Where do Seattle’s police write the most speeding tickets?
The No. 1 spot for getting a speeding ticket in the City of Seattle is next to U-Haul in the city’s Interbay neighborhood, according to newly obtained city records.
Last year, Seattle police issued more than 3,800 speeding tickets. Of those, 930 were issued in the 2600 block of 15th Avenue West, south of the Ballard Bridge.
“It’s just not a place you can speed, for sure,” Ryan Keefe said. He works in the area and sees police officers pulling people over regularly.
“Usually about three days a week, you’ll see a couple cops on motorcycles and cars giving tickets out here in the U-Haul parking lot and pulling into the Interbay golf course,” he said. “And they just do a loop all day long.”
Keefe is not a fan.
“They’re just over here, making revenue, generating revenue for the city, giving tickets,” he said.
KIRO 7 wanted to know how many tickets Seattle police have been writing all across the city, so we requested records from Seattle Municipal Court.
The location with the fifth-highest number of speeding tickets was the 1800 block of Aurora Avenue with 149 tickets issued in 2018.
No. 4 was the 2600 block of Aurora Avenue North near Canlis, just south of the Aurora bridge. Police issued 156 speeding tickets there last year.
No. 3 was just north of the Aurora bridge, in the 3800 block of Aurora Avenue, where drivers were ticketed for speeding 312 times last year.
No. 2 was just north of the No. 1 spot on 15th Avenue West, in the 2800 block. Police issued 437 speeding tickets there in 2018.
“This spot is number one for the most speeding tickets in the city. What do you think about that?” KIRO 7 reporter Linzi Sheldon asked driver Brittany Woo in the 2600 block of 15th Avenue West.
“I definitely don’t think that the speed limit is accurate for the street,” she said. Last October, Woo got one of the 930 tickets issued in that block for the year.
“It was definitely panic,” she said. “You kind of freak out a little bit.”
She said drivers treat the road as a highway.
“I feel 40 and 50 [mph] is like the average,” she said. “After I got my ticket, I was trying to be really good and go like 30. But then people get really angry, like even honk at you. It’s just like a very slow speed limit for the street.”
In fact, KIRO 7 discovered that that stretch of road, from the Ballard Bridge to West Boston Street in the 2200 block, used to have a speed limit of 40 miles an hour as recently as early October of 2014.
Seattle’s Department of Transportation said the change started on Oct. 11, 2014, during construction work on the Emerson Street overpass, in response to requests from the Seattle Fire Department after Fire Station 20 opened in the 2800 block. SDOT said it wanted to provide a consistent speed limit along 15th Avenue West and Elliott Avenue West, since the speed limit changed from 35 mph to 30 mph farther south. The department also cited changes with more businesses, apartments and bus usage in the area.
So, has it worked? Numbers requested by KIRO 7 show that in the 2 1/2 years before the change, there were 209 total collisions and 83 injury collisions. In the 2 1/2 years after the change, there were 238 total collisions and 106 injury collisions, a slightly higher rate, while traffic increased by nearly 5 percent.
“The rate has basically stayed the same with an increase in volume on the corridor, so that’s actually positive,” SDOT Director of Transportation Operations Division Mark Bandy said.
Bandy said the changes were all aimed at safety, and cited changes in the area, including more transit use.
“There’s more businesses and residents adjacent to 15th Avenue West,” he said.
Bandy said SDOT zeroes in on different roads every year as part of its work. But are cops zeroing in on 15th Avenue West, too?
“Is it a speed trap?” reporter Linzi Sheldon asked Seattle Police Assistant Chief Steve Hirjak.
“So this isn’t a trap and this isn’t something that is a big target for SPD,” Hirjak said. “The enforcement of traffic or speeding in the city is not a revenue tool. It’s strictly a safety tool.”
Hirjak, who oversees the department’s traffic operations unit, said traffic officers go to areas around the city based on citizen requests, the needs of SDOT, and officers’ own decisions.
“Some of it is just based on experience of chronic trouble spots,” he said.
“It was so, so striking to see more than 900 tickets issued in this one block south of the [Ballard] bridge,” reporter Linzi Sheldon said. “Why would there be so much emphasis and enforcement there?”
“Well, maybe it’s a factor of there being more violations there than somewhere else, as opposed to more enforcement than any other particular spot,” he said.
KIRO 7 learned this area of Interbay may have another factor in its favor, as well.
“There are certain areas where it’s safer to enforce traffic violations where there’s easier access to pull off the roadway or to effect a stop in a safer location without jamming up traffic,” Hirjak said.
It is a highly visible spot to advertise the speed limit through enforcement, which, Hirjak said, educates other drivers.
Keefe said a lot of people seem to be ignoring the lesson.
“Nobody does 30 [mph] here,” he said. “I’m the only car that does 30 [mph] here because I don’t want to get a ticket.”
Hirjak said the traffic unit also spends its time on collision investigations, school zone speed enforcement, events and assisting patrol.
Reach out to Seattle DOT about changing speed limits in your area: 206-684-ROAD.
By Linzi Sheldon, KIRO 7