The International Rail Journal and El País reported this morning that SDOT will award a $50 million contract to CAF (Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles), a Spanish rail manufacturer, to build ten “Urbos” streetcars for the Center City Connector project. Three of the streetcars in the order will be used to replace the oldest cars on the South Lake Union line, which lack off-wire capabilities and could potentially be sold to Portland. The contract also includes testing, spare parts, and options for an additional ten streetcars if needed.
CAF will assemble the cars in their Elmira, New York factory to comply with Buy America requirements. The Urbos 3 model is a 100% low floor vehicle, unlike the current 70% low floor streetcars from Inekon, and has 34 to 38 seats in a mix of transverse and aisle-facing rows. The vehicles, like the newer generation of Inekon streetcars built for First Hill, are able to run off-wire using on-board batteries and a “super-capacitor” developed by CAF.
The Urbos streetcars have been in North America for just over a year in Kansas City and Cincinnati, where they operate in mixed traffic similar to the pre-2016 South Lake Union line. Cincinnati’s order was met with manufacturing delays in mid-2015 that prompted the city to threaten legal action, but ultimately did not effect the line’s opening date. Kansas City’s order missed its planned deliveries by several months, but opened as expected in early 2016. Kansas City’s streetcar had a particularly rocky start, being hit by a driver and suffering a derailment due to track debris, but the Urbos streetcars proved reliable enough to warrant a second order earlier this year for two additional vehicles. CAF will also be manufacturing rail vehicles for Amtrak, the Purple Line in Maryland, Green Line in Boston, and Houston’s MetroRail over the next few years at the Elmira plant.
UPDATE – Tuesday, October 3: SDOT has provided the full press release, and clarified that the vehicle they’ve selected is based on the CAF Urbos line but with some small differences. Still 100% low-floor and with a battery for off-wire segments.
SDOT Selects Company to Provide 10 New Streetcars for Center City Connector Project
US-built, battery-powered streetcars to serve expanded Seattle Streetcar system
SEATTLE – The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has selected CAF USA to provide 10 new modern streetcar vehicles as part of the Center City Connector project. CAF USA, the North American subsidiary of Spain-based CAF (Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles), was selected through a competitive process based on technical merit and price from among three vendors. CAF has produced rail vehicles and streetcars for numerous European cities as well as Amtrak and American streetcar and light rail systems in Cincinnati, Kansas City, and Houston. The Center City Connector streetcar line is projected to carry more than 20,000 average weekday riders
and will serve the City of Seattle’s three inter-modal hub areas: Westlake Intermodal Hub, Colman Dock Intermodal Hub, and King Street Intermodal Hub. The Connector will also provide convenient transfers to the Third Avenue transit corridor at both ends of downtown Seattle, Link Light Rail at multiple downtown transit tunnel stations, Sounder Commuter Rail at King Street Station, and ferry and water taxi docks.
Scott Kubly, SDOT Director:
“The new streetcars selected for the Center City Connector will link the South Lake Union and First Hill Streetcar lines, creating a system that will connect over a dozen Seattle neighborhoods in Seattle’s Center City. By linking existing streetcar investments, the Connector will provide a streetcar system that is easy-to-use for a variety of trip purposes, and that serves major visitor destinations.”
The new streetcars are based on CAF’s URBOS platform and will feature a 100% low-floor design, which will increase accessibility inside the vehicles by eliminating stairs. The streetcars will also feature a hybrid battery-driven propulsion system, allowing the vehicles to run both under existing streetcar trolley wire and along wireless segments of the expanded Seattle Streetcar system.
Andrew Glass Hasting, SDOT Director of Transit and Mobility:
“CAF USA brings the necessary blend of technological expertise and service-proven success to our efforts to expand Seattle’s streetcar network through the Center City Connector project.” Each streetcar will cost $4.5 million each and will be built at CAF USA’s assembly plant in Elmira, NY in accordance with federal Buy America requirements. The total contract price is approximately $52 million and includes system support, spare parts, and special tooling.