Q: Seattle resident Kareem Grace lives in a neighborhood that's served by Metro Transit's electric buses that run on overhead lines, and that suits him just fine.

Share story

Q: Seattle resident Kareem Grace lives in a neighborhood that’s served by Metro Transit’s electric buses that run on overhead lines, and that suits him just fine.

The electric buses are a great neighborhood asset, he said. But on weekends, he says, residents can find themselves awakened by the sound of noisier diesel buses, “and we can smell the diesel fuel.”

Grace says he’s not sure why the switch is necessary, or why so often. “It does not seem to be linked to [Metro’s] previous excuse that it is the busy construction season,” he said.

A: Metro Transit spokeswoman Linda Thielke says motorized diesel buses are substituted on the system’s 14 electric-trolley bus routes, including three with routes through Grace’s neighborhood, for a few reasons.

Besides construction projects near overhead trolley wires, Thielke says substitutions sometimes are made to allow crews to work on the overhead lines themselves. Occasionally it may be because of a parade, a marathon or other special event along the trolley route.

Diesels permit flexibility, she said. Though they may not be as quiet, they are not tied to the electric-trolley route and can be rerouted when necessary. Substitutions are usually on weekends because that’s when more of the fleet’s diesel buses are available for the switch.

“While every effort is made to operate trolley routes with electric-trolley vehicles as much as possible, Metro’s first priority must be the safe and reliable operation of all service,” she said.

A Metro Web page — metro.kingcounty.gov/up/rr/m-trolley.html — is routinely updated with the routes, dates and reasons for the weekend switches, she said.

Q: No matter the season, West Seattle’s Alki Beach area seems to be a popular recreational draw. Elizabeth Visco, who lives across town in Fremont, says the Alki trail is a beautiful place for walking, jogging, biking and rollerblading. She goes there to rollerblade three to four times a week year-round, not just during the summer.

But she says she’s witnessed a number of near misses, when pedestrians have come close to being hit by a car either entering or leaving the popular Salty’s on Alki Beach restaurant parking area in the 1900 block of Harbor Avenue Southwest. She says traffic has no warning that pedestrians are crossing.

“There is some writing on the ground, but that is not sufficient,” she said. She thinks there should be a sign posted to remind drivers to watch for bikers, bladers and foot traffic. “What can the city or Salty’s do to make this a safer crossing?” she asked.

A: By law, drivers crossing a sidewalk while entering or exiting a driveway, alley or parking lot must stop and yield to pedestrians, joggers and others, says Eric Widstrand, the Seattle Transportation Department’s city traffic engineer.

Drivers entering a road from a driveway, alley, parking lot or roadside must yield to vehicles already on the main road.

In other words, Salty’s traffic is supposed to stop for traffic on the Alki trail.

The city considers it the property owner’s responsibility to maintain and operate the access points. But according to city records, there have been no reports of collisions associated with Salty’s driveways in the past three years.

With good visibility at that location, Widstrand said the city is not inclined to require any changes at this time, but his department has contacted Salty’s management to make them aware of public concern.

Bumper notes

The King County Transportation Department’s road division says its online road-alert Web page — www.kingcounty.gov/roadalert — has been enhanced to reflect both county and state Department of Transportation road closures.

During times of adverse weather, says the road division, the online map and e-mail alerts can be valuable tools for motorists traveling in unincorporated areas of the county.