Earlier today, Mayor Durkan announced a pair of initiatives that aim to reduce car traffic through downtown in the coming years.
A $30 million package of near-term mobility projects will come online through the end of 2021. This period is called the period of “maximum constraint” caused by the Convention Center’s takeover of Convention Place Station and other downtown megaprojects. Simultaneously, the mayor announced ($) that the city would investigate a congestion charge and hopes to have it in place before the end of her first term in 2021.
Both projects are connected, with a stated goal of reducing 4,000 SOV trips in downtown during peak hours by 2019. It remains to be seen if the two would complement each other, or become yet another addition to the transportation puzzle that already has missing pieces (namely the now-frozen Center City Connector).
The $30 million One Center City package, developed jointly by the City of Seattle, Metro, Sound Transit, and the Downtown Seattle Association, would target modest improvements for buses and bikes along north-south streets in downtown. Chief among the transit improvements is the implementation of all-door boarding on 3rd Avenue by March 2019, but no word on whether the most important busway in the Puget Sound region will be exclusive to buses.
The existing pair of peak-only bus lanes on 2nd and 4th avenues would receive no improvements beyond signal re-timing that is already underway; for the thousands of suburban riders who will continue to use these stops until 2024 (or later, pending federal funding), agencies claim a 10-15% improvement in northbound bus service on 4th. Some routes will be moved to a new transit pathway on 5th and 6th avenues in September 2019, as part of the bus tunnel mitigation, but existing (and congested) pathways on Olive and Howell will remain unchanged. Enhanced bus stops will come to UW Station and International District/Chinatown Stations as part of the Eastside restructures along SR 520 and I-90 sometime in 2019, but the specifics are unclear at the moment.
For bicyclists, the new One Center City plan falls short of the Basic Bike Network long desired for downtown, with implementation of protected bike lanes on Pike-Pine and 4th Avenue pushed back to 2021. A connection between the PBLs on 2nd Avenue and South Dearborn Street is planned to open in 2019, but no specific corridor has been identified at this time (only a few months before construction should begin).
Mayor Durkan is clearly not endearing her administration to drivers, who will likely oppose efforts to charge a congestion fee. At the same time, transit and bicycle activists, upset about delays in the bike network and the streetcar pause, may be disappointed as well.