Tag Archives: kitsap transit

Access bus opts to stop for school bus unnecessarily

The in basket: One day in June before school got out, I was stopped behind a school bus off-loading children on Mile Hill Drive where a center lane divides the two through lanes. I was behind the bus, so was beholden to stop for it. As often happens, there was a line of cars coming in the other direction, also stopped, although state law permits oncoming traffic to proceed when there is a lane, even a left turn lane, between the bus and the oncoming traffic.

At the head of that line was a Kitsap Transit Access bus. It’s very common to see a vehicle stopped unnecessarily in that situation, holding up any one behind it driven by someone who knows that law. But I wondered if Kitsap Transit buses are required, by law or policy, to stop for an oncoming school bus regardless of the exemption allowed everyone else. Kind of like buses being required to stop at railroad tracks where ordinary folks can proceed without stopping.

The out basket: Sanjay Bhatt, public information officer for Kitsap Transit, replied, “According to our training coordinator, state law does indeed contain an exception to the prohibition on drivers passing (an oncoming) stopped school bus unloading children. Drivers on a highway with three or more marked traffic lanes “need not stop” in this scenario. The law does not say drivers “shall not stop.” In other words, drivers have discretion.

“We don’t have a specific rule on this situation in our operator handbook, nor is there one in the state Commercial Driver License Guide. We train operators to put safety first. While we don’t know which ACCESS operator was driving the vehicle you observed, it’s reasonable to assume that either the operator didn’t know the legal exception or the operator knew the legal exception and chose to err on the side of caution based on what was happening out there on the road.

“We expect our operators to use their common sense and operate safely based on current conditions they encounter.”

Worker/driver program is unique in the nation

The in basket: When I recently joined Bremerton Public Works execs on a tour of city projects, Managing Street Engineer Gunnar Fridriksson told me something that came as quite a surprise.

He said Kitsap Transit’s worker/driver bus program, in which civilians, mostly working for the Navy, drive transit-provided motor coaches to and from work, picking up and dropping off co-workers en route, is the only thing of its kind in the whole nation.

Given its success here, that was hard to believe.

The out basket: And yet, it appears to be true. Well, nearly true. Mason Transit has four such routes, but they serve the same work sites.

John Clauson, Kitsap Transit’s executive director, says there were only eight or 10 routes in the program they inherited in 1983 from the private bus company that was the forerunner to Kitsap Transit. Today there are 30 routes, plus those Mason Transit runs.

“As far as I know, we are the only system in the U.S. that has this type of program and I know that we are the only one in the state, along with Mason Transit now, that have this type of unique operation,” John said.

I Googled and Binged “workers/driver bus programs” and found no others

Gunnar made his remark as we watched a procession of worker/driver buses make their way north on Washington Avenue at shipyard quitting time. Public Works director Chal Martin was there, too, and observed that city plans to reduce

Washington to one lane in each direction in 2015 would never work if the buses weren’t taking dozens if not hundreds of single-car drivers off that street by providing them rides to and from work.

Why transit bus stops are often just past a stop signal

The in basket: Bob Thompson asks, “Why are bus stops after traffic lights along 11th

street in Bremerton instead of before the light?  Does Bremerton think it is funny to have cars behind the bus, stop in the intersection?

“Granted the driver of the car should stop before the intersection, but it still happens,” he said.

The out basket: I’ve wondered about this also, like on Burwell Street at State Street in Bremerton and on Mile Hill Drive at Retsil Road in Port Orchard. Pulling around a stopped bus sometimes is forbidden by striping or by oncoming traffic.

But it turns out there are sound reasons for it, and the state Department of Transportation includes in its Design Manual a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of what they call far side, near-side and mid-block bus stops. Far-side stops are the ones Bob objects to, on the far side of the an intersection.

John Clauson, executive director of Kitsap Transit, says, “Far-side bus stops have more advantages than not. If a bus were to stop prior to a traffic signal, passengers may be tempted to cross at the crosswalk, in front of the bus, and be unaware of vehicles coming around the bus.

“Unlike school buses, traffic does not have to stop for a transit bus.”

