“Block the box” bill passed by state legislature

The City of Seattle got a nice present from the state legislature earlier this week: it passed a bill allowing the city to implement camera enforcement downtown for vehicles blocking intersections and illegally occupying bus lanes.

The bill (HB 1793), as passed, creates a pilot program for cities with populations over 500,000 (i.e. Seattle) that would run through June 30, 2023. It would allow for camera enforcement of:

  • stopping when traffic is obstructed;
  • stopping in an intersection or crosswalk;
  • illegal use of a transit-only lane;
  • stopping or traveling in a restricted lane.

There are limits on where camera enforcement may be used:

  • an intersection of two or more arterials with traffic control signals;
  • railroad crossings;
  • school speed zones;
  • mid-block on arterials.

But the pilot program is limited to a particular geographic area: commercial and retail districts plus the aeea half a mile north, non-interstate freeways within 4 miles of the commercial and retail districts, and one mile of arterials connected to those non-interstate freeway segments. Also, cameras may only be used to enforce stop “blocking the box” at twenty intersections “where the city would most like to address safety concerns.”

Through the end of 2020, the city may only issue warnings with no penalty for infractions; after that and through the end of the pilot program, it may issue penalties up to $75. Fifty percent of the revenues from the penalties (after program costs) must be returned to the state coffers.

Locations where the cameras are installed must have provisions for public notice and appropriate signage.

The city must deliver a preliminary report on the pilot program by June 30, 2022, and a final report by January 1, 2023.

The bill is waiting for the Governor’s signature, but there is no reason to believe he won’t sign it into law. It has been on the city’s wish list for quite a while, so it’s a nice win for the city’s lobbying team (and state delegation) to have finally pushed this through.