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.
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.