Transit buses and their Highway 305 backups

The in basket: Jenni Booth has a question about Kitsap Transit practices along Highway 305 on Bainbridge Island.

“I see paved bus stop pull-out areas consistently on the island along the highway,” she said. “Unfortunately, I also rarely see them being used.  “Kitsap Transit buses routinely stop in the traffic lane, impeding traffic and creating a hazard as traffic often pulls into the oncoming lane to pass. Many mornings and evenings the delay of cars grows and grows behind the buses as they do this down Highway 305.

“If there are bus pull-outs, why are they not being used as a means to help traffic flow?  I’m sure it has something to do with difficulty merging back into traffic, but this can’t be a viable solution for that. Is it even legal for the bus to impede traffic like this where there are clearly marked pull-outs for the bus?” she asked.

The out basket: This evidently is a long-standing problem. as suggested by a Feb.11, 2004 Road Warrior column addressing it. Otto Spieth hypothesized then, as Jenni does now, that the drivers don’t want to have to fight their way back into the heavy traffic. I said then that it must be scary part of their job.

John Clauson, Kitsap Transit’s service development manager then, said staying in the roadway has more to do with not sinking into a soft shoulder or letting passengers out in an unsafe place.

John now is transit’s executive director and had this to say about Jenni’s complaint.

“Buses, all commercial buses, are allowed to stop on state highways at locations clearly posted as Bus Stop locations.  Stops without signs, commonly called ‘Flag Stops,’ are not allowed on state highways.

“Specific to SR 305, between the Bainbridge Ferry Terminal and Hostmark Road in Poulsbo, there are 20 northbound posted KT Bus Stops (15 with pullouts) and 17 southbound Bus Stops (11 with pullouts). Designated pullouts must meet our criteria for safety.

” KT bus operators should be pulling off the roadway and into the designated pullout, allowing traffic to safely pass the bus while passengers are boarding or alighting. For safety reasons, Kitsap Transit requires operators to pull completely off the roadway with room required available for customers to board and alight.  Operators are not permitted to straddle the fog line.  They must be completely to the right of the fog line (if it is safe) or remain completely in the roadway (to the left of the fog line) with flashers activated.

“As recent as April 2, 2014, a memo was posted reminding operators that they are required to pull buses completely off the SR 305 roadway if it is safe to do so.

“Your observation (in your 2004 article) was absolutely correct. Pulling back into traffic is, indeed, ‘a scary adventure.’  Bus operators cannot just turn on the Yield flasher and immediately pull into traffic.  With the size and bulk, it’s a slower process and most motorists are generally unwilling to slow down and allow a lumbering bus to pull out in front of them. Additionally, they do not want to follow a slow-moving bus and are unaware of the law requiring them to yield to transit buses (RCW 46.61.220).

“Our operations manager will repost the 2014 Memo reminding all operators to use the pullouts on SR 305. Perhaps you can remind your many readers of the law requiring motorists to yield to buses merging back into traffic.  In addition, if your readers do continue to see problems, please have them call us directly to allow us to more efficiently track and investigate the issue.”


3 thoughts on “Transit buses and their Highway 305 backups

  1. You know I do not believe that the Transit buses are the real cause of the traffic backups heading towards Bainbridge Island or even Kingston for that matter. It is the locals who head out that way who slow down the most traffic. You know I am pretty sure that there are laws that state cars are supposed to use pullouts if there are 5 cars behind them. But no one ever uses them. I travel to both BI and Kingston on a daily basis and unless I am in front I am usually traveling anywhere from 40-45 mph the whole way if I am closer to the front and even slower if way in the back of the pack. Usually because some local wants to drive under the speed limit and then that causes a car to either tailgate them and then that driver will brake check them or the following driver will slow down and it creates a ripple effect to the following cars. So the bus only runs out there a few times a day and while the bus drivers first concern is their passengers and being safe and if that means they block traffic to make sure of that then so be it. I just kind of look at it as what goes around comes around. Because what the buses do every once in a while, the people who live out there do it all the time. I know that I probably sound like a jerk, but when one sits out at the ferry landings and hear the complaints of people who are traveling on those roads saying I cant believe we drove so slow to get here, all I would like to say is, that is the norm. The state dont set the speed limit the locals do, so yes you drive slow.

    1. I have been behind those drivers that insist on driving anywhere from 15 to 25 miles per hour and it’s frustrating because if you honk your horn to wake them up ( or jar them from their cell phone conversation) they just slow down even more. Is there a phone number that we can call to report these drivers ? Perhaps a warning ticket to some of these drivers would be all that it would take.

  2. Motorists “are unaware of the law requiring them to yield to transit buses (RCW 46.61.220).”

    I wonder what a bit of enforcement would accomplish?

    I wonder if those who complain give thought to the number of single occupancy vehicles take off the road or the traffic breaks that those obstructing busses provide.

    And, by the way, the ‘captcha’ question answer is “yes”. “Is water a solid or a liquid?” Water is a gas, liquid and a solid.

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