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. Continue reading

With no plan for return of service, First Hill Streetcar slide latest problem in $27M batch

Engineers may have pinpointed what failed on car 405 but the near-term fix — and the paperwork — to get the First Hill Streetcar line back in action could take “weeks,” the Seattle Department of Transportation’s head of rail told a city council committee earlier this week. In the meantime, Seattle officials are beginning to look into whether the streetcar’s manufacturer should be on the hook for the cost of lost service on the line which serves around 3,000 riders a day between Pioneer Square, the International District, First Hill, and Broadway.

“If we find out it’s a manufactured error, what sort of recourse do we have about asking for them to compensate the city for this loss of service?” Seattle City Council transportation committee member Rob Johnson asked. Continue reading

Service on hold after First Hill Streetcar lost power, slid two blocks down Broadway

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SDOT detailed the incident for media at the ID maintenance facility late Friday — gold culprit car #404 lurks in the background

The First Hill Streetcar lost power Wednesday morning on Broadway with an operator and two passengers on board helpless to stop it before coming to a fortunate stop at Yesler. There were no collisions or injuries in an incident that has prompted officials to keep the service closed until more can be learned about why car 405 — the gold streetcar — failed.

The early hour of the 6:07 AM incident and good fortune left the roadway clear of obstacles for a streetcar route that shares lanes with vehicular traffic.

Andrew Glass Hastings, the Seattle Department of Transportation’s director of transit and mobility, called the failure “an electromechanical malfunction” and said inspectors have isolated the problem to a circuit breaker-like load contactor that shut down the vehicle’s power to its operational system. Continue reading

As First Hill Streetcar turns one, Broadway business owners mixed on extension

img_1880When CHS broke the news late last year that the City of Seattle was pressing pause on the planned two-stop extension of the First Hill Streetcar on Broadway and that the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce was supportive of the decision, we heard from a few Broadway business owners disappointed in the news. Next week, the First Hill Streetcar turns one. We’ve talked with a few of the businesses up and down the street and found owners and managers torn over the benefits of more public transit on the street along with better infrastructure for pedestrians and bicycles versus the chaos and cost of constructing the extended line.

“Automobiles and cities are natural enemies,” David Schomer, owner of Espresso Vivace, tells CHS. “When you add transit and take out automobiles, people come out… the city becomes safer.” Continue reading

Unofficially, 3,000-plus daily First Hill Streetcar riders

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The trams aren’t as full as they were during the free preview days like this scene from January but, unofficially, First Hill Streetcar ridership is right on track (Image: CHS)

screen-shot-2016-12-14-at-1-49-08-pmAs CHS broke the news about the First Hill Streetcar’s extension plans being put on hold by the city, here is a look at just how many people are riding the 2.5-mile line every day.

Data provided by the Seattle Department of Transportation shows that the streetcar line served more than 3,300 riders daily in October and that ridership appeared to have been slowly climbing since the streetcar’s early 2016 start of service. In addition to the many delays in beginning service on the route, SDOT had to tackle a bug with its automated passenger counters that left the department without access to the information. Continue reading

Seattle City Hall presses pause on Broadway streetcar extension

January marks the one-year anniversary of the First Hill Streetcar

January marks the one-year anniversary of the launch of the First Hill Streetcar

broadwaystreetcar_factsheet_090315_optionb-01-306x550The proposed project to extend the First Hill Streetcar beyond Denny on Broadway which would add two stops — one at Harrison and one at Roy — is in limbo.

Support from Broadway businesses is lacking for the current design and the financial plan, and with the neighborhood adjusting to the light rail station and the First Hill Streetcar, the Seattle Department of Transportation has stepped back from the extension with the intention to revisit the plan with stakeholders sometime in 2017.

Unless the plans change, the support SDOT is looking for likely won’t be there.

“If we want to see Broadway thrive … the streetcar is actually the best way to undermine that,” Sierra Hansen, Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce executive director told CHS. Initially, the chamber supported the project, but that’s no longer the case. Continue reading

At memorial for fallen bike rider, call for safety changes near First Hill Streetcar tracks

A memorial service was held Monday night to honor Desiree McCloud, who died in May after crashing her bike along the First Hill Streetcar tracks. But Monday’s remembrance was more than an opportunity for friends and family to gather with the community to remember the 27-year-old. Following the memorial, city officials met with walkers to discuss improvements that could be made to the stretch of E Yesler along the tracks where McCloud lost her life.

