Buses can get a jump-start on green lights

This was an interesting one.

“Several times recently I have noticed buses … stopped at a red light and then proceed through the intersection while the light is still red,” writes Chester Swanson of Everett.

Most recently, a Community Transit bus heading northbound on Highway 99 seemed to run the red at 148th Street SW in north Lynnwood. “In fact, the bus was almost to the Highway 525 overpass before the rest of us waiting at the intersection got a green light,” Swanson recalled.

“Is there some exception to the normal Washington traffic laws that allows a bus to go through a red light?”

Yup. Well, sort of.

Community Transit has heard this question before, and everything is quite legit — if not completely visible to the common driver.

“Because the northbound bus lane ends just north of 148th Street and buses must merge left into general traffic lanes, the Washington State Department of Transportation installed what is called a ‘queue jump’ light at this intersection,” said Martin Munguia, a spokesperson for Community Transit. “This signal turns green for the right-hand lane before the regular green light, allowing cars to make a right turn at 148th and buses to go straight so they can get into the general purpose lane.

“Basically, buses get a few seconds’ jump on other northbound traffic,” Munguia said. “This signal is only triggered if a bus is present in that lane. A transponder on the bus communicates with the signal box. If you are sitting in a car in the regular traffic lanes, you can’t see the right-hand signal (a safety precaution to keep all cars from moving at that time), but there is a sign at the intersection.”

Have a question? Email us at streetsmarts@heraldnet.com. Please include your name and city of residence. Look for updates on our Street Smarts blog.

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