In 2009 the City of Seattle commissioned a study that called Third Avenue “uninviting, unattractive and generally a dreadful place to walk, shop or wait for a bus.” In 2014 Metro commissioned a design study on ways to fix the street. That led to the Third Avenue Transit Improvements Project, and will eventually result in a much-needed transit-only signal at Third and Denny.
Yet, after all these studies, few would consider the street to be substantially transformed.
Over the same timeframe, more buses have been added. In
2010 2011, Routes 15 and 18 (now RapidRide C/D), along with all the West Seattle routes, were moved from First to Third to accommodate Viaduct construction. Then in 2016 the Seattle TBD added funding for more service on all bus routes, including many on Third. Finally, earlier this year the bus tunnel closed and a whole bunch of buses moved upstairs.
There are advantages to this consolidation. Buses can be given priority right-of-way, off-board payment systems can be installed and transfers can be streamlined in much the same way that certain hub airports get bigger and bigger over time: more destinations lure more riders, which in turn justify more destinations.
But there are downsides as well: the street can become unpleasant, overcrowded, and choked with diesel fumes. And if Third is perceived as a bad place for business, merchants on other streets will fight against a busway on their street, leaving Third even more crowded.
According to the Downtown Seattle Association, the latest group to try and “fix” Third Avenue, the sheer number of buses and lack of sidewalk space creates an uninviting environment. Their recently-released vision plan for the street imagines wider sidewalks, a much-improved pedestrian experience, and a more efficient deployment of buses through the corridor.Continue reading “The Downtown Seattle Association wants to re-imagine Third Avenue”