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Traffic camera expansion in Seattle back on the table

Lawmakers are pushing for an expansion of traffic camera enforcement in downtown Seattle. (AP Photo/Sang Tan, file)

Lawmakers in Olympia are pushing for an expansion of traffic camera enforcement in Seattle.

Rantz: Seattle’s ‘block the box’ scam is a giant money grab

Under state law today, cameras can only be used at stoplights, railroad crossings, and in school zones. Lawmakers want to expand camera use, to catch drivers blocking intersections and using transit-only lanes. This legislation came up last year but did not pass out of the Senate. The camera enforcement expansion would also allow cameras mid-block to catch violators, instead of only at intersections.

Bill sponsor Senator Marko Liias told the Senate Transportation Committee this week the cameras could only be used in the downtown Seattle core and north to Lake Union. It would go down as a parking infraction and not a moving violation. The cameras could be put on any roads, including arterial roads. The price, he said, is reasonable.

“Seventy-five dollars a ticket, which is lower than what a police officer could write for these, so there’s not an incentive to replace a police officer doing enforcement with the cameras,” Liias said.

The money generated from these cameras would go to bike and pedestrian safety improvements and ADA improvements.

Sen. Curtis King is not sold on the idea. He doesn’t believe drivers should get tickets just because they get caught in an intersection during heavy traffic. He’s also concerned that this only hits drivers, when pedestrians play a huge role in a lack of movement downtown.

“The walk lights are ‘don’t walk, don’t walk,’ but everybody just keeps on walking,” King said. “What about them? I have to sit through another light and another light because these people don’t obey their part of it as well. It isn’t just the cars.”

Why Washington lawmakers avoided voting on the block the box bill

Jeff Devere represents the Washington Trucking Association. He doesn’t think this is fair either.

“They (trucks) have to wait to go across the intersection to make sure that there is enough room,”  he said. “They don’t move very fast, and we don’t want them to move very fast. If people fill that spot before they get there, and they get a ticket without that context, we don’t think that is right.”

Drivers have complained that transit plays a huge role in blocking the box. In South Lake Union, at almost any time of day, buses are seen blocking multiple lanes at a time. Senator Liias’ staff confirmed that buses would be subject to tickets if they block the box, but may not be ticketed. Seattle Police says they don’t ticket transit drivers for such violations.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.

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