Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon,
D – Burien

Last week, State Representative Joe Fitzgibbon introduced House Bill 2403, which would add transit-only lane enforcement cameras to the list of automated traffic safety cameras authorized for use in the state.

The bill provides the process for enacting local ordinances for transit-only lane cameras, but sticks to existing language governing the use of such cameras.

The currently authorized uses of traffic camera enforcement are:
1. to detect running red lights.
2. to detect illegal railroad crossings.
3. to detect speeding in school zones. (Tacoma is the only locality permitted to use speed cameras, and is limited by statute to just one such camera.)

The regulations on use of transit lane cameras would be similar to those for the other three classes of cameras:

Automated traffic safety cameras may only take pictures of the vehicle and vehicle license plate while an infraction is occurring, and the pictures taken must not reveal the face of the driver or passengers in the vehicle. Photos and electronic images captured by a camera may only be used for the enforcement of traffic infractions for which their use has been authorized, and may not be retained longer than would be necessary for these enforcement purposes. Photos and electronic images are not available to the public and may not be used in a court in a pending action or proceeding unless that action or proceeding relates to a traffic infraction for which their use has been authorized.

The fine would be limited to $136, as set by the State Supreme Court.

Lizz interviewed Mark Hallenbeck, Director of the Washington State Transportation Center, back in September, on some of the technical difficulties with transit-lane enforcement cameras.

A public hearing (43:50) on the bill was held in the House Transportation Committee Monday.

Bill Bryant, representing King County Metro, testified in favor of the bill. He stated that 10-40% of vehicles in transit lanes are in violation. Red paint and better signage reduced the rate from 90% of vehicles to 50% of vehicles in violation in one place. Some other localities around the country with camera enforcement have seen bus speed improvements of 15-20% and schedule reliability improvement of up to 70%.

Wednesday afternoon (1:56:14), Rep. Gael Tarleton (D – Seattle), the bill’s co-sponsor, offered a proposed committee substitute bill that would make it a pilot project, limited to three transit corridors in King County. Rep. Jesse Young (R – Gig Harbor) moved an amendment to give a first-time warning for lane violators, which the committee accepted by a consensus voice vote.

Ranking Committee Republican Ed Orcutt (R – Kalama) spoke against the bill, saying he has inadvertently ended up in a transit lane before (pointing out the utility of painting the chosen lanes red), and that he would have to come back to Seattle to fight any ticket. He also favored giving police officers discretion to not issue tickets. Committee Chairwoman Judy Clibborn (D – Mercer Island) pointed out that the citations can be challenged by mail.

Rep. Morgan Irwin (R – Enumclaw), a former police officer who has done lane-enforcement duty, spoke against the bill, favoring police officer discretion. He brought up a story of out-of-towners who didn’t know about transit-lane laws, and ended up violating multiple transit lanes while in Seattle. He claimed they could have run through their warning and gotten multiple citations in a single day with the cameras. He contrasted transit-lane cameras to the other camera uses, which he said were for public safety purposes, while transit lane cameras are not. But he did find the substitute bill, with the warning, to be an improvement over the original bill.

Rep. Jeff Morris (D – Mount Vernon) said he would give the bill a “courtesy vote” to get it out of committee, but does not plan to support the bill on the floor. He said he has generally opposed traffic enforcement, and suggested only citing Seattleites for violating transit lanes.

The committee substitute bill passed out of committee with a do-pass recommendation on a 14-9-1-1 (no recommendation, excused) roll call vote.

This post was updated on January 21 to include the published committee substitute bill and vote record, and to remove a factual error on the placement of speed cameras, for which I am embarrassed to have published without fact-checking.

59 Replies to “Lege Considering Transit Lane Enforcement Cams”

  1. I don’t see why this is any different than a parking ticket. Every parking ticket I’ve had (and I’ve had a few) was issued to me without any discussion. I’m not even there. I don’t get a chance to explain the situation. If I didn’t see a sign, it is just my tough luck (and that has happened to me). I have a ticket, and if I want to contest it, I have to deal with office in the particular area. This might not only be away from my home, but even farther away from where the ticket occurred. For example, I failed to buy a SnoPark permit, and got a ticket at Snoqualmie Pass. If I contested it, I would have had to drive to Cle Elum. I would have gladly explained to the officer that I tried to buy a permit, but the place where they normally sell them (at the pass) was closed. I could explain that I always buy a permit, every year, but I had no chance. That is life, and I see this as being no different.

    1. Same. The only time I’ve received a parking ticket was when I parked on a street at night with no street lights. The next day I saw the RPZ sign and the ticket. I didn’t bother contesting because I figured $30 wasn’t worth the hassle.

  2. I keep forgetting how only residents of Seattle are capable of recognizing, comprehending, and following traffic signs and laws. God forbid people from out of town are held to the same standards.

