Capitol Hill’s Crown Car Co. shows you don’t have to be Uber to roll out a ride app

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Rebelos

Soto Rebelos had enough. A second-generation cab driver, by 2005 he was sick of it and quit driving to take some time off.

He’d learned the trade from his parents, both of whom were cab drivers who met at the Pink Elephant car wash on Denny Ave. He and his father even shared a cab for a few years before Rebelos gave it up.

After taking a year to figure out what he wanted, he realized that he enjoyed the work. Licenses to drive cabs are tightly regulated by the city of Seattle, but he realized there was another way.

“Limo licenses are wide open,” he said.

And so the Crown Car Company was born in August 2006 on Capitol Hill. These days, it’s keeping up with the big boys and showing that you don’t need to have massive piles of tech venture capital to give people a ride with an “app.” Continue reading

Transit Notes | Bike share launches Monday, UberPEDAL comes to Seattle, on-demand valet will park your car

  • Bike share: Monday marks the start of service for the Pronto bike share system currently serving Capitol Hill, First Hill and Seattle University, plus downtown, the U-District, Eastlake, South Lake Union, Belltown, Pioneer Square and International District. You can check out the roster of a dozen stations serving our part of Central Seattle here. You’ve probably seen the new stations magically popping up across the neighborhood. After ceremonies in Pioneer Square Monday morning, a series of inaugural rides is planned across the city’s 50 station locations. On Capitol Hill, the “launch rideout” will travel from Broadway and Harrison to the Pronto station at 11th and Pine by Cal Anderson Park. The system is expected to come online for regular operations beginning at 1 PM. Each station has docks for 12 to 20 bikes and features a kiosk where non-members can sign up for 24-hour, or multi-day passes, and or access bikes using a code. Those who pay $85 for an annual membership will be able to bypass the kiosk and check bikes out directly. The $85 annual membership grants Pronto riders unlimited 30-minute trips. There are also 24-hour passes for visitors that cost $8 and three-day passes for $16. Check out prontocycleshare.com for more information and to sign up for memberships. There are plans to expand the system to the Central District in 2015. UPDATE: We’re told that the system will have around 900 paid members at launch.
  • Helmet reminder: While deploying the stations and kiosks has proven to be an amazingly fast process accomplished in a few hours, the Pronto system’s automated helmet vending machines aren’t ready yet. Officials say stations will have an honor system for helmets in the meantime. We’ve also suggested bars, restaurants and shops near the stations consider keeping a helmet or three behind the counter for customers to borrow.
  • UberPEDAL: Starting Friday, bike-riding Uber customers can request a car with a bike rack. For a $5 surcharge, the app-base car service will deploy an UberX ride with a rack capable of holding up to two bikes. The move is part of a series of specialized services the sometimes controversial company is testing. UberFamily, designed for providing safe rides for children, has not yet been rolled out in Seattle. We look forward to UberPets and UberBumpingSystem.
  • On-demand valet: A new “app-based valet parking service” has quietly launched in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood and may roll out soon to other parking-challenged parts of the city. For $15 a day, customers can reportedly summon the service’s “agents” to any drop-off point designated with the Zirx app within “5 to 7 minutes.” The company then “stores” the vehicle — “our comprehensive $2,000,000 insurance fully covers your vehicle and our Agents” — until you request your vehicle’s return and it is delivered within “a few minutes.”

520’s Seattle-side replacement begins with West Approach Bridge North construction

Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 9.56.35 PMWABN_Travel_ModelConstruction of West Approach Bridge North, the Seattle-side 520 replacement project that will connect westbound lanes to the new floating bridge, is now digging in on Foster Island and through Montlake.

The project is part of the only half-funded, half-planned westside replacement of 520. CHS wrote here about the other half of the equation including a Montlake lid and a new Portage Bay Bridge last month. The $300 million federally funded westbound section will have have room for three lanes and include a pedestrian and bike path that will eventually connect all the way across Lake Washington.

Here’s an update from WSDOT on the work that will also mean the end of the iconic “Ramps to Nowhere” remnants from scuttled 520 plans past:

Contractor crews for the Washington State Department of Transportation are beginning to move in heavy equipment and remove trees and vegetation, as needed, along a strip of Foster Island in preparation for building the West Approach Bridge North. One of the crews’ first tasks on the island and adjoining waterways is to build a work platform from which they’ll construct the permanent SR 520 approach bridge.