The dangers posed by the First Hill Streetcar tracks need solutions as soon as possible, friends and loved ones said.

“I feel personally convinced they were at least involved,” said one friend who was biking with McCloud at the time of the crash. “It seems clear to me that the design is very poor.” Continue reading

Another serious crash on First Hill Streetcar tracks?

A warning sign on Yesler (Image: CHS)

A warning sign on Yesler (Image: CHS)

It’s not just bicycle riders that face dangers from the First Hill Streetcar tracks. KOMO has a report on a May 20th scooter crash on the tracks at 12th and Jackson:

The Tukwila nurse was on her way to work at Group Health in Seattle when she crashed her Vespa on May 20th. Investigators are still trying to determine what happened between the scooter and the tracks of the First Hill Streetcar at 12th Avenue S. and South Jackson Street, said Det. Mark Jamieson of the Seattle Police Department, “I know that there’s some streetcar tracks there,” Jamieson said. “She may have hit that and spilled.”

As investigators are examining the role of the streetcar tracks in the crash, victim Denise Chew is also facing the indignity of having the tow yard auction off her new Vespa during her hospitalization.

CHS reported on the May death of rider Desiree McCloud in a crash involving the streetcar tracks near 13th and Yesler. The investigation of that incident has also not been concluded. “At this juncture, we do not know if the streetcar tracks played any role in the crash,” a statement from SDOT after McCloud’s death read. “The bike lanes are separate and outside of the streetcar’s trackway at this location on Yesler. Careful consideration about bike facilities occurred during the design of the First Hill Streetcar’s alignment, with bike lanes placed away from the rails and rail crossing points designed as near to perpendicular as possible.” McCloud’s family has called for changes to be made to make the tracks safer. Elsewhere on the First Hill Streetcar route, planners included the separated Broadway bikeway to reduce bicyclist interactions with the tracks.

More safely separated bike routes from the streetcar tracks could be part of the answer but incidents like Chew’s crash on Jackson might be even more difficult to prevent if it turns out that standard scooter tires are also at danger of getting stuck in track beds or slipping on rails. If you are on two wheels, the City of Seattle may have inadvertently made its streets even more dangerous.

Family calls for changes to First Hill Streetcar tracks after fatal bike crash

With her memorial “ghost bike” now marking the spot where she suffered her fatal crash on E Yesler along the First Hill Streetcar tracks, the family of Desiree McCloud is calling for the city to act to make the tracks safer.

“If they want to promote cycling in this town, then throwing something that is so hazardous in [bikers’] way doesn’t seem an intelligent thing to do,” McCloud’s mother told KOMO.

With McCloud’s death last week after 11 days of hospitalization following the May 13th crash at 13th and Yesler, CHS asked Seattle Department of Transportation officials what was being done to make the area where she crashed safer for bike riders. “At this juncture, we do not know if the streetcar tracks played any role in the crash,” a SDOT statement sent to CHS read. “The bike lanes are separate and outside of the streetcar’s trackway at this location on Yesler. Careful consideration about bike facilities occurred during the design of the First Hill Streetcar’s alignment, with bike lanes placed away from the rails and rail crossing points designed as near to perpendicular as possible.”

According to the police report on the incident, friends riding with McCloud the morning of the 10 AM crash told police that she appeared to wobble as they rode together westbound on E Yesler. One said she appeared to slip on or near the First Hill Streetcar tracks which run along E Yesler starting at 12th Ave. Two of the riders crashed and McCloud reportedly flipped over her handlebars and hit the pavement. Arriving medics found her face down in the middle of E Yesler, her body and her face scraped from the crash despite her helmet. McCloud’s family members and friends say her wheel got stuck in the track.

