Pine Street Bus-Only Lane Proposed

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Downtown residents received notification last week of a proposed new Business Access and Transit (BAT) lane. Running along Pine Street in the north lane from 9th Ave to 2nd Ave, the lane would complete a circuit using Pine St., 2nd Ave, and Pike St. Meant exclusively for buses and right-turning vehicles, these lanes speed up travel times and improve reliability.

The Pine St. corridor serves 15 routes in total (10, 11, 43, 47, 49, 216, 218, 219, 143, 157, 158, 159, 179, 190, 577), averaging 22 buses per hour during the morning peak and 33 in the evening peak. Almost 7000 people (de)board daily using the three stops along the corridor at 9th Ave, 5th Ave, and 4th Ave.

Pine BAT Map
The proposed length of the Pine St bus-only lane. (City of Seattle)

The improvements would save an estimated 15 seconds per trip. In aggregate, this brings about 5-6 minutes in reduced travel times per hour during the AM peak and 8-9 minutes during the PM peak. While these savings may seem modest, the larger benefit comes from ensuring reliability when the fragile downtown grid breaks down. Like HOV lanes on crowded freeways, bus-only lanes offer smooth sailing through bumper-to-bumper traffic.

People driving and walking wouldn’t experience any change in travel time. But people biking, who would have the option of using the new, less-crowded lane, will see faster and safer travel. My casual observation from walking along the route every morning suggests people biking already prefer the right-hand lane used predominantly by buses for this reason.

This move is part of a broader effort by the Seattle Department of Transportation to increase the reliability and efficiency of the downtown grid. Other projects include the existing bus-only lanes along 2nd Ave, Pine St, and 4th Ave, the City Center Connector streetcar, the Center City Bike Network, and the Third Avenue Transit Corridor.

Pine Street BAT Lane Final Draft Memo

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Ben is a Seattle area native, living with his husband downtown since 2013. He started in queer grassroots organizing in 2009 and quickly developed a love for all things political and wonky. When he’s not reading news articles, he can be found excitedly pointing out new buses or prime plots for redevelopment to his uninterested friends who really just want to get to dinner. Serving as the Policy and Legislative Affairs Director, Ben primarily writes about political issues.

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zbreeze

I read through the document and am just confused. My presumption is that a BAT would be added in the right most lane of Pine, but the summary says that busses don’t drive in that lane now, on the block before the right at 6th because of the right turn congestion (that is, the rightmost lane between 7th & 6th on Pine already functions as a “right turn only” lane, in practice. If my interpretation was correct, I don’t see how making a BAT lane would help in that block, at least. Am I getting something wrong?

Anton Babadjanov

One option would be to alternate between blocks allowing right turns and blocks having bus stops. The buses would have to weave in an out and it likely still won’t function perfectly. Another option is to severely limit the number of right turns to, say, 2 for the entire corridor. Either way, Pike-Pine is the busiest pedestrian corridor around and should follow a transit-first policy.

zbreeze

I drove this route just recently, and, aside from making that route car free (say at least during daylight hours), I don’t see how limiting turns at 4th & 6th to 2 turns would work. It would effectively make the entire area into a parking lot during peak business hours (which would make it ineffective as a BAT lane, too).

Making routes car free might make sense in some of these corridors, and to me, that’s a more reasonable plan than bringing traffic to a virtual standstill, making busses move inefficiently, and adding in dollops of bike riders riding between huge busses and the big cars everyone drives.

Anton Babadjanov

Or making the entire street left-turn or straight only for non-transit?

RyanPacker

This is an imperfect solution to the current cat-and-mouse game that bikers play on Pine. The city needs to tell us how dedicated bike lanes are going to come into play here at some point, either on Pine or on Pike.

Chris Mobley

One question I have is how the SDOT will handle the high number of right turning cars at 6th Ave near Pacific Place? BAT lanes do work, but their biggest weakness are intersections with high turning volumes. The proposed BAT lane on Westlake will ban right turns at Denny, a intersection with a similar problem.

RyanPacker

And on 4th. That will be, in my opinion, the biggest delayer of buses.

zbreeze

I also don’t see how this is will make a real “bus” lane with the volume of traffic turning right at 6th & 4th on Pine

Gordon Werner

buses currently solve this by driving in the center lane until the Nordstrom bus stop / tunnel entrance