A colorful start to Seattle’s First Hill Streetcar testing

Mayor Murray and King County Council and Sound Transit board rep Joe McDermott take a ride (Images: CHS)

Mayor Murray and King County Council and Sound Transit board rep Joe McDermott take a ride (Images: CHS)

In front of a rainbow assortment of new trolleys, the first completed tram for the First Hill Streetcar — sky blue — took a very important load of passengers for a 600-foot ride Friday morning as testing for the system has moved into full motion.

It only required one “reboot.”

“This is another step in our efforts to get streetcars running throughout Seattle,” passenger and Mayor Ed Murray said to the media assembled to cover the event at the system’s International District maintenance facility.

Inside, workers were assembling three more cars set to join the fleet including a hot pink number one Seattle Department of Transportation representative said captured the, um, “modern energy of the Capitol Hill neighborhood.” The colors of the multi-hued cars were “inspired” by the “different characteristics” of the neighborhoods the 2.5 mile streetcar route travels through — Pioneer Square, the International District, First Hill, and Capitol Hill. Continue reading

Mayor rolls out new transit levy proposal alongside busy E Madison

Declaring Seattle’s “mode wars” over, Mayor Ed Murray stood along E Madison Wednesday where an $87 million “Bus Rapid Transit” system is being planned to announce his plan for a nine-year, $900 million transportation levy to help fund Seattle’s slate of planned street, sidewalk, and biking upgrades.

The levy is planned to be presented to Seattle voters on the November ballot. As currently constructed, the city estimates the Move Seattle levy would cost property owners about two times as much as the expiring Bridging the Gap levy:Screen Shot 2015-03-18 at 1.18.41 PM

(Image: City of Seattle)

(Image: City of Seattle)

While the menu of projects the city is planning to improve commutes and neighborhood streets would seem an obvious inspiration for strong support for the levy, Murray said planners will begin gathering feedback on the proposal and the mayor cautioned Wednesday that success on the ballot isn’t necessarily a done deal.

“Any time you ask to raise taxes, it’s a hard sell,” Murray said.


  • March and April 2015: SDOT will collect public feedback on the draft Transportation Levy to Move Seattle proposal

  • May 2015: After incorporating public feedback, the Mayor will submit the proposal to Seattle City Council

  • By early August 2015: The Seattle City Council will need to submit the proposal to King County for it to be on the ballot this November

You can learn more about the proposal at seattle.gov/LevytoMoveSeattle/ and provide feedback on the levy plan via this online survey. There are also three workshops planned around the city — though none on Capitol Hill:Screen Shot 2015-03-18 at 1.23.36 PM

Meanwhile at Pine and Broadway, the Transit Riders Union was working the street to drum up support for the group. The union hasn't yet taken a position on the new levy proposal. (Image: CHS)

Meanwhile at Pine and Broadway, the Transit Riders Union was working the street to drum up support for the group. The union hasn’t yet taken a position on the new levy proposal. (Image: CHS)

First Hill Streetcar vehicle testing to begin

A First Hill Streetcar tram being assembled after arrival in Seattle  -- More pictures on City Council transportation committee chair Tom Rasmussen's Facebook page

A First Hill Streetcar tram being assembled after arrival in Seattle — More pictures on City Council transportation committee chair Tom Rasmussen’s Facebook page

From the status update presentation

From the status update presentation

Testing will begin this month as Seattle’s First Hill Streetcar line moves toward a start of service this summer. The announcement is part of a series of updates planned as part of Tuesday’s City Council briefing with Seattle Department of Transportation head Scott Kubly on the status of the delayed streetcar line.

“Vehicle manufacturer is six months behind schedule for all vehicles to be ready for service,” reads the first bullet point on the “Current Status” slide in the presentation prepared for the city council’s transportation committee. The full document is embedded below.

Kubly, right, speaks Tuesday morning at the City Council transportation committee briefing

Kubly, right, speaks Tuesday morning at the City Council transportation committee briefing

UPDATE 3/10/2015 10:45 AM: In Tuesday morning’s briefing, Kubly responded to questions about why SDOT’s contract with the streetcar manufacturer didn’t have a stronger incentive for the maker to stay on schedule for a project the SDOT director was intended to begin service last year and how the department provided updates on the situation to the rest of City Hall.

Speaking on the ambitious Move Seattle transit initiatives earlier in the morning, Kubly spent the rest of his time with council bogged down in the difficulties of delivering the start of service on the First Hill Streetcar line.

