Transit and Safety Improvements Coming to UW March 26

As we ramp up more transportation projects for 2016, so do our efforts to increase safety, mobility and quality of life for everyone traveling around Seattle. The recent opening of the street car, which now connects Capitol Hill to Pioneer Square, has been a great addition to our transportation network, and even more connections will be generated with the upcoming opening of the University Link Extension on March 19. Not only will this project increase safety and mobility, but also convenience for people wishing to access Downtown Seattle, Capitol Hill and the University of Washington while bypassing I-5 altogether.

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People accessing the bus outside the UW Medical Center

In order for these connections to be safer and more convenient near the UW, SDOT crews recently begun a project to improve the way people will access transit services around Husky Stadium and the UW Medical Center. This project will improve access and safety for pedestrians moving to and from the light rail station and bus stops, in addition to shortening walking distances outside Husky Stadium. Over the next couple of months, you’ll see construction activities mostly along NE Pacific ST and Montlake Blvd NE, as most of these bus stops will be upgraded with real-time arrival information signs and shelters. Upgrades to the bus stops will also allow for more frequent Metro transit service at each location and improved service to Bus Routes 44, 45 and 48, which was funded by Seattle’s Transportation Proposition 1 approved by voters in 2014.

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Project Map

By the time these transit and safety improvements are completed the weekend of March 26, people will enjoy more reliable access to transit services around Husky Stadium and the UW Medical Center. They’ll also experience easier and safer access by walking shorter distances between bus stops and the new light rail station.

This SDOT project is funded by the 9-year Levy to Move Seattle, approved by voters in 2015. For more information about it or about Metro bus routes or Sound Transit’s University Link project, visit our website.

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Streetcar Safety Ambassadors Hit the Streets for the First Hill Streetcar Soft Launch

SDOT Safety Ambassadors have been out on the First Hill Streetcar line since last weekend to help community members navigate the Streetcar line which had its soft launch last Saturday. The language-capable ambassadors (English, Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Amharic, Tigrinya, and Spanish) have been ready to provide information about how the streetcars operate and share streetcar safety tips.

A Streetcar Safety Ambassador chats with community members.

The ambassadors highlighted some key safety tips that everyone should know:

  • Streetcars are quiet, but may sound bells and horns
  • There are no fences or barriers separating the streetcars
  • Drivers should be prepared to stop behind streetcars
  • Streetcars cannot swerve to avoid obstacles as they run on tracks
  • Streetcars sometimes have their own traffic signals and can cross the street when other vehicles cannot
  • Cyclists should cross streetcar tracks at a right angle to avoid falling
A Streetcar Safety Ambassador gives out pamphlets discussing safety around the Streetcar.

A Streetcar Safety Ambassador gives out pamphlets discussing safety around the Streetcar.

While the ambassadors were primarily there to discuss safety, they were also able to talk about other aspects of the new Streetcar and answer any questions. Many people were happy to learn that they could take the Streetcar for free until the official launch still to be announced.

A Streetcar leaves the Broadway and Denny stop.

A Streetcar leaves the Broadway and Denny stop.

The First Hill Streetcar operates from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Saturday and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

There are 10 stops on the First Hill Streetcar line, connecting the diverse and vibrant residential neighborhoods and business districts of of Capitol Hill, First Hill, Yesler Terrace, Central Area, Chinatown, Japantown and Pioneer Square, while also serving major medical centers (Swedish Medical Center and Harborview Medical Center), institutions of higher learning (Seattle Central College and Seattle University) and major sporting event venues (CenturyLink & Safeco Field).

Here’s our “Streetcar 101” Blog Video featuring SDOT Rail Transit Manager Ethan Melone from last month.

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SDOT Crews Help Improve Transit to and from South Lake Union

More reliable, more frequent and faster transit service is coming to South Lake Union this March.

Service improvements include extending the C-Line (W. Seattle/downtown) to South Lake Union and increasing bus service on Route 8 (Seattle Center/Capitol Hill/Rainier Valley), Route 40 (Ballard/Fremont) and Route 70 (U District). To help keep service frequent and reliable, SDOT is creating dedicated transit lanes on Westlake Ave N, widening sidewalks and extending transit stops to keep people, streetcars and buses moving. We recognize moving around South Lake Union is not always easy and we’re taking steps to make it better.

