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caption: Pike Place Market Entrance
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Pike Place Market Entrance
Credit: KUOW/Juan Pablo Chiquiza

Should vehicles be allowed through Pike Place Market?

Earlier this week, a serious confrontation occurred on the cobbled street running through Pike Place Market.

The altercation, which involved three motorists, a hammer, and an injured bystander, is the latest fiasco to reignite a decades-old debate on whether Pike Place Market should stay open to cars.

Proponents of a street closure argue the space could be used prop up more eating areas, merchants, or just make the area more walkable, especially at peak hours. Opponents say the safety issue is remedied by low speed limits, and that closing off parking and vehicle traffic would hurt the foot traffic throughout the market.

To learn more about the movement for a car-less Pike Place, Soundside host Libby Denkmann spoke with Seattle Times transportation reporter David Kroman.

"This conversation has been happening for over 100 years," said Kroman. He noted that the debate has come in waves since cars were first created.

Seattle City Councilmember Andrew Lewis is the latest to propose changes to Pike Place Market access. That doesn't mean a total ban on vehicles, but likely somewhere in-between -- pedestrian only zones on the weekends, for example, or more regulated access times for non-vendor vehicles.

"I wouldn't say there has been anything new since Sunday, when this happened," said Kroman when asked whether this latest incident has moved the city toward action on the throughway. "The sense that I'm getting is that [Andrew Lewis] is approaching this very slowly, and has said that no decision will be made without extensive input from the vendors."

Soundside reached out to Councilmember Lewis' office but did not hear back by the time of broadcast.

Visitors and vendors alike hold a wide range of opinions, and we asked vendors and our Soundside listener network for their thoughts on the issue. You can hear what vendors said in the second part of Thursday's segment. Here's what our listeners told us:

  • Jo in Greenwood: I've seen several tourists that simply don't expect cars in dense, human-heavy places such as Pike Place. In many other places here in America but also abroad, this would likely not be a general thoroughfare, but something closer to a pedestrian zone where motorized vehicle access would be limited and reduced to "walking speed," while pedestrians have the right of way.
  • Authorized motor vehicles could include immediate passenger drop-off/pick-up if there is an accessibility need, people who live there and need to get to their designated/permitted parking or garage, deliveries (possibly limited to certain times of the day or types of deliveries), emergency vehicles, etc.
  • Azlin in North Bend: I haven't been to the Market in a while, because parking is a zoo, and the street by the market is always clogged by vehicles and people. Personally, I would like it if that street is closed to vehicles, except certain times of day when they need delivery services or to get their products onto the market- preferably early morning.
  • As this is the US, we can't wish for a subway or even something like the monorail to be the link between whatever a parking space is and the Market. It would be nice to just have non-essential vehicles out of the downtown area and just use the monorail kind of transportation. Then again, there should be police presence due to high crimes in downtown area, if this is the route to take.
  • Michaela: I used to bike through the market on my way to work in lower Queen Anne and I fully support closing it to cars — lots of frustrating experiences with distracted drivers not following rules of the road.
  • Laura in Seattle: It is a long time coming! Only vendors should have access. It's a no-brainer. European cities that restrict car access report a higher quality of life in those areas. More walking, more friendly interactions, etc. Cars should not rule and set the tone for all public street space.
  • Lance in Tacoma: Seattle is a little confusing to tourists, conventioneers, and non-Seattle regional visitors as well (I have lived in Tacoma since 1989). I would suggest day pass-based, big red (or sea green!) busses, as in London, to drop people off at Pike Place, Seattle Center, Zoo, Green Lake, Lake Union, Ballard, etc. This would allow people to hop back on when they are ready for the next attraction, restaurant, hotel, or business.