Tag Archives: Transit

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.”

 

Buses AREN’T exempt from traffic control at 11th and Warren

The in basket: Brian Lozier read the recent Road Warrior column about transit buses having the right to proceed straight in the outside lane on Sixth Street at Park Avenue in Bremerton where other traffic must turn right, and described a similar incident on 11th Street at Warren Avenue.

He’s seen transit buses go straight in the eastbound center lane of 11th, he said, though there’s what he described as “a clear left-only arrow” in that lane.

“Because the city of Bremerton, in its infinite wisdom, chose to narrow 11th to one lane in each direction just after that

intersection,”Brian said, “buses going straight through in the center lane make it so traffic in the right lane can’t move over and they all have to slam their brakes.

“Is this a legal move for buses or are these drivers just ignoring the law?” he asked, adding “does the red light camera there also catch illegal movement on greens?

“Further,” he wrote, “since I have seen this numerous times (and not just with buses), it seems like this merge can be eliminated by just making that lane on 11th a right-turn only up to Park. There aren’t usually a lot of cars parked there, and that one block stretch is adjacent to to a walled-off power substation.”

The out basket: There are no signs conferring anyone the right to proceed straight in that lane, so if transit drivers are doing it, they are committing an infraction.

Transit Executive Director John Clauson says, “If the bus went straight through the intersection without using the right lane, it was improper. I have (included) our operations director on this communication and I am confident she will take care of this.

“If your reader sees additional violations of this type, he/she should give us a call with the bus number and the exact time of the incident.  It will help immensely to help us track the issue back to the operator and work with the team to refresh operators on the rules of the road.”

The two red light cameras there monitor only red light infractions and then only in the two directions of travel alongside which they are deployed.

Gunnar Fridriksson, the city’s managing street engineer, says they do plan to make the outside lane right only at Park, at the same time they make some parking revisions on 11th and Sixth. As at Sixth and Park, buses will be permitted to proceed straight in the outside lane even after the change.

Lastly, what’s permitted on eastbound 11th at Warren isn’t all that obvious. The two round ball signals for the outside lane (a federally required redundancy) leave many drivers wondering whether  going straight in the center lane is legal. But I wouldn’t expect transit drivers to be confused about it.

Transit bus goes straight in right-only lane

The in basket: Eric Blair wrote July 25 to say, “I was traveling eastbound on Sixth Street in Bremerton this past Wednesday at 1815, and was behind a Kitsap Transit small bus. We were both in the right lane, stopped at the light at Park Avenue. Imagine my surprise when the bus continued straight through the intersection, from what is clearly marked a right turn only lane.

“I didn’t see any ‘except transit’ language on the sign. Are transit buses exempt from the new right turn only lanes in downtown Bremerton?”

The out basket: A sign is missing, as transit buses need access to the curb lane to pick up and discharge passengers and it is the city’s intent to allow them to proceed straight in the outside lane there.

And there is an “except transit” sign, just not right at the intersection. An earlier sign a half-block back saying right turns only are allowed in the outside lane has an “except transit” sign right below it. But I didn’t see it either until Gunnar Fridriksson, senior Bremerton street engineer, told me it was there and I went looking for it.

“The first sign which is about mid-block between Warren and Park has ‘Except Transit’ so the buses can legally continue through the intersection,” Gunnar said.  “We are updating the sign at the signal as well and I thought that had been completed.  Our sign shop is a bit busy these days, but I will check in with them and give a little reminder we need to get this done.”

Transit still working on new East Bremerton transfer station

The in basket: Michael Drouin writes, “As we were sitting at the intersection of Sylvan and Wheaton Way, watching the chaos emerging from the Kitsap Bank parking lot, we couldn’t help but wonder whatever became of the grand plan to move the Kitsap Transit transfer station to the defunct lumber yard at Hollis and Wheaton Way.”

The out basket: John Clauson, executive director of Kitsap Transit, says, “We still have the need to develop a better transfer center, and the old Parker Lumber site is more than likely the location.

“Having said that, we are exploring the possibility of doing a joint development project that could include more than just a transfer center.  Once we have determined these other potential uses, we will proceed with searching for partners.”

Transit has acquired the old Parker Lumber site, just north of the existing transfer station at Wheaton Mall, he said. “We are not in a big hurry to move out of the Wheaton Mall but our concern is that we could be asked to vacate with little notice, like what happen to us at the Kitsap Mall, and we would not have a place to move to.

“Although (the joint development project) could include retail we are more thinking like some type of living complex that would fit well with a transit center. It could include a joint parking area that could support our Park & Ride needs while responding to others’ parking needs.

