With officials touting ‘record transit’ numbers, Capitol Hill riders trading bus for light rail

Opposite Day On the Escalator, Capitol Hill Link Light Rail Station

More Capitol Hill commuters are traveling by public transportation — and they’re ditching buses in favor of light rail and the First Hill Streetcar in droves. The new numbers come from the Seattle Transit Blog’s analysis of the first release of systemwide ridership data following the opening of Capitol Hill Station, UW Station, and the U-Link restructure that optimized Metro’s lines around the opening of light rail service between downtown and the University of Washington via Broadway.

While Capitol Hill-area riders are less likely to be hopping on a bus, the data comparing Fall 2015 with Fall 2016 activity show Metro’s restructure apparently paid off by putting the county system to work serving areas away from the light rail circuit and feeding riders to the stations. “Despite an aggressive ULink restructure, Metro ridership stayed flat, declining by just 0.2%,” the STB wonks write. Continue reading

Plan for more late night Seattle bus service, call for free rides on New Year’s move forward

King County Metro with funding boosted by the Seattle Department of Transportation announced Tuesday an updated plan to expand “Night Owl” bus service across Seattle including routes 11, 44, and 48. But there is another plan moving forward that could bring free transit service to the area for the big late-night holidays of July 4th and New Year’s.

King County Council’s Dave Upthegrove has introduced legislation asking Metro to put together a report “on options for free late-night public transportation service on the Fourth of July, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.”

“We want to make it easy for people to make the right decision and leave their car at home as they ring in the New Year or celebrate the Fourth of July,” Upthegrove said in an announcement of the legislation. “Ensuring that buses and trains run late into the evening on these holidays makes everyone safer.” Continue reading

Get on the battery bus: King County leads way with $90M+ plan for new electric buses

(Image: King County)

(Image: King County)

You likely won’t see one regularly crossing Capitol Hill until 2020 but King County Metro is accelerating its efforts to reduce emissions and become a carbon neutral system with a $90 million-plus plan to add more than 100 battery-only electric buses to its fleet.

“This puts us in on the forefront of innovation and technology,” King County Council member Rod Dembowski said. “We were innovators in wheelchair lifts. We were innovators in hybrid electric. Transit agencies look to us for what they’re going to adopt.”

“We are signaling that is is proven technology,” the county District 1 rep tells CHS. Continue reading

Unofficially, 3,000-plus daily First Hill Streetcar riders

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The trams aren’t as full as they were during the free preview days like this scene from January but, unofficially, First Hill Streetcar ridership is right on track (Image: CHS)

screen-shot-2016-12-14-at-1-49-08-pmAs CHS broke the news about the First Hill Streetcar’s extension plans being put on hold by the city, here is a look at just how many people are riding the 2.5-mile line every day.

Data provided by the Seattle Department of Transportation shows that the streetcar line served more than 3,300 riders daily in October and that ridership appeared to have been slowly climbing since the streetcar’s early 2016 start of service. In addition to the many delays in beginning service on the route, SDOT had to tackle a bug with its automated passenger counters that left the department without access to the information. Continue reading

Starting in 2017, the 8 won’t be (as?) late thanks to changes on Denny and Capitol Hill

route-8-improvements-diagramThe notoriously undependable but much-depended on Metro 8 might be a little more trustworthy thanks to changes planned on Denny Way including two stretches of bus-only lanes and improved bus stops on Capitol Hill segments of its route.

“Though reliability increased when Route 8 was divided into two separate routes in March 2016, late buses are still a problem, especially during rush hour and major events at the Seattle Center,” the agency said in its announcement of the planned streamlining.

On Capitol Hill, Metro announced that “on-street parking will be restricted on short sections of Denny Way, Olive Way, East John Street, and East Thomas Street” and two bus stops on E Olive Way and E John will be expanded “so buses don’t have to leave and re-enter heavy traffic, and to provide more space and amenities for waiting passengers.” Continue reading

Motör wants to be Seattle’s super local, safe take on ride-hailing apps

Motör drivers are just like you and me (Image: Motör)

Motör drivers are just like you and me (Image: Motör)

Need a ride to get around Capitol Hill tonight? The creator of Motör has lived in Seattle his entire life and wanted to create a rideshare that allows his community to get to where they’re going efficiently, safely, and affordably.

Sotirios Rebelos comes from a long line of cab drivers. Both of his parents met while driving cabs in downtown Seattle at the Elephant Car Wash. When he read on a community Facebook thread that service industry workers didn’t feel safe walking home at night after their shifts, he decided to do something about it.

