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

SDOT’s Madison BRT questions include center or side lane, 23rd Ave or Madison Valley endpoint, bike route alternatives

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 11.23.24 AMimage02-600x449Speaking of public transit improvements poised to make living in Seattle’s Inner City even more enjoyable, CHS has reported on the proposed $87 million Madison Bus Rapid Transit project that is planned to create a corridor of speedy bus service from the waterfront all the way up to the Central District through the heart of First Hill and along the southern edges of Capitol Hill.

“The 2.1-mile corridor runs from Colman Dock east to 23rd Avenue and will improve access to ferries, Third Avenue transit, First Hill medical facilities and housing, Seattle University, the Central district, Link Light Rail, and the First Hill Streetcar,” SDOT promises.

The department also wants your feedback:

SDOT is seeking input on key elements before this analysis begins, including transit connections, routing options, station locations, and an alternate bike facility.  After the analysis is complete, SDOT will launch a round of outreach to share the results and discuss community preferences about the design options. The last question of the survey is a map exercise; don’t forget to share your map. #MadisonBRT

You can take the BRT survey here through Thursday, February 5th.

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SDOT is considering two possible eastern endpoints for Madison BRT — you can tell them what you think in the survey

Continue reading

Bus Stop | Looking ahead to June’s Prop 1 boosts to Capitol Hill Metro routes

Take the 48 to visit the Jimi Hendrix bus shelter at 23rd Avenue and Massachusetts (Image: King County via Flickr)

Take the 48 to visit the Jimi Hendrix bus shelter at 23rd Avenue and Massachusetts (Image: King County via Flickr)

Are you excited yet? We are less than 6 months away from the start of Prop 1’s injection of service hours into King County Metro’s bus system throughout Seattle. In short, almost every single bus route that runs on the Hill will be coming more frequently at least some of the time. But let’s look into what this really means for Hill bus riders and the schedules of 9 bus routes that run within or along the edges of Capitol Hill that will be receiving added service hours after the June service change. Two routes that serve the Hill, the 9X and the 12, will not receive any additional service hours until September. Many Hill bus routes receive improved service at each change.

Digging into the numbers, the bulk of added service on the Hill in June will be given to three buses: the 10, the 47, and the 60. The 60 is a much longer route than the other two, running through South Seattle, and so the same number of service hours translates into more round trips on a route like the 10 or the 47 than it does for the 60. Improvements to route 60 include increasing weekday frequency to every 30 minutes. Continue reading

First Hill Streetcar delays are prompting SDOT director to visit Czech manufacturer

The most useless Seattle transit tracking app ever -- Vesselfinder.com shows the Maltese vehicle carrier Tiger underway to the States with one of Seattle's streetcars aboard -- Check out the latest position at vesselfinder.com

The most useless Seattle transit tracking app ever — Vesselfinder.com shows the Maltese vehicle carrier MV Tiger underway to the States with one of Seattle’s streetcars aboard — Check out the latest position at vesselfinder.com

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SDOT director Scott Kubly (far right) meets with the City Council transportation committee.

City Council member Tom Rasmussen is not happy about delays with the First Hill Streetcar. While his office never responded to CHS as we broke the news last week that streetcar service won’t be started as late as the end of July, Rasmussen did have a lot of questions for the director of the Seattle Department of Transportation during a Tuesday council meeting.

When pressed about why the manufacturer Inkekon had still not shipped three streetcars from the Czech Republic, SDOT’s Scott Kubly said the delay was more about poor timeline setting. Inekon had to redesign several key components from their stock streetcar model and Kubly said the city had not anticipated the extra manufacturing time.

However, Kubly’s heavy handed response to the delay suggests he and SDOT are taking an even more serious response to the issues.

Kubly said he began holding daily phone calls with the CEO of Inekon last month and that he is planning a trip to the Czech Republic in February to inspect production and press the importance of delivering the cars as soon as possible.