Any safety improvements by SDOT are unlikely to involve the actual track beds which are designed for streetcar train tires used around the world. But there appear to be several options for making the area where McCloud crashed safer. On E Yesler where she fell, the tracks curve onto the street to and from 14th Ave and are adjacent marked bike lanes and yellow signs warn of the tracks. There is nothing to prevent a rider from inadvertently crossing into the track line where tires get easily stuck. Removing street parking and creating a more robust bike lane for westbound riders could be one option — though we’re not sure how to squeeze in something safer for eastbound riders. Elsewhere on the First Hill Streetcar route, planners included the separated Broadway bikeway. For any new Seattle streetcar tracks, the incident will hopefully boost support for separated cycle tracks along new lines.

Woman dies following bike crash along First Hill Streetcar tracks

Family and friends are mourning the passing of Desiree McCloud. The 27-year-old died Tuesday of injuries sustained the morning of Friday, May 13th when she crashed as she rode with friends near the First Hill Streetcar tracks at 13th and Yesler.

Investigation of the now deadly crash is underway.

The people riding with McCloud the morning of the just after 10 AM crash told police that McCloud appeared to wobble as they rode together westbound on E Yesler. One said she appeared to slip on or near the First Hill Streetcar tracks which run along E Yesler starting at 12th Ave. Two of the riders crashed and McCloud reportedly flipped over her handlebars and hit the pavement. Arriving medics found her face down in the middle of E Yesler, her face and body scraped from the crash. UPDATE: Police say McCloud was wearing a helmet when she crashed. McCloud was unable to provide a statement to police and was rushed to Harborview where she died Tuesday after more than a week of hospitalization.

If the investigation confirms that the tracks caused the crash, McCloud’s death will be the first involving a bicyclist and the new line that finally opened for service earlier this year. The tracks have been in place since 2014. The dangers for cyclists riding around streetcar tracks are well known. Seattle’s South Lake Union line has been notorious for crashes — though we’re not aware of any deaths involving that route. But the busy street environment can make the dangerous interactions difficult to avoid. On E Yesler where McCloud crashed, the tracks curve onto the street to and from 14th Ave and are adjacent marked bike lanes and yellow signs warn of the tracks. There is nothing to prevent a rider from inadvertently crossing into the track line where tires get easily stuck.

Elsewhere on the First Hill Streetcar route, planners included the separated Broadway bikeway to reduce bicyclist interactions with the tracks. The Seattle Bike Blog published this safety guide for riding near the tracks.

McCloud’s friends and family have been raising funds to help cover her medical bills. “As many of you probably heard, Desiree passed away this morning,” the latest update reads. “I want to thank everyone who donated here; the amount of love and support shown here and elsewhere was amazing.” You can give here.

UPDATE: The Seattle Bike Blog has posted several remembrances of McCloud sent by friends. Here’s one passage:

Des was an amazing human being who created a whole community in Seattle. She was was an integral part of welcoming me when I arrived here three years ago. She was always there to help someone in need. From helping her friends change out their wardrobes because she thought they lacked fashion sense to rescuing friends from the Midwest and helping them find jobs in Seattle. She was always there for us. She volunteered with the Girl Scouts as a troop leader and service unit manager. She taught Magic: The Gathering to many people with the Lady Planeswalkers Society at our weekly meet ups and at conventions across the region. She was ferociously intelligent and would debate you about anything and everything.

UPDATE 5/26/2016: Seattle Department of Transportation spokesperson Rick Sheridan said SDOT does not know “if the streetcar tracks played any role in the crash.” “Our review process will help determine if any modifications to the roadway are warranted,” he writes. The full statement is below:

The Seattle Department of Transportation was notified of the fatality at East Yesler Way and 13th Avenue by the Seattle Police Department (SPD) on May 25. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Desiree McCloud.

SPD informs us that their investigation is ongoing at this time. Following our standard protocols SDOT will undertake a fatal collision review process, which includes gathering data and conducting a site check. Our review process will help determine if any modifications to the roadway are warranted.

At this juncture, we do not know if the streetcar tracks played any role in the crash. The bike lanes are separate and outside of the streetcar’s trackway at this location on Yesler. Careful consideration about bike facilities occurred during the design of the First Hill Streetcar’s alignment, with bike lanes placed away from the rails and rail crossing points designed as near to perpendicular as possible.

UPDATE 5/27/2016: A friend of McCloud — and others — posted some strong reactions to the SDOT statement on streetcar track safety:

Adam also shared an image of the “ghost bike” that now marks the spot where McCloud suffered the fatal crash: