What does federal inquiry mean for Madison RapidRide project?

As part of a criminal inquiry into local transportation projects that use federal dollars, several Seattle projects are coming under further scrutiny including the planned Madison Bus Rapid Transit line set to break ground this summer.

Seattle Department of Transportation officials were ordered via subpoena to produce records related to the projects earlier this month, according to Crosscut. The transportation projects include the RapidRide bus route on Madison and the Center City Connector streetcar.

In late November, Mary Kay Langan-Feirson, an assistant inspector general at the U.S. Department of Transportation, announced the audit into SDOT’s federal grants.

“Recently, the Office of Inspector General received several complaints concerning federally funded projects for the City of Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) that are subject to DOT’s oversight,” she wrote in the Nov. 25 announcement. “Given the significant amount of departmental funds allocated to State and local governments for transportation-related projects and that we have not conducted an audit of the flow of DOT funds to SDOT or WSDOT, we are initiating this review.”

The criminal inquiry has come as a surprise.

SDOT receives federal funding in two ways, according to Langan-Feirson. SDOT can either receive direct financial assistance awards from a federal operating administrator or an operating administrator can grant funds to the state transportation department, which then sends the money to the city. Continue reading

2020 off to good start: Capitol Hill Station has platform stairs (Now, get ready for 10 weeks of downtown light rail disruptions)

2020 is already better than 2019. There are stairs to the platform in Capitol Hill Station. But like most things in these challenging times, you also need to get ready for a 10-week start to the New Year with Seattle’s light rail system slightly hobbled as it is prepared for big expansion ahead.

First, the good news. After months of waiting and a fair amount of systems and infrastructure updates to make it safe, Sound Transit announced the opening of the new stair access at Capitol Hill Station this week. Last March, CHS reported on the plan to repurpose emergency stairs to add an option for reaching the platform beyond the frequently busted escalators and elevator access. Continue reading

SR 520 Montlake Project monthly construction meeting

Your community has played a pivotal role in the first stages of the SR 520 Montlake Project. We hope you continue to stay involved throughout the design and construction process.

To make it easier to stay up to date on recent progress and get information, the design-build contractor for the SR 520 Montlake Project, Graham, is hosting monthly update meetings open to the community. Please join us!

Meeting agenda:

  • Presentation
    • Project summary
    • Design update
    • Progress to date
    • What’s to come
    • How to stay informed
  • Comments and questions

WSDOT’s 520 ‘Montlake Project’ construction moving forward with open house updates, new plan for neighborhood market

“This project, with a $455 million contract cost, is part of the remaining $1.6 billion in SR 520 improvements from Lake Washington to I-5 – the ‘Rest of the West.’ These improvements are funded by the 2015 Connecting Washington transportation legislation.” (Image: WSDOT)

Some things, like speeding tickets issued near Montlake Elementary, will never change — also, apparently, the presence of the Montlake Market.

The new plan for keeping the store operating in the neighborhood — and the several construction elements that make up the Montlake Project of the state’s 520 replacement effort will be on the docket at two WSDOT open houses: Continue reading

Seattle moving forward with plan to add 51 cent Uber/Lyft fee and minimum wage for drivers

Vintage Lyft, circa 2015

Mayor Jenny Durkan also has something to celebrate in the City Council’s vote Monday to approve a 2020 Seattle budget with only a few progressive tweaks to her base $6.5 billion plan.

The process also produced legislative approval of the mayor’s “Fare Share” plan that will add a 51 cent fee to every Uber and Lyft ride in Seattle to pay for the Center City Connector streetcar, new housing, and ride-hail industry regulation. Continue reading

Read the CHS comments: SDOT makes correction to Capitol Hill ride-hail zone signage

You don’t want to read all comments — but you should read the CHS comments, for sure.

The Seattle Department of Transportation tells CHS it is making a simple change to clarify its signage for the new Capitol Hill “ride-hail zone” after a mistake was spotted by an eagle-eyed CHS reader.

The new zone, which directs Lyft and Uber drivers and riders to specific pick-up locations to try to clear up street congestion in the Pike/Pine nightlife district, was intended to be in effect during the neighborhood’s most intense demand for the ride services on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.

