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.

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 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

Capitol Hill Station’s crane ready to depart Broadway’s skyline after 3 1/2 years

Capitol Hill Station's shell now rises above the Broadway construction walls. Time to say goodbye to the crane. (Image: CHS)

Capitol Hill Station’s shell now rises above the Broadway construction walls. Time to say goodbye to the crane. (Image: CHS)

Construction signs warned the Hill to be ready for a long haul back in December 2009 (Image: CHS)

Construction signs warned the Hill to be ready for a long haul back in December 2009 (Image: CHS)

A part of the neighborhood skyline for nearly 1,300 days is slated to wave its 250-foot arm goodbye to Capitol Hill this month. The giant crane purchased by Sound Transit contractors that has helped build Capitol Hill Station and the U-Link light rail tunnels beneath Capitol Hill will be taken down, disassembled, and transported north to help build a new station in Roosevelt.

Sound Transit says it will require approximately 20 trucks to cart the giant crane. More information about the crane’s August removal will be announced soon. The Krøll 1800 (Capitol Hill’s is the metric model) was set up with its enormous 250-foot jib about 100 feet off the ground. The model can be as tall as 200 feet. It can lift more than 30,000 pounds at full extension and more than 130,000 when operating at a shorter radius, according to the manufacturer. Continue reading

Say goodbye to the 47 as Murray’s Metro funding plan heads to November ballot

The-47-on-Bellevue-600x397The Seattle City Council has unanimously approved sending a measure to the November ballot to save King County’s Metro bus service, but it will be too little too late for Capitol Hill’s Route 47. The $45 million plan (PDF) would prevent several rounds of Metro cuts, but not before the 47 and several other lines are slashed in the first round of service reductions scheduled for September.

The measure, first proposed by Mayor Ed Murray in May, is basically a local version of the county-wide Proposition 1 which failed to pass in April. The Seattle plan would raise sales taxes by .1% and add a $60 vehicle licensing fee in the city.

The council rejected an amendment proposed by council members Kshama Sawant and Nick Licata that may have saved the 47 by replacing the sales tax increase with an annual $18 employee head count tax and increasing the tax paid by commercial parking lot operators from 12.5% to 17.5%. Those revenue streams could have been enacted by council before the September cuts took place.

On the plus side, Murray’s plan has a solid chance of passing. Over 66% of Seattle voters approved Prop. 1 and nearly 80% of voters in Capitol Hill’s 43rd legislative district approved the measure, which included road funding that the current plan leaves out.

After Eastside and rural King County voters torpedoed Prop. 1, CHS’s Bus Stop said this about the 47′s deep history in the neighborhood:

The 47 is Seattle’s shortest trolley bus line, connecting downtown with one of the densest census tracts on the west coast of the US. For 105 years, a bus or streetcar has come up the Hill from downtown, dropped passengers off on Summit Avenue as it headed north, turned around once it hits Lakeview Boulevard, and then headed back down Bellevue Avenue. Its frequency may have gone up or down as the years elapsed, and the 13 streetcar turned into the 14 bus to Mount Baker, which was eventually decoupled to form the downtown-only 47. But this bus has always been here. That looks about to change.

Another reason to stay away from Bellevue

You can go to the Eastside if you like. You just might not make it back. A week of work on I-90 is expected to tangle traffic around the area as commuters are forced to find alternate routes to avoid planned lane closures. Here’s the word from SDOT on the start of things Friday night and through the weekend:

Traffic on freeways and major arterials into the city will be complicated by construction on WSDOT’s Interstate 90 – only one westbound lane of I-90 will remain open between Bellevue and Mercer Island. There could be significant backups on alternate routes depending on how many drivers venture forth from the east side into downtown Seattle. For more information, see WSDOT’s website,

Once the work week begins, CHS predict tie-ups in Capitol Hill chokepoints where coffee, wi-fi, and electrical outlets mix.

Bus Stop | The 2

14569185692_30304b38c4_zSome Seattle bus routes are ubiquitous, and some are iconic. The 2 falls into the latter category. Serving Queen Anne, Belltown, Downtown, First Hill, Capitol Hill, the Central District, and Madrona, the 2 is one of Metro’s legacy routes that Seattle could not function without. It only crosses the borders of Capitol Hill for a short stretch of its huge domain, but it makes a big impact on the lives of Hill residents.

On a recent Thursday evening, I met Marilyn waiting for the 2 at Seneca and Harvard Avenue. When I told her I was writing about the bus line, she told me “I love the 2…it’s always on time.” She glanced up the street at the almost-due bus, adding, “Almost always.” Continue reading

First Hill streetcar could mean new connections for International District, Pioneer Square, Capitol Hill


Dragon Fest (Image: Chinatown/ID BIA)

In cities much larger than our northwestern outpost, subways represent more than just a transportation option, they project possibilities. Neighborhoods that would otherwise be off the radar for a happy hour drink or street fair become a doable “few stops away.”

