C-Tran hears of flawed layout at bus stop site

Where woman died, drivers face a tricky maneuver in traffic

By Eric Florip, Columbian transportation & environment reporter

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As C-Tran awaits the outcome of a police investigation into this month’s fatal bus accident in downtown Vancouver, this week it heard questions about the incident from a man connected to another recent tragedy.

Vancouver resident David Sale addressed the C-Tran board Tuesday with some of his own safety concerns — including the locations of bus stops and crosswalks near the scene of the Dec. 2 accident.

Sale’s own daughter, Danielle, was one of two people killed in a 2010 accident involving a TriMet bus and a group of pedestrians in Portland. Three others were injured. Sale has since advocated for improved safety around public transit, and expressed the same wish this week.

“I am here to help,” Sale said, “and not hurt.”

Just before noon on Dec. 2, a No. 4 C-Tran bus struck and killed Margaret McCluskey, 88, at the intersection of Washington and Eighth streets. The bus was turning left from Eighth onto southbound Washington when it hit McCluskey in the crosswalk, according to police. The driver, Al Purvis, was placed on paid administrative leave — which is standard C-Tran procedure — until the investigation is over.

Vancouver police haven’t finished that inquiry yet, said spokeswoman Kim Kapp. C-Tran will conduct its own review when the police report is released.

On Tuesday, Sale highlighted what he felt is an unsafe location for a bus stop on the west curb of a one-way Washington Street. Buses coming from Eighth Street — as the one that struck McCluskey was — have to turn left, then get over to the far right side of the street to reach the stop at Seventh.

“That bus stop doesn’t belong there,” Sale said. “You’re giving a driver a block to get over three lanes.”

C-Tran public affairs director Scott Patterson said the agency constantly evaluates bus stop locations across its service area. The same goes for route schedules. That and other downtown stops are likely to be a part of the conversation, he said.

The stop at Seventh and Washington streets is a relatively recent addition, having been placed on the C-Tran map in 2007. That’s when the 99th Street Transit Center opened, closing the old downtown transit center and reconfiguring multiple bus routes in the area. The intersection now sits near a large office building and residential units.

Given this month’s accident, “we’re going to be looking at all of those things in and around that vicinity,” Patterson said, noting that safety is a “huge” priority for C-Tran.

“It always has been,” he said.

Long process

Tuesday wasn’t the first time Sale has reached out to C-Tran. He’s been in contact with the agency for months, and commended C-Tran’s recent steps to look at new driver training programs — a process that started well before this month’s accident, Patterson said. The programs will be used in core group meetings with C-Tran drivers early next year, Patterson said.

During the board meeting, Vancouver City Councilor Bart Hansen welcomed Sale’s input. Such concerns from citizens and riders are “exactly what we need to hear,” he said.

Hansen, himself a regular C-Tran rider, later said he’s often attended neighborhood association meetings and heard other citizen feedback that’s valuable for C-Tran leaders. Sale’s collaboration adds another strong voice, Hansen said, and it’s important for the agency to take that information and use it.

“Here’s somebody who has a very vested interest in safety, because they’ve gone through a very traumatic ordeal,” Hansen said.

Funeral expenses

Last week, C-Tran Executive Director Jeff Hamm sent a letter directly to McCluskey’s family offering condolences. That followed a statement issued on the day of the accident.

“On behalf of the three hundred and ninety men and women who work here at C-Tran and its board of directors, I wish to express our deepest sympathies and condolences for your loss,” Hamm wrote, in part. “We extend our thoughts and prayers to all of the family at this difficult time.”

In the letter, the agency also offered to pay for expenses related to McCluskey’s funeral and family travel. That would be paid through the agency’s insurance policy with the Washington State Transit Investment Pool, according to Patterson.

Patterson said this week that the agency hadn’t heard back from the family.

Eric Florip: 360-735-4541; http://twitter.com/col_enviro;eric.florip@columbian.com.