Laying the fault of the delays on challenges presented by “a combination” of new battery technology, new communications software, and changes in national fire standards, Kubly said that SDOT will change the way it contracts for “liquidated damages” in future manufacturing deals. Liquidated damages are “damages whose amount the parties designate during the formation of a contract for the injured party to collect as compensation upon a specific breach.”

Kubly said in the re-worked First Hill Streetcar deal, owed liquidated damages will be paid in spare parts.

Continue reading

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

alt1-traveltime-capitol-hill alt2-traveltime-capitol-hill (1)

(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


(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.

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

Mayor lays out 10-year plan for Seattle transportation including Broadway streetcar extension, Madison BRT

“We’re redesigning streets like Broadway to provide many low-cost travel choices," Mayor Murray's plan promises

“We’re redesigning streets like Broadway to provide many low-cost travel choices,” Mayor Murray’s plan promises

"The list of new technologies impacting transportation expands every day"

“The list of new technologies impacting transportation expands every day”

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 2.09.21 PMTeeing up a ballot measure this fall to help pay for it all, Mayor Ed Murray rolled out his Move Seattle plan Monday including an “A to X” (come on city planners, you couldn’t think of two more initiatives!) roster of transportation projects being planned to make Seattle’s streets safer and more efficient by 2024. The plan includes projects with a combined budget of $835 million.

Longterm goals include a roster of safety initiatives and the target of providing “72% of Seattle residents with 10-minute all-day transit service within a 10-minute walk of their homes.” Continue reading

CHS Pics | A First Hill streetcar pulls in from Czech Republic

Thanks to reader Ed Nelson for the picture

Thanks to reader Ed Nelson for the picture

The SDOT director’s plans for Czech travels to untangle manufacturing problems has apparently paid off. The ship has come in.

CHS reader Ed Nelson sent this picture from the Saturday morning delivery at 14th and Main of what appears to be one of the six trams slated to serve the First Hill Streetcar line between Pioneer Square and Capitol Hill. Three of the six trains have been undergoing final assembly in Seattle, while three others remained in the Czech Republic. According to SDOT, production in Europe was on hold until assembly and testing finished in Seattle.

In recent weeks, the Maltese vehicle carrier MV Tiger had been en route to Seattle from Europe with the valuable cargo. Fortunately, the West Coast port slowdown won’t apparently add to the already delayed streetcar route which still doesn’t have an official start date and isn’t planned to be ready before late this summer at earliest.

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.

Olympia Roundup: New medical pot system, renter posthumous rights, light rail to Ballard

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 8.49.26 PMThe bills are in, now its time for state legislators to take action. Last month, we wrote about how revenue and education would be the overriding issues facing Olympia this year. That remains the case, but Capitol Hill’s 43rd District delegation — which includes Sen. Jaime Pedersen, House Speaker Frank Chopp, and Rep. Brady Walkinshaw – are involved in a number of other issues also affecting Capitol Hill.

  • Medical marijuana bill passes Senate — A bill seeking to rein in the state’s largely unregulated medical marijuana system and bring it more in line with the highly regulated retail market is heading to the House after it passed the Senate earlier this month. SB 5052 would create a database of medical patients, and allow those patients to possess up to three times more marijuana than non-patient adults. Patients could grow up to six plants at home and the bill would replace the current collective garden structure with 4-person coops. The bill would also give the state Liquor Control Board, which regulated marijuana, a much needed new name: the Liquor and Cannabis Board. Continue reading

Transit notes | Safer streets downtown, 520 Seattle-side survey reminder (and, yay, boat openings to end)

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  • Vision Zero: City officials are hoping for safer downtown streets as speed limits are lowered as part of a broader road safety initiative dubbed Vision Zero:
    Seattle is consistently recognized as one of the safest cities in the country. Over the past decade, we’ve seen a 30 percent decline in traffic fatalities, even as our population grows. Despite this fact, traffic collisions are a leading cause of death for Seattle residents age 5-24. Older adults are also disproportionately affected, and as our population ages, this trend could grow. In 2013, there were 10,310 police-reported collisions in Seattle. 155 people were seriously injured and 23 were killed. This is unacceptable. We can do better. Vision Zero is our plan to end traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030.
    While the crossing of Pine at Broadway is the cover girl for the initiative, most of the near-term changes will be found off Capitol Hill. Continue reading