State police put kibosh on illegal ValleyRide bus stops

Bus drivers said they were trying to protect pedestrians from motorists.

kmoeller@idahostatesman.comMarch 8, 2014 

A ValleyRide bus stops on a large shoulder near Third and Main streets in Middleton, allowing traffic to pass.

KATHERINE JONES — kjones@idahostatesman.com

It happens all over the Treasure Valley: Motorists fail to stop for pedestrians crossing the street, including those who have just stepped off ValleyRide buses.

To help riders crossing busy highways and streets, some drivers have been stopping their buses in the lane of travel — even when a curb cut-in, extra lane or large shoulder is available.

That’s not going to happen anymore.

After receiving a couple of complaints about ValleyRide buses making stops outside of pull-outs — sometimes backing up traffic — an Idaho State Police trooper investigated.

A few weeks ago, Trooper Jeff Jayne parked his cruiser along Idaho 44 in Middleton and watched for a westbound bus traveling from Boise to Caldwell in early evening.

“Sure enough, I witnessed it stopping in the lane of travel when it could have pulled over to the shoulder,” said Jayne, who followed the bus and captured the illegal maneuver on his dash camera.

Jayne stopped the bus and talked to the driver.

“She said the passengers asked them to do that,” he said. “They had concerns for their safety, with traffic not yielding as they cross the road.”

Jayne called Bill Siewert, a road supervisor for ValleyRide Canyon County Services. The trooper was surprised when Siewert told him that he had instructed drivers to stop in the lane of travel to protect passengers getting off who want to cross the street.

Siewert declined to comment for this article.

“He claimed he had observed close calls, and he was upset over that,” Jayne recalled.

The problem, Jayne said, is that ValleyRide buses are not designed to operate like school buses, which have flashing red lights and a stop sign on an arm. Vehicles traveling in both directions must stop for school buses — but that’s not true for general public transportation.

A ValleyRide bus stopping in the road in areas where there are designated pull-outs could result in the bus being rear-ended, Jayne said. Frustrated drivers could try to drive around the bus, possibly veering into oncoming traffic and risking a head-on collision.

Passengers at the Middleton stop were apparently using a nearby crosswalk to cross the road, Jayne said. “It was my impression the bus was blocking the view of the crosswalk,” he wrote in an email describing the complaints to ISP.

Data on crashes involving cars that strike buses or pedestrians in ValleyRide’s service area was not immediately available.

“It’s a liability issue. You are really risking a lawsuit,” Jayne said.

ValleyRide has now instructed all of its drivers to use pull-outs when available rather than stop in the lane of travel, according to spokesman Mark Carnopis. If caught, scofflaws face a $90 ticket.

Valley Regional Transit owns the public bus system that provides service in Ada and Canyon counties. At peak times, up to 32 buses circulate in the two counties each day on five intercounty and 20 fixed-line routes.

In fiscal year 2013, VRT provided 1.46 million rides on fixed-line and inter-county service and 46,471 paratransit rides (transportation for those unable to use the regular bus system because of a disability).

The buses stop in lanes of travel on several major roadways, including Fairview Avenue, Chinden Boulevard, State Street and Nampa/Caldwell Boulevard, because no pull-outs exist there.

Jayne said he told Siewert that he could set up emphasis patrols to focus on motorists who aren’t yielding to pedestrians. But ValleyRide has not yet accepted that offer, ISP spokeswoman Teresa Baker said Wednesday.

Katy Moeller: 377-6413

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