The feds have just awarded King County Metro Transit $4.1 million to retrofit Third Avenue, the primary bus corridor serving 40,000 riders a day in downtown Seattle.
The award is among $787 million worth of annual State of Good Repair and Bus Livability Grants, described in this blog post Tuesday by Ray LaHood, the U.S. Department of Transportation. While many are routine capital funds — for instance, $5 million for Sound Transit to replace aging buses — the Third Avenue grant supports service and aesthetic improvements. Metro will add bus stop shelters, signs showing arrival times, ticket-vending machines, streetlights, “branding” signs for the red-and-yellow RapidRide routes, and sidewalk improvements.
Combined with a related $700,000 federal grant and an expected $1.2 million in local money, the bus-stop improvements total nearly $6 million, said Metro general manager Kevin Desmond. And improvements will extend through Belltown to Denny Way, he said.
About $500,000 would go for ticket machines, a possible first step toward a cashless zone or system someday, Desmond said. Metro wants riders to buy bus tickets on the street instead of wasting precious time fumbling for change when they board a bus. Already, buses line up two, three, or four deep, so Metro needs to speed them along to stay on schedule. The pressure for off-bus payment will grow when the downtown free-ride area is eliminated Sept. 29.
Desmond said he’s interested in widening the Columbia Street sidewalks between First Avenue and the waterfront. That route leads to the ferry terminal, and Columbia is being studied as a primary bus route leaving downtown, to reach the future Sodo Highway 99 interchange, West Seattle, and Burien.
Meanwhile, the city of Seattle is working on Third Avenue Corridor Initiative to beautify the area and deter crime, with tactics that include more police on the sidewalks. Here are related articles by Seattle Times city-hall reporter Lynn Thompson, and by Crosscut writer Jordan Royer.