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New traffic cameras to ticket drivers who illegally use transit lanes or block crosswalks

Starting in March, new traffic cameras will automatically ticket drivers who illegally use transit

lanes or block crosswalks and intersections.

Seattle Department of Transportation will install cameras in eight locations around downtown Seattle.

Seattle (February 16, 2022) – In M

arch 2022, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and Seattle Police Department (SPD) will begin turning on new traffic cameras in eight locations around Downtown Seattle. These traffic cameras will take photos of cars that are illegally driving in bus lanes or blocking crosswalks and intersections. These cameras will help improve public safety, reduce congestion, keep transit moving, and increase mobility for people with disabilities. A map and translated versions of this announcement are available on this blog post. The City of Seattle will begin activating these cameras in March. The cameras will be turned on gradually over several weeks in order to test the system in each location and give the public time to adjust to the changes. The new traffic cameras will photograph the license plates of vehicles violating the law. The first time someone is caught they will be mailed a warning letter. For any new violations after that, they will be mailed a $75 ticket. All locations have clear signs and pavement markings, with white lines indicating where the intersection “box” begins, and road markings indicating lanes which are restricted to buses only. The cameras are located in eight locations in downtown Seattle, South Lake Union, Belltown, Pioneer Square, and State Route 99. These locations were chosen based on their history of problematic and ongoing violations of people blocking the intersection or driving in the transit lane. The City will begin by turning on cameras which monitor bus lanes in five locations to prevent people from illegally driving where they are not allowed. This helps keeps buses moving, which in turn makes our transit system more reliable, benefiting everyone. Buses move more people at a time than individual cars, and every person taking a bus means one less car on the road, which is an incredibly important way to help address congestion and climate change for everyone. The City will then turn on cameras at four busy intersections to prevent people driving from blocking crosswalks and intersections after the light turns red (also known as “blocking the box”). It is illegal for drivers to enter an intersection unless they have a clear path to make it all the way through. This behavior is illegal and dangerous, increasing the risk of crashes and preventing people in crosswalks from safely crossing the street. This is especially dangerous for people with disabilities, as people who are blind, use wheelchairs, or have other mobility needs can get stuck in harm’s way in the middle of the street with no safe way back to the sidewalk. Blocking the box also increases congestion, preventing people from moving and bringing traffic to a standstill. SDOT announced the new camera locations and installed signs in November 2021 to make sure people had time to learn the rules of the road and avoid receiving tickets. SDOT has published this announcement in 10 languages, and will continue to share reminders on social media, with community based organizations, and through public service announcements. The Washington State Legislature authorized the use of cameras to enforce bus lane and intersection violations in 2020. Under state law, half of the net revenue from the traffic cameras will go to a Washington Traffic Safety Commission fund for bicycle and pedestrian safety projects, and the other half of the net revenue must be used to build safety and mobility improvements for people with disabilities in Seattle. SDOT plans to invest this in building more accessible walk signals which vibrate and make a noise to let people with limited vision or hearing know when it is safe to cross the street. The cameras will work like photo-enforcement cameras in other parts of Seattle which issue tickets for red light violations or speeding in school safety zones. This will mean fewer police officers making in-person traffic stops, so that police can focus on other public safety needs. This also makes enforcement more consistent, objective, and fair. To protect privacy, the cameras will only record vehicle license plates and not the people inside the car. The photos are only intended to be used for enforcing the bus lane and blocking the box laws, and are not intended for other law enforcement action.