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Rural transit stop measure becomes law

Gov. Chris Gregoire signed legislation today allowing public transit vehicles to stop on highways in unincorporated areas to pick up and drop off passengers at unmarked stop zones.

"People who use public transit in the city usually have stops within a few blocks of their destinations, but stops are more spread out in rural communities like ours," said State Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, chair of the Senate Transportation Committee who sponsored the legislation. "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. This is a common-sense measure to legalize what rural transit agencies all over our state are already doing."

Senate Bill 5180 makes it clear that drivers of a public transit vehicle are allowed to stop on highways in unincorporated areas to receive or discharge passengers at unmarked stop zones. It requires they 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 received strong support from various local groups and individuals, including Martha Rose, executive director of Island Transit, who offered testimony before the Senate Transportation Committee when the bill was introduced.

“The passing of this bill represents a critically important step for the delivery of effective and efficient public transportation services in our rural areas,” Rose said upon hearing of the bill’s signing. “Our customers can conveniently flag down a bus instead of driving a vehicle, emphasizing our states proactive approach in reducing our carbon emissions while encouraging public transportation use. This is a momentous occasion for all of the rural transit systems across this beautiful State of ours, and I’d like to thank Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen for sponsoring this bill.”

The bill will go into effect in 90 days.

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