As we mentioned yesterday, HB 1793, a bill that would authorize automatic cameras to prevent bus lane cheating and blocking the box, is in danger of failing.

The bill, sponsored by Representative Joe Fitzgibbon (D-34, Seattle), would allow Seattle to install cameras that would take photos of a violator’s license plate when a driver blocks an intersection or crosswalk, or illegally uses a bus lane.

Transportation Choices Coalition issued an action alert to its social media and email followers, asking supporters “to stand up for safe streets and transit reliability” by sending a comment to legislators.

The concerns about disproportionality have it backwards. Traffic stops by police create the opportunity for discrimination, and are more dangerous to everyone involved. Indeed, traffic stops during peak hour, when most of the cheating occurs, end up gumming up traffic worse.

You can also call the toll free Legislative Hotline at 1-800-562-6000 to voice your opinion, or call your representatives’ offices directly after looking up their Olympia office phone numbers here. The calls will get faster attention than emails. Doing both says you care. The cut-off for getting non-budgetary House bills out of the House is 5:00 this afternoon.

You can watch the House proceedings on TVW, and follow the details online.

Brent White contributed to this post.

40 Replies to “Bus lane enforcement / pedestrian safety bill may fail”

  1. Why can’t Olympia just leave us alone? I bet the republicans would be in favor of traffic cameras if they were for the Tri-Cities, but I swear they just have it out for Seattle.

    1. The original bill did not limit the new camera enforcement to Seattle. That was done in committee. I don’t think it gained the bill any friendly legislators. Unfortunately, the committee amendments have now been hidden, so we don’t know who to hold accountable for asking for something designed to reduce support for the bill, getting it, and then still wholeheartedly opposing the bill because they hate public transit.

      1. ” … so we don’t know who to hold accountable … ”

        Washington State House of Representatives – Democrat Majority.

        Washington State Senate – Democrat Majority.

    2. No, the Republicans would be even LESS in favor if the cameras were in the Tri-Cities. The Republicans are in favor of lawbreaking if it means their narcissistic, self-absorbed “base” gets to speed in their five ton Ram Duallys.

      1. Well you know what? I’m not, troll. I can’t ride any longer because if my knees, but when I did I obeyed traffic control signs and signals, did not ride on sidewalks when pedestrians were present, and yielded the right of way to them in crosswalks.

        I was a “defensive rider” and am a defensive driver because I know that way too many narcissistic loons sit behind the steering wheel.

  2. Next time I get a parking ticket I will make the same argument they are making against this bill. If I can’t fight the ticket *when it occurs*, then I shouldn’t have to pay. This really is a case of representatives failing to make the right analogy. This is not like a moving violation. The ticket won’t go on your record. It is very much like a parking ticket.

    1. “This is not like a moving violation.”

      And there’s the rub. Camera enforcement measures like this change the rules of the road, making what IS INDEED a moving violation into an infraction against the vehicle registrant, akin to a parking citation just as you say. The former is an infraction committed by the particular driver of a vehicle at any given time, who may or may not be the registrant (obviously). The latter type of infraction always falls on the registrant of the vehicle, regardless of which driver actually put the vehicle into an “illegal” situation. On its face, such a piece of legislation may not seem like such a big deal, but it truly is a major shift in thinking, and by extension policy, in regard to how we regulate driving in our state. The end result, should this bill survive and be enacted into law, is that we will have yet another carve-out for photo enforcement of what remain moving violations at the end of the day. The additional carve-out limiting the authority to Seattle’s jurisdiction, which apparently resulted from committee changes to the original bill, doesn’t change that context.

      1. A car *does not* need to be moving to incur this infraction. Therefore, it isn’t a moving violation. If I park in a bus lane, I’m breaking the law. If I drive the speed limit in a bus lane, I’m breaking the law. If I speed in a bus lane, I’m breaking the law, along with another law (speeding). It is pretty simple logic, that the legislators can’t seem to grasp.

        What is especially frustrating is that they already allow camera based tickets for *moving violations*. Driving too fast in a school zone is clearly a moving violation. If you do it in front of a cop, they can pull you over, write you an old fashioned ticket, and next thing you know, your insurance goes up 50%. But If I go over the school limit (but under the regular limit) on MLK day, I’ll still get a ticket. I will have to go down to the courthouse and explain that since it was MLK day (a national holiday) no one was in school, and the judge (of course) will waive the ticket. In other words, moving violations — like going through a red light or going too fast in a school zone — can be enforced automatically and applied to the owner of the car, without immediate recourse, just the way that parking tickets can. Yet this action — which resembles illegal parking far more in terms of harm as well action — can not.

      2. Ross is exactly correct, Tlsgwm. This is a form if trespass, not a driving infraction.

        If I trespass on someone’s property and leave something of value behind, it de facto becomes his property. Unless it is a registered vehicle or something bearing positive identification, I would face a high bar to prove my ownership.

        Perhaps we should just arrest the vehicle for criminal trespass and give it 30 days in the hoosegow?

      3. “Therefore, it isn’t a moving violation….”

        Parking in a bus lane or speeding in a bus lane aren’t particularly relevant to what I was saying previously. Those are indeed infractions that are enforced (at times) and adjudicated by our present system. I’m not saying that they don’t represent problems to both safety and mobility, but in the context of this discussion are simply not germane to my point. Driving in a transit lane is another matter:

        “For cars, travelling in a Bus Only or BAT lane is a moving traffic violation that comes with a $136 fine. It is enforceable by the Seattle Municipal Code, section SMC11.53.230.”*

        Furthermore, WAC 308-104-160 specifies which traffic offenses constitute moving violations:

        “For purposes of RCW 46.20.2891, 46.65.020, and this chapter, the term “moving violation” means any violation of vehicle laws listed in this section that is committed by the driver of a vehicle, while the vehicle is moving.”

        Continuing:

        “(34) High occupancy vehicle lane violation, as defined by RCW 46.61.165;”**

        Thus, as currently defined under WA statutes, driving in a bus only/transit only/BAT lane is a moving violation and as such a driver cannot currently be issued a citation through automatic camera enforcement. Hence, we have the current piece of legislation in Olympia seeking to issue another carve-out for utilizing such methods (such as with the two existing carve-outs you cite in your comment).

        “In other words, moving violations — like going through a red light or going too fast in a school zone — can be enforced automatically and applied to the owner of the car,…”

        Exactly. Those carve-outs for such moving violations are already in place. HB 1793 will create a third exception.

        Why should the nature of the method of enforcement have the effect of changing the nature of the underlying infraction? (RQ) That’s the problem with using such a tactic that’s at the heart of these carve-out provisions, as well-intentioned as they may be. This sort of approach inevitably leads to inconsistencies in the adjudication of the underlying traffic offense.

        Running a red light, speeding in school zone and driving in a restricted/transit lane are all moving violations and should impact the DRIVER’S record regardless of the method of enforcement. In this regard, driving in a bus lane is quite dissimilar to a parking infraction. Isn’t that why we make the distinction between moving and nonmoving violations to begin with? (RQ) The former is dealing with the infractions committed by a driver in the act of driving (under the influence being the notable exception); the latter concerns dealing with the consequences of the illegal placement of a vehicle and for which the vehicle’s registrant is held liable. Treating certain moving violations “like parking tickets” for the sake of pragmatism is the wrong approach imo.

        FWIW. I have no problem with using technology for traffic enforcement as long as doing so doesn’t change the nature of the underlying infraction being cited. Running a red light is running a red light. Speeding in a school zone is speeding in a school zone. And driving in a bus lane only/transit lane only/BAT lane is the same, all moving violations for which the DRIVER should be held responsible.

