Let’s Make a Better Pike/Pine

Pike Street
Pike Street

Pike Street

Sure, that’s a pretty picture, but let’s face it: Pike/Pine as a corridor sucks. Yeah, there’s a lot of lovely buildings and kitschy businesses dotting the length of it, but the streetscape is desperately unbalanced as a multi-modal corridor. Travel along this stretch of the Pike/Pine corridor any Friday evening at 5pm and you’ll have your proof: bikes dodging cars and buses, buses stuck in traffic and maneuvering weird turns, motorists trying to find street parking and getting stopped at every block. Bikes lose, buses lose, and motorists lose.

The Pike/Pine corridor consists of three primary segments:

  1. A one-way/couplet system between 1st Avenue and Boren Avenue in Downtown Seattle;
  2. Bidirectional thoroughfare space on each street between Boren Avenue and Broadway in Capitol Hill; and
  3. Bidirectional neighbourhood streets between Broadway and Madison Avenue.

Pike/Pine Bus Routes

Pike/Pine serves as one of the very few through-street pairs over Interstate 5 from Capitol Hill to Downtown. Naturally, this creates a serious squeeze for moving transit, cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists. Currently, 6 bus routes use the partial Pike/Pine Couplet with all outbound routes from Downtown making a left turn at Bellevue Avenue and right turn at Pine Street (except for the 43 and 47) as illustrated above.

But, there are a number of solutions that we could implement to enhance this corridor. My proposal consists of the following:

  1. Convert the whole length of Pine Street and Pike Street to bidirectional traffic;
  2. A bidirectional trolleybus system on Pine only (plus a turnaround loop on First Avenue). This would require transferring overhead wire from Pike to Pine;
  3. Bus bulbs on Pine to reduce bus dwell times;
  4. A separated cycletrack on the south side* of Pine between First Avenue and Madison Street (a deviation from the Bicycle Master Plan);
  5. Parking removed from the south side of Pine and at bus bulbs wherever in conflict;
  6. One travel lane is removed in Downtown Seattle along Pine; and
  7. No left turns permitted for motorists along Pine, except at First Avenue and Madison Street.

8th and Pine Renewed

This solution balances the needs of all users by reducing conflicts between cyclists, buses, and motorists. By doing this, we make a safe way for cyclists to go up and down the Hill, speed up buses, and give motorists more options for east-west travel. This is only one possible solution to the Pike/Pine chaos. What are your ideas?

*The south side of Pine has the fewest number of driveway/curb cut conflicts, which makes it an easy place to put a cycletrack in.

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Stephen is an urban planner with a passion for sustainable, livable, and diverse cities. He is especially interested in how policies, regulations, and programs can promote positive outcomes for communities. Stephen lives in Kenmore and primarily covers land use and transportation issues for The Urbanist.

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Gordon Werner

Pike Street is bi-directional from 9th ave east
Pine Street is bi-directional from 8th ave east
Pine Street already has bi-directional trolley wire from 8th ave to Bellevue

Moves the busy 10/11/43/49 stop to Westlake by the DSTT station which is a plus.

Buses would have to use existing NB wire off of Pine on 1st ave, turn left using existing wire on Virginia, and then existing wire SB on 2nd. New EB wire req. left onto Pine and on Pine from 2nd to 8th aves.

While re-jiggering the OCS they could simply the 4th ave crossing using fixed rail OCS so that when preparing for parades, they only need to remove 4 steel bars spanning 4th ave instead of what they do today (more complicated)

maybe a loop into CPS as well so that when lower Pine is blocked buses can go there to dump people onto the tunnel routes at CPS?

could also be used as the layover spot for surface ETBs

Stephen Fesler

Those are some good add-on ideas. I really wish SDOT would explore this…


As an aside, note that there are a few land parcels on Madison between 12th and 16th that are currently undeveloped or underdeveloped. I’m thinking especially of the Bank of America building and the nearby parking lot. Given how wide Madison currently is, if we turned it into a woonerf, we could potentially vacate some of the ROW and sell it to a developer, in exchange for getting something else that the neighborhood needs. Larger parcels might attract more developers than the current tiny ones are able to.


Something I’ve been wondering about. In New York City, over the past few years, Broadway (south of Columbus Circle) has been steadily transformed from a major vehicle arterial into a “complete street” and pedestrian boulevard. This change has improved both mobility and livability. Mobility, because it removed a number of difficult 5-way intersections that slowed down cars and buses. Livability, because it took a street that used to be a “car sewer”, and turned it into a place that’s great for walking, cycling, and living.

Seattle is also doing the same thing with Broad Street. In place of what used to essentially be a giant entrance ramp to I-5, we will soon have a complete street grid, with two-way streets and ample places for pedestrians.

I’m curious if it would be possible to do something similar with Madison Street in Capitol Hill. It’s the widest street in Capitol Hill, but a section of it runs through Pike/Pine, and puts a lot of cars there that don’t really need to be there.

Imagine something like this:

– Rebuild the intersection at 24th and John, so that traffic is encouraged to continue onto John St, but Madison remains as a (narrower) minor arterial.
– Between 24th and 16th, put Madison on a road diet: one traffic lane in each direction, plus a turn lane, and street parking.
– Rebuild the intersection at 16th and Pine/Madison, so that all arterial traffic flows onto Pine, and Madison continues only as a local street.
– Between 16th and 12th, rebuild Madison as a woonerf, like we’ve just done for Bell Street in Belltown.
– Rebuild the intersection at 12th and Madison/Union, so that it’s a regular four-way intersection. Traffic flows N-S on 12th, and E-W from Madison (in the west) to Union (in the east).
– Continue the woonerf along Union St, between Broadway and 12th.

It’s still possible for a vehicle (e.g. an ambulance) to travel down the length of Madison St. But arterial traffic will be diverted in several places, ensuring that the only vehicles on Madison St between 12th and 16th are vehicles that really need to be there.

I’m sure there are many reasons why this would be a terrible idea. 🙂 The goal is to encourage cars to use streets that don’t go through the heart of Pike/Pine; to make it easier and more attractive for pedestrians to navigate the area (and to cross streets and intersections by foot); and to improve mobility by simplifying intersections that have a lot of bus traffic. (This proposal would make the current Route 11 faster, as well as the proposed Route 2.) So maybe you can think of less invasive alternatives that would accomplish something similar.


I’ll write something up on my blog and then share it with you. I’ve been told that I will eventually have posting access for The Urbanist, but I don’t have it yet. Hoping to show up to tomorrow’s meeting though 🙂

Alex Broner

It sounds as though you’re proposing a two way cycle track on Pine, similar to the one being installed on Broadway. Does this accurately describe your proposal?

Stephen Fesler


Yes, a separated cycletrack like Broadway, but of much, much higher quality. The separation on Broadway is a bit minimal and motorists still
seem to be confused or intentionally ignoring it. Some of that could be attributed to the City allowing too big of or to many curb cuts to remain. What I’d like to see on Pine is a very high quality cycletrack. Put potted planting or something to bolster is beauty and protection.