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That’s where SDOT’s Maintenance Operations crews come in. Since the start of the year, our crews have been widening sidewalks and building longer transit stops to accommodate the additional buses and information kiosks.  While carrying out the construction, crews are maintaining pedestrian access next to the site, carefully demolishing sections of concrete near storefronts and working through heavy rains.

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It takes a lot of coordination to carry out this kind of work in a busy job center. The City chose to keep the South Lake Union Streetcar running during rush hour to serve commuters. This means that each day our crews set up their work sites after morning rush hour, carry out their work and then clean up the site before the evening commute. Crews have also been working all day Saturday and Sunday because of the longer work window provided by the temporary cancellation of streetcar service on weekends.

Staff from our concrete crews are working closely with our urban forestry staff to build new tree pits at these transit stops, and our crews from the lanes and markings group are coordinating on this project to clearly mark the new transit lanes and other markings on the street. We’ve even come up with low-cost drainage solutions that help water planting strips.

This commitment and coordination from SDOT crews is necessary to meet our deadline – which will allow rush hour transit capacity in South Lake Union to double in March!

It’s also worth mentioning that the South Lake Union project is happening while SDOT crews repair sidewalks, curb ramps and streets; maintain street trees; and manage lane markings all across the city.

More details on the South Lake Union transit project are here.

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Commute Trip Reduction: One way, once a week is a great way to start!

New Year’s resolutions can be obtainable, and can start in measured steps (or pedals). January signals a new year and with it new hopes and expectations for ourselves. If you resolved to bike more, and in particular bike to work, set realistic goals and expectations for yourself: “one way, once a week” is a great way to start an enduring bike-to-work practice.

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Biking along Broadway

All Metro buses, and most regional buses have a bike rack mounted on the front of the bus. Practice putting your bike on the bus, either by trying it out on a Saturday or Sunday, or during an off-peak time when the swirling pace of peak commute times slows down.

You can also access one of two publicly available bus-bike racks that never go anywhere:

  • North Seattle Community College, by the flagpole, at 9600 College Way N, Seattle, WA 98103
  • University of Washington Transportation office, at 3745 15th Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98105

 

Plan your bike route home. In many cases it will be the same way going to work but in some cases it could be different. Look at a bike map, understand your options, and plan your route. Seattle Dept. of Transportation bike map, located online, is an excellent planning resource.

Next, make sure your bike is ready to ride: tires inflated and sound, brakes and gearing in good working order, and front and rear lights –especially during the dark and wet winter months! Consider bright, reflective clothing that will keep you dry and warm. There are plenty of resources online for “bike riding in the rain.” Remember – always wear a helmet. Not only is it the law – it’s a good idea.

You are now ready to ride to the bus. Bring extra clothing suitable to your bike commute home later that day. Take your time riding home the first couple of times. Obey all traffic signs and signals. You’ll gain confidence and skill the more you bike. Pretty soon your “one-way, once-a-week” will turn into an “all-the-way, everyday” commute.

For more on: Transportation Options

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Roosevelt Way NE Paving & Safety Improvements Project Begins Construction Soon

Construction of the Roosevelt Way NE Paving & Safety Improvements Project will begin as soon as next month!   In preparation for this work, we are hosting a project pre-construction open house on Monday, January 25, 5:30-7:30 PM, with a presentation at 6:15 PM, at the University Heights Community Center (5031 University Way NE, Room 108).  You are invited to join us and meet the project team, hear details about project elements and expected construction impacts, and ask questions.

