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First Hill Streetcar resumes service after safety adjustment

The streetcar line was put on hold after a slide

A yellow streetcar with a LED display that reads “Broadway & Denny” picks up passengers SounderBruce/Flickr

After a halt in service lasting more than two weeks, the First Hill streetcar line resumed service this morning at 5 a.m.

The line had been put on hold “out of an abundance of caution” after a March 1 incident where an electrical malfunction caused four separate braking systems to fail. The wheels on the car locked, and the car slid two and a half blocks along the track.

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) announced that service would resume late Sunday. In a press release, the agency attributed the malfunction to a load contactor—”similar to a circuit breaker”—which tripped, cutting off power to streetcar operations.

The entire fleet of vehicles serving the line, plus one South Lake Union streetcar with the same model, were pulled out of service. All the cars have since had a modification installed to make sure the track brake will still work in the event of a power loss.

SDOT is also working with King County Metro to set an operating speed limit of seven miles per hour and to implement safety stops on the steep section of the track where the slide happened.

The cars, built by the Czech company Inkeon, are still under warranty. In a City Council briefing earlier this month, city project manager Michael James said it’s unclear what options we have for compensation.

City Council Member Rob Johnson pointed out that the city was absorbing the costs during the loss of service—including a King County Metro-operated shuttle along the streetcar line during peak hours.

The streetcar runs between Pioneer Square and Capitol Hill, winding through the International District and First Hill on the way. A route extension north to Roy on Broadway is currently on hold.