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Mechanical issue knocks First Hill Streetcar out of service — UPDATE

IMG_0511Officials shut down the First Hill Streetcar system Wednesday after a mechanical issue was identified prompting officials to inspect the fleet of six seven Czech-designed cars that serve the line.

The service stopped serving riders mid-Wednesday afternoon. The first announcement of the disruption came from King County Metro, the agency that operates the City of Seattle service, just before 3 PM Wednesday. An announcement early Thursday morning confirmed the line was still not operating.

A King County spokesperson told CHS Wednesday night that a mechanical issue was identified in one of the streetcars prompting officials to pull all of the cars back to the service facility on 8th Ave S in the International District. The spokesperson said he did not yet have additional information about the nature of the issue.

The First Hill Streetcar began service in January in 2016 after months of delay. The start of service on the line was bogged down, in part, by longer-than-expected testing on the propulsion system designed specifically for the First Hill line. The system uses regenerative braking during downhill sections in order to power special batteries allowing streetcars to periodically detach from their overhead wires so they can travel alongside city busses. The system was developed for the First Hill Streetcar to reduce overhead wire conflicts with the Metro trolley buses.

In 2015, CHS reported more details of some of the issues that caused the rollout of the service to be delayed including “water-damaged inverters.”

The Seattle Department of Transportation says that around 3,000 riders utilize the First Hill Streetcar daily. UPDATE 3:25 PM: Metro is operating a shuttle (PDF) to partially cover some of the streetcar’s route.

Wednesday, SDOT also said its announcement of changes to Broadway to help speed up service on the notoriously slow-paced streetcar route was premature and that planned changes to the street won’t happen until after more “analysis and outreach.” A department spokesperson told CHS that SDOT plans to begin that outreach this summer.

UPDATE 5:50 PM: A spokesperson said he still could not provide information on the nature of the mechanical issue but it must be serious. The First Hill Streetcar will not be in service again on Friday.

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9 thoughts on “Mechanical issue knocks First Hill Streetcar out of service — UPDATE

  1. Why so mysterious SDOT? Is it that Metro thinks there is a problem and SDOT disagrees? Or could the mechanical issue be that Mayor Murray got really mad and ordered the streetcar to be shut down immediately, following yesterday’s events with SDOT’s reversed announcement of street changes? (Plus the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce no longer wanting the Roy St. extension.)

    Let’s have more transparency.

    • Yeah, usually when I see it, there are 5 or maybe 8 people aboard.

      Trolleys cost about 10 x as much as having a bus go on the same route due to very high capital and maintenance costs. But hey, it’s tax money, who’s counting the costs?

      Wait, I know what we ought to do! Let’s slow down traffic for thousands of people in private vehicles, so we can make the trolley faster. Maybe we’ll even get dozens of people to ride it most of the time! Stupid car-users! Those people need to be re-educated, or something.

  2. I’m enjoying the silence outside my office window. No clang-clang all day long. And there’s the Sheldon part of me that is enjoying it more because isn’t it “Clang Clang Clang” go the trollies? I hope they get it fixed soon, although I’ve never been on it.

  3. They sure are being vague about the issue. Does it compromise the safe operation of the streetcars? It must otherwise why take them all out of service “until further notice”.

  4. I really hope they’re back in service soon! I’ve really appreciated having them for the school quarter in this awful weather. They’ve been a lifesaver when I don’t want to walk twenty minutes in the freezing rain.