Find Posts By Topic

Share your comments on how we use real-time tech to keep Seattle safe & moving.

SDOT’s Transportation Operations Center.

The key ingredient to keeping Seattle safe and moving rests in our real-time technology.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. Seattle is growing. You’ve seen it in the cranes that continue to pop up. You’ve seen it in an expanding light rail system (yaass!). But do you know one thing that isn’t getting wider or taller? Our streets. Our streets aren’t getting any bigger, so we have to figure out how to make them work harder.

We’re tasked with figuring out how to get thousands of more people moving, plus support goods movement #freight. The key ingredient to keeping Seattle safe and moving rests in our real-time technology, specifically: traffic cameras and license plate readers (LPRs). They’re critical to our ability to respond to incidents and provide real-time travel info to the public.

With the Travelers Map, you can see where all the cameras are, plus live-feeds to help know before you go.


How does this technology help us?

As major public and private construction further constrain our transportation network over the next 5 years (*cough* Viaduct Closure), we’re going to rely on those technologies even more.


Traffic cameras

We have a total of 225 traffic cameras across the city that feed our Transportation Operations Center, aka the TOC – our nerve center (which btw is now operating 24/7) with real-time information where our team in the TOC monitors and inform the public with information to help manage traffic incidents and to update travelers, media, first responders, and partner agencies. Cameras feed into our real-time Travelers Map.

At the TOC, we monitor conditions across the city, notifying travelers of changing conditions, and supporting incident response.


License plate readers

The second critical technology is license plate readers (LPRs). They capture data that help us share travel time estimates with the public, which then pop up on dynamic message signs in key locations across the city – telling you how much time to get from A to B. The readers only capture 5 – 10% of license plates as vehicles move along the corridor, which is enough to make solid estimates while not overly collecting data.

Dynamic message signs are fueled by data collected with license plate readers.


What happens to the data?

Occasionally, we use the traffic cameras to conduct traffic studies which recordings are then deleted within ten days. Camera data is not shared with other departments or agencies. With LPRs, images get sent to the WA State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), where software logs the plate number and adds a time stamp. The software then scans for plate matches at an LPR station down the road, compares time stamps, estimates travel times, and shares the result back with SDOT. Plate numbers are immediately deleted once travel time is calculated, and this data is not shared with or used for enforcement.


Share your feedback!

While we at SDOT are tasked with making sure people and goods can get around safely and efficiently, we’re also plugged into the City’s privacy policy and are an active part of the City’s 2017 Surveillance Ordinance discussion. The City is looking for your feedback on several technologies, with five public meetings kicking off this week.

SDOT technologies will be at meetings 2* and 5* below to give you a chance to learn more about traffic cameras and LPRs and share your feedback:


MEETING 1 | Surveillance Public Engagement

Mon, Oct. 22, 2018, 5-6:30 PM at Columbia Branch Library


*MEETING 2* | Surveillance Public Engagement

Thurs, Oct. 25, 5 – 6:30 PM at West Seattle American Legion Hall


MEETING 3 | Surveillance Public Engagement

Mon, Oct. 29, 2018, 5-6:30 PM at City Hall Bertha Knight Landes Room


MEETING 4 | Surveillance Public Engagement

Tues, Oct. 30, 2018, 5-6:30 PM

Green Lake Branch Library


*MEETING 5* | Surveillance Public Engagement

Mon, Nov. 5, 2018, 4:30-5:30 PM at Green Lake Branch Library


The format includes intro remarks by Seattle IT, a brief presentation, followed by facilitated small group discussions.

Can’t make it to a meeting? Please take the online survey or submit your comments in writing by November 5. Visit our website for more information about your City’s surveillance technologies.