SB in street at 43rd 09-01-14

The project, with construction expected to last through late summer, will repave Roosevelt Way NE between NE 65th St to the south end of the University Bridge, creating a safer and more comfortable road surface for all travelers.  In addition, the project will also:

  • Create in-lane transit stops and consolidate bus stops to improve transit speed and reliability
  • Install a permanent protected bike lane on the west side of Roosevelt Way NE between NE 65th St and the University Bridge to improve safety for people biking
  • Install curb bulbs and pedestrian islands to shorten crossing distances and improve accessibility and visibility
  • Replace substandard curb ramps to meet federal Americans with Disabilities (ADA) requirements
  • Replace buckled or cracked sidewalks to improve safety for people walking

Proposed Cross Section_Bus_201503

The new protected bike lane and in-lane transit stops remove on-street parking on the west side of Roosevelt Way NE from NE 65th to the University Bridge. A temporary protected bike lane was installed last year from NE 45th St to the University Bridge and will be upgraded to a permanent one with this project. Over the past year, SDOT worked with businesses and residents to develop an access and parking management plan to respond to this change.

We heard a variety of opinions on how on-street parking should be considered and managed. Some prefer more focus on travel options to reduce the need for on-street parking, while others wanted more certainty that parking would be available close to their homes or businesses. Small businesses without parking lots are interested in maintaining some all-day parking for employees and all need delivery access. Folks want to ensure those with mobility challenges can park close to destinations and have safe crossings of Roosevelt; and many requested two-hour parking on Roosevelt between NE 55th St and Ravenna Blvd.

To mitigate the loss of on-street parking, we are considering a number of changes, including:

  • Adjusting the on-street parking time limits in some locations to better serve the needs of adjacent property owners and tenants
  • Adding on-street parking on adjacent side streets to help restore what is being removed
  • Expanding Zone 10 of the Restricted Parking Zone program, adding residential blocks west of Roosevelt Way NE and north of, and including, NE 56th St

For more please visit: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/pave_roosevelt.htm

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SDOT’s 2015 Accomplishments

SDOT’s 2015 Accomplishments

To meet the challenges of a rapidly growing city while improving safety, delivering its core services, and providing more options for travelers, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) focused on launching important new initiatives in 2015.

Seattle Skyline Day

Maintenance:

The nine-year Bridging the Gap transportation levy ended in 2015 and SDOT worked diligently to deliver on the work promised using this funding. A few examples of 2015 work funded by Bridging the Gap include 15 lane-miles of street paving, 11 blocks of new sidewalks, 3,500 trees pruned, 240 maintenance repairs to bridges, and 38 stairways rehabilitated or repaired. The West Emerson Overpass underwent successful upgrade and repairs. Several neighborhoods across the city benefited from microsurfacing (43.3 miles of streets), a preventative maintenance surface treatment that preserves roadways. Nearly 100 percent of potholes requests were filled within three business days.

Safety:

In 2015 the City of Seattle launched Vision Zero with the goal of ending traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030. SDOT studied corridors with high numbers of collisions – Rainier Avenue South, 35th Avenue Southwest, Southwest Roxbury Street and Lake City Way Northeast—to identify ways to improve safety. The department enhanced these four corridors through changes proven effective in reducing collisions, such as lower speed limits, redesigned lane configurations, and improved signage and pedestrian crossings. Preliminary data shows serious collisions were down 26 percent in 2015 from the previous three years.

SDOT also developed the Safe Routes to School Five-Year Action Plan, a part of Vision Zero, to guide new investments in critical areas that will make it even safer and easier for kids to walk and bike to school. The department improved sidewalks and pedestrian crossings on 12 walk-to-school routes around the city and installed school speed zone enforcement cameras at six additional schools.

To provide safer and more comfortable routes for walking and bicycling, more than three miles of neighborhood greenways were added—which are designated routes on non-arterial, low traffic volume streets with safety improvements added—and began work on another nine miles.

In 2015 SDOT and the Seattle Police Department adopted a data-driven approach to enforcement, so that patrols are dispatched to locations where collisions occur frequently and focus on the behaviors that contribute to crashes. SDOT partnered with community organizations to raise awareness about top safety issues, such as developing public service announcements about pedestrian safety for older adults with AARP and KOMO TV.

SDOT also partnered with MADD and Lyft to provide discounted rides home in Seattle’s nightlife hotspots to deter impaired driving. SDOT and SPD additionally coordinated “Blocking the Box” enforcement which helps address vehicles that illegally stop in the intersection impeding traffic and safe pedestrian crossings.