“We are limited to just how far we could move before we would need to make major adjustments to our schedules for the east side service. Moving to the Parker Lumber site would require us to make some changes to the service.”

The traffic signal at the Hollis Street intersection would be upgraded from the existing three-way signal to a full four-way signal to provide the buses a safe way in and out of the Parker site if that is finally chosen, he said.

Driver describes close call with a transit bus on 305

The in basket: J. B. Holcomb of Bainbridge Island e-mailed to described an incident on Thursday as he was driving north on Highway 305 just beyond the Agate Pass Bridge.

“I was driving at 45 mph and was two or three seconds away from a transit bus stopped at a bus stop (ostensibly),” he said.

“That yo-yo driver immediately pulls out in front of me,” J.B. said. “I had to dynamite my brakes and veer to the left to avoid collision with his bus.  I just, and I do mean just by inches, avoided a head-on collision with an on-coming driver, who, thankfully, took protection of his own in timely turning slightly right.

“I noticed that the driver snapped on the yellow ‘yield’ sign on the rear of the bus after I started braking.  I immediately laid on my horn while behind him for about two miles indicating my displeasure and stopped beside him at the next stop with my window rolled down for a few not-so-kind words.  He paid no attention to me.

“I thought about calling 911 to complain to the State Patrol about his reckless driving, but I did not, because my thought was that the ‘yield’ sign exempts that yo-yo from any such claim.

“Should I have?  Whatever the rule, he surely does not have the right to place following drivers at risk of his or her life in order to be able to pull out, even with a ‘yield’ sign on!!!”

The out basket: State law does require drivers to yield to a transit bus reentering traffic, but the bus driver must do so carefully. Transit executives also demand it as a matter of policy.

We have only J.B.’s side of the incident, as State Trooper Russ Winger noted when I asked him about the likely assignment of blame had the bus and J.B.s car collided. It probably wouldn’t have done much good to phone 911 about the close call.

But, Russ continued, “I can tell you this much. All vehicles, including transit buses, even police vehicles, must ‘safely’ enter the roadway from the shoulder, side streets etc. Signs and flashing lights do not give immunity to the driver. All drivers have that responsibility.

“If we were, in fact, investigating a collision, we would gather as much information and evidence as possible, including witness statements hopefully, to arrive at some sort of logical and factual conclusion. If these factors led us to believe that the transit vehicle did not give sufficient right of way to the other vehicle – just pulled out – (he or she) could be found at fault. We would definitely not just take one driver’s version of the event and make a decision based on that.

“As for your reader’s actions about following the bus for two miles, laying on the horn and even trying to confront the other driver, well, I believe you already know the WSP’s feeling on that type of behavior.”

If you don’t, they discourage it, and can ticket for unlawful use of the vehicle’s horn, which state law says must be used only to alert drivers of an imminent. danger, as was mentioned in a January Road Warrior column.

Transit Executive Director John Clauson asked for B.J.’s contact information so that he might inquire further into the incident.

 

No need to stop for a transit bus with flashing red lights

The in basket: Brian Horch writes, “I was following a Kitsap Transit bus and noticed when it stopped on the side

of the road that instead of yellow lights flashing it had red lights flashing.

“If the rules are the same as for school buses this would mean I cannot pass

the bus that is stopped to pick up passengers,” he said. “I always thought you could

pass a transit bus when it pulled over for a stop.  Could it be the flashing lights should be yellow instead of red?”

The out basket: No, a motorist doesn’t have to stop for a transit vehicle loading or unloading passengers, regardless of the color of the lights that may be flashing on the bus.

Kitsap Transit’s Vehicle Maintenance Director Hayward Seymore says their various routed, worker/driver and Access buses have various combinations of lights. Access buses will have amber flashers, usually found at the top of the back of the bus, activated if the driver is operating the wheelchair lift. “If they are merely pulled over,” he said. “they can just have the red flashers on, all perfectly legal.”

He said they’d appreciate it if any driver passing a stopped transit bus do so slowly with caution,

What a motorist IS required by law to do is yield to a transit bus reentering traffic from a stop. There is a Yield sign on the rear left of all the buses, and it’s lighted and blinks on the newer ones.

Of course, red lights on a stopped school bus require approaching traffic to stop, unless there is a lane between the motorist’s lane and the one the school bus is in, and the motorist isn’t following the bus. Two-way turn lanes meet that exemption.

It’s an exemption that rarely can be used, as cautious motorists unsure of the law usually stop and keep anyone behind them from proceeding until the red flashers go off and the stop paddle on the bus is retracted.