“This is frustrating,” Rasmussen said during the meeting. “How do you know they’re just not putting you off and not making excuses, and if they really buckled down they could get this thing done sooner?” Continue reading

Central Area Neighborhood Greenway begins with bike markings, better pedestrian crossings — and ‘speed humps’

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 10.48.31 AMcentralgreenway_map_vertical_feb27-212x550 (1)Work on the first phase of the Central Area Neighborhood Greenway is underway creating new bike route markings, new stop signs and better pedestrian crossings along a route connecting 21st, 22nd, and 25th Ave from John to Jackson. You’ll note that SDOT is also adding “approximately” one speed hump per block on the route.

CHS included the work in our list of transit projects to look forward to in 2015. The “Hybrid” option for a bicycle and pedestrian friendly parallel to the 23rd Ave corridor will begin at I-90 and pass up through the Central District along 26th and 25th Ave before a jog over to 22nd north across E Madison to Capitol Hill. Through a mix of signage, pavement markings, speed bumps, roundabouts and other traffic-calming features, the route will complement a $46 million overhaul of 23rd Ave. When complete, the 23rd Avenue greenway is likely to be the longest greenway in the city.

Seattle Bike Blog says the first phase of work is slated to be wrapped up later this winter. SBB also provides insights on some of the most important bike and pedestrian work still to come to make the greenway a reality.

If the plan doesn’t get mucked up for the northern end of the route, the area should connect nicely to Montlake’s bicycle and pedestrian resources included in the Seattle-side 520 replacement project.

Updates and more here:

Phase 1 runs between E. John Street and S. Jackson Street along 21st Avenue E, 22nd Avenue E, and 25th Avenue S. Installation elements include:

  • Bicycle pavement markings
  • Stop signs on all streets crossing the greenway
  • Flashing beacons for pedestrians and bicyclists at arterial crossings: 25th Avenue S and E Yesler Way; 25th Avenue S and E Cherry Street
  • Enhanced pedestrian traffic signal at 22nd Avenue E and E Union
  • Approximately one speed hump per block on the route

This work will necessitate some temporary on-street parking restrictions, pedestrian and cyclist detours, and some light construction noise. Access to businesses and residences will be maintained except when temporary restrictions are necessary. Normal work hours will be 9 AM to 4 PM. Installation is expected to be complete in late Winter 2015.

UPDATE 2/25/2015: Depending on your definition of “begins,” you might want to mark a different start date for the actual work on the project. SDOT says that the contractor’s work is *now* underway:

Central Area Neighborhood Greenway installation begins

SEATTLE –A contractor working for the Seattle Department of Transportation began work today on Phase 1 of the Central Area Neighborhood Greenway. The contractor expects to complete this phase of the project by spring, enabling Central Area residents of all ages and abilities to enjoy a calmer and safer route to walk and ride bikes. This phase of the greenway will run between East John Street and South Jackson Street on residential streets parallel to 23rd Avenue, including stretches of 25th Avenue, 22nd Avenue, and 21st Avenue East.

Much of the work to be done involves the repair or upgrade of curb ramps and sidewalks where the neighborhood greenway crosses arterial streets. Crews will work south to north, one intersection at a time, at the following locations:

  • 25th Avenue  and East Yesler Way
  • 25th Avenue  and East Cherry Street
  • 25th Avenue  and East Columbia Street
  • 22nd Avenue  and East Madison Street
  • 21st Avenue East and East John Street

One of four crosswalks at each intersection will be closed during ramp construction. Typical working hours will be 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. 

Other elements of Phase 1 greenway implementation include bicycle pavement markings on the route, stop signs on streets crossing the greenway, and approximately one speed hump per block. Flashing beacons for pedestrians and bicycles will be installed at 25th Avenue and East and Yesler Way and also at 25th Avenue and East Cherry Street. An enhanced pedestrian traffic signal will be located at 22nd Avenue and East Union Street.

SDOT expects all phases of the Central Area Neighborhood Greenway project will be completed by the end of the year, extending the route from East Roanoke Street to Rainier Avenue South on residential streets parallel to 23rdAvenue.

