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‘Open items’ — First Hill Streetcar hits more delays

IMG_7702-600x400The cynics in the CHS audience may have nailed it. The long-delayed First Hill Streetcar may not begin service until 2016.

KING 5, reporting on Tuesday’s City Council transportation committee meeting, says Seattle Department of Transportation director Scott Kubly acknowledged that the system faces further delays:

Kubly says a problem with the propulsion system caused the first delays, and testing revealed “water damage in the inverters” for all seven cars. He says they’ve undergone 250 miles of testing, and six of the seven cars are currently in the area. However, one of the cars’ inverters had to be sent back to Switzerland for maintenance. There has also been a problem with a software glitch.

In a briefing provided to the committee, SDOT said testing is not complete and various “open items” remain to be solved before service begins on the ten-stop, 2.5-mile streetcar line from S Jackson and Occidental to Broadway and Denny Way:

  • The manufacturer has completed dynamic acceptance testing on cars 1, 3 and 5 and plans to complete this for cars 2 and 4 by the end of next week. SDOT/Metro also completed traction power integrated tests last week.
  • Completion/acceptance of Car 6 is uncertain due to need for repair of water-damaged inverters
  • Various “open items” remain even on cars that have completed dynamic testing, ranging from installation of informational graphics and loading route information to the passenger information system, to correcting important features that are not functioning as required by Metro

Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 5.27.54 PMIn August after SDOT still had not identified a start date for the line originally planned to begin service in 2014, CHS polled readers on their predictions for when the streetcar would begin carrying passengers on Broadway. The overwhelming top pick? “2016” — UPDATE: Details on the changing timelines over the years — a range from 2012 to 2016, then 2013, then 2014 —  are below in comments.

Construction on the rails and the line’s accompanying bikeway have been complete since late 2014 and the streets impacted by the construction have seen all of the work and changes but few of the intended benefits of the new transit option.

Issues around the trolleys manufactured by Inekon have lead to delays and contractual financial penalties that have reached $750,000 for the Czech firm. The unique power system being deployed in the First Hill line has been a big issue. Heading from Pioneer Square to Broadway, the First Hill Streetcar will operate on electrical power provided by a single overhead wire “which receives electricity provided by four traction power substations strategically located along the 2.5 mile route.” On the return trip downhill, new hybrid batteries will provide the streetcars power “generated through its regenerative braking along the inbound route, much of it downhill.”

When service begins, the new streetcars will arrive at the 10 stops every 10 to 15 minutes from 5 AM to 1 AM Monday to Saturday and 10 AM to 8 PM on Sundays and holidays. The trains will share traffic lanes with motor vehicles. The streetcar’s current northern terminus will deliver riders to Broadway and Denny — across the street from future light rail service at Capitol Hill Station. Planning to extend the streetcar and its accompanying bikeway north on Broadway to Roy by 2017 is also underway.

A race, of sorts is shaping up, Capitol Hill Station and the 3.1-mile light rail extension connecting downtown to Husky Stadium via Broadway is set to open in early 2016. Will the Sound Transit-financed, SDOT-built $132 million First Hill Streetcar to meet it?

UPDATE: A statement on the delay from Mayor Ed Murray has been posted to the Seattle Transit Blog:

I share the public’s frustration that the First Hill streetcar has yet to enter service. We continue to focus on fixing the problems this administration inherited. SDOT renegotiated the penalties for late delivery to make the delays more painful for the manufacturer, which now owes the City nearly $800,000 for failure to meet deadlines. This delay is unacceptable. If these higher penalties are not successful in motivating the contractor to complete its work, we will be forced to consider other alternatives.

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oy with the delays already
oy with the delays already
5 years ago

I guess easy come, easy go, but a new timeline from SDOT would be appreciated. At this rate, it sounds like Sound Transit will have light rail built to Everett before we get this thing done.

Gotta wonder – how much have these delays cost? Staff time, flights to the Czech Republic, fielding media inquiries, depreciation of useless infrastructure….

Joe
Joe
5 years ago

I don’t understand street cars. Fancy buses could be serving this route for far less than $132 million and it could be extended to Aloha for just a few bucks more.

matt
matt
5 years ago
Reply to  Joe

fancy citizens don’t ride the bus. call it snobbery, racial bias…

but it is what makes us Americans use transit, so we need it, because all of us can’t drive everywhere

Mike Lindblom
Mike Lindblom
5 years ago
Reply to  matt

In the time it’s taken to build this streetcar, which was approved in 2008, King County Metro has ordered roomier new electric trolleys and a few all-electric buses. From inside, those are as modern as a streetcar.

Jack
Jack
5 years ago
Reply to  Joe

Exactly. Weren’t some of us saying this from the start?