The state’s design manual also says far-side stops make right turns by other traffic at the intersection easier, the bus doesn’t obstruct sight distance for vehicles entering or crossing from side streets, it’s easier for the bus to get back into traffic, and buses will not obscure traffic control devices or pedestrian movements from other drivers.

It also says each bus stop location should be evaluated for circumstances that might make  near-side or mid-block stops preferable, which is why not all bus stops are far-side.

Were July 28 Rich Passage 1 ferry runs a joy ride?

The in basket: Randy Fox e-mailed to say he’d seen the experimental fast ferry Rich Passage 1 out for what looked to him like a joy ride on July 28.

“The family and I went out on our boat to the Waterman area to go crabbing and some bottom fishing…following behind the ‘Rich Pass 1,’ thinking that it was going to keep going through Rich Pass and out to the Sound area.

“Instead it stopped, turned to face and wait for the Seattle/ Bremerton ferry to pass by. Then the Rich Pass 1 followed behind it passing us at high speeds, making big wakes.

“About five minutes passed and you hear it coming back our way again. We thought that was strange, so we paid close attention to the boat. Didn’t see any passengers in the lower part of the boat. So we thought maybe it was training.

“I only noticed one silhouette at the controls and no one else in the pilot house. and this went on for about six hours. And that size of boat, the fuel cost isn’t cheap.

“I thought Kitsap Transit was having trouble with funding to fix the Admiral Pete when it was lengthened.
“Why did we see Rich Pass 1 out wasting fuel?”

The out basket: Kitsap Transit’s Executive Director John Clauson says, “Any activity with the Rich Passage 1 (RP1) outside of the scheduled runs to and from Seattle is still part of the wake research project being conducted by Golder Associates.

“Because the load varies with the scheduled runs, other testing must be done in a very controlled setting with added weight to simulate passenger loads.  Because of the time needed to load and offload the measured ballast, we are unable to complete this work between the morning and afternoon runs; thus the need to have two weekends for additional wake acceptance testing.

He sent a schedule of testing that showed most testing in the interim between morning and afternoon weekday commuter runs, but half-load wake testing ballasted with water bladders the weekend Randy saw it.

“During the week of August 6, they will do light-load conditions between the commute periods,” he said.

“Regarding the single person in the pilot house; because we are not carrying passengers onboard, we only need two people to operate during these additional test runs.  In addition, the testing schedule is on top of the regular service schedule, which in itself has stretched the already limited crew resources; so again, only a skipper and one crew member is used.

“Lastly,” John said, “these additional test runs fall into the wake testing project, so they are covered under the federal grant funding, the same as the regular service runs.”


Where and when to get an ORCA card

The in basket: Tony Smallbeck was puzzled about a couple of things after reading news stories about and the designated Web site for the new ORCA cards introduced to unify and simplify paying one’s fare to travel on the ferries and mass transit systems in the Puget Sound area.

He now uses a combination ferry-transit pass to commute to Seattle, he said. 

“I understand the concept (of the ORCA card) ,” he said, “but…when I ask my Kitsap Transit drivers if I need one, two said yes, two said no..  Also, there is confusion on whether I can only buy them on the Kitsap side in Bremerton, or somewhere – anywhere – else.

Any ideas?” 

The out basket: Technically, Tony won’t need an ORCA card for about six months, says John Clauson of Kitsap Transit, as the previous devices, such as Tony’s joint ferry-bus pass, will still be effective that long.

But the cards are free now, and will require a $3-$5 purchase after six months. “It’s to his advantage to do it sooner rather than later to avoid the charge,” John said.  

The Bremerton Transportation Center where the ferries land is the only place west of Puget Sound to buy one in person for now, John said. But he is hoping to outfit Safeway stores to be remote locations, as they are now for some existing fare devices.

He expects in-person sites to become less and less important, though, as people go online to order the cards (which would be mailed) and to put money in them to pay fares electronically when boarding a participating agencies’ vessel or vehicle. The cards also can be ordered by phone. 

Kitsap Transit and Washington State Ferres are joined by King County Metro, Community Transit of Snohomish County, Pierce Transit, Everett Transit and Sound Transit, operator of commuter rail, in providing and honoring the ORCA cards. The other agencies also have places to purchase one. They are for pedestrians only.

The online site is www.orcacard.com and the phone number is (888) 988-6722.

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.