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Plan to push ‘bus rapid transit’ on Madison moves forward

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One of the exercises from this week’s SDOT meeting

MadisonStreetCorridorOverviewvr3Officials of the Seattle Department of Transportation hosted the Madison Corridor Bus Rapid Transit  house Tuesday night at the Silver Cloud Hotel on Broadway.

“The Madison Corridor Bus Rapid Transit Project is an opportunity to construct capital improvements that will allow a faster, more reliable, more comfortable transit ride,” said Maria Koengeter, project manager for the Madison BRT initiative.

“Bus rapid transit” refers to the use of corridors and service characteristics that would enable buses to provide its customers the same level of service as a fixed-rail streetcar.

SDOT’s  study and project is focused on developing and evaluating at least two corridor design concepts, planners said.

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First Hill Streetcar manufacturer will pay for delays

conup_map1The First Hill Streetcar tracks are ready to roll, but the streetcars themselves are not, and won’t be ready until sometime “early” next year, according to city transit officials. The delay will cost the streetcar manufacturer thousands of dollars on its $26.7 million contract with SDOT.

Last Tuesday, Seattle Department of Transportation’s rail transit manager Ethan Melone told city council members that the streetcar’s Czech manufacturer, Inekon, recently incurred a backlog of orders and a short supply of parts, including brakes, which was holding up production. Inekon, which built the South Lake Union streetcars, is also working out a wiring design issue.

“It’s not unexpected, but it’s definitely not ideal,” said SDOT spokesperson Rick Sheridan. “It’s an industry with a limited number of suppliers.”

The six streetcars for the First Hill line were supposed to be ready by October 7th as per the $26.7 million contract with SDOT. An SDOT spokesperson told CHS that Inekon will pay $25,000 after the first day of delay and $1,000 per day thereafter.

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County cancels next round of Metro cuts

1507581_690284577725465_9131719805826345159_nIn the midst of the first Monday commutes with its latest rounds of Metro service cutbacks executed, the King County Council announced it won’t have to slice service again in February. The move preserves buses and frequency for a handful of lines including several Seattle routes — no matter how the city votes on a proposed transit district this fall.

In November, Seattle voters will consider a plan to raise sales taxes by .1% and add a $60 vehicle licensing fee to allow the city to pay for some of its own Metro service. The proposal was initially positioned as a way for Seattle to stave off any new cuts Metro threw at it.  “Supporters will now tout the measure as a way to add transit in the nation’s fastest growing city,” the Seattle Times now authoritatively reports.

County officials say the February cuts won’t be necessary after continued optimization at Metro and thanks to increased sales-tax income. They also added they can’t promise there won’t be additional cuts in the future.

Sound Transit contractor that dug twin light rail tunnels beneath Capitol Hill hit with racial discrimination lawsuit

Black workers who say they were demeaned and fired because of their race are suing the Sound Transit contractor responsible for digging the twin tunnels between Montlake and Broadway for the U-Link light rail extension beneath Capitol Hill.

KPLU reports:

A group of African American laborers who worked on the Sound Transit Link Light Rail project at Husky Stadium are suing, seeking class action status in federal court.

The men, four of whom appeared at a press conference in Seattle, say they were demeaned and fired because of their race. Continue reading

First Hill Streetcar delayed until 2015: New plan would move more rider revenue to Seattle


For a briefing to the City Council Tuesday morning, transportation planners have unveiled a proposal to change the agreement between Seattle and Sound Transit so that City Hall will be in position to see increased revenue if the First Hill Streetcar ridership numbers are strong.

Planners also revealed that CHS’s November forecast for the start of operations of the First Hill line between Pioneer Square and Broadway is likely too ambitious.

“Construction of the Project is nearing completion,” the planners write. “Although the start date of passenger service is uncertain due to delay in delivery of the streetcars, service could begin as early as the first quarter of 2015.”

UPDATE: SDOT planner Ethan Melone told the council committee that streetcar manufacturing “setbacks” have lead to the uncertainty about when the First Hill line can start service. In February, CHS reported about fire testing issues causing problems with the manufacturing schedule. Council committee chair Tom Rasmussen acknowledged that he had been briefed on the problems in February but criticized SDOT for missing deadlines on quarterly reports on the line and the manufacturing problems. The council member asked for a more complete update on the manufacturing problems in the next quarterly report due at the end of this month.

