The 42,000 transit riders who use Third Avenue every day can expect better lighting, broader bus shelters, and cleaner sidewalks in the next few years, according to a document signed Tuesday.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, King County Executive Dow Constantine, and Downtown Seattle Association CEO Kate Joncas signed the pact at Benaroya Hall, as a few passengers and street people glanced through the lobby window. Third Avenue has been a source of political frustration since the late 1980s, when excavation for the downtown transit tunnel crippled some adjoining businesses. In more recent years, crime and panhandling have made the street unpleasant, or deterred some people from going there.
Several moves, such as increased police visibility and use of solar-powered trash compactors, have been under way for months. But Joncas said the signing was held Tuesday because a year of negotiations just wrapped up.
King County Metro and Seattle will be using $1.9 million local taxes and $7.5 million federal aid in the next four years to improve the street — a program that will take up to four years. Design and permitting work are causing the long timeline, said Kevin Desmond, Metro Transit general manager.
Many of the goals are vague — “activate the public right of way as much as possible,” or establish a task force of “stakeholders.” Others require training, such as using yellow-jacketed Metropolitan Ambassadors to help people find mental-health services.
Some features are new or not well publicized:
- Downtown businesses will pay for a new cleaning shift, noon to 9 p.m., to remove litter, graffiti and waste. The city will conduct a litter-can audit, and provide $20,000 a year to reduce overflows.
- Buses will be given priority signals, for a longer or quicker green light, north to Denny Way. The signal priority now ends at Stewart Street.
- The city has issued a request for companies to propose large transit shelters, while sidewalks will be widened at busy bus stops.
- New ORCA farecard readers are about 18 months from being installed, said Desmond. Metro is waiting to hook up the farecard readers to a planned Seattle police fiber-optics line. They are crucial to running the new RapidRide C and D lines on schedule — when customers tap ORCA on sidewalk readers, they can enter all three bus doors, instead of taking 1 -2 minutes to board through only the front door. Metro will also be adding electronic bus-arrival displays; some listings already exist at five locations, such as the east-facing window of Columbia Sportswear at Third and Pine Street.
- Private businesses will be encouraged to install video cameras, through a relaxing of city permit requirements.
“Third Avenue is the front door to the city for those who come downtown by transit,” said Constantine. “By creating a common vision we can all work toward, we can make this the kind of environment where people feel welcome and business can thrive.”