Even with new acting director, Seattle Department of Transportation seems unlikely to unstick work to speed up First Hill Streetcar

(Image: SDOT)

A project to speed up the notoriously pokey First Hill Streetcar remains stuck in neutral on Capitol Hill and the mayor’s new choice for an interim leader for her transportation department seems unlikely to kick the work into motion.

Seattle Department of Transportation officials have responded to CHS inquiries about the project to streamline the streetcar’s route with a proposed four-block southbound “Business Access and Transit” lane on Broadway that would shave off three minutes of travel time and be part of a package of changes hoped to boost ridership by about 10% — 350 riders — per day.

Property owners and business representatives tell CHS that SDOT has remained silent on the project that had been planned for construction this summer. The department said Monday that the project isn’t dead. Continue reading

As mayor puts brakes on downtown streetcar, Capitol Hill biz group pushes back on Broadway changes

Streetcars in Seattle face an uphill battle. As Mayor Jenny Durkan dropped a Good Friday news bomb on Seattle’s plans for the downtown “City Connector” streetcar line, a group of Capitol Hill merchants is working on its own attempt to put a stop to some of the elements of a plan to speed the notoriously dilatory, underperforming First Hill Streetcar route connecting Capitol Hill to Pioneer Square.

“Our priority is the streetcar,” a Seattle Department of Transportation representative told a group of business and organization representatives from the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce Thursday at a meeting on a menu of changes based on metrics and ridership being planned to speed up the streetcar through a three-block stretch of Broadway in the heart of Pike/Pine. Continue reading

Thirteen years after painful cut, First Hill still wants a light rail station

Capitol Hill Station celebrates its two-year anniversary this week. First Hill is still waiting.

The First Hill Improvement Association remains determined to get a light rail station built in the heart of its neighborhood — though Sound Transit cancelled a site there in 2005 citing geological instability.

“There’s a difference between hard and impossible,” FHIA director Alex Hudson said. Continue reading

‘Red paint’ — SDOT collecting feedback on Broadway transit lane proposal

SDOT is planning to make one lane of southbound Broadway transit only from Pine to Madison (Image: CHS)

Seattle Department of Transportation officials are in the middle of “community outreach” for the addition of a proposed four-block southbound “Business Access and Transit” lane on Broadway.

The planned summer 2018 project is part of a roster of improvements SDOT reps discussed Tuesday with the Seattle City Council’s transportation committee on efforts to speed up the city’s streetcar lines. You can learn more about the plans and provide feedback here. Continue reading

CHS Pics | Poetry on the First Hill Streetcar

Sunday, riders on the First Hill Streetcar found some new voices joining the automated messages about upcoming stops and reminders to hold the handrail.

A special Lunar New Year edition of King County Metro’s Poetry on Buses program brought “Asian and American Asian local aspiring poets” to the streetcar route connecting Capitol Hill to Pioneer Square via the International District.

The program has placed more than 350 poems on buses and streetcars, Metro says.

Thanks to interruptions by each announcement of an upcoming stop, arriving at the stop, next stop, and a stop requested, Sunday’s readings had their own peculiar rhythm that was just odd enough to be appropriate for the First Hill Streetcar which has suffered indignities from construction delays, to a sliding incident after losing braking power, to ongoing jokes about the route’s slow performance as it shares lanes with motor vehicle traffic.

Still, the route presents an alternative way to visit Chinatown and the ID — if you aren’t in too much of a hurry. Continue reading

Moving on from streetcar extension plan, city also ditches Broadway bike and street improvements

At the end of 2016, CHS reported that a $28 million plan to extend the First Hill Streetcar north on Broadway — and, in conjunction, improve the streetscape and extend the street’s protected bike lane — was put on hold by City Hall and changes in the Capitol Hill business community. 2017 was supposed to be a year for revisiting the plan.

No need. $3 million worth of planning for an extension and the street changes will remain packed away and some of the millions already collected from grants to make the construction happen is now being handed back.

“I would describe it as indefinitely deferred,” the Seattle Department of Transportation’s transit and mobility director Andrew Glass Hastings tells CHS. “That project is pretty much designed. That design is still useable should we decide in the future, in conjunction with stakeholders up on Capitol Hill.” Continue reading

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