This week’s Traffic Lab Q&A tackles questions about Metro Transit and the rules for Seattle’s traffic circles.
With questions flooding Traffic Lab’s email inbox, we’re tackling three reader questions in this week’s Q&A.
Q: Who’s responsible for cleaning Metro bus stops, and how often do they do it?
— Laura Sutkus, West Seattle
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A: First, a lesson in Metro Transit semantics.
The agency calls places with just signs on bus routes “stops,” and partially enclosed bench areas “shelters. ” Each has a different routine.
Crews with the Metro Transit Power and Facilities Section rotate around the region’s some 1,700 bus shelters with power washers and other equipment for scrubbing graffiti, cleaning benches and picking up garbage, Metro spokesman Scott Gutierrez said. Volunteers, on the other hand, take care of trash around the bus stops.
Metro’s crews prioritize shelters based on ridership. The more popular the route, the more regular the cleaning. Shelters in downtown Seattle get washed seven days a week, while others across the county get cleaned at least once a week, Gutierrez said.
“There’s so many people downtown, and so many people on concentration routes, so we make sure those stops are cleaned every day,” he said.
Riders can report dirty or problematic bus shelters to Metro’s hotline, 206-477-3850. The agency will then send someone out to take care of it, Gutierrez said.
“If there’s something really gross at a bus stop — it’s just really dirty or looks in really bad shape — call,” he said.
Q: Is it true that the city of Seattle doesn’t mandate a counterclockwise traffic flow through its traffic circles, in the mostly universal “roundabout” fashion? If not, why not?
— David Arntuffus, Shoreline
A:Nope, that’s not the case.
Drivers turning left must proceed counterclockwise around traffic circles, per state law, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) said. Seattle police can issue $136 traffic tickets to motorists who disobey the rule.
But here’s the catch: If construction work, parked cars or other obstacles make a counterclockwise turn challenging, drivers may need to “improvise their navigation” around the circles, SDOT said.
“There’s no law or rule about how this should be done, we just ask that drivers maneuver any blockages as safely as possible and be sure to report any issues,” SDOT spokeswoman Mafara Hobson wrote in an email.
You can take a picture of the problem with your phone and submit it through the city’s “Find It, Fix It” mobile app. Illegally parked cars at traffic circles face towing.
Traffic circles aim to slow cars down in residential areas.
The speed limit in Seattle for arterials is 25 mph, and for residential streets is 20 mph, unless otherwise posted.
City officials decide whether to install traffic circles at particular intersections based, in part, on the history of collisions there. An intersection may qualify if five or more collisions occurred within three years, SDOT said.
Currently, Seattle has about 1,500 traffic circles.
Q: What is Metro Transit’s policy on adding extra buses before and after major Seattle sporting events, especially on weekends? Do Metro‘s policies cover Sound Transit Express buses, too?
— Susan Gallagher, Mercer Island
A: Take a bus near Safeco after a Monday Mariners game, for instance, and it’s likely going to be crowded and behind schedule.
The same could happen after a Tuesday game, too, or really after any home game.
Both Metro and Sound Transit said they have a process for deciding whether to add bus service during major events.
Officials weigh factors such as expected crowd size and if attendees have access to other transit options. They also weigh logistic issues in arranging bus drivers’ schedules and shuffling vehicles around.
“Anytime there is an event that draws large crowds or is expected to have significant impacts on transit service, Metro will more often than not add extra service or some type of mitigation,” Gutierrez said in an email.
Of last year’s more than 400 special events that closed streets, “most did not rise to that level,” he added.
The transit agency, for example, may launch temporary reroutes around a small event that causes a brief street closure, Gutierrez said, without having to add extra service.
“The ideal solution often is a balance between providing service to and from the event and also making sure that there’s less inconvenience to people not attending,” he said.
At Husky Stadium, the University of Washington has hired extra Metro buses to work as park-and-ride shuttles. The Seahawks have done the same at CenturyLink, Gutierrez said.
But that could change this fall, under federal rules prohibiting public transit agencies from providing charter service when private companies are willing and capable of doing so.
The university and Seahawks are evaluating their options now, Gutierrez said.
Other agencies throughout the region use private buses for events, too.
To stay in the know about service changes and delays, sign up for text and email alerts from Metro and Sound Transit via the transit agencies’ websites. Or, for live updates, follow @kcmetrobus and @SoundTransit on Twitter.
Got a question for Traffic Lab?
You know the drill. If you have a question or idea for us, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. We may feature it in an upcoming column.
Last week, we described what happens to drivers who cut lines at Washington State Ferries terminals. The week before that, we spotlighted the state’s vehicle-emission test and how officials are preparing to get rid of it.
Corrections: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the number of bus shelters in Metro Transit’s system. There are 1,700.