Post navigation

Prev: (05/19/15) | Next: (05/20/15)

Testing, testing: First Hill Streetcar makes surprise Broadway appearance

(Image: @TheStreetcar via Twitter)

(Image: @TheStreetcar via Twitter)

Either the plan has changed or the First Hill Streetcar testing is ahead of its delayed schedule. Monday night, Broadway — apparently — had a surprise visitor.

“Did you see #TheStreetcar on Broadway last night? Low speed test completed as we continue startup prep,” the streetcar’s promotional Twitter account bragged.

(Image: @seattledot via Twitter)

(Image: @seattledot via Twitter)

“Hey All, Did you see Streetcar on Broadway last night?” SDOT’s account teased.

CHS didn’t see it. So it’s possible the First Hill Streetcar’s landing on Broadway was faked. But here’s what CHS wrote in March as we got a look at the new trains under construction and being prepared for testing at their International District trolley barn:

Don’t expect to see the streetcar on Broadway until very late in the testing process this summer. SDOT officials say the testing won’t make it up the Hill until there are three or four cars ready for service conditions. At that point, SDOT can begin a process of mimicking standard service. An official said at that point, the streetcar needs to perform as planned for about two weeks. Once it passes that test, the new trams — including our special hot pink car — will be ready for business.

There’s been no announcement of an acceleration in the plan to start service so we’re betting the low-speed test was just a little more ambitious than how planners described the process back in March.

Construction of the streetcar tracks was completed in 2014 along with the construction of the Broadway bikeway. 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. The streetcar project will cost somewhere around $130 million. Sound Transit is footing the bill as part of mitigation for being unable to construct a First Hill station as part of the U-Link light rail project. The light rail project along with Capitol Hill Station is slated to open in early 2016. The station, too, is showing signs of coming to life.

CHS reported earlier this month that city planners are eyeing a local tax to help pay for a planned $25 million northern extension of the streetcar and bikeway up Broadway to Roy. Like it does along the rest of the route, the Broadway extension tracks would share traffic lanes with motor vehicles and buses. Meanwhile, sponsors are lining up to advertise all over the First Hill Streetcar system.

When it does start running, streetcars will arrive at the 10 stops every 10-15 minutes from 5 AM to 1 AM Monday to Saturday and 10 AM to 8 PM on Sundays and holidays. Fares will be set by the Sound Transit board. The South Lake Union line’s adult fare is now $2.25. First Hill Streetcar fare is “anticipated to be similar to Link Light Rail and Metro peak hour fares.” Riders without ORCA cards will be able to purchase tickets at fare box machines located on station platforms.

Meanwhile, another new creature of public transit has been spotted in the wild around Seattle. Be on the lookout for Metro’s new trolleys. CHS wrote about the new tricked-out fleet of Metro trolleys here late last year. Maybe you can ride one to Metro’s Capitol Hill open house Wednesday night:

Link Connections: Metro Public Meeting @ Capitol Hill
WHEN: Wednesday, May 20, 2015 – 6:00 pm @ 6:00 PM
WHERE: Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences, Jaffe Room 1432 15th Avenue Seattle, WA 98122

Learn about and comment on Metro’s proposal to change bus routes in Seattle with the start of Link light rail to Capitol Hill and UW at Husky Stadium. Sound Transit staff will also be available to answer questions about and take comments on their proposal for change.

UPDATE: SDOT has posted details and video of the short test:

The Streetcar made low speed test runs last night and traveled from the Maintenance Facility Yard and proceeded north on 8th Ave S, and entered the mainline at S Jackson St, then traveled west to the end of the line. The streetcar then reversed direction and proceeded outbound on the “on-wire” track to the other end of the line, changing to the “off-wire” track and returned to 7th Ave S and S Jackson St, and then returned to the Yard via 8th Avenue S. Please check out these video clips below.

Subscribe and support CHS Contributors -- $1/$5/$10 per month

31 thoughts on “Testing, testing: First Hill Streetcar makes surprise Broadway appearance

    • Agreed. That South Lake Union Trolley was also a ridiculous boondoggle. Who else rides it… other than thousands of Amazon employees?

      • Yeah! How dare those Amazon employees board a streetcar that drops them off directly in front of their office! Boo!

        To answer your question without further sarcasm: people working at the medical and biotech facilities in SLU, tourists staying nearby, and the thousands of people who now live in South Lake Union. Why don’t you board it yourself and ask your fellow passengers before you judge them?