Transit:

SDOT additionally worked with King County Metro and Sound Transit to make public transit more convenient, faster and more reliable. The department purchased 225,000 hours of additional transit service on Metro’s routes. SDOT installed 11 additional Real Time Information System screens on Metro Route 44 to inform passengers when to expect their next bus. SDOT and Metro also established a program to provide a fare discount for low-income riders. SDOT also coordinated transit lane enforcement with Seattle Police at critical locations.

To address Seattle’s rapid growth, inspectors were assigned to coordinate and monitor public and private work occurring in areas of intense construction, minimizing impacts to the right of way. SDOT also revised policies and procedures for responding to traffic incidents, supporting faster lane openings for collisions, and installed additional dynamic message signs and upgraded traffic cameras to provide advance notice of traffic conditions.

Other accomplishments in 2015 include:

Parking:

  • Installed 330 new parking pay stations; adjusted on-street parking rates in 12 areas
  • Expanded e-Park to three new garages and installed two new e-Park electronic signs

Pedestrian safety improvements:

  • Improved pedestrian crossings at 35 intersections; installed new signal at 47th SW and Admiral Way SW
  • Installed or upgraded 210 curb ramps
  • Finalized a new director’s rule addressing pedestrian safety around construction

Bicycling facility improvements:

  • Added bike lanes and sharrows to seven miles of streets and maintained 50 miles of bike lane markings
  • Installed bike route signs on 26 miles of routes
  • Provided racks and corrals for 566 parking spaces for bikes

Open space:

  • Oversaw a pilot Play Streets program with 170 play streets
  • Implemented two pavement to parks projects, three parklets and two streateries
  • Converted four shoreline street ends into neighborhood public spaces

Street Operations:

  • Implemented TIMS (Traffic Incident Management Systems) to improve incident responses
  • Expanded Transportation Operations Center hours from 13 (6 a.m.-7 p.m.) to 16 (6 a.m.-10 p.m.) hours weekdays in addition to adding weekends, and are able to staff remotely during off-hours
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South Lake Union Transit Improvements adding more Buses and options

Work begins this week to upgrade transit stops along Westlake Ave N. A series of five small projects will extend stops; widen sidewalks; add shelters; and real-time transit arrival information signs.

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Construction impacts are expected intermittently along Westlake Ave N between Mercer St and Blanchard St. Work will begin at Mercer St and proceed south before moving to the east side of the street at Blanchard St and continuing north. During construction the South Lake Union Streetcar will not operate between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday, or after 9 a.m. on Fridays. It will not operate at all on weekends.Transit customers can visit Metro Online for transit information. Rider Alert signs will be posted at affected transit stops. http://tinyurl.com/ppyslgh

Westlake Map v2

Since last June, Seattle has seen the largest increase in King County Metro bus service in 40 years; and the Move Seattle levy is making our streets work better for those taking transit. The project described below will make it possible for double the number of people to ride transit in South Lake Union during peak hours starting March 26, 2016.

  • New RapidRide C Line Extension operating every 7 to 12 minutes from W Seattle
  • More service on Route 40 operating every 9 to 15 minutes from Ballard/Fremont
  • More peak time service for Route 70 from the U District
  • More service and a shorter route for Route 8 from the Seattle Center and Capitol Hill/Rainier Valley
  • Dedicated transit lanes on Westlake Ave N
  • Transit stop upgrades

 

Project Description

Over the next few months we’re building a series of improvements along Westlake Avenue N and Aloha and Valley Street, including new transit lanes and transit stop upgrades. These improvements accommodate shifting Route 40 to Westlake Ave N in both directions, more trips on Route 40 and very importantly, extending RapidRide C Line from W Seattle to Downtown. The transit lanes also benefit the Streetcar.

