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.
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.