    1. I think the idea is that, for a resident of Kalama, the idea of a bus lane is a foreign concept, so it’s not something they’re looking for. This is on contrast to stop signs, which are the same everywhere.

      1. A driver should be looking at all the signs in an area – and these aren’t like stealth signs. They’re pretty obvious.

  3. The only real reason to be against this proposal is if you are one of the “10-40% of vehicles in transit lanes in violation.”

    Also,

    “Rep. Jeff Morris (D – Mount Vernon) said he would give the bill a “courtesy vote” to get it out of committee, but does not plan to support the bill on the floor. He said he has generally opposed traffic enforcement, and suggested only citing Seattleites for violating transit lanes.”

    WHAT?!? Opposed to traffic enforcement, citing Seattleites only? Is this guy just a troll?

    1. It’s automobile privilege. Most of the state thinks like that. To RossB’s point, a traffic ticket or parking violation ostensibly harms another driver or is a safety hazard, while violating a transit lane just slows buses down so it’s less of a big deal, and shouldn’t be treated like a “full” ticket; that’s just big-brother nanny-state social engineering..

      1. I know you’re playing devil’s advocate, but driving in the transit lanes is a safety hazard. It’s impossible for pedestrians to get around safely if cars are going to completely ignore the rules of the road and behave in unpredictable ways. Two days ago I was almost hit while crossing Profontaine Pl in downtown Seattle by a driver illegally entering into the transit only street. The driver saw me crossing, didn’t slow down, forced me to run out of the way, and THEN slowed down to yell at me as he passed.

    2. Wow.

      Clearly he thinks people in his district are blithering idiots who can’t be trusted with the safe operation of their motor vehicles if they’re not on some farm road surrounded by tulip fields. If you can’t read the signs pertaining to safely operating an automobile, perhaps you shouldn’t be driving it?

      I, on the other hand, believe that our friends and neighbors in Skagit County and elsewhere outside of Seattle are perfectly capable of competently operating their cars whilst obeying relevant traffic laws – you know, not driving the wrong way down a one-way street or on a reversible-lane ramp, driving down bus or bicycle lanes, parking in restricted parking areas – that sort of thing. If they happen to make a mistake and are ticketed for it, they’ll get a ticket just like we do (myself included) when we’ve made a mistake. My own personal observations are that people intentionally use bus lanes to skip past traffic (i.e. at UW Hospital/Pacific) at least as often as making a confused turn into a bus lane and not trying to get out of it.

      Maybe he’s right, though, and the next time I’m driving in South Africa or Argentina, I’ll use the unfamiliar signs as my excuse to get off the hook. “Sorry, Your Honour, you drive on a different side of the road than I do/your signs are in a different language than I speak – thanks for dropping that ticket!”

      Grr.

    3. No, a troll is somebody who says things regardless of whether he believes them, saying whatever will likely cause the most controversy. A regular arguer stands up for his beliefs. I don’t know anything about Representative Jeff Morris, but his attitude is typical of many Washingtonians so I assume it’s a genuinely-held belief. And a courtesy vote is what a good representative sometimes does, to allow the entire House to vote on an issue. It’s not unlike signing an initiative that you’re not sure if you’ll vote for but you think it deserves to be considered by the voters as a whole. I used to do that with all initiatives, although now I don’t because too many of them have a narrow interest base or a covert agenda or unknown consequences or interactions with unaddressed issues (the way a cycletrack can displace transit lanes: we need to look at non-car access as a whole), so now I only sign initiatives I consider essential. Still, a committee representative does not have to hold a bill to the standard of essentialness.

      1. Agreed regarding the courtesy vote, but they certainly don’t have to play to the hatred of those urban citizens that keep his party in power by suggesting laws be enforced unequally (i.e. almost assuredly unconstitutionally) based on where you reside.

        I agree with the fact that we should paint all of our bus lanes, but that’s as much because I’ve seen it work well in many cities around the world as to keep the non-observant out of getting ticketed.

  4. Perhaps we could satisfy Senators Orcutt and Irwin’s arguments by limiting camera enforcement to transit lanes which are painted red?

      1. I agree that we should have have better signage tolling cars not to enter and brightly painted lanes for transit where possible, but it’s not always practical. What about about all the streets which are restricted to transit during certain times of day only (e.g. 3rd ave in downtown Seattle)? Or transit only lanes on the interstate (pretty sure that red interstate lanes would be against federal guidelines, not to mention very expensive).

  5. From two close personal experiences- Against With Ear-Laps.

    One: I-5 exit ramp NB I-5 to WB Kent Des Moines. Sudden fresh snow. Rear end collision- dent. Other driver- not injured. Three other cars already in the ditch. State patrol on-scene five minutes later. Ticket: Too Fast for Conditions.

