3rd Ave / photo by Zach Heistand

While the state legislature has shifted from prioritizing wealthy new car owners over carbon-footprint reducing electric mass transit to prioritizing both over education, the bill to allow automatic camera enforcement on transit-only lanes is still getting a chilly reception. Substitute House Bill 2403 got out of the House Transportation Committee back on January 17, and has been languishing in the House Rules Committee ever since.

The committee substitute bill reduces it to a pilot project, but one that could still be rolled out in plenty of time for One Center City’s period of maximum constraint.

Just like over the debate over how much to undo ST3, this is one of those typical Washington transit debates where the legislature isn’t debating whether to spend state money on transit, but whether it will allow local governments to operate transit.

A key piece of being able to operate transit in King County is HOV lanes (and in some cases HOV 3+ lanes) and transit-only lanes. Even in places like 3rd Ave in downtown Seattle, we still have lots of lane violators. Human enforcement requires pulling violators over, either blocking the transit lane, or blocking traffic in the surrounding, already-maxed-out, street grid. Granted, the violation rate would probably drop dramatically if Seattle were to drop its weird woonerf rules that allow cars on 3rd Ave outside of peak hours, and even more so if 3rd Ave were painted red. However, enforcement has been shown to have a significant positive impact even in red lanes, per data provided to the committee by Metro and SDOT.

SHB 2403 has until this coming Wednesday, February 14, to get voted out of the House. (If it impacted the state transportation budget, it would get more time, but it doesn’t.) Before it can get a vote on the House floor, it has to get out of the House Rules Committee, chaired by Speaker Frank Chopp (who also has the power to move bills out of the Rules Committee). This is an opportunity for Democratic legislators to show urban voters that the Democrats aren’t just about going more slowly than Republicans in the wrong direction, but can actually make progress on simple things that don’t involve spending state money. Until then, this is an opportunity to contact your legislators and let them know how important it is to you that buses have some dedicated right-of-way, with practical enforcement mechanisms.

15 Replies to “Action Alert: Transit-Lane Cam Bill Stuck in Rules Committee”

  1. How much more would it cost us to mount a camera in the windshield or somewhere else aboard every bus in the system? SF Muni does that, don’t they?

    Or maybe just a random few, or even none-and tell the public that every bus COULD have one? And anonymously put that on Twitter? And any legislative or media inquiry..just shrug and smirk? Plenty of evidence it works every time.


    1. Even with the minimum ticket value ($124?), I imagine the system would break-even even without automated parsing of the images. It would be especially effective if the transit agencies identified common locations for scofflaws delaying buses, correlated the times on the camera feeds with buses in those locations, and concentrated their efforts on generating tickets for just those locations.

  2. I’m at odds on this. On the one hand, private cars are constantly, flagrantly violating the bus lane rules. Something needs to change there.

    On the other hand, these kind of automatic ticket systems are rife with privacy abuses, kickbacks, and plain bad policy like not having enough/any human review of outgoing tickets. I’ve opposed red light cameras for years due to these issues.

    It is not like automated systems are unworkable, given very strict policies on retention, access to data, etc, but the entities running them have to tread VERY carefully. Big Brother concerns are one of the few things left that can actually unite left and right in opposition.

    1. Shawn, hat right do you think would be violated by cameras only inside bus windshields, and focused at a level that can’t even see who’s in the car?

      But part of me would still rather deal with a human police officer. Whom I can talk with in front of a judge. And still thinking like a professional driver, could also say how I can avoid the situation next time. I just don’t like being punished on the “word” of an automatic camera. Like a lot of bites taken out of our rights…not campaign of tyranny, but guilty ’til proven otherwise being easier on the budget.

      My own pet example, and right now, hate: I accidentally don’t “Tap” my Prepaid Monthly Orca card when leaving a train. So when I deliberately tap the card “On”, it reads “Off”, making me as Fare Evasive as a thief, and punished accordingly. So well personifying the spirit of humanity-separated law enforcement that I’ll sign your petition against Traffic Camera One.