Neighborhood greenways are residential streets made safer and calmer for people of all ages and abilities to walk and ride bikes. Greenways can provide access to schools, trails, parks, transit, and neighborhood businesses. For more information on the Central Area Neighborhood Greenway, please see the project web page. Also, see a map of Seattle’s completed and planned neighborhood greenways.

Light rail remains on track to serve Capitol Hill by early 2016

CHS Turner Places Rat Slab for Half of the Ped Concourse.JPG

Workers pour concrete for the pedestrian concourse inside the Capitol Hill Station. (Image: Sound Transit)

With all of the delayed transit projects around Seattle, here’s some encouraging news: light rail service on Capitol Hill is still on track to start by early 2016. According to Sound Transit, the project also remains $150 million under budget with the total cost expected to come in around $1.8 billion.

The University Link line will extend 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.

Construction on the Capitol Hill Station is around 78% complete. Recent work has included erecting structural steel over the station entryways and installing elevators and escalators.

As for the housing and retail development that will surround the station, Sound Transit is still evaluating proposals submitted in December. The board is expected to announce the winning contractor(s) in early March. Sound Transit denied an earlier request by CHS to obtain copies of the proposals they are considering.SiteMapv4-W-Map-1024x807-600x472

There are just four developers left in the running to build all or part of the 100,000 square feet “transit oriented development” that will include housing, commercial, and a community spaces:

  • Capitol Hill Housing – Site B North
  • Gerding Edlen – Master developer for all sites
  • Jonathan Rose Companies/Capitol Hill Housing – Master developer for all sites
  • Lowe Enterprises – Sites A, B-South, and C

As part of the agreement, the City of Seattle will allow the project to stretch to an 85-foot height limit — some 45 feet above the current maximums for the 10th Ave E neighbors of the project. The extension will help the development plan make space for goals driven by the community design framework while providing enough units for developers to profit and create affordable and low-income housing in the project.

Meanwhile, the First Hill Streetcar will be further delayed. CHS recently reported that  service is likely to be delayed for several more months as the streetcar’s manufacturer, Inekon, continues to face assembly delays in the Czech Republic. The six streetcars for the First Hill line were planned to be ready by October 7th as per the $26.7 million contract with the Seattle Department of Transportation.

SDOT responds to CHS First Hill Streetcar delay report — UPDATE

The tracks are in... now we just need the streetcars (Image: Stacy Witbeck)

The tracks are in… now we just need the streetcars (Image: Stacy Witbeck)

Here is an official statement from the Seattle Department of Transportation about CHS’s report that a SDOT official has told Capitol Hill Block Party organizers the 2.5 mile First Hill Streetcar line connecting Pioneer Square to Capitol Hill will not be ready for service in time for the annual July event.

This is the response sent to CHS about the status of the line. We’ll let you parse the statement:

As previously announced, the manufacturer of streetcars for the First Hill Line has failed to meet the delivery milestones for the six-vehicle fleet, which has delayed both testing and the start of passenger service. SDOT is assessing liquidated damages against the contract price and tracking the manufacturing progress on a daily basis. SDOT cannot establish an opening date until we are satisfied that the manufacturer can meet commitments to a revised schedule for all six vehicles.

A spokesperson for SDOT also referred us to http://seattlestreetcar.org/firsthill.htm for more info and “ship tracking for the very first streetcar coming from the Czech Republic.”

The Sound Transit-financed, SDOT-built $132 million First Hill Streetcar project includes the tracks running through streets up Jackson from Pioneer Square to Broadway across First Hill and Capitol Hill as well as a separated bikeway designed to improve the area for bikers and steer them clear of the dangerous streetcar trackbed. Continue reading

State settles on final designs for Seattle-side 520 projects including new Portage Bay Bridge, Montlake ‘land bridge’

The state’s final design recommendations for the westside components of the 520 replacement project include a simplified design for a new Portage Bay Bridge that drops previous plans for fancy cables and includes a “land bridge” as part of the planned Montlake lid that will help link the area for better pedestrian and bicycle access across the highway, planners say.

UPDATE: The state wants your feedback on the plans — you can take the survey here through February 13th.

The entire, massive, 166-page WSDOT “final concept design” report for the projects is below. The Seattle Times took an in-depth look at the update here. CHS reported on the westside components including a smaller than originally planned Montlake lid and the start of construction on some of the projects here in September.

The replacement projects are part of a massive overhaul of the 520 floating bridge. Construction on 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. Seattle’s side of things includes more than a billion dollars in 520 replacement projects yet to be funded.

Despite a cheaper Portage Bay Bridge, the new reports predict the cost of the unfunded westside sections will come in at $1.57 billion pushing the total 520 project cost to nearly $4.5 billion. But first, lawmakers must pass a new state transportation plan in Olympia.

The full WSDOT design report is below. Continue reading

More delay for First Hill Streetcar puts open date after July Block Party

(Image: Gordon Werner via Flickr with permission to CHS)

(Image: Gordon Werner via Flickr with permission to CHS)

It may be time to add the First Hill Streetcar to the list of Seattle transit projects facing serious setbacks. After the Seattle Department of Transportation pushed back the launch date from fall 2014 to “early” 2015, CHS has learned that the SDOT now expects the Capitol Hill-to-Pioneer Square streetcar won’t be in service until at least August.

An SDOT official, speaking at last week’s meeting of the Seattle Special Events Committee, said the streetcar would not be operational for this year’s Capitol Hill Block Party, which runs from July 24th-26th. SDOT media personnel did not respond to requests for comment on this story. The SDOT official who spoke at the meeting pointed us to this December update (PDF), but the document says nothing about when the streetcar would come online. Meanwhile, City Council transportation chair Tom Rasmussen also did not respond to our repeated requests for comment on the delay. Continue reading

*Even more* to look forward to in 2015 Capitol Hill transit: Car share expansion, 23rd Ave greenway

Here’s an old trolley posted recently to Reddit Seattle

To start the year, our semi-regular Bus Stop column looked at the year ahead in Capitol Hill transit including the start of service for the First Hill Streetcar, expanded Metro service, completion of Capitol Hill Station along with an “optimization” of Metro routes serving Capitol Hill in preparation for the opening of U-Link expected by 2016. Here are *even more* multi-modal projects to look forward to in 2015.

Car2Go's current service area

Car2Go’s current service area

  • Car sharing: Tuesday morning, the City Council’s transportation committee voted to expand Seattle’s massively successful “Free-Floating Car Share Pilot Program” — you know it (right now) as Car2Go. By the end of 2015, there could be three more operators joining Daimler AG and up to 3,000 shared vehicles on the streets of Seattle.

Here’s the plan approved Tuesday:

  • In 2015 allow 500 vehicles per operator or 750 if an operator provides citywide service
  • In 2015 allow a maximum of four operators 
  • After 2015, program caps are established by Director’s Rule
  • Operators must provide citywide service after two years of business in Seattle
  • Permit fee increase to more accurately account for costs of the RPZ program

UPDATE 1/20/2015: The full City Council has approved the committee’s plan. Up to 3,000 car sharing vehicles could be on the streets of Seattle by the end of 2015.

Continue reading

Bus Stop | The year ahead in Capitol Hill transit

2014 was a turbulent year for Seattle transit riders. After two votes on transit funding, and a reduction in service hours across the entire county, and the deletion of one of Capitol Hill’s historic trolleybus routes, 2015 should prove to be a much more positive year for transit riders all around the Hill. Here’s a look ahead at what is to come in 2015.

More service is on the way by Summer to meet the demand on the Hill.