To make transit work better, in addition to adding transit lanes, turn restrictions and removal or restriction of some on-street parking is required at the following locations:

    • Eastbound Denny St at Westlake Ave N—No right turn
    • Northbound Westlake Ave N at Thomas St no right turn
    • Northbound Westlake Ave N at Harrison St—No right turn
    • Northbound Westlake Ave N at Republican St—No left turn
    • Northbound Westlake Ave N at Mercer St—No left turn
    • Southbound Westlake Ave N at Mercer St—No right turn
    • Southbound Westlake Ave N at Republican St—No left turn
    • Southbound Westlake Ave N at Thomas St—No left or right turn
    • Southbound Westlake Ave N between Ninth Ave N and Valley St—Restrict on-street parking between 7AM and 7PM for transit only lane
    • Minor Avenue N between Aloha Street and Valley Street—on west side remove on-street parking on west side, trim trees and install layover signs
    • Valley Street between Fairview and Minor—On north side install platform for passengers, repair road, remove on-street parking, trim trees, remove one tree and add layover signs

 

All this means:

More bus service means there is room for hundreds of more people.
BENEFIT: Increased mobility, affordable transportation options

Dedicated transit lanes allow the streetcar and buses to bypass traffic reducing delay and making for a smoother, more predictable ride.
BENEFIT: Faster, more reliable service

Wider sidewalks and longer bus stops allow buses to board passengers without having to pull out then back into traffic. They also provide space for more buses and streetcars, shelters and real-time information kiosks.
BENEFIT: Faster, more reliable service, rider comfort, sidewalk space

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SDOT Releases Madison Corridor Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Study Draft Preferred Alternative

Last month, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) released the draft preferred alternative for Madison Corridor Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Study. Over 180 people attended an open house at the Seattle Central Library on November 16 to learn more about our recommended route and conceptual design. Partially funded by the Move Seattle levy passed in November, the project will provide fast, reliable transit service connecting Downtown, First Hill, Capitol Hill, the Central Area, and Madison Valley.

The draft preferred alternative is based on extensive planning and technical analysis, along with a public outreach process spanning more than a year. The preferred alternative balances technical feasibility and community input while maintaining cost-effectiveness and transit performance. For details on the draft preferred alternative, please see the Madison BRT Locally Preferred Alternative Summary document.

Below are some of the highlights of the draft preferred alternative:

  • Project extent from downtown (1st Ave) to Madison Valley (Martin Luther King Jr. Way)
  • Peak headways of 6 minutes on weekdays
  • Transit signal priority to keep the bus moving through the corridor
  • Mix of side-running, center-running, and mixed traffic segments
  • Station and vehicle features, such as off-board payment and level boarding, to reduce dwell time at stations
  • Intersection improvements for people who walk, bike and visit the Madison Corridor

BRT Update 12-18-15

What We’ve Heard

Public participation has been strong throughout the planning process. During our latest round of outreach in November, we received over a hundred comments on our draft preferred alternative on topics ranging from the extent of dedicated transit lanes, to support for a future extension to Madison Park, to safety concerns from people who bike and walk in the Madison Corridor. Details on project feedback can be found in the November 2015 Outreach Report. SDOT will continue to listen to the varied interests in the community as the project moves into design.

Next Steps

We would like to thank everyone for their input up to this point as we discuss tradeoffs and benefits. We will continue to gather input as early design begins. Our next steps are to finalize the preferred alternative and request City Council approval, followed by preliminary design and environmental assessment in early 2016. Please stay tuned for more information!

For more information about the project, and to provide feedback, head to: www.seattle.gov/transportation/madisonbrt.htm.

Contact email: madisonbrt@seattle.gov.

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A Vision Impairment Simulation Tour of Seattle

Most pedestrians have the opportunity to get from home to work or other destinations with the ability to clearly see where they are heading. For just one day last month – more accurately for just 45 minutes – SDOT engineers and staff had the chance to participate in a blindness simulation tour downtown, hosted by The Lighthouse for the Blind. The experience was truly fascinating and frightening alike as the participants experienced first-hand some of the challenges in negotiating the public right of way and public transportation facilities using blindness simulation goggles. The Lighthouse mobility instructors, led by Peggy Martinez, Meg Johnson, and David Miller, provided assistance and excellent insight to the participants as well as instruction on how a long white cane can be used to help with mobility.

Participants negotiate the sidewalk using simulation goggles and white canes

The goggles that were used provided simulations of varying visual impairments; some participants opted for the full black-out glasses, which was the closest simulation available comparable to total blindness.

