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Third Avenue expands bus- and bike-only hours starting now

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Private cars are banned from the street for most hours of the day

Courtesy of SDOT

Third Avenue is a bicycle and transit thoroughfare for most hours of the day starting Monday, August 20. The change, which was supposed to start in September, was sped up to help keep traffic moving during an upcoming three-week State Route 99 closure, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) announced last week.

Between the hours of 6 a.m. and 7 p.m., seven days a week, only buses, bikes, and some permitted commercial vehicles (think delivery drivers, not taxis) will be allowed on Third Avenue between Yesler Way and Stewart Street—creating a car-free corridor from Pioneer Square through Belltown. In addition, nobody will be allowed to take left turns off Third at any time during the day.

During the restricted hours, private vehicles and for-hire drivers, like those for taxis or ride-hailing apps, will still be able to make east-west crossings—they just won’t be able to actually turn onto the street.

Previously, the same restrictions were in place only during rush hour: 6 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

This is the beginning of a few changes designed to mitigate what’s going to be a relatively painful 2019 for Seattle bus riders, as buses emerge from the limited traffic of the Metro tunnels—coinciding with other downtown construction like the Convention Center expansion, the viaduct demolition, and the ferry terminal remodel into what urban planners are calling the “period of maximum constraint.”

Other measures to speed up Third include all-door boarding and real-time arrival displays—how it works for King County Metro Rapidride BRT buses—for all routes running down the street. As currently planned, starting March 2019 riders will be able to tap their ORCA cards at their stop in advance and then board through any door along the corridor. Construction to install payment kiosks will be underway between November and March.

This article initially inaccurately said the restriction goes to Denny Way. All-door boarding goes to Denny Way; car restrictions only go to Stewart Street.