But the way the signs were worded put the pick-up spot parking restrictions in effect — technically — on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from midnight to 3 AM. Continue reading

Sound Transit wants feedback on fare enforcement, searching for new name for Seattle-side ‘Red Line’ light rail

(Image: Sound Transit)

Sound Transit is taking on some important social and operational issues to end 2019: fare enforcement — and the end of the unfortunate “Red Line” name for its future Seattle-side light rail routes.

When CHS has reported on light rail fare enforcement over the years, it has never been good news. Last year, we reported on a video showing a rough “use of force” arrest for a reported fare enforcement issue aboard a train in Capitol Hill Station. This fall, Sound Transit scrambled to explain aggressive fare enforcement efforts against students on the first day of school.

Now, following a Seattle Times report in October showing how Black passengers are cited and punished disproportionately by Sound Transit fare enforcement, the agency is beginning a process to collect feedback on how to address equity and safety issues related to how it collects fares: Continue reading

‘Catch Your Ride Here’ — City rolls out new ‘ride-hail pickup zone’ for Pike/Pine Uber and Lyft riders

Thanks to reader Tom for the picture

There are no bike chariots part of the plan — yet — but you might notice some new geofencing going up around Pike/Pine tonight. The Seattle Department of Transportation is rolling out a new pilot of a program starting Thursday it hopes to make a permanent part of the Pike/Pine party scene — Capitol Hill’s new, one of a kind “ride-hail pickup zone.”

“Though these ridehail services provide a safe option home for many, this late-night demand for high numbers of rides can contribute to area congestion, particularly along E Pike St,” the SDOT announcement of the new program reads. “This can impact the ability of police patrol and emergency response vehicles to enter or access the area.”

Starting Thursday night, Pike/Pine customers looking for a ride with either Uber or Lyft will be directed to designated waiting areas. Your apps will “display a map notifying you of the closest pickup point.” Riders “may choose that zone or another zone or leave the geo-fence area for a ride,” SDOT says.

The geo-fencing is in effect during the highest demand times for the services: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday between midnight and 3 AM. To create the pickup stops, SDOT has put in new signage restricting parking in the locations.

UPDATE: Oops! As brought up in the comments, SDOT might have a small issue on its hands. A spokesperson said the zone is intended to be in effect on Pike/Pine’s peak nights — Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. But the current signage indicates — technically — that the load only parking and the ride-hail zone is active from midnight to 3 AM on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday mornings. Confusing! SDOT is sorting it out.

Continue reading

City using public forum and online survey to gather feedback before 2020 rollout of scooter shares in Seattle

To get to 2020: Seattle’s summer of the scooter, first we’ll have to get through its fall of community feedback. The Seattle Department of Transportation announced this week it will hold an October 30th public meeting on the planned pilot. You can also weigh in via an online survey:

In August, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) began a three-phased outreach and engagement process to help shape Seattle’s scooter share pilot program, which is planned to launch in 2020. Since then, SDOT has been engaging with groups which represent people with disabilities, diverse and low-income populations, other government agencies, as well as bike and pedestrian advocacy groups. The public will have another opportunity to weigh in at a public meeting on October 30 or by taking an online survey by November 15.

The public forum is slated to take place Wednesday, October 30 from 6 to 8 PM at Seattle City Hall in the Bertha Knight Landes room. “This meeting is an opportunity to learn about the upcoming scooter pilot and talk with representatives from the scooter industry,” SDOT says. “The forum will explore topics like safety, parking, accessibility, and national best practices. Attendees will also have the opportunity to view scooters.” Continue reading

Reminder: First of three weekends with no light rail between Capitol Hill and SODO

Where you can catch the Sound Transit “bus bridge” this weekend

This coming weekend will be the first of three planned this fall with no light rail service between Capitol Hill and SODO as Sound Transit prepares for major construction of its coming new line:

We’re laying the groundwork to open the Blue Line, a new Link line that will begin taking riders from Northgate to Redmond in 2023. As part of that work, we need to reduce Link service for three weekends this fall. On the weekends of October 12-13, October 26-27, and November 9-10, there will be no Link service between SODO-Capitol Hill. Trains will run from Angle Lake-SODO and UW-Capitol Hill, and free buses will connect the six stations in between.

CHS reported on the planned closures in August when October probably seemed like a long time away. But now the first weekend of service disruption is here. To try to help cover the gap, Sound Transit will be offering bus service between Broadway and John, downtown, and SODO Station. Sound Transit says it chose these weekends because there are no Seahawks or Husky football games. Continue reading