Owning ‘nothing’ on Capitol Hill a little harder in 2020 with bike and car share pullbacks

(Image: CHS)

For Capitol Hill’s transportation share options, the end of 2019 feels a little like when you look at your app and see no available rides on your map. Those green and yellow bikes are following “floating” car share off the Hill.

This week, Lime announced it was pulling its rental bikes off Seattle streets for the winter while it negotiates a deal under the city’s new rules for scooter shares.

And Share Now, which was formed from a merger with car2go, announced before the holidays that it was closing its car-sharing services not just in Seattle, but in all of North America at the end of February.

“We want to say thank you to our customers, the Seattle Department of Transportation, the Mayor and city council, who have supported us since we launched in the market in 2012,” the company wrote in an email to supporters. “We are saddened by this decision and deeply apologize for the inconvenience this will cause you when service ends.” Continue reading

What candidates have to say about safe streets and transportation investments around District 3

(Image: SDOT

If Monday morning’s CHS post on collisions around Capitol Hill, the Central District, and First Hill and the city’s difficulty in making headway on Vision Zero goals got you worked up about street safety — and you still haven’t cast your August Primary ballot which is due Tuesday, August 6th by 8 PM! — here’s a quick look at the District 3 candidates’ answers about safe streets and car dependence from our CHS Reader D3 Candidate Survey.

We asked each candidate for an overview of their plan to support safe streets and also which areas of D3 transportation infrastructure they feel is most in need of investment. You can also check out the full candidate survey answers on a variety of Central Seattle-focused topics.

Meanwhile, readers who responded to our CHS D3 Primary Poll who indicated they considered “transportation” as a “very important” factor in choosing their candidate, were mostly likely to have said they were supporting Sawant or Orion — also the top vote getters among the full group of respondents. What candidate gains the most support when focusing just on Transportation? That would be Bowers who ranks third after Sawant and Orion among the “very important” transportation respondents. The small percentage of voters who considered transportation to be less than “important” in their decision? They also support Orion and his competitor Murakami.

More survey results here. Answers from the candidates on transit and transportation issues, below.

What is your plan to support safe streets and continue to reduce car dependence in our district? Continue reading

Reminder: Madison Bus Rapid Transit — RapidRide G — open house

City of Seattle and King County Metro representatives will be on hand Wednesday night at Capitol HIll’s Miller Community Center to answer your questions and gather your feedback on the latest round of design updates for the Madison Bus Rapid Transit project set to dig in and begin construction next year.

Madison BRT Open House

Representatives will also be available at the Madrona and Capitol Hill farmers markets this weekend.

CHS reported here on the latest updates to the $120 million, 2.3 mile, 10-station RapidRide G route including what planners hope are improved crossings for pedestrians and the major decision to focus on a new diesel-hybrid bus fleet for the line. Pending approval of federal funding that will cover about half of the costs, the start of construction is slated for 2020 with service starting late in 2022.

SDOT has also documented the project in an online open house where it is collecting feedback at RapidRideG.participate.online.

District 3 Candidate Forum

Join transportation, housing, and climate advocates for a District 3 city council candidate forum! Candidates will have the opportunity to answer questions curated by local advocates. This forum will be moderated by Seattle U professor Dr. Larry Hubbell and Seattle Times reporter Heidi Groover. District 3 encompasses Capitol Hill, Central Area, First Hill, Little Saigon, and parts of South Lake Union, Mount Baker, Montlake and Yesler Terrace. Check out the Facebook Event

No scooters but Lime plans fleet of tiny electric cars in Seattle — UPDATE: First, gas-powered

The Twizy is reportedly coming to the streets of Seattle thanks to Lime (Image: Renault)

If you miss the days of bumping around Capitol Hill in the first generation miniature Car2Go “Smart cars,” you are in luck.

Bike share company Lime is set to build on its fleet of electric bikes with a new fleet of tiny electric cars in Seattle.

The Puget Sound Business Journal broke the news last week that the company has applied to enter the city’s car share market.

Backed by Uber and Google’s Alphabet, Lime plans to roll out some combination of 500 Fiat 500e and Renault Twizy vehicles in the city. UPDATE: Lime says its first cars in Seattle will be gas-powered:

In July, Lime hired Peter Dempster, who had overseen ReachNow’s launch in Seattle, to run its car-sharing business. Dempster said Lime hopes to shift its car-sharing fleets to electric vehicles, but said the logistics of charging the vehicles made electric cars unsustainable for now. Like bike- and scooter-sharing services, free-floating car-sharing services require operators to monitor the fleets and rebalance them, so that vehicles remain available in the areas where people are looking for them. For scooters, Lime has used both paid staff members, and “juicers,” people it pays a per-unit rate to charge and redeploy the vehicles.

