(UPDATE: Third Avenue’s transit-only restrictions will take effect earlier than first expected, on Monday, Aug. 20 as SDOT crews take advantage of dry weather to get pavement markings and signs in place.)

(NOTE: This item was cross-published on the SDOT Blog)

Starting this fall

Metro is working with the Seattle Department of Transportation to bring transit improvements to Third Avenue – a street that carries more than 2,500 buses just about every day. On a normal weekday, these buses traveling up and down Third Avenue pick up and drop off 100,000 people. That’s the equivalent to 10 times the number of people who attended the Capitol Hill Block Party (which happened last weekend btw!)

More people are choosing to ride the bus

It’s true! We’ve continued to see increased ridership over the last seven years, and 48 percent of Center City commuters take transit. In our quickly growing city, adjusting and prioritizing transit is going to be a key way to make sure people can keep moving reliably and affordably. So, in partnership with King County Metro, we’ll be making a number of changes to 3rd Avenue this September to keep pace with this demand for bus service to and through downtown Seattle.

The plan for Third Avenue

Optimize bus service on Third Avenue by extending bus-only hours


Today, Third Avenue is reserved for buses and people biking during the busiest weekday commute times or

  • 6 – 9 a.m., Monday through Friday
  • 3 – 6:30 p.m., Monday through Friday

Coming soon: The biggest change you’ll see starting Aug. 20 r is Third Avenue (from Stewart Street to just south of Yesler Way – see map) will be reserved for buses and people biking, from morning to night, 6 AM – 7 PM, seven days a week.

What does that mean for you?

People biking will still be allowed, as they are today.

Drivers, including taxis and rideshares:

  • Cars will be allowed on Third Avenue, from 7 PM to 6 AM, seven days a week.
  • No left turns off Third Avenue, 24/7.
  • You can cross Third Avenue going east-west, 24/7.
  • No on-street parking on Prefontaine Place, 6 a.m. – 7 p.m., seven days a week.

Deliveries & commercial drivers:

  • Permitted commercial vehicles will be allowed to use Third Avenue, from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. – 6 a.m., seven days a week.
  • No left turns off Third Avenue, 24/7.
  • You can cross Third Avenue going east-west, 24/7.

✔ Speed up bus boarding by installing ORCA card readers at all stops along 3rd Avenue so people can pay before their bus arrives

Currently, customers on RapidRide buses have the option of paying prior to boarding by tapping their ORCA card on a card reader at the bus stop.  “Off-board” payment speeds up boarding and helps buses move more efficiently.

Starting in March 2019, every stop on 3rd Avenue between Yesler Way and Denny Way will have an ORCA card reader and a real-time bus arrival sign. Construction is necessary to install the new ORCA card readers and will happen between November 2018 and March 2019 and will be back with more details as that work approaches.

 ✔ Improve bus traffic flow by moving and adding bus stops.

To help improve bus flow, we’ll be making changes to the following bus stop locations:

  • Moving the southbound stop between Jefferson Street and James Street one block north between James Street and Cherry Street.
  • Adding a new northbound stop between Columbia Street and Marion Street.

Our goal is to have construction at these stops completed by March 2019 and March 2020, respectively, and we’ll share more information as that time comes.

 Have questions about these upcoming changes?

Connect with our project team, email us at ThirdAve.Transit@seattle.gov.

Part of a bigger picture.

These changes are part of a bigger set of strategies identified in the One Center City, Near-Term Action Plan. The One Center City Near-Term Action Plan identifies key projects and programs that will help keep people and the economy moving even as major construction projects and growth-related congestion reduce street capacity over the next three to five years.

Working together, the City of SeattleKing County MetroSound Transit, and the Downtown Seattle Association (DSA), dedicated $30 million to fund near-term improvements that will ease pressure on downtown streets and contribute to great downtown places for people. To learn more about the near-term projects visit onecentercity.org.