        *https://sdotblog.seattle.gov/2016/02/03/dont-block-the-box-and-transit-lane-enforcement-safety-first-reminder/

        **https://app.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=46.61.165

      4. Since a parked car can receive the same ticket it is NOT “a silly assertion”. A parked car can NOT “run a red light” or “speed in a school zone”. But it CAN receive a citation for occupying a BAT or other Red lane.

        That is why it IS a form of “trespass”. It shouldn’t be there FOR ANY REASON or AT ANY SPEED during the stated hours of exclusion. That SURE as hell sounds like “a parking ticket” which IS in fact a type of “trespass”.

        Just because not statue explicitly states so doesn’t not mean it is not so.

      5. @Tlsgwm – You are missing the point. Technically this is a moving violation, but for all intents and purposes, it is not. It is more like a parking violation. In a normal moving violation, the driver is putting other people at risk. Illegal lane changes, going through a red light, speeding, and other similar acts can kill people. That is why insurance companies raise rates on people who make these sort of violations. It is why the state will requires traffic safety classes or suspend someone’s license if they have too many violations. But parking tickets are in a separate class. You might pay a lot in fees, you might get towed, but your insurance rates won’t go up, nor will you have to attend safety classes. That is because no one considers bad parking a safety concern. The same should be true of driving in a transit lane.

        The only area where transit lane violation resembles a moving violation is in enforcement. Ticketing parking violators would be very time consuming if meter maids had to wait until the driver got back to the car. Thus they are in a special category, in that the officer can ticket the owner of the car, not the driver. But this is precisely the argument that proponents are making, which is a key reason for the proposal. It is very difficult to enforce transit lane violations. Otherwise, there would be no point in bothering with this bill.

        These are the two key reasons why this bill is proposed:

        1) It is not a major safety concern.
        2) It is difficult to enforce on the driver (albeit for different reasons than parking violations).

        In that regard, it is very similar to parking, and should be treated as such. If anything, the red light cameras and school zone laws *are not* similar. It is quite possible that violators are endangering the populace, yet they are being treated like a parking violator. That is what makes this so frustrating. If you drive way too fast in a school zone, the owner of a car gets ticketed. If you park in a transit lane, the owner of the car gets ticketed. But if you *drive* in a transit lane, then you could get pulled over, asked to provide insurance, and otherwise hassled. Thus you are treating the lesser of the three violations more harshly, which is ridiculously inconsistent.

        The only reason this persists is simple minded lack of imagination. Folks are used to fighting violations while in their car, and don’t want to see that go away. But these same people fail to consider that such ticketing is common, and happens every day, often to innocent people. If we passed a law allowing for automatic camera enforcement of parking violations, do you really think people would object? Of course not, yet the similarities are quite obvious to this bill.

      6. @RossB Respectfully, I think you’re missing MY point. The method of enforcement should not change the underlying nature of the traffic infraction; it’s either a moving violation or it’s not. These types of carve-out statutes create the inconsistencies in the adjudication of the traffic infraction involved (the result of an action taken by the DRIVER of the vehicle I might add) as I explained previously. If driving in a transit lane is to be treated as a nonmoving violation, then the legislature should state its intent and remove it from the list of infractions they consider to be of that category, rather than formulating another carve-out that creates this inconsistency in the adjuducation process.

        I’m sorry but while I understand your analogy in regard to parking infractions, I just don’t find your argument terribly persuasive. As long as driving in a transit lane is considered a moving violation, then it is the driver who should be held responsible for that infraction, not the vehicle’s registrant.

        Listen. I truly understand the point YOU’RE trying to make here, which seems to align with the bill’s advocates’, and for which pragmatism seems to be at its core:

        “It is very difficult to enforce transit lane violations.”

