Heidi Groover, The Seattle Times:

The bill would allow a pilot program for the new cameras, to run through mid-2023. Seattle could use the cameras to detect drivers who stop in an intersection or crosswalk, drive in a transit-only lane or stop or travel in a restricted lane.

The cameras would be allowed in limited locations in and near downtown and on arterials that connect to certain roads into downtown. That would include the West Seattle Bridge, Aurora Avenue and Avalon Way, Fitzgibbon said. Cameras for enforcement of crosswalks and intersections will only be allowed at 20 intersections “where the city would most like to address safety concerns,” according to the bill.

See our previous coverage.

It’s amazing that it took so long and that the legislature felt the need to put so many restrictions on the city, but kudos to the legislators and advocates who got this one over the finish line. Here are links to Rep. Fitzgibbon’s house bill and Sen. Liias’ Senate version so you can see the sponsors and the roll call votes.

30 Replies to “Bus lane cams finally pass the legislature”

  1. I’m glad we’ve finally graduated from “get the eff out of the bus lane” to “here’s your 254$ ticket”. But does Seattle have budget to install this tech?

    1. I’m sure we’ll contract it out to some Texas-based third party. They’ll install the cameras for free but they’ll take 75% of the revenue. That seems to be the way things are going these days.

      1. Bellevue School District does something along these lines with the stop paddle cameras on school buses. The school district makes zero dollars from the tickets so the percentage taken by the contractor doesn’t really matter to them. The main issue is to make it safer for students. I think it’s much the same with bus lane enforcement. The goal of fines is to dissuade bad behavior not to be a revenue source.

        OTOH, the HOT lane tolls are to make make money to fund the infrastructure (much line a toll bridge). It’s rather onerous how much of that money gets siphoned off in collection. OTOOH, a secondary goal is traffic demand management so tolls are sometimes set less than the cost of collection just to maintain the desired travel speed.

  2. As far as I can tell, Seattle is only allowed those three bus lane cameras and 20 intersection cameras through 2023, with no path to install more if they’re successful. Also, this gem:

    The revenue from the tickets is restricted, too. After the cost of installing and operating the cameras, the city would have to return half of the money to the state. The portion the city keeps must be used “for improvements to transportation that support equitable access and mobility for persons with disabilities.”

    So the state is “generously allowing” us to protect our vulnerable users…but they’re going to shake us down for half our revenue. Even the mafia isn’t that harsh…

    And finally, I love how Sen. Curtis “The War on Carz is 4 Real!!!!” King tries to justify terrible driving behavior:

    “I’ve been there,” said Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, about getting stuck in an intersection or crosswalk. “I’ve tried to turn a corner seeing the traffic move [and] well, it only moved 3 feet and you’ve committed to making that turn.”

    1. I agree … our cops (not 3rd party run venal bastard cameras) should enforce our traffic laws. Too easy for legislators to punish car owners for their political grandstanding purposes. Real working people will pay … while politicians and law enforcement will likely get a “professional courtesy” pass.

      1. Too easy for legislators to punish car owners for their political grandstanding purposes.

        It’s already against the law for car owners to place their vehicles in bus-only lanes and crosswalks. If a car owner does not wish to be punished for placing a vehicle in a bus-only lane or crosswalk, the car owner has a simple remedy: just like exceeding the speed limit, simply do not do that.

        The upcoming pleas of “it’s too complex” or “traffic is too bad” or “sometimes you just can’t help but block the box or crosswalk” do not move me in the slightest. Keep your two-ton block of metal out of where it does not belong and the rules say it should not be. Once we have universal compliance for the basic rules of the road by people piloting machines that can absolutely cause far more injury and death than any pedestrian crossing against an orange hand, or bicycle, or electric scooter, I will entertain your suggestions on cracking down on those terrible lawbreakers.

    1. I doubt it. They are completely different things. This is basically an automated parking ticket. The ticket doesn’t go to the driver, it goes to the owner of the vehicle.

      Jay walking is a personal offense — there is no vehicle involved.

      1. I would add that it is far more likely that parking tickets are issued via robots in the future. The technology is much simpler, and it is much smaller change. You get a ticket in the mail with a picture of your car parked illegally — not much difference than what happens now, really.

  3. At what point does the problem of pedestrians disregarding crosswalk signals get addressed?

    1. Thankfully, every driver out there honors pedestrians standing ready to enter a crosswalk, and stops in front of the crosswalk, rather than play chicken with the pedestrians. (sarcasm alert)

    2. What does that have to do with transit, or the subject at hand? I don’t like it when people park in bike lanes (that is illegal, too, and a lot more dangerous) but that is off topic.

