A big driver for putting the “rapid” in bus rapid transit service is the use of business access and transit lanes — or BAT lanes.
Bus rapid transit often is described as rail on rubber tires, with fewer stops and quick boarding.
But it depends on a straight shot from point A to point B to really work at peak times.
If the bus is the train, the BAT lane is the light rail on which it rides.
These lanes are reserved for buses but also let general purpose traffic hop in to access a local business or make a right turn at an intersection or on-ramp.
The newest BAT lanes are on 128th Street leading to the I-5 on-ramps. They are preparation for Community Transit’s Swift Green line, slated to start service in spring 2019. The lanes allow vehicles to turn onto the I-5 on-ramps, while buses can continue straight ahead on 128th Street — getting a jump on green lights with a special bus-only signal.
A similar set-up is being added on northbound Highway 526, just before 164th Street and Mill Creek Road. The right turn lane is being extended for a BAT lane so vehicles can turn right onto Mill Creek Road and buses can go straight with a “queue jump.”
BAT lanes also help speed regular bus routes. For example, bus lanes operate on 128th Street (Airport Road) between I-5 and Boeing, westbound in the morning and eastbound in the evening.
Elsewhere, Sound Transit plans bus rapid transit service to begin in 2004 on I-405, from Lynnwood to Burien, and on Highway 522, from Bothell to Shoreline. Those projects include adding BAT lanes on 522 and expanding express toll lanes on I-405 to serve a similar purpose. Toll lanes, however, are shared with registered carpools and drivers who pay a fee to use them.
Community Transit was the first to bring bus rapid transit to our state. The Blue line has run along Highway 99 since 2009. After Green, the agency has plans for Orange and Red lines to connect more communities.
Still, creating BAT lanes remains a challenge.
Community Transit would like to add more BAT lanes. But it will have to wait on funding.
Maybe they should shoot a dollar-shaped Bat-Signal into the sky.
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