      • The SLU Streetcar was nearly full when I walked past, at around 5 p.m. Tuesday with maybe 80 people aboard heading to Westlake Station. It’s actually a very smart “last mile” shuttle route between employers and the big transit hub — if you give the trains their own running space and easy signal priority, which so far hasn’t happened.

      • Run the numbers, Mike.

        80 people on a surprisingly small trolley* that is potentially helpful only at rush hour, and still only worth running 6 times in the primary direction of demand at said rush hour, adds up to only 480 riders in the sole busy hour of the day. Out of the tens and tens of thousands of new jobs in the area.

        Helps to explain why SLU transit modeshare is disappointing and traffic congestion worsening, no?

        The rest of the time, the cars run with single or low double digit passengers, and only 4x/hour. Which explains the line’s abysmal overall performance and value as a civic investment.

        *As you say, this dinky seems “full” when carrying a number that would be under the *seated* capacity of a Metro bendy-bus. This is not a “high-capacity” European-style conveyance by any stretch of the imagination.

      • This is the initial stub of a system that is intended to run through downtown (mostly in transit-only or otherwise preferenced lanes), so you may want to wait till it’s done before you declare it a failure.

  1. Street cars are great if they have a dedicated right of way. But the SLUT and the BUTT share the road with cars… That sounds like a job for a trolly bus. Why make a street car?? What is the advantage of a street car?

      • # 27: Streetcars are faster than buses or trackless trolleys (aside from 2 lines in Philly, do any other cities run trackless trolleys, or trolley buses anymore?) because trams tend to have dedicated lanes.

        And #20: Passengers can take comfort from seeing the rails stretching out far ahead of them, while ever fearing that the bus could take a wrong turn at the next corner and divert them off course.

      • Dude,

        Your posting on a Capitol Hill site in Seattle, Washington and you’re asking if any cities except Philadelphia run overhead powered electric buses (e.g. “trolley buses”)????????????? [Giggle].

        Check your premises, John Galt. Seattle runs eleven routes, of which four serve Capitol Hill.

      • Speed limit for trackless trolleys here is 30 mph due to posted speed limits in the city. They start vibrating pretty bad if you take them over 30 mph anyways. The speed limit for the SLU & FHSC is 25 mph per policy, although the street cars themselves are designed to go faster.

    • Many people simply prefer trains and trolleys and won’t ride buses.
      Is it irrational? Yes.
      Would the buses go the same places? Yes.
      Does it make sense? No.
      You can argue about it till you’re blue in the face, about how it doesn’t make sense, but it’s true anyway. That’s one advantage of a street car.

      • What makes it irrational? It makes sense to me; people don’t like riding the bus, because buses are kind of unpleasant. What seems irrational to me is the way transit planners and transit fans focus on this mythical phenomenon of “rail bias” when all that’s really going on is a simple “bus aversion”.

    • Richard has been officially destroyed in this thread. Hilarious!

      With that said, I want my BUTT right now! Ha! Seriously, why is taking so long? Has Mayor Murray answered one stinking question with an honest answer about when the BUTT is coming?

      Tonight, I am going to Capitol Hill for dinner from my offices in Pioneer Square. Would love to take some form of public transportation. Two buses are required. I will just go to my resident street car stop, which has been there for like two years now, and wait for nothing to come. So disappointing and so disappointed in our Mayor.

  2. Metro’s buses are bursting at the seams. We didn’t need streetcars for mass transit to be used. Property developers wanted them to pretty up Allentown, the new, expensive neighborhood for people too precious to ride the bus. Then Sound Transit threw a streetcar-shaped bone at Capitol Hill for taking away the First Hill light rail stop. I am steamed that the public is footing the bill for these vanity projects.

  3. And I am really hacked off that the streetcar has shut down the southbound connection of 14th Ave. to Rainier, for no reason I can see. Traffic on Yesler/12th/Boren/Rainier is ever so much worse.

  4. The early streetcar test must not have gone very well. By the time it reached my apartment at Broadway & Terrace (southbound), it was being towed by a big Metro tow truck!

  5. Pingback: News Roundup: Test Run

  6. Pingback: First look: inside Capitol Hill Station | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle

  7. Pingback: Nevertold Casket Company looks for new home after zoning discrepancy forces closure of its Capitol Hill ‘odditorium’ | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle

  8. Pingback: Could Seattle really start building a network of neighborhood streetcars in two years? Two council candidates think so | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle

  9. Pingback: First Hill Streetcar service to begin in August… hopefully | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle

  10. Pingback: 75 years later, streetcars return to Capitol Hill | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle