Tag Archives: ferry terminal

Can Fauntleroy ferry terminal get a traffic light?

The in basket: Raymond Craig of Port Orchard writes to say he misses the days when a state trooper was posted at the  Fauntleroy ferry terminal during rush hour.

“Getting off or on the ferry was a breeze because the officer efficiently metered traffic to match the boat off-load,” he said.

“With no traffic control, the ferry off-load gets bogged down on the ramp and during peak commute times this results in extensive delays. It is frustrating to see 50-plus cars idling on the dock while crossing traffic dribbles by on Fauntleroy (Avenue). With a bus stop at the top of the dock, adding a Metro double bus in the midst of the commute makes things even worse.

“More importantly,” he continued, “the exit at the end of the Fauntleroy ferry dock is a ‘triple point’ of safety issues. Cars, trucks, metro buses and pedestrians are all trying to cross without control or monitoring.  It is a dangerous crossing where sight lines are limited and drivers compete with Metro buses and pedestrians.

 “I have asked managers at WSDOT why they don’t install a traffic light to help the situation.  They tell me the Fauntleroy community will not allow the light to be installed because they don’t like having the ferry dock there. The community would like the terminal to be removed and resists any effort that will aid the ferry system.

“It makes no sense that the personal priorities of the Fauntleroy community could override a serious traffic safety situation,” Raymond said. “If a pedestrian or bicycle rider is injured at the ferry terminal crossing……you could logically blame the lack of traffic light as the cause.  With the emphasis today on the environment and safety, how can WSDOT not override the community and install a traffic light.”

The out basket: The city of Seattle has the whip hand on this and is sensitive to the feelings of city residents who live near the terminal. But Rick Sheridan of the Seattle Department of Transportation says the city is willing to consider ways to make the intersection safer if the ferry system provides the money.

First, though, Marta Coursey of the ferry system’s public affairs office sent along these thoughts: “In 2011, Washington State Patrol’s budget was reduced significantly, resulting in the loss of officer traffic control at the intersection of Fauntleroy Way and Fauntleroy Terminal in West Seattle. The Fauntleroy terminal presents many challenges and the officers were extremely helpful to us in providing safety, security and traffic control around this terminal.

 “Because Fauntleroy Way is also a city street, not a state highway, the state has no jurisdictional control over the intersection. In order for the state to install a signal here, we would need to get a permit from the city.”

Which brings us back to Rick Sheridan’s reply: “Our traffic engineers reviewed the intersection that supports the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal,” he said. “The City of Seattle is open to the idea of modifying this intersection. We would be happy to explore changes that can better facilitate ferry terminal operations while also ensuring a safe roadway for all users.

“As this request is driven by their operational needs, changes at this location would need to be funded by the Washington state ferry system. We will reach out to them to share our perspective on the matter.”

Uphill ride from BI ferry terminal gets bicycle-unfriendly

The in basket: Casper “Cap” Lane bicycles to and from Seattle on the Bainbridge Island ferry and finds a fairly comfortable ride up Highway 305 after disembarking in Winslow turning into a hairy competition with cars just uphill from where a bridge appears just off the shoulder, running parallel to the highway

Beyond the end of the bridge, on which he says bicycles are expected to be walked, not ridden, the shoulder pretty much disappears and bicyclists are in more danger of being hit by cars. I imagine a lot of those cars are traveling pretty fast, based on those I’ve seen leaving ferries elsewhere, especially at rush hour.

He wonders if there is any hope of extending the shoulder from the terminal all the way up to High School Road.

The out basket: There is hope, as the city is working on just that, but another spot will be done first.

K. Chris Hammer, engineering manager for the city of Bainbridge Island public works, says, “We expect to receive a State Ped-Bike program grant for Olympic Drive between Winslow Way and Harborview.” That’s down close to the ferry landing.

“The City is also pursuing grant opportunities for the ‘next mile’ of the Sound-to-Olympics trail along SR305 between Winslow Way and High School road,” Chris said. “This project would provide for a separated pathway.”

 

Are VATS troopers a good use of the money?

The in basket: Bill Forhan volunteers as a docent at the naval museum next to the Bremerton ferry terminal on Thursdays and has been watching three or four state troopers he sees most Thursdays at the terminal. They’re there some Tuesdays, too, he said, and “sometimes they have a dog with them.”

They don’t seem to have a lot to do and “it seems like overkill” in providing security at the terminal, he said. “Four of them is probably costing us many hundreds or thousands of dollars” that might be better spent elsewhere, he said.

The out basket: As with most homeland security activities, not everything you might wonder about the Vessel and Terminal Security arm of Washington State Patrol is public information.

Sgt. Craig Johnson, who supervise VATS officers on the east side of the Sound and serves was part-time public information officer, said they won’t discuss staffing levels, when the troopers are likely to be where, or even how many VATS troopers there are altogether.

He says the fact that Bremerton is the headquarters city for the officers on the west side, and that Thursday is training day for their explosive sniffing dogs might explain some of what Bill sees. But he also wouldn’t say that four troopers, with or without a dog or dogs, is unusual for the Bremerton terminal.

Bill says the troopers mostly seem idle between ferry arrivals, and Craig said they definitely are busiest just before and during loading of a ferry. Then, dogs, if any are assigned at that moment, sniff for explosives in waiting vehicles and other officers watch the loading passengers. Between ferries they may have paper work or administrative duties.

I asked for any anecdotal information showing a particular success, conceding as I did that finding nothing is itself a significant measure of deterrence, Craig said only that the dogs have alerted to ammunition and such, showing that “the system works.”

There’s a bit more information on the VATS program onine at www.wsp.wa.gov/crime/vats.htm. It mostly emphasizes how patrolling by bicycle aids their work.