Zach L
Zach L
5 years ago
Reply to  Joe

Streetcars have their uses. SDOT did a pretty good anaylsis on different modes here: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/docs/tmp/briefingbook/seattle%20tmp%206%20mode%20analysis.pdf

The long and short of it is: 1) rail lines increase property values 2) streetcars don’t destroy streets like buses do and 3) tend to have lower operating costs than comparable buses.

There’s also induced demand, as other commenters have said.

ltfd
ltfd
5 years ago
Reply to  Zach L

“2) streetcars don’t destroy streets like buses do”. Actually, I think that Broadway has been destroyed by the F.I.S.T. – First Hill-International District Street Trolley.

harvey
harvey
5 years ago

It has ruined a once great street.

RWK
RWK
5 years ago
Reply to  harvey

I don’t know about “ruined,” but all the changes on Broadway have made for a very cluttered and visually unappealing streetscape….and this will also be true when the mess is extended to Roy. Add to this the likelihood that Broadway congestion will greatly increase when the streetcars start to run and I think we will look back on this project as a colossal mistake.

Timmy73
Timmy73
5 years ago
Reply to  harvey

I agree. I recall when it was able to host parades, marches, festivals and fairs. Allowing it to serve as a gathering spot on special occasions and allowed business to spill out onto the streets.

Busses could easily be rerouted, cars removed and we had a central venue to host activities.

Now with its tracks, islands and meandering curves it will never be what it once was.

That begin said, I hope that in the future we’ll have an effective tool to connect the Capitol Hill, First Hill and the I.D. with us looking back not knowing what all the fuss was about.

Andrew Taylor
Andrew Taylor
5 years ago

WATER damage to inverters???

WATER was unexpected in Seattle??

HILLER
HILLER
5 years ago

It will be so nice when the U-Link is open early and under budget! Oh and just so you know if you can get from the ID to 12th you can catch the 60 to Republican so you won’t need a trolley! #duplication

genevieve
genevieve
5 years ago

what a shitshow.

I’ve gone from highly anticipating the trolley to settling for the mediocre route that should at least provide an easier way to get to Pioneer Square to being so thoroughly disgusted with the delays and excuses that I don’t even care anymore. I can walk to the ID faster than the trolley will get me there anyway, and if I want an indirect route I’ll take the 60, thanks.

Unless Metro decides to cancel the 60 because everyone will be on the shiny new trolley (that has problems with water).

Jack
Jack
5 years ago

This, like other of Seattle’s toy trains, was a mistake from the start. Add it to the list with SLUT, Bertha, the sea wall and, going way back, WHOOPS. The city simply does not have the wits to undertake big projects, and we are being told over and over again to pay for their stupid. BUSES, PEOPLE, BUSES! Actually, I am glad the First Hill streetcar is continually delayed, because once it starts (?), Broadway will become impassable.

Adam
Adam
5 years ago

Is this run so unique that it required some wonky, special propulsion system? Broadway had streetcars 100 years ago…and SDOT can’t figure this out in 2015? Embarrassing. This just gives fodder to those who always scream and moan every time we need to do an infrastructure project.

Brandon
Brandon
5 years ago

This continues the mismanagement and bumbling efforts by King County Metro to get this project done. Over a YEAR late now for this one line?? It sends a terrible message about their ability to manage anything larger in the future. Only in Seattle would someone NOT get fired for this level of incompetence.

Adam
Adam
5 years ago
Reply to  Brandon

This is a project of SDOT, not Metro or Sound Transit. Sound Transit funded it, though.

Brandon
Brandon
5 years ago
Reply to  Adam

Yes, it is difficult to tell who the responsible party is for mismanaging the project since there are so many agencies involved. The line will be operated by Metro according to Wikipedia. Whatever entity is Project Managing the project is not doing a very good job. Perhaps that’s SDOT, maybe Sound Transit. Thanks for the correction though.

alibumbayay
alibumbayay
5 years ago

Accuracy, please: The original start date was scheduled for October 2013, not 2014. After planning was underway, the date was changed to early 2014, then spring 2014, then summer… you get the picture. (A simple search of 2011-2012 Seattle Times articles about the streetcar verifies these dates.)

Commenting on this fiscal disaster is not the least bit cynical–it’s critical. I am equally appalled by the nefarious PR surrounding this project. It continuously dodges legitimate questions from the public and frequently moves back the “original start date,” as if tax payers are idiots (or don’t have access to Google search engines).

alibumbayay
alibumbayay
5 years ago
Reply to  jseattle

Thank you for checking that. My snarky comment was intended for the Streetcar people—not CHS. I apologize it came off that way. I’m not a fan of how they keeping moving the “original start date” on their press releases. They are horrible at their jobs.