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Bus stop bill passes Washington State Senate

A bill that would allow Island Transit and other bus services to legally stop on rural highways cleared the state Senate Friday.

The Senate gave its approval to a bill sponsored by Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, to allow public transit vehicle stops at unmarked stop zones under certain circumstances.

Island Transit has always made "flagged" stops along rural roads, but the legality of doing so came into question. Police organizations concerned about safety questioned the policy, and the law was unclear, according to Martha Rose, executive director of Island Transit.

“This is a common-sense measure to legalize what rural transit agencies all over our state are already doing,” said Haugen in a news release. Senate Bill 5180 allows drivers of public transit vehicles, including those of certain non-profit organizations, to stop on highways in unincorporated areas to receive or discharge passengers at unmarked stop zones.

“We can’t afford to build a formal bus stop as frequently as we would like along our rural highways, but that doesn’t mean we can’t give our transit drivers some discretion to pick up or drop off people when it’s safe and convenient to do so,” said Haugen.

The bill requires a driver to stop the vehicle as far to the right side of the roadway as practical so as to not significantly impede traffic, activate four-way flashing lights, and stop at a portion of the highway with an unobstructed view for any drivers approaching from behind the transit vehicle.

The bill passed the Senate on a unanimous vote and now proceeds to the House for consideration.

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