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UPDATE! 3rd Ave transit improvements – Starts Mon. Aug. 20

Starting this Monday, August 20 fall.

As the Washington State Department of Transportation plans for a full three-week closure as early as this fall, of SR 99 downtown – the Alaskan Way Viaduct – and the opening of a new SR 99 tunnel under downtown, we’re ramping up our strategy to deal with the traffic impacts in and around downtown. One key pillar of our plan for dealing with the traffic impacts is investing in transit and working to get 3rd Avenue to work as efficiently as possible.


The Seattle Police Department will cite people violating new restrictions in the coming weeks, but in the beginning, you’ll see officers educating people driving.


We’re working with King County Metro to bring transit improvements to 3rd Avenue – a street that carries more than 2,500 buses just about every day. On a normal weekday, these buses traveling up and down 3rd Avenue pick up and drop off 100,000 people. That’s the equivalent to 10x the number of people attending 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 starting Monday, August 20 this September to keep pace with this demand for bus service to and through downtown Seattle.


The plan for 3rd Avenue.

Since we can’t grow or expand 3rd Avenue, we’ll need to look at how can we get it to work as efficiently as possible to move more people in our growing city. Here’s our approach:


Optimize bus service on 3rd Avenue by extending bus-only hours.



Today, 3rd Avenue is reserved for buses and people biking during the busiest weekday commute times or

  • 6 – 9 AM, Monday through Friday.
  • 3 – 6:30 PM, Monday through Friday.


Coming soon  | Starting this Monday, August 20

The biggest change you’ll see starting Monday, August 20 in late September is 3rd Ave (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 3rdAvenue, from 7 PM to 6 AM, seven days a week.
  • No left turns off 3rdAvenue, 24/7.
  • You can cross 3rdAvenue going east-west, 24/7.
  • No on-street parking on Prefontaine Place, 6 AM – 7 PM, seven days a week.


Deliveries & commercial drivers:

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


New ORCA card readers on 3rd Ave so you can pay before you ride.

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


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 Seattle, King County Metro, Sound 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

Revised blog from July 26, 2018.