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A vibrant Seattle through transportation excellence Interim Director, Goran Sparrman







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Third Avenue Transit Corridor Improvements

March 17, 2014

East side of Third Avenue – Pine St to Stewart St (Macy’s bus stop)

Construction to rebuild the sidewalk and bus stop on the east side of Third Avenue between Pine and Stewart (on the west side of Macy’s)has begun. This is the first such rebuild of what is expected to be a number of similar projects at bus stops along Third Avenue through downtown Seattle over the next few years. The plan is to make this critical bus corridor more inviting and appealing to commuters, while also making bus operations faster and more efficient.

The construction in this particular block is expected to last about two months, with completion slated for early May. The project will include a number of elements, some new to Seattle:

  • A Transit Information Kiosk (like other kiosks installed in the corridor in recent months)
  • Ticket vending machine
  • New sidewalk paving with “smog eating” photocatalytic material
  • Sidewalk widened by six feet to better accommodate bus commuters and passing pedestrians
  • The addition of new trees at the north end of the block (near Stewart)
  • Expanded bus operations-north 40’ in the south bay of Macy’s loading dock (when it is not in use)
  • New transit canopy
  • New pedestrian scale to HBS globe lighting to improve visibility and comfort
  • A new “street elements zone” to organize trash cans and bike racks
  • A new red colored curb treatment
  • A new artistic intersection treatment at Pine Street

King County Metro will be closing the bus stop at this location during construction. For more information on alternate locations, visit their website located at

December 17, 2013

The city’s most heavily used transit corridor, Third Avenue, accommodates over 42,000 transit boardings every weekday – more than 2,500 buses traveling the corridor each day. Third Avenue might, in fact, have more buses than any other bus corridor in the United States (if you have other information, please let us know!)  In addition, thousands of people walk along this vital Downtown Seattle street each day -- visitors, workers, shoppers and area residents.

As part of the Center City Initiative, the City of Seattle and King County Metro Transit joined in a cooperative effort to help remake this essential corridor into an inviting, accommodating, safe and attractive place where people want to be. Part of this initiative is a grant-funded effort being coordinated by SDOT and Metro. This investment will add streetscape infrastructure and improve transit operations along Third Avenue between Jackson and Denny.

Project Description

click to view larger

In the larger plan to create a vibrant, safe and thriving Third Avenue, this effort will address transit and streetscape needs between Denny and Jackson streets, extending transit priority measures approximately .75 miles north through the Belltown neighborhood. This expansion will be implemented in coordination with private and public stakeholders. Initial project phases were focused on the blocks between University Street and Stewart Street. Concept plans early in design can be viewed here, by individual block:

Full Third Avenue University to Stewart 10% Design Report

Specific elements of the project include installation of:

  • Real-time information signage for passenger convenience
  • ORCA card readers for off-bus fare pre-payment with ORCA card, initially targeted at RapidRide route C, D, and E riders
  • Pedestrian scale to HBS globe lighting to improve visibility and comfort
  • Sidewalk improvements to enhance pedestrian circulation
  • Weather protection to improve waiting area comfort
  • Well-designed and thoughtfully placed street furniture
  • Bicycle facilities at select locations to extend the range of transit riders who choose to bike for part of the trip

By applying several elements in any one segment designers hope to reorganize Third Avenue downtown to better distribute activity and improve both flow and function. This includes moving the head of bus stops toward the center of blocks while maintaining or increasing the capacity of bus stops to accommodate 3 or more buses, creating appealing transit waiting areas. As people are spread along the block while waiting to board buses it creates a more enjoyable experience for all.


Third Avenue runs through the heart of Downtown Seattle. It is a unique and significant public asset; a corridor at the center of Puget Sound’s most populous and fastest growing neighborhoods; providing access to numerous community amenities such as Pioneer Square, Pike Place Market, and Westlake Park. 

Design concepts for Third Avenue Corridor Improvements will vary based on the unique needs, character, uses of individual segments, yet seek a common urban design thread to help revitalize the corridor as a whole. This might include art to help mark places unique to the city. Interactive, kinetic light experiences might also be installed along the corridor to enchant and delight; or digital curated art that pedestrians can enjoy while on the sidewalk.

The initiative proposes creating interest and excitement around a new vision for Third Avenue by developing art programs, both temporary and permanent, and opportunities for a digital identity.  Overall, the team will design to experience – looking to create a pleasant “Day in the Life” of Third Avenue, engaging with place through multimedia. Well executed and with strong partnerships, Third Avenue downtown will be better organized, humanized and energized to create a more attractive public environment for all.

Guiding principles for design are:

  • Transit riders should feel comfortable and have a pleasant waiting experience
  • People who are not using transit should also feel comfortable walking along and staying in the space
  • Business owners, transit riders and downtown patrons should feel a sense of pride and stewardship
  • Third Avenue should have a recognizable positive character and image

To help inform the urban design project, King County Metro completed a performance report in spring 2013, analyzing transit frequency, travel times and ridership and including impacts of elimination of the Ride Free Area and the shift to pay-on-entry in fall 2012. The report, available here, notes buses are moving more quickly than expected through downtown Seattle after the change to pay-on-entry. These changes contributed to improved traffic flow along Third Avenue downtown.  The installation of ORCA card readers and ITS Kiosks for RapidRide riders are also nearly complete, making transit use even more attractive.


This work is supported by federal and local funds and jointly sponsored by the City of Seattle and King County. The Seattle City Council allocated $1,350,000 to support the effort, with some funds already applied to enhanced daily cleaning activities. These City of Seattle local funds are being used along with additional funding from King County Metro as part of a match in federal grant request that could provide about $9.4 million for design and construction of physical improvements.



  • Preliminary corridor design | University to Stewart – summer 2013
  • Draft 10% design concept | University to Stewart – fall 2013
  • Complete 100% corridor design– by end of 2015
  • Implementation/construction in phases:
    • First block | Pike to Stewart – construction January 2014


More information

SDOT Contacts:

KC Metro Contact:



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