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Seattle traffic cameras could turn attention to bus lanes

According to a report from The Seattle Times, the City of Seattle is aiming to use traffic cameras to catch bus lane cheaters in the act.

RELATED: Seattle seeks ‘Block the Box’ camera enforcement

The report cites data from King County Metro and the Seattle Department of Transportation, demonstrating the sheer volume of drivers using designated bus lanes.

Some key numbers:

  • During an eight-hour period, 174 cars illegally used the bus lane at Fourth Avenue and Battery Street in Seattle (per SDOT)
  • Of King County’s roughly 40 miles of surface street bus lanes, between 10 to 40 percent of vehicles in those lanes aren’t buses (per King County Metro)
  • Up to 90 percent of vehicles in a bus lane on Northeast Pacific Street near the Montlake Bridge were there illegally in spot checks done in 2017

Long story short, a good deal of the city’s bus lanes are being used by cars, and there’s very little that can be done to stop it right now.

Enforcing bus lane cheaters is a tall order for Seattle PD — as the Times’ report noted, there isn’t much room to pull people over in crowded, downtown traffic. And in fact, pulling people over ultimately could create even more congestion.

That leads to what the city views as its next logical solution, in traffic cameras that automatically issue tickets.

Seattle is already pushing for “block the box” cameras, that catch drivers in the act of gridlocking intersections. Beyond that, the city has used cameras to enforce red lights and speeding in school zones for years, with that technology issuing over 78,000 citations in 2018, and over 400,000 tickets since 2015.

For bus lane cameras, Seattle will need permission from the state Legislature before it can move forward with implementation.

The cameras in question would be strategically positioned at intersections, and photograph cars entering and leaving bus lanes.

RELATED: Is the city putting new forms of ticketing over real traffic fixes?

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