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Monday, August 28, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM


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Coming: more bike racks on buses

Seattle Times staff reporter

Q: William Hargrove of Seattle said he and his children like to put their bikes on Metro buses, but there aren't enough bus racks to handle them. "When will they get more bike racks for buses?" Hargrove asked. "I have two kids, and we all like to ride our bikes. We would ride more and go more places in the city if we could take our bikes along."

A: Metro has been working on adding more bike-carrying capacity for some time, said Metro spokeswoman Linda Thielke. "You should start seeing three-bike racks on some routes by the end of the year," she said. "It took a good deal of research to design a three-bike rack that was lightweight yet sturdy, offered enough front-end clearance for safe bus operations and could be manufactured to Metro's specifications."

She said Metro has just opened bids on the project and expects to award a contract soon. The racks then will need to be fabricated and installed. The plan is to first install them on buses assigned to routes that cross Highway 520, because there are no bike lanes on the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge. Other buses will be retrofitted with new bike racks starting next year.

Q: With increased security, one reader raises questions about clearing Customs on Washington State Ferries.

"I traveled from Sidney, B.C., to Anacortes and it seems like I had to clear Customs twice," said Patrick Shaw of Seattle. "Ouch! In Sidney, we were asked for our identification, asked our business in Canada and in the United States, if we'd purchased anything and so on — and then we waited for 90 minutes for the boat and were unable to make the short walk to town, since we'd already cleared Customs, or so we were told.

"Imagine our surprise when the same thing happened in Anacortes! I'd love to know what gives, and if there is any rationale, logical or otherwise, for doing that work twice."

A: That's a great question, said Jayne Davis, regional operations manager with the state ferries.

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She said U.S. Customs and Border Protection performs a "pre-clearance" function at the Sidney terminal. They are basically screening passengers and their documents to ensure no unauthorized people are allowed to enter the country. Then, when passengers arrive in Anacortes, customs officials screen people's belongings and their vehicles. "To put it another way," she said, "they do the immigration function in Sidney and the customs function in Anacortes."

Q: Raechelle Marsh of Seattle writes, asking if the second-left lane on Ninth Avenue in Seattle is allowed to turn left onto Broad Street. "I drive that way to work, coming down Westlake, onto Ninth, and then turn left onto Broad at the light from the far-left lane. I usually get into the right-hand lane on Broad Street as soon as I can as I turn into the parking lot at Terry Avenue. Occasionally I have a car next to me in the second-left lane that turns with me. We nearly touch because I'm not expecting them to turn too. The sign that hangs above that intersection states that the two left lanes turn, but I thought that was for the Mercer intersection."

A: According to Wayne Wentz, director of traffic management for the Seattle Department of Transportation, "at this location, left turns can only be made from the left-hand lane. Vehicles from this lane can either turn left or proceed straight through the light. The lane just to the right of this lane is a through-only lane. To make this clearer to drivers, we will paint directional arrows in the lanes.

"I'd like to remind all drivers that when making a left turn in any location, turn into the leftmost lane of the direction of traffic, and make any desired lane changes after completing the turn."

Bumper note

When the downtown Seattle bus tunnel shut down last year, many predicted gridlock on city streets. But a new report from Metro says downtown traffic times are actually improving.

It found the average time on Second Avenue through downtown Seattle has improved by one minute in the morning peak and two minutes in the evening peak. Third Avenue times improved by a minute in the northbound direction and slowed by a minute southbound compared with a report released earlier this year. Travel times also decreased on Fourth Avenue South.

While about 95,000 bus riders traveled through downtown Seattle each weekday in the fall of 2004, before the tunnel closure, that number grew to 103,000 a day this past spring.

The tunnel is scheduled to reopen no later than September 2007 for buses, and the trains are expected to begin running in the tunnel in 2009, when the light-rail line opens.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company



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