        I’m not disputing that assertion, but that fact alone does not change the nature of the infraction. (Just as an aside, it’s very difficult to enforce all sorts of driving infractions.) Nor should the method of enforcement for such infractions be cause to change said nature. They are what they are. If the legislature really wanted to be bold and break out of that mold of “simple-minded lack of imagination”, as you say, then they could reclassify the infraction at issue here and avoid another carve-out that creates further inconsistencies in how the same offense is adjudicated. A driver travelling illegally in a bus only lane in Bellevue and cited by an officer for the infraction would have their situation adjudicated in a very different fashion from a similar driver committing the very same offense in Seattle but where automatic camera enforcement is in place. Should we just push aside fairness for the sake of pragmatism?

  3. If this fails, is there a way to at least make this the case on a county basis? (I think that at the very least, the king county legislature could make this occur.)

  4. I just called my three legislators directly now. It could not have been easier and quicker, probably 90 seconds total of time to call all three. Spoke directly with someone who passed it on to the legislator. I strongly encourage you to call and will take less time than writing a comment here but could have a huge effect.

  5. This legislation has until 5pm on March 13 to pass… so Seattle Transit Blog does a post on the same day?

    With advocacy like this, it’s no wonder our elected officials don’t put a higher priority on transit.

    1. Whelp, it looks like they are now adjourned for the day. Looks like they did vote on six license plate bills though, so at least we’ll get some entertaining license plates to weave through as you try to cross the road without getting killed.

    2. Because things change quickly? Because this is a volunteer organization and people have day jobs?

    3. Because the first sentence of the post mentions we also posted about this bill Tuesday, and that post in turn linked to a post on the bill earlier this year?

      Start by reading the first line of each post before trolling it.

  6. I don’t have a problem with traffic cameras, I take issue when they’e operations are contracted out and traffic signal timing is adjusted < Chicago style.. Automated enforcement is fine but we have to avoid corrupt automated enforcement.¿R

    1. Well, since there are no “signals” to “adjust” you should be good with this use of them.

  7. Under RCW 9.91.025, unauthorized vehicular use of transit property, including transit lanes, is a criminal misdemeanor. It also counts as obstructing a lane of traffic, which to my knowledge is considered a moving viilation by the SMC. While I’d love to see automated transit lane enforcement, I can see why the state is hesitant to turn people into convicts by camera.

    1. If the current law were enforced under this section, SPD could give a trespass warning to first-time violators and arrest repeat violators. Maybe that option should be kept in mind, at least to the level of giving the stern warnings. As for me, I’d prefer red paint to make the lane more obviously off limits.

      1. I’d prefer the arrests. My neighborhood has had a parking problem for decades. Just this year, we finally got 2 full time officers employed solely to take care of the problem. One night of ticketing every car up and down the worst stretches, and in less than 24 hours the issue disappeared.

        Until forced into compliance, many will not care. Shoot for the stars, and you’ll at least hit the moon. It is sadly policing through shock and awe, but when rampant lawlessness is the problem, the stick is sadly the solution.

      1. You left off the key point of the statute to slant the argument against me.

        “(2) For the purposes of this section:
        (a) “Transit station” or “transit facility” means all passenger facilities, structures, stops, shelters, bus zones, properties, and rights-of-way of all kinds that are owned, leased, held, or used by a transit authority for the purpose of providing public transportation services.”

      2. Sorry but the definitions contained in section (2) don’t change the intent of the language contained in section (1). Your argument centers on the narrow portion of the statute that refers to ROWs. If the legislature intended this statute to speak to the issue of DRIVERS illegally travelling in marked transit lanes, it would have spelled that out. It doesn’t. And courts in general have little interest in expanding a statute’s scope when doing so flies in the face of the known intent.

  8. Tlsgwm, (1)(h) and (p) clearly show that vehicle conduct is well within the intent of this legislation. “Known” intent is subjective and in this case incorrect. Metro and Sound Transit point this out on those little metal signs that nobody reads at P&Rs and Transit Centers.

