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Monday, August 14, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Northgate trade-off | Two-way downtown alleys | Bus-only access from Ash Way Park & Ride

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Q: Metro Transit riders accustomed to catching their bus at a sheltered stop near Northgate's new public library have discovered one of life's little trade-offs.

The Northgate community cherishes its new branch of the Seattle Public Library, opened last month. And the closest bus stop has been moved closer to the library entrance. But the new stop has no bus shelter and no place for those waiting for the bus to sit. The old bus stop, which was just down the street, did.

Riders like the convenience of the new stop, which is next to the new Northgate Community Center and a new park at Northeast 105th Street and Fifth Avenue Northeast. The new branch beats the community's old temporary branch. Still, riders miss their shelter and seating. They wonder if a new shelter is in their future.

A: The location of the new stop lacks the space for a shelter, says Metro spokeswoman Rochelle Ogershok.

Metro moved the bus stop a few feet south of where the old one had been so it would be closer to the crosswalk and to the signal there. "The move was designed to make the stop safer for riders," she said.

Unfortunately, though, the lack of seating is less convenient for seniors and others needing a place to perch while waiting for the bus.

But this may not be the last stop for the stop. The library's branch manager, Debra Westwood, says she's heard talk about the bus stop being moved again at some point, farther south to give wheelchair users, seniors, people pushing strollers and others easier access to the new park.

Q: West Seattle resident John Methot recently drove through the alley between First and Second avenues downtown, headed south from Virginia to Stewart streets. When he reached Stewart, a security guard there told him all alleys in downtown Seattle are one-way northbound.

"I've never heard of such a rule," said Methot, "and I don't believe such a rule would be enforceable unless the one-way nature of the alley was posted, at least at the 'wrong' end.

"How could a visitor to the city be expected to be aware of it, much less a lifelong resident like myself?" he asked.

A: The security guard was misinformed, says Wayne Wentz, the city's traffic-management director. If there were restrictions to two-way travel, signs would be posted, he said.

"You may travel in either direction in alleys unless the alley is signed for one-way travel."

Q: Why is it that the Lynnwood Park & Ride off Interstate 5 at 44th Avenue West has an access ramp directly to the freeway for buses and car pools, but the access ramp linked to the Ash Way Park & Ride farther north (off 164th Street Southwest) is reserved for buses only and off limits to car poolers?

"Will they eventually open this access ramp to car poolers?" asked Mill Creek resident Peter Fletcher.

A: Out of nine direct-access-ramp projects completed, currently under construction or in the works in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties, Ash Way is the only one not open to car poolers. "We weren't able to do that because of some special situations," said Jim Edwards, Sound Transit's deputy director for capital projects. Sound Transit is responsible for those direct-access ramps.

For one, the access ramp is close to the exit from Interstate 5 to Interstate 405, and the state Department of Transportation (DOT) and Federal Highway Administration had serious concerns that car pools using a direct-access ramp from the Ash Way Park & Ride would be tempted to leave the car-pool lane in the center of the freeway and cross several lanes of I-5 to exit to I-405 southbound.

"So, it's a safety issue," said Edwards. "It could be a potentially dangerous situation and cause a bottleneck."

The DOT said building the ramp to safely accommodate both transit and car pools would have required widening the freeway — and that cost would have been astronomical.

Other than the one in Lynnwood, other Sound Transit direct-access ramps, including those in the heart of Bellevue and linked to the Bellevue Transit Center, are open to car poolers. The new direct-access ramp in Bellevue's Eastgate area, which will serve the Eastgate Park-and-Ride, should be finished and open to the public by next month. It, too, will be open to car pools.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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