Quietly and without much fanfare, two weekends ago Pike Street got a lot better for buses. In conjunction with the bus bulb extension completed a couple months ago at 6th/Pike, two weeks ago SDOT installed 24/7 bus lanes on Pike between 2nd Avenue and 7th Avenue. (Right turns will be permitted at 3rd, 5th, and 7th.)
The ultra-frequent eastbound Pike corridor, which handles up to 20 buses per hour mid-day and up to 50 per hour during the PM peak, should see a decent increase in speed and reliability. This will be a welcome improvement for the thousands of long-suffering Capitol Hill and Madison Park residents accustomed to traveling Pike at less than walking speed on routes 10, 11, 43, 47, and 49. All-day route 522 and peak-only routes 301, 306, 308, and 312 will benefit too, despite their need to merge left after 6th Avenue to access the I-5 express lanes at 9th.
Of course, there are still significant sources of delay on Pike that this BAT lane will not improve, namely the 3rd/Pike layover spot and the lack of off-board payment. It is peculiar to build a bus-only lane from 2nd to 7th but retain a layover space at 3rd, forcing live-looping buses to enter the GP lane to detour around layover buses. Meanwhile, buses can be delayed by up to 3 minutes per stop due to on-board payment, routinely missing multiple light cycles as a result. The combination of this new BAT lane and off-board payment would be the real game changer, but there are no current plans to add off-board payment on any non-RapidRide routes.
Still, many kudos to SDOT for this new lane.