• Seattle seeks 'Block the Box' camera enforcement

    By: Alison Grande

    Updated:

    The City of Seattle is taking action to keep transit moving. One way they hope to do that is by installing cameras that will catch and ticket drivers who block intersections.

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    The city has had police do enforcement in the past, especially on Mercer Street. Before the city can begin using cameras to give out tickets to people who "Block the Box," they need to get permission from the state legislature.

    "Gridlock starts when people 'block the box' and so we need to prevent that as much as possible," said Heather Marx, SDOT's Director of Downtown Mobility. "It's a similar camera-oriented enforcement mechanism where they'd snap a picture of you in the box, not at your turn. What we're also going to ask for permission to enforce transit lanes, the lanes that are clearly marked only for transit, to be enforced by cameras as well."

    The enforcement is a priority especially during the "Time of Maximum Constraint," the next five years when the city will be undergoing major road and construction projects at once. 

    Seamus Kelly likes the idea. He rides his bicycle through downtown and has to navigate around cars that are blocking intersections. "I'd be in high support of 'block the box' (cameras) so people would follow the laws."

    The viaduct closes Jan. 11 and the new tunnel isn't scheduled to open for three weeks after that.  The bus tunnel closes to buses in March and that will force all buses on to city streets. Rail will continue to use the tunnel.

    Another way the city will help keep buses moving, is by increasing the hours Third Avenue is only open to bus traffic. They've also worked with ride-share companies to make sure you can't hail a ride on Third Avenue. They're using technology called geo-fencing to keep the apps from allowing pickups on Third Avenue.

    SDOT says police officers will be doing enforcement at Seattle intersections for drivers who 'block the box' even before the Viaduct closure. The fine is $136, the same as a red light ticket.

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