      If you’ll + my Twitter-Tweet saying that these cameras are part of Steve O’ban’s private prison portfolio. Which also involves dog-food made only with the meat of the most expensive pure-bred horses only found stabled near Grandview Boulevard.


    2. @Shawn — Ever get a parking ticket? How is that different? I’ve had my share, and sometimes well deserved. But other times the infraction was ridiculous, but not worth the bother of fighting. Same with these.

      If anything, it is more just. I know cops see people going over the speed limit all the time, but only choose to pull over a handful. With an automated system, that doesn’t happen. You might have a good excuse for being in the bus-only lane. But if the camera shows you were, you were.

    3. As Brent said, there’s already existing law to protect civil rights. In general, though, I don’t know why people should expect privacy when they’re using a transportation system that requires licensing (personal vehicles/private drivers) that is one of our nation’s foremost public health crises (33k dead/year and millions injured, not even counting health problems from pollution and obesity) on a publicly-funded road network. I say this as an ACLU member of 12 years too.

    4. The car I was driving got an automatic speeding ticket for going too fast in a school zone.

      I got access to a photo and a video of the incident, it was pretty damn clear what I did, and there was no excuse for it.

      From what I saw in the documentation the incident was automatically flagged, but it was reviewed by a Seattle Police Officer before the ticket was issued.

      I was pleased how clear the documentation of the incident was, and I felt fairly treated by the system, even though I was in the wrong. (I used to live in Ohio, where speed enforcement used to be really strict, so I felt railroaded many times before.)

      FWIW, I there should be one grace ticket per vehicle. I’d rather educate people that its being enforced to encourage their future compliance, than to ding people for money… Now if we could somehow tie it to the value of the vehicle that’d be even better. Driving a jalopy? That’s a smaller fine than driving a brand new Tesla.

      1. Nope, got to nip that “one warning” idea in the bud.

        It’s the preeminent moneymaker for those municipalities that have a low retail presence, you will be killing their golden goose.

        If you warn people, then they will, heaven forbid, start obeying the law to such a precise degree, those municipalities will go bankrupt.

        Sales Tax revenue is what makes the world go ’round.

        It’s why certain municipalities pretty much send the message “We don’ need your stinkin’ toy trains!”, because what they want is wide, car-centric boulevards populated with the largest revenue producers – auto dealerships.

        It’s what keeps Kirkland in the money.

  3. I called Sharon’s Wylie’s office and left a message. I’m in her 49th LD and have actually talked with her a couple of times at local Democratic events. So maybe she’ll listen to me. At least, I hope so.

  4. When I drive to work (yes, I know), I drive home along Howell. Part of me is amazed by how often cars abuse the bus lane, but I’m also not surprised given how little enforcement there is.

    However, I think either the time restrictions should go, or the signage or lane markings or something needs to get even better. I also walk that corridor a bit, often during lunch when the bus lane is not in effect. During those times, using Howell to get to I-5 South is bizarre. You have to first drive in a lane marked BUS ONLY because there are cars parked in the lane marked for I-5 South, but you’re not sure whether you can drive in that lane because when traffic is actually moving smoothly (remember, it’s not rush hour) you can’t read the time restrictions on the sign quickly enough. Then the parking ends and you’re supposed to move over in to the I-5 South lane across a double-white line (which you’re never supposed to cross, but apparently that is somehow in effect only during rush hour?).

    In short, all the lane/pavement markings are for rush hour and make no sense outside of rush hour when parking is allowed on the right (south) side of Howell between 9th and Boren, and this really must be confusing for drivers trying to get to I-5 south during those hours.

    1. Ugh, yes Howell Street is a mess and the various construction sites along it aren’t helping matters. It’s totally confusing even for someone who understands what the traffic engineers tried to accomplish. I feel sorry for infrequent and out of town drivers who try to use it.

Comments are closed.