The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), one year and a quarter after Governor Jay Inslee had signed a bill giving Seattle authority for automatic citations for drivers blocking crosswalks or intersections with their vehicles, has now announced locations for more enforcement in the entire city. SDOT had installed an automated camera enforcement system at Spokane Street Swing Bridge in early 2021. These new cameras, however, will be the first to provide clear intersections for people walking, cycling, or rolling.
The new automatic enforcement camera system includes three block-the–box cameras, four additional dedicated traffic lane cameras along transit corridors, one that will act as both, and four additional dedicated block-the–box cameras. Like the Spokane Street bridge, an offender who is first caught by camera will receive a warning. For each subsequent infraction, a $75 dollars ticket will be issued. Although warnings, citations, and other disciplinary actions will not be taken until 2022 according to the SDOT, the department will install signs informing drivers of restrictions in areas subject to camera enforcement.
Block-the-box cameras at 4th Avenue S., S Jackson Street and Battery Street, 4th Avenue N. Valley Street and Westlake Avenue N. Valley Street will be installed. Olive Way will have a camera at 5th Avenue. 3rd Avenue is located on either side of the transit corridor. It can be found at James Street, Stewart Street, 4th Avenue and Battery Street. 1st Avenue also has Columbia Street. For buses travelling to West Seattle, it will be at 1st Avenue. Galer Street houses buses using SR-99.
The cameras will operate in the same way that photo-enforcement systems are used in Seattle to issue tickets for speeding and red light violations. This will decrease the number of officers involved in traffic stops and allow for police to devote their attention to other public safety matters. This will also make enforcement more uniform, objective, fair,” SDOT’s blog post announces the rollout.
After taking into account expenses, the revenues from these cameras are split equally between Seattle’s City and Washington Traffic Safety Commission. Seattle’s portion will be dedicated to installing Accessible Pedestrian Signals on intersections throughout the city. Traffic Safety Commission’s spending tends be more focused on education and enforcement. Spokane Street cameras updated recently to reveal that both shares were about $390,000. The overhead cost for that period was 24.8%.
The law requires that violations be checked by a cop before being issued. “To protect privacy the cameras will only record vehicle licence plates and not the persons inside the car. SDOT’s blog posted that the photos will be used only for enforcing and blocking bus lane laws. While it is possible to want to transfer the act of reviewing these violations from the police department’s jurisdiction, such as Seattle did with its 911 dispatch or parking enforcement officer divisions in Seattle, that move would need approval by the state legislature.
If these cameras are to continue, then the state legislature will have until the end its 2023 legislative sessions to take action to stop the authority from issuing tickets expiring in June 30th 2023. A preliminary report has been submitted to the legislature by June next year. The full report on how the pilot program affected the state is due by the end of 2023. This pilot was approved by the legislature, which was a remarkable achievement. Many lawmakers expressed concern that they would face tickets if they drove in Seattle from places that were not within the pilot area.
SDOT also plans to install additional school-zone speed cameras over the next 12 months. These cameras will not be governed under the special authorization which oversees the transit and blockthe-box cameras. The department wants to make use of the extra cameras’ revenue to put more miles on neighborhood greenways. This is in an effort increase safety along routes used by school-goers and help bring the city closer towards its 2015 promise, which was to have 60 miles of neighborhood parks by 2024.
As Seattle works towards its stated goals, keeping transit lanes clear is essential. It’s especially critical for people who use curb ramps to move, and it’s important that they aren’t blocked. We appreciate the progress made by automated camera enforcement in Seattle, and hope it will be extended beyond the pilot program authorized by the legislature.