The First Hill Streetcar, slated to open by the end of this year, will bring that expanded state-of-mind to Capitol Hill as the new transit line adds direct connections to Chinatown/International District and Pioneer Square.

Don Blakeney, executive director of the Chinatown/International District BIA, said restaurant owners in his neck of the woods are eagerly awaiting streetcars full of Capitol Hill foodies to descend on the neighborhood.

“Capitol Hill has a really good restaurant scene, but there are 120 restaurants in Chinatown/ID,” he said. “I think people will wake up in the morning and think ‘hey, I can go have dim sum.’” Continue reading

Don’t do this on the First Hill Streetcar tracks

The First Hill Streetcar won’t start service between Pioneer Square, the International District, and Capitol Hill until this fall or later. We don’t suggest you borrow this idea from a project already well known to the Internet but new to us for putting tram, trolley, and streetcar lines to work for alternative purposes.

It’s surely dangerous and likely against the law. But it does stoke the imagination.

Hat tip to @mattargyle!

UPDATE: Seattle Bike Blog points out you also shouldn’t do this:

Council considers two Metro funding plans, both include sending $60 car tab to ballot

In an effort to buy back $45 million in Metro bus services, the Seattle City Council will be considering two competing plans on Thursday. Both would include sending a $60 vehicle licensing fee to the ballot in November.

The first plan, proposed by Mayor Ed Murray in May, is basically a local version of Proposition 1 which Eastside and rural King County voters torpedoed in April. The plan would raise sales taxes by .1% and add a $60 vehicle licensing fee in Seattle — a plan that would likely win voter approval in November. Continue reading

Transit advocates make push for Sand Point Crossing

The Purple Line proposal (Image: Seattle Subway)

The Purple Line proposal (Image: Seattle Subway)

The people behind transit advocacy group Seattle Subway have a new idea to transform transportation between Seattle and the Eastside and they’re looking for your help in making it part of Sound Transit’s longterm agenda:

In recent weeks, Sound Transit has released studies of additional crossings of Lake Washington serving destinations between Ballad and the University District on the Westside and Eastside destinations such as Kirkland, Redmond and Microsoft.  Sound Transit has overlooked a much more efficient and effective route to better serve these cities and our regional transportation system: a Sand Point Crossing of Lake Washington.
This new Sand Point crossing will provide fast connections between residential, entertainment, and employment centers in the northern half of Seattle and the east side.  It will provide a one seat ride from Ballard to Microsoft in 30 minutes or less during rush hour, and less than ten minutes between the U District and Kirkland.  This option is superior to 520 crossings that Sound Transit has studied so far as it adds destinations (Downtown Kirkland, Magnuson Park, Childrens Hospital, Rose Hill) while providing a more direct crossing of Lake Washington for faster commute times and higher ridership.

More information about the why the Sand Point crossing is the best plan for the region’s future is available here.
The comment period for the Sound Transit Long Range plan is open until 7/28. We encourage residents to tell the Sound Transit Board and Long Range Staff they want the Sand Point Crossing for a faster and more efficient transportation system.

The proposal would certainly be transformative for Central Seattle. Capitol Hill has long been a Seattle homebase for many Microsoft and Eastside tech employees simply because transit across the lake from nearly any other neighborhood in the city is such a drag. Meanwhile, East Link slated to carry passengers across Lake Washington via I-90 starting in 2023.

New head of SDOT a ‘bike-friendly’ leader

The city’s pick to head the Seattle Department of Transportation – on the left, above — is a bike-friendly dude.

Here’s what Seattle Bike Blog has to say about the appointment of Scott Kubly as SDOT chief:

“Scott is the visionary who will give transportation in Seattle the leadership it needs,” Mayor Ed Murray said during a press event introducing Kubly Wednesday. If confirmed by the City Council, Kubly will be the first permanent SDOT Director since Peter Hahn was swept out with the McGinn administration. Goran Sparrman has served as the Interim Director.

Kubly said Seattle’s challenge is to give people more options so people can continue to get around during a period of significant growth.

“We’ll give people choices, very attractive choices,” Kubly said at the press event. “People will chose to walk, bike and take transit because it is the most attractive to them.”

Kubly is clearly proud of the bike projects he has helped make happen, including a major role in launching Divvy in Chicago and expanding DC’s Capital Bikeshare. He also talked about creating protected bike lanes “for Seattleites 8-80″ years old.

