Bill OK’d to let Seattle ticket bus lane, other violators

Bill OK’d to let Seattle ticket bus lane, other violators
Columbia Street bus lanes in Downtown Seattle. (KIRO 7 News)

SEATTLE — Seattle may soon get the green light to install automated traffic cameras to ticket drivers who block crosswalks and use bus-only lanes.

The state Legislature approved a bill this week to allow the cameras for limited new uses, The Seattle Times reported. House Bill 1793 next heads to Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature.

Blocking crosswalks and bus lanes is already illegal, but Seattle police say enforcing those rules is difficult during commuting hours because there’s often nowhere for cars to pull over.

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“Downtown Seattle is the most congested place in our state,” said Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-Burien, who sponsored the bill. “If we are going to protect safety, both of drivers and pedestrians, as well as the mobility of people relying on transit … we need the ability to enforce our existing traffic safety laws.”

The bill would allow a pilot program for the cameras to operate 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 locations in and near downtown including 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.

Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office and the Seattle Police Department supported the measure, along with transportation groups and advocates for people with disabilities.

Under the bill’s pilot program, drivers would get warnings through the end of 2020. Tickets could begin in January 2021 and could not be higher than $75.