    Decided to contest. Sudden snow ten minutes before. Sight-line bad, ramp steep. But main thing personal: Transit-driver is life-long To the Bone. Not about record or insurance, but performance on duty. What would a Metro investigator have found about precisely when, where, and how I could’ve prevented the collision?

    Subpoenaed the State Patrolman who cited me. Passing public defender suggested I go for “Deferred Finding”- clean record for I forget how long, and record cleared. Now? Would’ve been worth the fine to get Trooper Leifson’s take on my coach-handling. Though never saw such a happy overworked judge.

    And two:

    Month ago- school-zone camera clocked me at 29mph. First in my life. Could’ve claimed problem seeing sign. But made a point to pay the City of Des Moines in person. Young woman who took my payment told me she’d been sent to Olympia for training. And I knew money was going to a my last coffee stop before Angle Lake. Also: glad to catch an attention lapse I don’t want for a driving habit.

    So for transit lanes? Only Washington State Patrol for enforcement. (Any other police force on Earth with “Service With Humility” for a motto?) And driver’s own choice of recipients for their fine. Word would whatever Twittroscial Media is for “Get Around.” The world. Only drawback being people driving here to deliberately break the law. Maybe curable by giving everybody a citation on their Visitor ORCA card.

    But underneath it all, like Driverless anything: This is about Kurt Vonnegut’s epitaph for the world, applied to our City, County, Region, State, and country: “We could have saved the whole thing, but we were too (Donald Trump needs a totally world-record obnoxious expletive to cover up another residential-rodent violation) Cheap!

    Mark Dublin

  6. Their is no need for a bill. Seattle PD could run strict enforcement of transit only lanes with officers of a month and dial it back to on or two days a month once people realize its against the law. Plus Durken could order that start tomorrow.

    1. Nah. Watch the occasional 3rd ave enforcement. People stop doing it for maybe a day.

      They already know it’s against the law, they just also know that they can get away with it because no traffic cops are ever around or care.

      Also SPD always falls short of their officer recruitment goals; even though human-based enforcement likely pays for itself in ticket revenue, there’s not the manpower to do it with any frequency.

    2. Difficult to enforce much in heavy traffic without causing greater disriptions.

      Enforcement cameras are a safer way to achieve the goal of getting people out of these lanes.

      I am also fully on board with better signage, painting lanes and making 3rd a 24/7 transit only mall.

      We will need to add center bording lanes to increase capacity at some point anyway…

    3. The woonerf rules make it difficult to prove a violation. That law needs to change.

      Traffic stops on 3rd Ave snarl bus traffic. (But at least it isn’t drivers being impacted.)

      Traffic stops carry a risk of escalation, up to and including fatality. That happens more often than Rep. Irwin’s example of the one time that justifies letting all cars in transit lanes. But at least with traffic stops, officers get to find out the gender and ethnicity of the perpetrator before deciding what enforcement action to take, unlike with traffic cams where the driver’s image is blotted out.

      At any rate, if the state law specifies the use of red paint before installing the cams, and Mayor Durkan proceeds to order 3rd Ave painted red, that alone would make Fitzbiggon’s bill worth it. (And no, I am not asking for a state law telling Seattle to paint 3rd Ave red, just to be clear.)

  7. The San Francisco solution is what Rep Fitzgibbon should have tried for. Static cameras are easy to avoid and too expensive to put everywhere and hook up to a central storage facility.

    Buses already carry security cameras. Easy to add a camera to the front that activates only when the bus is in a bus lane.

    But this would be excellent for an sll hours Ref Third Avenue.

    And Orcutt has a point. Only Red lanes and streets should be camera-enforced.

    1. Nonsense. The law and the signs are clear. If people miss them, they are driving inattentively, their fault. But mostly, they don’t. They’re just cheating. Be honest.

      1. I agree that violators are in the majority intending to flout the law. A fun thing is to stand along the curb on Pacific near Montlake with a big camera and point it at violator cars’ plates. They quickly scramble into the next lane; they know what’s what.

        But in fairness to the few who don’t, confine the cameras to Red lanes.

      2. And if people honestly miss them, the signs aren’t prominent enough or clear enoguh. That’s the good thing about red paint: in some cities it signifies a fire lane (no parking), in other cities a transit lane, but in any case a large red patch raises the general awareness of “Maybe I shouldn’t drive here; I should check whether I can”, and that could lead them to notice the sign, and I think even somebody from Kalama would recognize “BUS ONLY”. They may be less certain what “TRANSIT ONLY” means, but “TRANSIT VEHICLES ONLY” or “TRANSIT AND EMERGENCY VEHICLES ONLY” should be clear.

      3. Sorry, this was about the red-lanes-only provision. Equipping buses with cameras to detect cheaters would be great. HOWEVER, I think there might be a challenge in getting the right angle (including license plate, accurate look at how many passengers are in the vehicle, etc. Cool idea though, if it could work.