So whether they are overkill or they could be doing something more useful is as unknowable to the public, including me, as details of security staffing at Bangor.

Cell phones and texting at ferry terminals

The in basket: Back in October, a commenter on the Road Warrior blog had this to ask after reading a column that said the cell phone and texting laws that had made violations a primary offense a few months earlier didn’t apply on private property:

“How about enforcing cell phone use on the docks while loading the boats?” asked the commenter, identified only as Red.

“People complain that the boats aren’t leaving on time…Well, when someone is on the phone and not paying attention, this slows down the loading process…and it is my understanding the docks are public property not private.”

As I mulled over his question, it occurred to me that the answer might vary depending on whether the car was moving, momentarily still during loading or had its motor turned off while its driver waited for a ferry. Further, the same distinctions would apply in the shoulder holding areas outside the terminals at Bainbridge Island, Kingston and elsewhere.

I asked how the law would be applied in such situations.

The out basket: Trooper Krista Hedstrom of the State Patrol office here says that despite wording in both laws specifying that they apply to “moving motor vehicles,” WSP’s position is that being stopped momentarily, such as at a stop light, does not allow a driver to text or hold a cell phone to the ear briefly.

And the same philosophy would apply in a ferry holding area. “When stopped in a holding lane at the ferry you are still technically on a state route and can be issued a ticket for use of a cell phone.  However, I would be surprised if I heard of troopers ticketing drivers while in a holding lane. This applies to those areas inside and outside of the terminal. This is really where common sense needs to come into play.”

I took it one step further and asked if texting while actually on the ferry crossing the Sound might get a person cited and she said simply, “No. That would be ridiculous.”

Lastly, I asked if WSP would seek amendment of the two laws to remove the “moving” wording and she said the agency has no such intention.

Ferry-waiting parking spots and the disabled

The in basket: E-mailer Diane West and Don Chatel of Allyn, both of whom are valid disabled drivers, got $45 tickets recently on Second Street in Bremerton near the Bremerton Transportation Center. 

Diane said she’d understood that the disabled placards and plates permitted a driver to park all day on the street, even in spaces where able-bodied drivers have a time limit. 

“Can you please give me the low down on this?” she asked.

Don’s situation was exacerbated by an unfortunate miscommunication between him and city officials, which caused him to miss the court date he was assigned after protesting the ticket. He now fears the amount he will owe will go up.

After first getting the impression that the ticket would be excused, he belatedly learned that the dozen or so spaces in that location are for people picking up ferry commuters in the afternoon. The driver is required to remain in the vehicle between 4 and 7 p.m., and he returned to his car shortly before 5, so his ticket was valid.

The out basket: Carol Etgen, Bremerton city clerk, said those spaces, for the three afternoon hours drivers can’t leave their cars unattended, join fire hydrant zones, loading zones, and paid parking as places cars with disabled plates or placards must obey the same rules as everyone else.

I looked at those spaces and, frankly, it might not be hard to beat a ticket issued there in court.

The signs imposing that 4-7 p.m. restriction are a mishmash, some with arrows pointing in both directions, some pointing in only one, and one was twisted so it was almost pointing at the building rather than up and down the street. And the first one divided a parking space in two, making it unclear if that space was included.

Keep buses out of ferry terminal scramble?

 

The in basket: John Holbrook wrote last January about the congestion around the Bremerton ferry terminal on weekday afternoons and suggested that transit buses let automobile traffic clear before adding themselves to it.

“Around 5:30 p.m.,  the possibly fullest boat of the day arrives in Bremerton,” John said.

“Two bumper-to-bumper lines of cars pour onto Washington Avenue intent on getting home. Often traffic backs up from  the traffic light at Burwell clear onto the boat itself!  

“Into this mess come charging six-plus Kitsap Transit

buses from the terminal equally intent on getting to where they are going.

“Throw in hordes of pedestrians crossing without even looking at Second Street or jaywalking in front of the hotel(and it’s) a recipe for a dangerous situation at

best.  Add in darkness and rain and it really gets bad!

“In the last few weeks my car has been nearly hit several times,” John said..

“All but a couple of the buses move to the left as soon as they come out of

the terminal ramp!  These drivers do not hesitate to use the bulk of their

vehicles to force their way into the lane they want!”

“Seems to me if (the buses’) departure was delayed

just 10 minutes most of the traffic would have time to get out of their way.”

The out basket: I didn’t expect Kitsap Transit to be very receptive to the idea, as among its missions is to make using the bus more attractive than driving one’s car, to encourage ridership and reduce traffic on the roadways. 

Transit CEO Dick Hayes didn’t surprise me when he replied, “Without disputing the letter writer’s assertions about the congestion problems at the Bremerton Transportation Center as boats unload in Bremerton in the afternoon, Kitsap Transit very much disagrees with his stated priorities for access and merging.

“Our position is that because the buses carry a number of people, buses deserve equal if not better access to the roadway, however congested it may be. 

Dick continued, “It will remain our position that the buses not only have every right to be there, but also, under state law, that buses have a right to merge that supersedes the merging of individual autos.”

Those triangular Yield signs you see on the backs of buses are backed up by state law that would make a merging accident the car driver’s fault if he or she didn’t yield to a bus and they collided. 

“With the completion of the tunnel next year,” Dick continued, “a significant portion of car traffic exiting the ferry will be re-routed (away from Washington Avenue) and merging issues will become much more manageable.  The issues for pedestrians will, of course, remain basically the same, but buses and pedestrians are generally a safe mix, so we are hopeful that the overall situation will improve substantially, and that our long-term goal for a downtown bus and pedestrian priority zone will be realized. 

“I appreciate that this will not help the letter writer merge more quickly, but clearly, philosophically, he and the transit system are miles apart,” Dick concluded.