    1. You appear to be doubling down on your misunderstanding of RCW 9.91.025. This statute has been modified and amended several times over the last few decades, including the two sections you have chosen to site. Section 1(f) was added during the enactment of SSB 6505, which was signed into law on Mar 2, 1994. Section 1(p) was added with the enactment of ESSB 5513 which was signed into law on Apr 29, 2009. Both bills were very clear with their intent; they were dealing with public transit conduct:

      SUBSTITUTE SENATE BILL 6505
      Chapter 45, Laws of 1994
      53rd Legislature
      1994 Regular Session
      PUBLIC TRANSIT–UNLAWFUL CONDUCT
      EFFECTIVE DATE: 6/9/94

      AN ACT Relating to public transit facility security; amending RCW 7.48.140, 9.66.010, 9.91.025, and 7.48.020; creating a new section; and prescribing penalties.

      ENGROSSED SUBSTITUTE SENATE BILL 5513
      Chapter 279, Laws of 2009
      61st Legislature
      2009 Regular Session
      UNLAWFUL TRANSIT CONDUCT–CIVIL INFRACTIONS
      EFFECTIVE DATE: 07/26/09

      AN ACT Relating to law enforcement authority concerning civil infractions and unlawful transit conduct; amending RCW 7.80.090, 7.80.010, 9.91.025, 81.112.020, 81.112.210, 81.112.220, and 81.112.230; adding a new section to chapter 81.112 RCW; and prescribing penalties.

      Since in your commentary you are construing a totally different intent based on a very broad interpretation of a small provision contained in the definitions section of said statute (i.e., the wording referring to ROWs), your position really doesn’t withstand the principles of statutory construction that every court adheres to. In other words, your argument is not at all compelling and would certainly fail upon court review.

      I suggest reading the two legislative acts referenced above, as well as the notes referenced on the statute in question, in order to get a better understanding of the import of RCW 9.91.025.

      1. Cars blocking bus lanes counts as public transit conduct. It certainly isn’t private transit conduct. I think you need to repeat the advice you just gave me in the mirror.

        In the end your spin is hollow. I have gotten this law enforced against 2 parking shuttle agencies and am in the process of making that 3. I have personally confirmed with both Metro and Sound Transit that I am correct in this regard. I have multiple emails from both agencies confirming this.

      2. Lol. In the end, your argument is what is truly unsubstantial. Personal anecdotal contrivances are not terribly compelling. Please cite for me any case law in Washington state to support your assertion that driving in a transit only lane is anything other than a traffic infraction. For that matter, please cite any case by court of jurisdiction and docket number wherein a driver who has committed said traffic infraction was prosecuted under RCW 9.91.025.

        There’s a reason that this statute was placed in chapter 9.91, “Miscellaneous Crimes”, that being the underlying intent to codify nuisance type crimes that pertain to unlawful transit conduct. There is no statutory language expressly stated under this provision that seeks to criminalize (as a misdemeanor) the traffic infraction of driving in a transit only lane.

        One need to simply look at the relevant municipal code in Seattle. Per SMC 11.53.230 – High-occupancy vehicle lanes:

        “No person shall operate a vehicle in violation of a designation by the Washington Department of Transportation, the Director of Transportation or the Traffic Engineer reserving all or any portion of a street or highway, including any lane or ramp, for the exclusive or preferential use of transit coaches or other public transportation vehicles or carpools. (RCW 46.61.165)”

        Notice the state authority cited here. The reference is to a section of a state code chapter dedicated to expounding on the “rules of the road”, i.e., state traffic laws.

        Additionally, Seattle handles the nuisance issue of unlawful transit conduct, in a parallel fashion to the way the state statute is laid out, in SMC 12A.12.040 – Disorderly conduct on buses. In other words, Seattle’s municipal code makes no attempt to criminalize the traffic infraction of driving in a transit only lane, in full compliance with state law.

        By the way, what are “public parking agencies”?

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