      4. I don’t know it’s always clear. For example, on Pike between 3rd and 4th, there is a bus lane, but it is not painted. There is also not a sign until 2/3 of the way down the block, so I could see how someone could be in a bus lane without knowing.

        Although I know that legislator is being a PITA, I actually think painting transit lanes red is a great idea. Make it obvious. Then enforce it with cameras.

    2. With you on the bus-mounted cameras, Richard. Except deterrence-wise, would probably work just as well to have a strobe-light like a death ray in camera mount. And let the target’s, I mean driver’s guilty conscience do its worst. They’ll be dreading to collect their mail lifelong. But even better, they’ll never in their lives get in front of a bus anywhere.

      But, again, speaking from experience, regarding traffic law enforcement and gender: “Pulchritude” probably applied to male armed escorts, especially those keeping predecessors of buses away from the carriages of the nobility. But for any exercise of uniformed authority, I think the correct term is “Bonny.” Meaning the crisp grace and enthusiastic precision with which she leaves you cuffed watching your car towed.

      Mark

      1. Excellent idea. Put a forward-facing camera in the Metro busses, equipped with a strobe – do it like they do for the speeding cams in Germany. A yellow flash if you almost get a ticket, a red flash for – ticket’s int he mail.

      1. No, that’s a huge waste of storage. The only time that it’s illegal to delay a bus is when the bus is in a Red Lane. And the actual violation is BEING in the Red Lane, not delaying the bus. The bus simply becomes a data collection device that doesn’t need to be plugged in to mains power or the internet.

  8. Ranking Committee Republican Ed Orcutt (R – Kalama) spoke against the bill, saying he has inadvertently ended up in a transit lane before (pointing out the utility of painting the chosen lanes red), and that he would have to come back to Seattle to fight any ticket.

    This guy. It sounds like he admitted he did the crime. So why fight it? You broke the law, pay the fine and learn your lesson. Ignorance of the law is no excuse.

    1. Yeah, if you get ticketed away from your home and want to contest, Rep. Orcutt, that’s how it works. You and your ilk certainly are special snowflakes, aren’t you? I was ticketed in Grant County once, likely in a district represented in your party’s caucus, and you know what? I would have had to go to Moses Lake to contest it. However, unlike you, I knew I was in the wrong and I paid my damn ticket. You know, my obligation as a citizen.

    1. I didn’t understand what it meant in the headline last week until I started reading the article and found it was talking about the legislature. I have never heard this word outside these two headlines.

    2. I’m not a fan of that term either. I guess the kids like to abbreviate. I don’t know how to pronounce “Lege” is it like “ledge” or like “lee-age”. I’m guessing the former.

  9. I’m all for automated enforcement if it comes along with better signage. Just as one example, I sometimes merge on to Aurora northbound from West Green Lake Way N (on the southeast corner of the lake, roughly around 65th Street).

    I looked at Google Street View, which last photographed that area in September 2017. Aside from a solid white line between the bus lane and the other two lanes, there are no pavement markings or signs indicating that the right lane is in fact a bus lane until you get to 73rd St, or eight blocks away. Doesn’t exactly seem fair to give someone a ticket for violating the bus lane if they weren’t properly alerted that they were in one.

    Paint the bus lane red, paint “BUS ONLY” on there every block or two, and then start the cameras. Not before.

    1. Because that isn’t a bus lane until you get to about 73rd. Aurora was due for repaving and/or restriping anyway around the same time the 358 became the E, so they ended up doing it a few months early. Unfortunately, there was some confusion over whether the northbound E was going to take Aurora or Linden (they choose Linden), so they ended up signing several blocks as a bus lane where there were no buses.

      Apparently they took the signs down but didn’t fix the striping.

  10. I would also like to see enforcement cameras mounted on the buses themselves to detect drivers that fail to yield to buses merging left into traffic. It’s probably more complicated than I think, but it seems that we should be ticketing any driver that’s still moving past a bus three seconds after its left turn signal goes on. We could probably consider going fare-free or paying for UW-Ballard subway with the revenue!

  11. Automated traffic safety cameras may only take pictures of the vehicle and vehicle license plate while an infraction is occurring, and the pictures taken must not reveal the face of the driver or passengers in the vehicle

    1. Which is why a front-mounting on a bus is the best possible location for an automated traffic safety camera. The only possible violation of the proscription from showing the passengers’ faces would be in a ’50’s Olds station wagon with the third seat in use traveling down a busway. Otherwise, you’re going to get the plate and the rear bumper.

  12. I agree that we should have have better signage tolling cars not to enter and brightly painted lanes for transit where possible, but it’s not always practical. What about about all the streets which are restricted to transit during certain times of day only (e.g. 3rd ave in downtown Seattle)? Or transit only lanes on the interstate (pretty sure that red interstate lanes would be against federal guidelines, not to mention very expensive).

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