UPDATE: Following our report on the morning briefing, SDOT issued a statement on the delay.

“The schedule for streetcar delivery and service will continue to have some uncertainty until mid-November when more is known about testing results, supply chain issues and the pace of local production,” the SDOT statement reads.

SDOT says “several” of the streetcar vehicles are “near completion” and are expected to be delivered in December with “the entire fleet expected to be ready for operation in early 2015.”

The full statement is below:

If you have visited Capitol Hill or the International District lately, you have likely seen the finished construction work for the new First Hill Streetcar line. New track, electrical lines, traffic signals and sidewalk abound thanks to the project. But one critical component is missing: the streetcar manufacturer is behind schedule in delivering the line’s streetcars.

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First Hill Streetcar ready for November rides?


We don’t yet know exactly when the first First Hill Streetcar will travel Broadway. But we’re getting there. This week, a Seattle Department of Transportation official is visiting with the Czech manufacturer of the streetcars that will serve the First Hill line. Following that status check, SDOT officials should have a better idea of when service will begin.

UPDATE: Bad news! SDOT says the streetcar won’t run on Broadway until 2015 due to manufacturing problems.

Earlier this year, CHS reported on an issue with fire testing that caused delays in manufacturing the six streetcars ordered by SDOT for the line. Czech Republic firm Inekon partnered with Seattle-based Pacifica to build the trams that were to be manufactured in the Czech Republic but assembled, painted, tested, and maintained in Seattle. Initially due to arrive from the manufacturer by April, CHS was told SDOT expected the streetcars to be delivered between June and October. SDOT was evaluating options including “ramping up service as vehicles are delivered, or beginning service after all six vehicles have been delivered.” Continue reading

Montlake, here are the plans for your 520 ‘short lid,’ new Portage Bay Bridge

"The revised Montlake Lid design proposes a landbridge connection across SR 520," WSDOT says.

“The revised Montlake Lid design proposes a landbridge connection across SR 520,” WSDOT says.

It’s all 520 to you and me but WSDOT has tackled the replacement of the highway’s path from I-5 and Montlake across Lake Washington to the Eastside in segments as it coordinates construction schedules with Olympia’s wrangling over transportation budgets. Thursday, neighbors in Montlake will get their first public views of the latest plans for the as-of-yet unfunded “new Portage Bay Bridge between I-5 and Montlake, a highway overpass lid in Montlake, and enhanced highway-corridor connections to neighborhoods and local shared-use paths for bicyclists and pedestrians.”

20140905-004403-2643287Community site Montlake.net is watching:

WSDOT is coming to the neighborhood on Thursday, September 11th with new plans for a shorter Montlake Lid — and high hopes of getting enough state funding next year to finish the SR-520 Replacement project through Seattle. Since the last design update in 2012, WSDOT has partnered with the City of Seattle to respond to critical public feedback asking for better pedestrian and bicycle access.

Neighbors will be particularly interested in changes being discussed to a planned lid covering the highway:

Previous plans from 2012 call for a 1400-foot-long landscaped lid over the future 520 from Montlake Blvd to Montlake’s eastern shoreline. This new plan calls for a much shorter 800-foot-long lid from a wee bit west of Montlake Blvd to 24th Ave East (the ex-MOHAI overpass). Goodbye eastern lid.

The plans will also include concepts for a bicycle-and-pedestrian-only bascule bridge over the Montlake Cut.

After community feedback in previous outreach sessions, WSDOT planners have also incorporated a “multi-use” trail for bikers and pedestrians as part of the proposed new Portage Bay Bridge portion of the 520 replacement.

Community organizers are asking for more support Thursday night:

Community meeting this Thu – 520 plans. Make your voice heard!

Open House about the new 520 plans Thursday Sept. 11 at Montlake Community Center, from 4:30 to 7 pm. State Department of Transportation will present its new plans for pedestrian and bicycle access, and traffic mitigation – these will have a big effect on community quality throughout Capitol Hill, Montlake, Madrona and Madison neighborhoods. WSDOT staff, consultants, key SDOT and DPD staff and mayor office representatives as well as council members will be there. They need to hear a full range of diverse opinions before the proposal makes it way to Olympia.