  • The First Hill Streetcar to begin service: After problems in the manufacturing of the streetcars themselves, Seattle’s second modern streetcar line connecting central Capitol Hill to parts of First Hill, the Central District, Yesler Terrace (soon to be redeveloped by Vulcan), Little Saigon and the International District will soon be running.
  • “The best bus service Seattle has ever seen”, according to city council member Tom Rasmussen. With the passage of prop 1 in November, Seattle is set to spend $45 million on improving bus service in 2015, with many of the high-ridership routes to be receiving the money in Capitol Hill. Service increases will occur in two phases, with the first in June, and the second following in September. Nearly every single route that runs through Capitol Hill will receive additional service hours to either increase frequency, improve reliability, or decrease overcrowding. The most prime targets for this funding are routes like the 2, 8, 49, 10 and 11: Capitol Hill’s workhorse routes. Continue reading

Here’s why your friends in Montlake are extra cranky this week

(Image: WSDOT)

(Image: WSDOT)

The good news? “Nighttime activities are not planned between Dec. 24 and Jan. 4.” In the meantime, Montlake is going to be taking one for the team the next couple weeks as 520 Seattle-side replacement work gets hard and heavy. A bulletin from WSDOT on planned nighttime construction is below. You can learn more here. And, of course, be thankful they’re not trying to tunnel to Medina.

Upcoming construction activities in the Montlake Interchange area
Major construction kicks off this month around SR 520’s Montlake Boulevard interchange as part of the West Approach Bridge North Project (WABN). Crews plan to begin a variety of local street improvements, starting with the widening of the eastbound SR 520 ramps to and from Montlake Boulevard during the week of Dec. 15. Montlake-area improvements are designed to provide additional capacity on 520 ramps and local streets, and safer travel for bicyclists and pedestrians when WABN is complete. As construction plans are finalized and work proceeds in the Montlake area, additional notifications will be sent.

Noisy work expected during the night at SR 520 eastbound ramps

To widen the ramps, crews will perform work between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. on the following weeknights:

Monday, Dec. 15 – Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014
Monday, Dec. 22 – Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2014
Monday – Thursday nights, Jan. 5 – Jan. 29, 2015
Note: Nighttime activities are not planned between Dec. 24 and Jan. 4.

Work includes site preparation, cutting through the roadway surface and installing drainage to prepare for future intersection modifications.

-snip-

Crews are performing this work at night in order to avoid disrupting weekday traffic. Nearby residents and businesses may hear noise and feel vibrations from the construction activities. All work involving noisy impact equipment, such as jackhammers, will occur before 10 p.m. as required by the city of Seattle temporary noise variance. In accordance with our construction contract and the city of Seattle noise variance, the work will be performed using construction best management practices and sequenced in a way to minimize noise as much as possible.

Off-Hill: One year later, Bertha might be more stuck than ever

One year ago, Seattle stood by as the giant boring machine drilling the state’s new waterfront Highway 99 tunnel got stuck behind some sort of “mystery object” some 60 feet below the surface. At the time, we noted the “extraordinarily lucky” dig to complete twin tunnels beneath Capitol Hill for the U-Link light rail extension.

Now, after a year of waiting and digging to unstuck Bertha, word comes that the process to rescue the boring machine might be making an even bigger mess:

Settling of ground beneath the Alaskan Way Viaduct poses no danger to those driving on or walking underneath the 1950′s-vintage freeway, earthquakes aside, the state Department of Transportation assured Seattle City Council members on Monday.

What is unsettled, however, is when the giant, 7,000-ton digging machine called Bertha can be repaired, and tunneling resumed on the $2 billion project to replace the Viaduct. Bertha stopped a year ago.

“March is not looking like when we restart,” DOT’s Tim Moore told council members, referring to a restart date that was still in the state agency’s web site a week ago.

Not looking like a restart is one not so great thing, in a mealy mouthed kind of way. Settling buildings in Pioneer Square are another:

About 30 buildings in Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square neighborhood will be inspected both inside and out for damage after the soil deep below slumped an inch from Highway 99 tunnel work.

The $2 billion project was planned to create a 2-mille tunnel as part of a replacement for the more than 62-year-old Alaska Way Viaduct. The WSDOT project was planned to open in late 2016.