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Seattle wants to expand traffic camera tickets to include other violations

It's not uncommon to see cars blocking the box in downtown Seattle. (KTTH, Jason Rantz)

Red light cameras and speed zone cameras might be getting some company on Seattle’s streets as Mayor Jenny Durkan plans to expand their use into other violations.

What is one of the worst problems in downtown Seattle? It’s blocking-the-box. People who pull into the intersection, knowing that they will be blocking traffic, just so they can squeeze in on the next light.

We see this problem on steroids on Mercer with lines as long as two or three cars deep encroaching in the intersections. We see buses do it all the time. We see pedestrians crossing against the lights, preventing turns. It’s an epidemic.

That said, on Mercer for example, if you don’t try to squeeze in, you might not move.

Mayor Durkan will attack blocking-the-box with more enforcement.

“We will be enforcing our traffic laws that restrict mobility, whether it’s a pedestrian, a bike, or a bus,” she said. “We will be doing more enforcement on blocking bus lanes, blocking bike lanes and blocking the intersections.”

To accomplish this goal, the mayor wants to expand photo enforcement. She wants to put in cameras that will produce tickets for drivers who block the box or other lanes.

“We will be going to Olympia to see if we can get the authority to do that with camera enforcement,” Mayor Durkan said. “We know that if a police officer pulls a car over in the middle of the busiest intersection because they block the bike lane or block the box or block the bus that it just backs traffic up.”

The Legislature is the only place where local jurisdictions can get the authority to expand photo enforcement. It’s only allowed for red lights, speed zones and tolling facilities. There was an attempt recently to expand their use to catch bus lane violators, but that didn’t go anywhere in Olympia. Mayor Durkan believes lawmakers will be more sympathetic to this, however.

“I think that Olympia understands that it is in everyone’s best interest to increase mobility through the City of Seattle,” she said.

We don’t know what kind of fines the city is proposing or where it plans to put these cameras, if approved. They would likely be put in the worst trouble areas first, like the Mercer corridor.

If they follow the typical fine schedule, a ticket would likely cost a violator $136. We also don’t know if the enforcement would extend to cover buses that block the box.

RELATED: Metro’s illegal, dangerous driving part of bigger problem, says Rantz

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