"A cable stay bridge is one of two bridge types under consideration" for Portage Bay, according to WSDOT

“A cable stay bridge is one of two bridge types under consideration” for Portage Bay, according to WSDOT

The replacement projects are part of a massive overhaul of the 520 floating bridge. Construction of the Eastside elements is nearing completion as the floating bridge work continues. In March, CHS reported on the start of work on the so-called West Approach Bridge North section of the bridge. The $300 million federally funded westbound section will have three lanes and include a pedestrian and bike path that will eventually connect to a path all the way across Lake Washington. The eastbound section — a south bridge — is part of more than a billion dollars in 520 replacement projects yet to be funded.

With eye on 2016 Capitol Hill light rail, plans readied to integrate Metro, Sound Transit service — UPDATE

Escalators leading up to mezzanine level of the UW light rail station (Image: CHS)

Escalators leading up to mezzanine level of the UW light rail station (Image: CHS)

King County Executive Dow Constantine will be at the University of Washington light rail station construction site Wednesday afternoon to announce the “initial results” of planning “to integrate services provided by the region’s two largest transit agencies” — King County’s Metro and Sound Transit.

“It is essential for transit agencies with overlapping jurisdictions to fully integrate their services, and provide them to the public as efficiently as possible,” Constantine said in a statement on the planning earlier this summer following his executive order forcing the process. “Long term, our transportation future requires both adequate revenue and continuous innovation to expand service. This initiative advances the innovation half of that equation.”

UPDATE: The release plan includes possible proposals to revise Metro Route 8 and create or revise Capitol Hill routes to better connect the Broadway light rail station to South Lake Union and First Hill. More details below. Continue reading

Sound Transit issues clarifications for Capitol Hill Station development proposals as cost concerns mount

Lots of concrete got pumped in to help complete Capitol Hill Station this spring and summer. Lots of money will need to be pumped in to complete the "transit oriented development" around the station (Image: Sound Transit)

Lots of concrete got pumped in to help complete Capitol Hill Station this spring and summer. Lots of money will need to be pumped in to complete the “transit oriented development” around the station (Image: Sound Transit)

As the projected start date for construction of the apartment complexes and businesses that will populate the area surrounding the Capitol Hill light rail station approaches in coming years, Sound Transit has released clarifications of many of the rules governing how the short-list of potential developers will outline project proposals for the developments. According to Cathy Hillenbrand of the Capitol Hill Champion community group, Sound Transit has provided new information about how the proposals will be graded and selected as well as aspects of the design process.

“What I’ve been hearing is that the developers will be having to spend a couple hundred thousand dollars if not more just to complete these proposals just because of the level of design-detail Sound Transit wants,” said Hillenbrand. “So if you’re one of the six teams competing for Site A, that’s not a great percentage of chance for winning, so are you going to lay out hundreds of thousands of dollars for that?”CHStation-TOD-area-600x467-1 Continue reading

Extended First Hill Streetcar, bikeway will (probably) terminate at Roy in 2017, funding still unresolved

(Image: SDOT)

(Image: SDOT)

Screen Shot 2014-08-19 at 4.18.38 PMFor years, maps of the First Hill Streetcar on Broadway have shown a dotted line extending north of E Denny Way to indicate the possible addition of two or three more stops to the route. The city is now ready to fill-in that line, and end it at Broadway and Roy.

Officials at the Seattle Department of Transportation say they have settled on a $25 million extension of the streetcar with a stop at Broadway and Harrison and a terminus at Broadway and Roy — two stops bewilderingly known as the Broadway Streetcar. The city had been considering an additional third stop at 10th and Prospect, but officials said the estimated $12 million price tag outweighed the benefits of extending the line near Volunteer Park.

“In some respects, the writing was on the wall. When we came back with the gross cost estimates, it was a lot,” said SDOT spokesperson Art Brochet.

The First Hill Street car is expected to open in November, running from Pioneer Square to a temporary Capitol Hill terminus at E Denny Way. When service begins, the First Hill Streetcar will have ten stations along a 2.5 mile route from S Jackson and Occidental to Broadway and Denny Way and will connect Pioneer Square, the ID, Little Saigon, First Hill and Capitol Hill.

Planning for the half-mile, two-stop extension is now 30% complete. Brochet said construction of the two stops could begin in 2016 with an opening in 2017. Continue reading