Opticom misuse alleged by readers

The in basket: Mention in the recent Road Warrior column about Kitsap Transit policy that its drivers aren’t the use the Opticom emitter system to change traffic signals to green as they approach unless they are behind schedule brought two similar comments.

Jane Rebelowski said, “The buses use it when leaving the transfer station off of Wheaton Way. How could they possibly be late if I just saw them sitting in the parking lot for 10 minutes?”

And Colleen Smidt wrote, “There must be a heck of a lot of buses behind schedule as they are entering and leaving the transfer complex on Auto Center Way. It is easy to watch all of this play out as I am sitting in the backup at the exit light at the end of the southbound ramp trying to make a left onto Kitsap Way around 4:50 in the afternoon.

“Several times a month the backup from the lights being out of rotation from the buses has traffic backed up onto the shoulder of the highway, making for very unsafe traffic conditions.

I asked Transit management to explain.

The out basket: Transit Executive Director John Clauson replies, “I do not have a reason why nor, until now, was I aware that this was going on with the regularity your reader suggests. Have you heard of this problem at this intersection, at this time of day from many others?

“I know that when a person has to travel each day in what is considered heavy traffic, any delay feels like hours and becomes a major concern. I’m sure your reader wonders if it is really needed or fair.

“I will have folks look into what is going on here and deal with it as needed,” John said.

Those wanting to answer John’s question about others seeing this, you can go online at kitsapsun.com and comment at the bottom of this column on the Road Warrior blog.

Bootleg traffic signal changers targeted by Opticom upgrade

The in basket: For a couple of decades, Kitsap Transit buses and police and other emergency vehicles have had the capacity to change red lights to green in Bremerton and around the county as they approach.

But some private citizens have acquired equipment online or otherwise that enables them to do the same thing, though they aren’t supposed to and it’s probably illegal.

Tom Baker of the city of Bremerton electronics shop, told me, “There are emitters available on eBay that will work with the Opticom. I have seen signals pre-empted with no bus near by, so there are non-authorized users out there.”

If you are one of them, you may find yourself frustrated in Bremerton, where new digital controls have been substituted for the old ones this year, intended to prevent unauthorized use of bootleg emitters.

I learned this was afoot from Mike Singson of Advanced Traffic Products, which sold the old Opticom equipment back when it was first installed and was still around to help with the update. I encountered him at a big electronics convention at Sea-Tac in February.

The out basket: Wendy Clark-Getzin, Kitsap Transit’s capital development director (for another week or so) says it kicked in $31,000 to go with in-kind labor and services from the city to go with federal money that added up to the $200,000 project cost. It was finished April 30, she said.

In addition to ending unauthorized use of the signal changing equipment, it will reduce maintenance costs and replace some aging controller equipment,” she said.

She credited Jeff Collins of the city electronics shop with making the money stretch as far as it went, and former city engineer Mike Mecham for getting the money in the first place.

The work stops short of modernizing Opticom to the max, says Mike Singson. It’s capable of using GPS to track the buses and keep track of whether they are on time, taking changing of the lights out of the hands of the bus drivers, he said. They’re not supposed to use Opticom if they aren’t behind schedule.

Kitsap’s system won’t be using GPS any time soon and those behind the wheel of the buses still will be able to change the light to green.

You may wonder why Wendy will remain capital development director for only a short time. She will leave to become general manager of Clallam County Transit July 1, she tells me.

Mystery limitation on use of Admiral Pete’s restrooms

The in basket: I noticed many months ago that there are two restrooms on the foot ferry Admiral Pete that runs between Bremerton and Port Orchard, and both have signs saying they are for crew members only. That struck me as odd, so I asked a crew member why it was.

He told me neither restroom works, so the signs just prevent their use.

I asked Transit officials if that is correct.

The out basket: Charlotte Sampson, executive assistant for transit, replied and said, the Admiral Pete’s restrooms “are not open to the public because it would require too much time, effort, and funds to pump the system.  Restrooms are available on both sides of the water, and it’s only a seven-minute crossing.”

Yield signs on transit buses aren’t kidding

The in basket: As I noticed a flashing Yield sign on the back of a Kitsap Transit bus, it occurred to me that the requirement that drivers yield to buses pulling into traffic after discharging or picking up passengers would probably come as a surprise to most drivers.

The Yield signs on buses until now have not be lighted and most still aren’t.

I asked State Trooper Russ Winger if a person could actually be cited for failing to yield to a bus when no collision resulted from the action.

The out basket: Yes, Russ replied, “as with any moving infraction that can be issued for an actual collision, ‘almost’ causing a collision or causing another vehicle that has the right of way to take evasive action to avoid that collision is grounds for issuing a citation.”