  4. There was an article recently mentioned in this blog about an area (Chicago I think) where traffic police had the right to issue tickets without asking the driver to pull over. A cop basically takes a picture of a car doing something illegal, and the driver gets the ticket in the mail. I’ve been arguing for that for years, and I think it would be a great way to handle problem areas. No one gets pulled over, and asked to give their license and registration. Traffic keeps moving (as well as did before) but the owner of the vehicle is still punished — in much the way they would be if they parked illegally.

    1. “Citizen arrests” should be included. Twice now I’ve stood in front of UW Med Center by the bus lane with my 400 mm lens and taken pix of cars driving in the lane. As soon as they see me they scoot over and hide their faces.

      Now if there were a place where my photos of the license plate, vehicle and surrounding environment with the timestamp feature turned on could be posted and the owner would get a ticket, that would be the ultimate enforcement mechanism.

      No cost to the city and a veritable LEGION of activist enforcers. What’s not to like?

    2. Don’t these systems have the automatic excuse of “I wasn’t driving” to get out of paying the fine? It would be nice if the ticket would just track the car (i.e. added to the car tab renewal), then whoever the owner is can be responsible for the conduct of those who drive it regardless of who was driving.

  5. Fine. Another carve-out for Seattle basically. Now the legislature needs to take the next step and get rid of the disparity caused by automatic camera-enforcement, i.e., a moving violation becoming a non-moving violation simply because of the enforcement mode. And, yes, this remedy should apply to the existing camera-enforcement for red light and HOV lane infractions. The underlying violation made by the motorist should be treated the same way regardless of the mode of enforcement.

    1. This as your posts always do, makes a lot of sense. In all honesty, I did not know that camera tickets were NOT “moving violations”. After all, if someone violates a red light, the vehicle was moving; radar triggers the picture……

      You know, we SHOULD let Idaho have Eastern Washington. Their drivers are too scared for the big city? Maybe they can handle Boise.

      1. As a former Boisean, I can confirm that it’s fucking terrifying being a pedestrian there. They’ve had to fight off several attempts by the legislature from outlawing the bus system as well.

      2. Yeah, the issue is “if someone“. The ticket is issued to the registered owner of the vehicle. Assume for a moment that the owner of the car is a bus driver., how is it fair to put a moving violation on that persons CDL if their kid does something stupid?

        Of course if you really want to put an end to bus lane violations you use the same seizure laws that are applied to a drug bust. Beemer in the box; I’ll take that M3 thank you very much :-)

    2. As a non-driver I don’t understand this. What’s a moving violation and a non-moving violation. How is the current situation unjust for automatic camera enforcement?

      1. Moving violations accrue “points”. Accrue enough points and you are relieved of the chore of driving for some period.

      2. It also has to do with insurance. These tickets — like red light cameras for speeding, or running through a red light — don’t show up on your insurance.

        I think it makes sense. It is a compromise. The reasoning is that someone doesn’t have a chance to fight it in person. For example, let’s say it is broad daylight, no one is around, and you go through a school zone a few miles over the speed limit, while slowing down. Chances are, very few cops will pull you over for that. If they do, they will likely just give you a warning, or at the very least, you can explain that you were slowing down, had great visibility, and could see that there was no one anywhere around. If you get a ticket in mail, then you can explain that to a judge, but you have to take time off. Or you can just pay the ticket, and be twice as careful next time.

        The same thing can happen with blocking the box. Let’s say you are in the right lane, the light is green, but traffic is backed up. You finally see the traffic in front of you moving, and you head into the intersection. But someone to your right takes a free right before you. What they are doing is illegal, but now you are the one blocking the box. If there was a cop there, they would ticket the person taking the right for failing to yield. But instead, you get a ticket in the mail. If you can’t afford to take time off to explain the situation, you still pay the ticket, but at least you don’t get hit with higher insurance.

  6. Can anybody fill me in on the general quality of the car-handling skills taught in high-school driver education right now?

    Would especially like quick-check: Has anybody noticed accurately-simulated bus-only lanes being used to teach beginning drivers? Could save on both fines and enforcement costs.

    Mark Dublin

    Mark Dublin

    1. Buses were mentioned only 1 time at my drivers ed last year: “you can pass a bus if it’s at a stop.” No mention that it’s the law to yield to buses at a stop if it has a turn signal on or bus lanes in general.

      1. Terrific input, Andrew. If you can, copy it over to your own Washington State delegation. Pretty sure that you and the reset of my STB readership can do a posting of at least a hundred more examples.

        Fiscally….same kind of idea that current fare-box-less funding is to transit. Except, given the internet, absolutely free to propagate.


        That’ll save millions and will be cost-free to fix.

        Signed, Mark Dublin
        Formerly King County Metro Transit Coach Operator 2495

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