Mike Lindblom reports that on Tuesday Mayor McGinn, Executive Constantine, and Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) President Kate Joncas signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to improve the safety, aesthetics, and transit performance of 3rd Avenue. Per Lindblom’s report, highlights of the MOA include:
- Extension of bus-only restrictions and signal priority north from Stewart to Denny.
- Real-time arrival signs “at every major stop” (and of course, ORCA readers within 18 months).
- A new afternoon (12-9pm) cleaning shift to address overflowing litter bins.
- Installation of new litter bins, newspaper boxes, and other “street furniture”.
- Relaxed permitting requirements to encourage the installation of surveillance cameras on adjacent properties.
- A post-RFA transit performance report, produced by Metro, by Spring 2013.
- A new partnership between the Metropolitan Improvement District (MID) and Union Gospel Mission to fund and manage a mental health professional to “provide direct outreach to individuals in need of mental health treatment”.
As someone who’s lived on the 3rd Ave transit spine between Stewart and Denny for a year and a half, and had plenty of opportunity to observe and experience the speed and reliability problems buses experience, the traffic restrictions and signal priority mentioned above seem like they could provide a noticeable travel time improvement for many thousands of riders daily. Between peak-period overcrowding, cash fumblers and the half-dozen traffic signals in this section, buses can spend a lot of time standing still. Riders to Queen Anne, and possibly Ballard and Magnolia, will benefit further from SDOT’s nearby improvements to the Uptown-Belltown transit interface.
The MOU also commits Metro to studying “methods to speed bus boardings” on 3rd Ave, including off-board payment and ticket vending machines. This presumably foreshadows a report about fare reforms which Metro is currently conducting, due to be delivered to the King County Council early next year, which will study ways to improve fare collection and ORCA usage rates systemwide. Crucially, this report will examine best practices from agencies around the world, including the possibility of creating a London- or Sydney-style “cashless zone” where prepayment is required and ticket machines are ubiquitous.
For a couple of STB’s previous ruminations on the problems facing 3rd Ave, and some good comment threads, see: