Good news for all you scofflaws who delight in the occasional clandestine cruise down Third Avenue during rush hour: The city may be keeping the street closed to car traffic weekdays between 6 and 9 a.m. and 3 and 6:30 p.m., but the dough for extra police officers to patrol Third Avenue runs out when the bus tunnel opens next month. So while you still could get caught by a passing cop, odds are you'll probably get off scot-free.
Jim Jacobson, deputy general manager at the King County Department of Transportation, says the money for extra enforcement was set aside only for the years the tunnel was closed. "We've been talking with the city and the Downtown Seattle Association to try to formulate different things we're going to do over the next few months after the tunnel reopens," he says. Though this won't include the extra motorcycle cops, it will include things like improving bus shelters and more frequent trash pickup.
"The main issue is less about driving limits and more about the crush of pedestrian traffic when it's transit-only. This can be addressed with things like trash pickup. As long as the [city and county] do that, things will be OK," says the Downtown Seattle Association's policy director, Ryan Bayne. "Our support is tied directly to public cleanliness. Third Avenue should be the nicest street in downtown, not one of the shabbiest."
Seattle Police Department spokesperson Renee Witt says SPD hasn't kept track of the number of citations issued since the street closed to cars during rush hour in 2005, but city and county officials are hopeful that the improved signage—such as electronic DO NOT ENTER panels—planned for Third will be enough to continue to keep motorists off the street during the hours that it's transit-only. "We hope to continue to make it work as well as it has," Jacobson says.
We'll see. All this could very well result in a dramatic rise in citizen arrests, or at the very least, a measurable increase in commuter complaints in the oh-so-Seattle "Rant and Rave" section of the Sunday Times.