“We are drivers, not an app,” Rebelos said.  “The app is secondary. We’re not trying to upscale and dominate globally, we are just trying to give rides to the neighborhood and we need an app to do it.” Continue reading

Microsoft running larger employee shuttles more often through Capitol Hill amid increased demand

A Connector idles near a Metro bus stop on 19th Ave E (Image: CHS)

A Connector idles near a Metro bus stop on 19th Ave E (Image: CHS)

At least 31 passenger buses roll through three Capitol Hill stops every day, but they don’t belong to King County Metro or Sound Transit.

The Microsoft Connector, which shuttles full-time employees from Seattle to the company’s campus in Redmond and offices in Bellevue, has recently stepped up its central city service frequency and bus size across Capitol Hill due to increased demand, the company says.

Launched in 2007, Microsoft’s Capitol Hill shuttles were recently replaced with larger buses, but the company would not say how many employees on average use the service, only that its fleet of buses can carry more than 7,000 passengers. On some routes like the 12 on 19th Ave E, it appears the corporate perk far outperforms public transit in terms of ridership.
Continue reading

First look at how light rail, route revisions have changed Capitol Hill bus ridership

Over the weekend, CHS’s Re:Take history series took a look back at some of the lost bus routes of Capitol Hill. We don’t have to look back far in time to find the changes. Late last year, Metro planned out a wave of revisions and reroutes to optimize its service around the opening of light rail service to Capitol Hill Station and UW.

Now, the Seattle Transit Blog has provided the first look at how ridership on the altered bus lines has changed in the first months as ridership on light rail has soared.

STB grouped the impacted Capitol Hill routes into a set of winners…

  • Route 11: up 38% — The #11 is likely absorbing demand on Pine Street east of Broadway for former Route 10 riders unwilling to walk to Link. Continue reading

Why Sound Transit is not rolling out more 3-car light rail trains

Southbound trips

Northbound tripsSound Transit may consider it an encouraging problem to have that the chief complaint among riders of its recently expanded light rail system is that trains are sometimes overcrowded. During last week’s Sound Transit board meeting, members asked transit officials to respond to public demand for more capacity and explain why more three-car trains are not running on the mostly two-car system.

It turns out that even with the huge boost in ridership since the Capitol Hill and UW stations opened in March, Link light rail is still well within its capacity on most trips.

“We cannot guarantee that everyone will have a seat during peak hours, nor was that how the system was designed or funded,” said David Huffaker, Sound Transit’s deputy executive director of operations. Continue reading

$2.65M deal for affordable housing site puts Capitol Hill Station development in motion — UPDATE

Early concept of the development coming to "Site B North"

Early concept of the development coming to “Site B North”

Sound Transit is finally ready to sell off the first of five properties surrounding the Capitol Hill light rail station that will transform Broadway and serve as a new gateway to Capitol Hill.

The board is expected to approve the $2.65 million sale (PDF) of Site B-North to developer Gerding Edlen during its Thursday afternoon meeting. The Portland-based developer previously selected Capitol Hill Housing to develop and own an 86-unit affordable housing project on the site, which runs along 10th Ave between John and Denny Way.

UPDATE (4:35 PM): Sound Transit board members approved the Site B-North sale agreement during their Thursday afternoon meeting. Despite a Sound Transit staffer reminding the board the action was “a very, very big deal,” the approval was rather unceremonious as one member had to be pulled in from the hallway to make a quorum for the quick vote. There was no board discussion of the measure.

“The Capitol Hill community has repeatedly and strongly expressed its desire for affordable housing,” said Brie Gyncild, co-chair of the Capitol Hill Champion community group. “We need truly affordable housing as soon as possible and we near it near the light rail station.”

Screen-Shot-2015-06-22-at-11.24.05-PM

(Image: Gerding Edlen)

According to Gerding’s winning proposal, half of Site B-North’s units will be restricted to households making no more than 30% of the area median income. The other half will be made affordable to households at or below 60% of AMI. A quarter of the units will have two or three bedrooms. Initial plans call for a community center and a daycare, as well as a rooftop deck and computer lab.

The $2.65 million price tag for the “transit orientated development” “Site B North” comes just under Sound Transit’s estimated price last year. A substantial percentage of the proceeds will go towards paying back federal transportation grants that were secured for the project.

In August, the board is expected to approve land leases for three other sites so Gerding Edlen can move forward with its plan to build 100,000 square feet of commercial, housing, and community space. Seattle Central College has been given a right of first refusal to develop a fifth parcel, Site D, due to the site’s location directly next to the school’s Broadway promenade.  Continue reading