Thinking Out Loud -- Downtown Revisited

I've lived in Aberdeen, Washington about 5.5 years now. I recently learned that the local shuttle bus, called The Wave, will be discontinued March fifth.

This is the shuttle bus I commented on in the post Defining "Downtown". The fact that it is being discontinued is what is prompting this post.

Is that bad news? Probably not.

Stuff I've written recently across various sites I run has reminded me that the mall in South Aberdeen closed "temporarily" and some of the businesses from there moved to downtown. One of the two McDonald's in East Aberdeen closed and my recollection is that one or two other fast food places in East Aberdeen curtailed the hours of their drive throughs.

When I first moved here, I frequently heard and saw emergency services -- police, fire, ambulance -- in the downtown area. I hear and see those less often and once looked up some data and saw documentation showing crime is down in Aberdeen.

It's not just my impression that crime is down. You can find data backing up that impression.

My impression is that when I arrived, the downtown was essentially in the process of being abandoned and commercial services were moving to East Aberdeen and South Aberdeen, in part due to crime in the downtown area. Comments made at various public meetings I used to attend suggested to me The Wave existed largely to connect the Olympic Gateway Plaza in East Aberdeen to Aberdeen Station (the bus station in downtown).

Businesses seem to be moving back into the downtown area and out of East and South Aberdeen. There are also plans to build an overpass so vehicles -- including emergency services -- can access Olympic Gateway Plaza when the trains cut it off from roadways for up to twenty minutes at a time, sometimes more than once a day. The trains interfering with bus schedules is supposedly a factor in why The Wave existed, so I am inferring that plans to build the overpass are a go and possibly will be acted on soon, thus The Wave is deemed no longer essential for whatever purpose it was created to serve.

Since writing my post about Defining "Downtown", I have been thinking that I kind of view Wishkah Street as the main drag here and I can see the two streets north and south of it as potentially streets with a cascade of less and less traffic and maybe you could view those five streets as the core of downtown based on that, except that Walmart and Safeway have two of the busiest bus stops in town -- possibly in the entire county -- and do crazy amounts of business, especially on weekends (including Fridays) and the first or last of the month.

Aberdeen Sunday Market is a local farmer's market that was started after I moved here. I got to see part of the planning process.

They did traffic studies and found that the heaviest traffic in downtown is on Heron on Sundays from about 10am to 3pm. Based in part on that, they chose a time and location on Sunday on the south side of Heron in hopes of benefiting from that traffic.

I have no idea how well they are doing, but I am wondering if this is kind of like the traffic studies used to justify the creation of the mall in South Aberdeen, which I have heard was overbuilt and never thrived. I am wondering if it is a bad interpretation of the traffic data.

I heard recently that the Safeway in Aberdeen is the busiest Safeway in the entire state. I've been unable to verify that but I have reason to believe it is accurate information.

Safeway is on Heron and Walmart sort of is. In East Aberdeen, Highway 12 is one road and it splits into two roads before it crosses the river, making Wishkah Street in downtown the westbound side of the highway and Heron the eastbound side of the highway. So there are entrances to the Walmart parking lot both where Highway 12 is still (at least in my mind) Heron Street and entrances where Highway 12 is a single road and I think of it as "Highway 12" and can't off the top of my head tell you if it has a local street name.

So there are certainly businesses on Heron that are thriving, BUT the thing is that traffic on Heron on Sunday is often gridlocked for several hours, especially in the nicer months (from March through October). These are mostly people returning from the beach after a weekend in Ocean Shores or similar coastal sites.

My impression is Aberdeen doesn't get a lot of sales from those folks stopping to eat here or grab some groceries or what not. My impression is that in their minds, their weekend mini vacation is over and they have no desire to play tourist or explore local shpping options on their way back home.

No, they want to get home, toss a load of laundry in the machine, check their mail and attend to similar neglected tasks and then get to bed in a timely fashion so they can go to work the next day. They have no reason to SHOP on the way home. They are GOING HOME to familiar territory where they know where all the shopping is and have a pantry full of staples, most likely.

No, it seems to be Thursday, Friday and Saturday that through traffic stops here on its way to the beach at the start of their weekend vaction. They grab a bite to eat and pick up some groceries at the Walmart or Safeway and things like that.

Wishkah Street has traffic heading TO the beach and it is almost never gridlocked, though there is an uptick in traffic from Thursday night -- or sometimes even Wednesday evening -- to Saturday around noon-ish. People heading to the beach and starting their weekend vacation shop here in Aberdeen because Ocean Shores and Westport and other such towns are dramatically smaller than Aberdeen and don't have full service grocers nor much in the way of eateries. Those heading home probably mostly don't stop and shop in Aberdeen.

The north side of Highway 12 where it is a single roadway and hasn't yet split has a number of eateries -- Wendy's, Taco Bell, Starbucks, KFC -- and they seem to do a LOT of drive through business. There are also SOME eateries on the south side of Highway 12/Wishkah and notably where Highway 12 and Highway 101 meet on Heron, you find the Arby's and the Jack in the Box (one for each direction of 101).

There used to be a local Italian place on Heron. It has shut down.

My feeling is that if you want to set up a business of a sort that typically closes on Sundays, Heron is a good spot. If you want to set up an eatery or restaurant of some sort, Wishkah is the better roadway.

Wishkah is almost never gridlocked. Heron is somewhat often gridlocked, but usually on Sundays (sometimes on Mondays for certain federal holidays that create a long weekend for some employment sectors), especially during the nicer months.

If you want to capture through traffic headed to the beach and in a vacation mindset -- willing to stop, shop and eat -- you probably want to be on Wishkah in the downtown area (ideally the north side of Wishkah, but that's not essential). The next busiest road is Heron, but you probably would be better off locating businesses there that are closed on Sunday so your customer base mostly doesn't have to deal with the insanity that is traffic returning home from the beach.

If you are looking to primarily serve locals and have no need to try to capture through traffic, Market Street may make more sense for you. If you have an idea for light industry that you think should be in downtown for some reason, there is a section zoned for light industrial on State Street.

There are plenty of buses that go through downtown and my understanding is that the 10N will get rescheduled to serve Walmart seven days a week instead of just on weekends. Bus service for downtown is not going away, though the local shuttle is.

This may suggest brighter days coming, especially for the downtown area. A primary purpose of the shuttle bus was to connect downtown with East Aberdeen. With some stores moving out of East Aberdeen and into downtown, such as The Market Place, this may be of less importance than it once was.


The discontinuation of the Wave did not last long. It was brought back sometime in May 2023, so it was gone maybe two months or so.

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