Continue reading

Budget update: 8 City Council tweaks to budget include reversing mayor’s drug arrest diversion cuts

budget-process-updateA proposed cutback on the city’s Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program that expanded to SPD’s East Precinct on Capitol Hill in 2016 will be restored in proposed changes to the Seattle budget put forward by the City Council this week.

District 3 representative Kshama Sawant sponsored the proposed $150,000 budget line item’s “green sheet” addition to the 2017 spending plan.

This Green Sheet would add $150,000 GSF in 2017 and $150,000 GSF in 2018 to the Human Services Department (HSD) for the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program. LEAD expanded to East Precinct in 2016; this funding would keep LEAD’s City-funded portion of its budget at the same level ($960,000).

LEAD is a pre-booking program that places qualifying drug use suspects into counseling instead of jail.

CHS wrote about Mayor Ed Murray’s 2017-2018 budget plan from a Capitol Hill perspective here. Council members have bristled at the mayor’s plan to slice back LEAD spending as well as his homeless spending plan.

Below are eight tweaks to the mayor’s plan being carried forward by the council members. You can take a look at all 104 proposed budget updates here.

  1. Fund the LEAD program: Add $150,000 GSF in 2017 and 2018 to HSD for the LEAD program Continue reading

City fleet’s 30% goal puts Seattle electric car initiative into first gear

Mayor Ed Murray and City Council member Mike O’Brien test drove an electric vehicle this week to celebrate progress on Seattle’s electric car initiative, a plan that includes improving the infrastructure for EVs, electrifying the city’s own vehicle fleet, and continuing Seattle’s ongoing conquest to cut carbon emissions and pollution from transit.

In the video of the stunt, we learn Murray does the driving in this relationship, neither of these guys drive very often, Murray owns a Subaru Forester, and O’Brien can spout EV trivia like Rain Man. We also learn that the City Council’s Transportation and Sustainability committee Wednesday approved a resolution “which sets a goal to have 30% of all light-duty vehicles in Seattle operate under electric power by the year 2030.” The EV champions Murray and O’Brien also “announced their intention to significantly expand electric vehicle infrastructure in Seattle, such as charging stations, to encourage and serve the electric vehicle demand.” Continue reading

Project to electrify the 48 bus is underway on 23rd Ave


Red sections indicate where overhead wires will go up. (Image: SDOT)

Red sections indicate where overhead wires will be installed. (Image: SDOT)

Amid the massive overhaul of the 23rd Ave corridor and the uproar it’s caused with local merchants, another project on the street has quietly got underway: building the infrastructure necessary to transition the route 48 diesel hybrid busses into a fleet of all-electric trolleys.

Connecting the U-District to Mt. Baker through the Central District and Capitol Hill, the 48 is the workhorse of 23rd Ave transit, shuttling riders the entire length of the corridor. Much of 23rd Ave has overhead wires to accommodate the 4 and 43, but the 48 has to run diesel hybrid busses due to gaps in the line.

There are currently 1.7 miles of missing overhead wires needed to run electric trolleys on the 48, with gaps from John to Cherry, and Dearborn to Plum.

The Seattle Department of Transportation, which is handling funding and construction for the King County Metro line, estimates the project will cost $14.6 – $17.5 million, with $9.4 million already secured through federal grants. Construction will include installing trolley poles, overhead wires, and traction power sub stations. The second phase of the project is expected to get underway next year, setting up the 48 to go electric in 2018.

“The Electric trolley bus is the really tried and true transit wet have here in Seattle,” said SDOT’s transit deputy director Bill Bryant at a recent city-county joint transportation meeting. “It is particularly well suited for our hilly environment and lots of starts and stops.”

There are clear environmental benefits, too. With its 4 miles per gallon busses, the 48 route uses roughy 185,000 gallons of diesel fuel a year. Electric trolley bus technology was found to be $3.7 million cheaper annually than diesel hybrids, according to an SDOT study. Electric trolleys will also significantly reduce noise along the busy corridor.

In 2023, the 48 will also be the only transit line to directly connect non-downtown stations on all three Link lines: Central Link (Mount Baker Station), East Link (Judkins Park Station), and North Link (Brooklyn and UW stations). Continue reading

BMW unveils ReachNow car share on Capitol Hill — UPDATE

IMG_5276 IMG_5286Car sharing in Seattle is getting an upgrade. BMW Group officials were on Capitol Hill Friday morning to unveil their re-booted and re-branded free floating car share service which will add all-electric BMW i3s and non-electric 3 Series and Mini cars to the city’s mix of park-anywhere vehicles.

