Q: Is there a rule for crossing in a crosswalk with a flashing red hand and the seconds ticking down? Ruth Wilson, of Seattle, finds some...

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Q: Is there a rule for crossing in a crosswalk with a flashing red hand and the seconds ticking down? Ruth Wilson, of Seattle, finds some of those crossings with flashing signs and seconds a bit confusing.

“Are you to stop crossing when the red hand comes on flashing, no matter the number of seconds there are?” she asked.

She says she’s noticed crossing confusion at Fourth Avenue South and South Jackson Street at the south end of downtown. If you’re a driver headed west on Jackson and trying to make a right turn to northbound Fourth, you’re likely to be delayed by pedestrians still trying to cross, even when the display on the signal is down to 2 or 3 seconds.

“There are many transit vehicles and cars trying to make the right turn to Fourth, and have to wait for the crosswalk to clear,” she noted. Might an added delay after the pedestrian sign displays “O seconds” help to clear the intersection?

A: Those pedestrian countdown signals that display the number of seconds pedestrians have left to cross are not designed to change the law, which says a pedestrian can legally step off the curb and begin crossing only when the “walk” symbol is illuminated, according to Brian Kemper, who manages signal operations for Seattle’s transportation department.

Once the “don’t walk” symbol begins to flash, it is no longer lawful to leave the curb and begin crossing, he said. The countdown signals are merely intended to let pedestrians know how much time remains to finish crossing.

After the flashing “don’t walk,” a solid “don’t walk” is displayed on the signal at the same time the traffic signal turns amber for vehicles. The transportation department figures the amber light should be long enough for vehicles to clear the intersection, or for motorists to complete a turn without competing with pedestrians in a crosswalk.

Kemper says pedestrians could be ticketed if they step off the curb after the flashing “don’t walk” signal is displayed, regardless of whether it seems possible to cross the street in the remaining seconds.

Q: Lauren Shaw is a pretty frequent rider of Metro Transit’s Route 101 between downtown Seattle and Renton. “On a number of occasions, I’ve boarded a brand new bus for this route,” she noted. “The new buses are great, but why don’t the windows on the new Metro buses open?”

A: The new buses are air-conditioned, and the windows are designed to remain closed to allow the bus to maintain its interior temperature, says Jim Boon, Metro’s vehicle maintenance manager. “What we have learned with other air-conditioned buses is that if people have the discretion to open windows, the incoming air (hot or cold) confuses the temperature controls and defeats what we are trying to accomplish with either heating or cooling the bus,” he said.

It’s basically the same as an office building with temperature-controlled zones. If someone fires up a small space heater to warm their feet in one area, it may cause the air conditioning to turn on in another.

The new buses do, however, have emergency exit windows that open.

Q: Riders of Metro’s Route 56 between downtown Seattle and West Seattle’s Alki area have noticed there’s been a switch to much shorter buses during peak hours in the morning and afternoon. “The buses consequently end up being filled to capacity quickly, with passengers standing,” said frequent rider Tracy Oshiro.

“How can Metro convince drivers to give up their car commutes when they end up having to stand on crowded buses?” she asked.

Oshiro understands everyone is dealing with higher fuel prices, even Metro. “But it hardly seems fair that with ridership being up, Metro takes away the right capacity-sized buses to pack riders in so uncomfortably,” she said.

A: Normally, almost half of the 36 daily trips on Route 56 are assigned 60-foot articulated buses, said Jon Bez, Metro’s scheduling supervisor. But for the past couple of months there’s been a bit of a shake-up in Metro’s fleet as nearly two dozen new hybrid buses were added. It resulted in some changes.

It also resulted in some mismatched assignments of coaches, Bez said. Metro was trying to determine which routes most needed the influx of larger buses. Bez said larger coaches should now be back on the route.