The entire simulation lasted for an hour and a half, but participants were limited to 45 minutes each to allow for all volunteers to experience the simulation as the number of instructors was limited. It was important to have sighted people nearby to make sure no one accidentally walked into harm’s way as it was the first time for many to participate in this kind of simulation! The tour began at Seattle Municipal Tower and proceeded to Pioneer Square, where the group descended down to the Pioneer Square Station (very slowly) and prepared to board the light rail. In addition to negotiating sidewalks, the transit station and the light rail, participants also walked through a construction zone and boarded a bus to head back to Seattle Municipal Tower to wrap up the tour.

Lessons Learned

While it is understood that the participants only experienced a simulation of a visual impairment for a brief period of time, the experience yielded many key lessons to be learned. The engineers learned that “predictable design” and consistency of intersection and sidewalk layout can assist those with visual impairments. They learned that tree branches, signs or other objects that are located on or near pedestrian routes may be items that aren’t easily detectable when vision is limited. Pavement surface treatments can be helpful to pedestrians with vision impairments if thoughtfully located; similarly, different textures along a route can be confusing if not well planned. While the participants learned that their other senses such as hearing and touch were amplified when vision was reduced or removed, the concentration required to focus on walking down a typical sidewalk proved to be stressful and exhausting. It was truly an education adventure.

SDOT ADA Coordinator Mike Shaw has difficulties locating the ORCA card reader while wearing blindness simulation glasses

 

SDOT Engineer Laeth Al-Rashid struggles to identify approaching bus number through limited vision simulation goggles

National White Cane Safety Day

In addition to the blindness simulation tour, SDOT engineers and STAFF also participated in a walking tour of the pedestrian facilities connecting the Lighthouse for the Blind (2501 S. Plum) down to the transit facilities along Rainier Avenue. As a part of White Cane Safety Day, October 15th, this activity was also hosted by the Lighthouse and was open to those that wanted to learn about mobility techniques and helpful wayfinding cues for pedestrians with visual impairments.

SDOT engineers feel a tactile warning strip using canes

The first three photos above are courtesy of the Northwest Universal Design Council, members of which participated in the simulation.

If you have any opportunities for community engagement that involve the needs for pedestrians with disabilities in the Seattle public right-of-way, we encourage you contact SDOT’s ADA Coordinator, Michael Shaw. He can be reached at (206) 615-1974 or by email at Michael.Shaw@seattle.gov.

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Streetcar Safety Day and Streetcar Ride Along Tour Video

SDOT hosted a “First Hill Streetcar Safety Day”  last week at the Occidental & Jackson, Broadway & Denny, and 14th and Washington stations.

The Safety Day featured Metro streetcar operators onboard stationary streetcars at the three station locations. The public was invited to board and check out the new streetcars and ask questions about how they operate and learn streetcar safety tips. SDOT Rail Transit Manager Ethan Melone gives “Streetcar 101” here on our latest Blog Video.

The First Hill Streetcar will operate from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Saturday, with 10 minute headways during peak commute periods, and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. It will help connect and serve major hospitals (Swedish Medical Center and Harborview Medical Center), higher education institutions (Seattle Central College and Seattle University), and sporting event venues (CenturyLink & Safeco Field).

If you couldn’t make it to Safety Day, here are few things you need to know:

  • Streetcars are quiet. They may sound warning bells and horns when necessary.
  • There are no fences or barriers separating streetcars from other cars, bikes or pedestrians.
  • Drivers should be prepared to stop behind streetcars.
  • Streetcars cannot swerve to avoid obstacles as they run on tracks.
  • Streetcars sometimes have their own traffic signals and can cross the street when other vehicles cannot.
  • Cyclists should cross streetcar tracks at a right angle to avoid falling.

 

The First Hill Streetcar line was built by the City of Seattle in partnership with Sound Transit, with funding provided by the 2008 voter approved Sound Transit expansion plan. The streetcar system is an important part of Seattle’s transportation network, and will help to improve mobility and reduce traffic congestion in the city.

Find out more about the Seattle Streetcar at http://www.seattlestreetcar.org/ and sign up to receive streetcar news and updates. SDOT will announce a start date for service once final phase testing is completed.

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