capitol Hill Station.

“Pictograms, as part of our overall general signage program, are not produced in color,” colorful Sound Transit spokesperson Bruce Gray regretfully informed CHS.

The new symbol was spotted by eagle-eyed @gordonwerner in Sound Transit’s latest project update newsletter. Sound Transit also announced that the Seattle-side line of light rail will be known as the Red Line while Eastside extensions will be known as the Blue Line.

The Pride-based icon was selected as part of a design and community feedback process designed to “create pictograms to identify Sound Transit Link light rail stations” that “serve as a tool to easily differentiate stations.” “This is important for non-English speaking audiences, particularly those that do not use a Roman alphabet,” a report on the process reads.

It’s choice comes in a summer of revival for the rainbow flag on Capitol Hill. While the flag continues as a ubiquitous symbol around the neighborhood every June for Pride, the addition of 11 rainbow crosswalks in Pike/Pine has represented a small restoration, for some, of the neighborhood’s eroding LGBTQ identity. For others, it’s a groovy photo op. You might expect a similar response for the Capitol Hill Station icon — though we wouldn’t mind holding the license for the branded blue Pride flag merchandise.

Art inside the station will be, well, kinda gay, too, with war+love machine Jet Kiss (Image: CHS)

Art inside the station will be, well, kinda gay, too, with war+love machine Jet Kiss (Image: CHS)

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Sound Transit announces U-Link extension passes first phase of testing — and takes you on a video ride beneath Capitol Hill

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Sound Transit officials have announced that an important “first phase” of testing on the University Link light rail extension connecting downtown to Montlake via Capitol Hill Station is complete. And they included this groovy video view from the operator’s cab to show you how it feels to zoom through the twin tunnels at speeds up to 55 MPH.

The testing of “new power, safety, train control and communications systems in most of the 3.1 miles of tunnels between Westlake Station in downtown Seattle and the University of Washington” involves coordinating the newly installed equipment with the system’s existing infrastructure. The work is part of phases of testing that will continue through the summer and will grow to include Sound Transit’s working fleet of trains. “(W)hen final phases of testing beginning this fall, all trains that operate during normal service hours will continue on to Capitol Hill and UW Station before returning south,” the announcement on the completion of the first phase of testing reads. The full announcement is below.

CHS took you inside for a first look at Capitol Hill Station as work continues to have the new extension ready for service by early 2016. You can also join CHS on a walk through the light rail tunnels here. Meanwhile at the surface, the process to develop the land around Capitol Hill Station with a mix of market-rate and affordable apartments, commercial space, and community space is underway.

Sound Transit completes first phase of University Link testing

New video from operator’s cab previews fast and frequent service that starts in early 2016

Sound Transit contractors have completed initial work to integrate and test University Link light rail signal and power systems as part of the push to open the extension in early 2016. Continue reading

Capitol Hill Housing picked to operate light rail station’s 86-unit affordable housing site

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All 86 units planned for Site B-North will be below market rate. (Image: Gerding Edlen)

A prominent Capitol Hill nonprofit will be taking the lead role in developing an all-affordable housing building as part of the four site, mixed-used project that will one day surround Broadway’s Capitol Hill Station.

Master developer Gerding Edlen has selected Capitol Hill Housing to develop, own, and operate the seven story, 86-unit building. According to Gerding’s winning proposal, half of Site B-North’s units will be restricted to households making no more than 30% of the area median income. The other half will be made affordable to households at or below 60% of AMI. Initial plans call for a community center and a day care, as well as a rooftop deck and computer lab. Continue reading

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.

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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