First things first: Sound Transit has a mascot. His name is Zap

First things first: Sound Transit has a mascot. His name is Zap Gridlock. He’s a Buzz Lightyear-, Trojan warrior-looking dude with a stoplight on his head. Or at least he has been.

Believe it or not, Zap’s been around for almost 15 years. He debuted in 1999, and according to Sound Transit spokesperson Kimberly Reason, has played “a major role in [Sound Transit’s] outreach efforts to build awareness of our regional transit system and services.” She says Zap “attends as many events as we can get him to, including service launches, parades, fairs and festivals, and events where kids/youth are a big draw. “ He’s got a Facebook page, naturally, and based on video available on the Internets performed impressively back in 2011 at the “mascot games” at Tacoma’s Cheney Stadium (competing against the likes of Rhubarb the Rainers’ reindeer and the Little Ceasars’ guy).

I’ll be honest: I’d never heard of Zap Gridlock. Until yesterday, at least, when I ran into costume designer Erik Andor outside the Pioneer Square building he works out of. Andor mentioned that he’d been hired by Sound Transit to give Zap Gridlock a new look.

Needless to say, I was intrigued.

Reason confirmed Zap’s pending makeover. Attributing the decision to the age of his 14-year-old costume (which must smell delightful), she tells Seattle Weekly that the new Zap will likely debut in June, “maybe at the Rainier Valley Parade.” She says Andor will give Zap a new “muscle suit,” redo his breastplate to say ‘Zap Gridlock’ “ and add “ZG” in silver letters to his belt. Reason also reveals that Zap’s head “will be slightly revamped so it attaches to the back of the breastplate.”

Probably a good call. Sounds important.

“Although a lot of people know who Zap Gridlock is, [Sound Transit] is taking the opportunity to better identify his character by placing his name on the costume itself,” Reason explains. “I’ve heard people say he looks like Buzz Lightyear, so this is a good time to dispel any confusion.”

Oops. My bad.

According to Reason the new outfit – which, she reiterates, is just an upgrade and isn’t part of a full Zap Gridlock rebranding effort – will cost Sound Transit $2,900. She says Zap’s original costume was “conceptualized and designed” by a company called Dillon Works – which also designed the Mariners’ Moose and UW Husky mascots, but “has since left the mascot business.” Reason says Andor was chosen for the important job after offering the best estimate.