Seattle activates first block-the-box camera

SEATTLE — Seattle’s first camera catching drivers who block intersections went live Wednesday morning.

The city is installing enforcement cameras in eight locations to automatically ticket drivers who use bus lanes or “block the box.”

After a thirty-day period for people to learn the cameras are in place, violators will first get a warning and then, starting with the second offense, a $75 fine.

“That seems pretty fair. Follow the rules of the road. We all took a drivers’ test, we know what the rules are,” said Courtney Coddington, as she passed Fourth and Battery, the intersection with Seattle’s first block-the-box camera.

“It’s a real crisis of pedestrian safety,” said Anna Zivarts, who heads the Disability Mobility Initiative at Disability Rights Washington. “What may be stressful or frustrating for (drivers) may be a matter of life or death for people who are outside of a vehicle and trying to cross.”

Leslie Hill is vision-impaired and struggles with blocked crosswalks.

“You have to go around and squeeze into between cars and a lot of times they get mad,” she said.

In 2015, when Seattle traffic was worse, KIRO 7 reported on constantly blocked intersections along Mercer Street.

At the time, the city was just beginning to research cameras.

After the state legislature authorized a trial in 2020, Seattle is starting with eight locations.

“We’ve looked for locations where there’s a history of cars violating the rules of the road,” said Ethan Bergerson of the Seattle Department of Transportation.

There won’t be any cameras on Mercer Street right away because city officials said new poles would have been needed, which would have taken more time.

SDOT officials said the cameras will also capture buses that block the box.