“Scott is a transportation visionary,” said Mayor Ed Murray in a statement on the appointment. “He has a proven track record in Chicago and Washington, D.C. of advancing innovative solutions that address the full range of transportation needs of residents and businesses. He’s also a transportation renaissance man who’s virtually done it all: he’s worked on bikes issues, car share programs, traffic management and pedestrian safety strategies, rapid transit and street cars; he’s done long-range budgeting, strategic planning, cost reduction, major capital project development, and performance measurement and accountability. Scott is the transportation leader this city needs to take us to the next level in creating more livable, walking communities.”

Following the expected confirmation by the City Council, Kubly will earn an annual salary of $180,000. He is tasked with leading a department and planning process responsible for 750 employees and an annual operating budget of more than $400 million – in a city with the fourth worst traffic in the nation.

City Hall grapples with how to pay for downtown streetcar linking First Hill and SLU lines

The City Council put planning for one new transit project on temporary hold Monday and decided to quash a plan for public campaign financing in Seattle. Details on the vote — and non-vote — below.

Streetcar link-up
By 2018 Seattle’s street car system should be capable of shuttling riders from 10th and E Roy down to Pioneer Square, past Pike Place Market, and up to Westlake Center on a single ride. Add a transfer, and you’ll be able to ride back up to South Lake Union. The ride would be made possible by the Center City Connector – a proposed 1.1-mile downtown streetcar line along 1st Ave.

Continue reading

Bus Stop | The 12

No corner of Capitol Hill is detached from the rest, and no street is safe from the slow and sure winds of change.

The most pastoral of all of the hill’s bus routes, the 12 serves the 19th Ave neighborhood, once a part of the hill that time seemed to forget but which seems to be receiving its well-earned revival today. New hotspots Tallulah’s, Cone & Steiner General Store, Hello Robin Cookies, and an expanded Monsoon joining the small cluster of long-standing small businesses like Fuel Coffee and the much-lauded Kingfish Cafe on the street remind that 19th remains an eastern destination for all Capitol Hill residents. Continue reading

Broadway bikeway getting 500+ daily weekday rides thanks to commuters and warm(er) weather cyclists

Screen Shot 2014-06-18 at 4.15.46 PM

(Image: CHS)

For the first time since the Broadway bikeway partially opened in October, we’re getting a look at ridership data on Capitol Hill’s signature protected bike lanes. CHS recently obtained Seattle Department of Transportation’s Broadway counter data including hourly bike trip totals from January to May taken from a sensor located between Pike and Union.

Perhaps most interesting is the number of daily rides: In May, there was an average of 409 trips a day on the bikeway, including northbound and southbound rides. By the end of that month, weekday totals were easily approaching 600 rides. Weekday averages have climbed steadily since January, with a slight dip in February likely due to some hectic reroutes during construction of the Capitol Hill Station underground concourse:

Here are the Broadway bikeway weekday averages by month:

  • January: 270
  • February: 231
  • March: 276
  • April: 313
  • May: 464

The single most active day in the first five months of 2014 was May 14th, with 598 trips. Continue reading

Capitol Hill ‘garden apartment’ complex considered for landmark protections

"A 1945 tax record photo, view looking west at the east façade of the central building in the 10th  Avenue East group. "

“A 1945 tax record photo, view looking west at the east façade of the central building in the 10th
Avenue East group. “

Screen Shot 2014-06-15 at 7.19.59 PM

UPDATE 6/18: The owners of a 10th and Aloha apartment complex pulled their landmark nomination for the property one day before it was scheduled to go before the Landmark Preservation Board.  Property manger Michael Denning told CHS he originally nominated the Aloha Terrace property for landmark status under the assumption it would not qualify and that would increase its value. He said he had recently been told otherwise as his family works with several interested buyers.

Original Report: The longtime owner of a nine-building apartment complex at 10th and Aloha is asking the city to consider the property for official historical protection. The Landmarks Preservation Board will consider the nomination of the 1943-built Aloha Terrace apartments at its Wednesday, June 18th meeting (PDF).

It’s an interesting old piece of Capitol Hill and Seattle architecture.

The only question: What does it need protection from?

The ownership of Aloha Terrace did not respond to multiple inquiries from CHS about why the landmark nomination was submitted. In 2016, construction of the Broadway Streetcar will start nearby, but city officials told CHS the Aloha Terrace property will not be part of the project. Frequently the city or developers preemptively nominate buildings by policy or in order to ensure future development plans for the site won’t be held up by possible landmark status. CHS has not yet found record of any redevelopment plans for the site and the property has not been sold.

Continue reading