ReachNow is the first competitor to Car2Go’s Smart Car fleet since Daimler AG rolled out the service in 2012. The official ReachNow launch includes a nod to BMW’s pre-app days — an event at the Pike Motorworks building, a former BMW dealership.

BMW officials were planned to be joined by Mayor Ed Murray to announce the company’s re-start of U.S. operations, which includes opening a new headquarters in Seattle. Officials say they plan to expand service to several other cities this year, but chose Seattle for its headquarters because of its environmentally conscious consumers and electric vehicle-friendly infrastructure. CHS will be updating here with more details from the event.


BMW exec Peter Schwarzenbauer unveils ReachNow inside Pike Motorworks. (Image: CHS)

UPDATE: “Have a BMW for the weekend,” is how BMW executive Peter Schwarzenbauer pitched Seattle’s new car share service Friday morning. i3s, 3 Series, and Minis were parked inside and trotted about outside the Pike Motorworks building on E Pike to show off the ReachNow fleet, which is now available for rides.

During the event Schwarzenbauer highlighted some of the “premium” services that will go above the traditional care share model. Among the most innovative is allowing BMW and Mini owners to earn money by putting their own vehicles on the ReachNow network. Just how much car sharers will be compensated is still getting worked out.

Details were also scant on some of the other promised features, like how service to SeaTac Airport will work and when ReachNow’s service map will expand to more Seattle neighborhoods. Users can drive outside the “home area” but cannot end trips there. Schwarzenbauer said when all its services roll out this year, ReachNow would clearly stand apart from Car2Go.

“We have only premium cars in our fleet,” he said. “We would see ourselves as the only one in the market that tries to cover every need you would have.” Continue reading

Seattle rolls out electric car initiative

Seattle "electric car enthusiast" Lee Colleton's Twitter feed -- @sleepylemur -- is one part local travelogue, one part guide to charging stations, one part commentary -- "" (Image: Lee Colleton via Twitter)

Seattle “electric car enthusiast” Lee Colleton’s Twitter feed — @sleepylemur — is one part local travelogue, one part guide to charging stations, one part commentary — “Electric cars are a socialist plot” (Image: Lee Colleton via Twitter)

It’s been a big couple days for changing the way people travel to and from Capitol Hill. Last week, Mayor Ed Murray announced Drive Clean Seattle, a new city initiative to improve infrastructure for electric vehicles (or EV’s), electrifying the city’s own vehicle fleet, and continue Seattle’s ongoing conquest to cut carbon emissions and pollution from transit. And for current and aspiring electric car owners on Capitol Hill, the initiative brings good tidings of city investment in encouraging their green wheels.

“We will work with residents, transit agencies, and businesses to promote the use of Seattle City Light’s carbon neutral electricity to move around the city. Transportation is Seattle’s leading source of greenhouse gases and this plan will allow us to work aggressively to reduce climate impacts,” Murray said in a statement.

The initiative has some high-reaching goals with three major components. The first is to “lead by example” and reduce carbon emissions from the city’s vehicle fleet by 50% through investing in more fuel efficient and all-electric vehicles and figuring out ways to cut car idle times. Then there is Murray’s stated goal to “enable and support the adoption of 15,000 electric vehicles by 2025.” This, Murray says, will be achieved by tripling the number direct current (DC) rapid charging stations in the city for all electric vehicles— like the Nissan Leaf, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV series, and the famed Tesla—on both private and public property as well as exploring different ways the city can help finance and install residential home charging stations, starting with two pilot projects: an on-bill repayment system for the installation of residential charging stations and time-of-day-pricing for the actual charging.

All of these proposals are still in the conceptual phase. The city doesn’t have any hard numbers on either the cost of the various public investments — save for DC fast chargers, which are estimated to cost between $50,000-$80,000 for installation, operation and maintenance—nor the nuts-and-bolts technicalities of the proposed pilot projects.

But the city wants you to be stoked anyways in the meantime. “It is the most comprehensive plan that we know of to increase the electrification of our transportation system and to reduce carbon pollution,” said Jessica Finn Coven, director of the city’s Office of Sustainability and Environment.

Seattle has been dubbed a electric vehicle hub in the past in both usage and infrastructure, especially when compared with other major U.S. cities. The International Council On Clean Transportation ranked Seattle as the fifth highest new electric vehicles sales share and the 3rd most extensive publicly accessible charging infrastructure (San Francisco, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and San Diego beat us out on both fronts). Continue reading