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Don’t Block the Box and Transit Lane Enforcement, Safety First Reminder

As part of a joint Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and Seattle Police Department (SPD) effort, SPD has been issuing warnings and citations to motorists traveling in violation of posted restrictions of BAT (Business access and Transit) Lane use and Blocking the Box.

Mercer Street at Dexter Ave N Enforcement

Mercer Street at Dexter Ave N Enforcement

What is “Blocking the Box”?

Everyone who drives in Seattle’s most congested areas during rush hour has experienced a “block the box” situation. Block the box happens when you don’t fully clear the intersection by the time your traffic signal turns red – you end up blocking the crosswalk or intersection, making it unsafe for people crossing the street and cars trying to reach their destination. Even a person walking in the crosswalk against the light, when they don’t have the right of way, can also block the box.

Why should we avoid blocking the box?

We want to keep traffic flowing and the crosswalks clear so everyone can get where they’re going in a safe and timely manner.

How do I avoid blocking the box?

Stay clear of the intersections and only proceed if you are sure you can make it all the way past the crosswalk.

What if drivers behind me become impatient and start honking?

If there is not enough room for your car to make it to the other side of the intersection before the light turns red or when you’re making a free right-turn, do not enter the intersection. You’re doing the right thing, so don’t worry about the person behind you.

What is the fine if I block the box?

For cars and bicyclists, blocking the box is a moving traffic violation that comes with a $136 fine. It is enforceable by Seattle Municipal Code, sections 11.72.040 and 11.50.070. For people jaywalking, blocking the box is a jaywalk violation that comes with a $68 fine. It is enforceable by Seattle Municipal Code, section 11.40.100.

What is a BAT lane?

The purpose of “Bus Only” and BAT lanes is to allow buses to travel along the corridor with minimum delay, increasing transit speed and reliability while maintaining access to local businesses and residents.

BAT lanes are for transit only, but other drivers may use them long enough to turn right at the next intersection.

Why are BAT lanes important?
• 45% of downtown commuters use transit
• Best use of limited street space to move more people
• Help the larger transit system operate efficiently
• Provide more reliable transit service

How do I avoid travelling in a Bus Only or BAT lane?

Posted signs and pavement markings indicate where Bus Only or BAT lanes begin. Drivers should merge into general purpose lanes or make right turns at the next intersection. Drivers may use Bus Only or BAT lanes to enter and leave driveways and alleys along the corridor.

What is the fine for driving in a BAT lane?

For cars, travelling in a Bus Only or BAT lane is a moving traffic violation that comes with a $136 fine. It is enforceable by the Seattle Municipal Code, section SMC11.53.230.
Bicyclists are allowed to ride in most Bus Only and BAT lanes, but need to yield to merging buses, just as all vehicles are required.

This is an effort to educate and enforce traffic laws that support transit. With 45 percent of downtown commuters using transit, the enforcement work will help ensure the reliable and efficient movement of transit riders along Seattle’s important bus corridors, and improve safety for all travelers.

SPD has also been issuing warnings and citations to motorists who block intersections. Blocking the intersection enforcement helps address vehicles that illegally stop in the intersection impeding traffic, and safe pedestrian crossing. This effort is a part of Seattle’s Vision Zero plan to end traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030.

Here’s our November Blog Video on Blocking the Box Enforcement: