Starting in 2022, a new traffic camera pilot program will automatically ticket drivers who illegally use transit lanes or block crosswalks and intersections

A graphic illustration reminding drivers to keep crosswalks and intersections clear by not entering the intersection when there's not a clear path across. Graphic: SDOT

We have chosen eight locations around downtown Seattle to add new traffic cameras to automatically enforce laws preventing people in cars from illegally driving in bus lanes or blocking crosswalks and intersections. The locations were selected in coordination with the Seattle Police Department (SPD). These cameras are intended to help improve public safety, reduce congestion, keep transit moving, and increase mobility for people with disabilities.

While warnings and tickets will not be issued until 2022, the City plans to install signs in all eight locations this month to ensure the public has adequate notice to learn the rules of the road and avoid receiving tickets.

Starting in 2022, the new traffic cameras will record the rear license plates of vehicles violating the law. The first time someone is caught they will be mailed a warning letter, and after that they will be mailed a $75 ticket. All locations will have clear signs and pavement markings, with white lines indicating where the intersection “box” begins, and red paint indicating lanes which are restricted to buses only.

Cameras are being installed at four busy intersections to prevent people driving from blocking crosswalks and intersections after the light turns red (also known as “blocking the box”). It is illegal for drivers to enter an intersection unless they have a clear path to make it all the way through. This behavior is illegal and dangerous, increasing the risk of crashes and preventing people in crosswalks from safely crossing the street. This is especially dangerous for people with disabilities, as people who are blind, use wheelchairs, or have other mobility needs can get stuck in harm’s way in the middle of the street with no safe way back to the sidewalk. Blocking the box also increases congestion, preventing people from moving and bringing traffic to a standstill.

Several vehicles block an interersection, crosswalk, and bus only lane in Seattle's Belltown neighborhood. Numerous cars are stuck in a traffic jam, and a person biking must pick up their bicycle and walk it through traffic while navigating the blocked crosswalk. Buildings are visible on either side of the street and the crosswalk on the righthand side.
Traffic camera photo of vehicles blocking an intersection in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood. Photo: SDOT

Other cameras will monitor bus lanes in five locations to prevent people from illegally driving where they are not allowed. This helps keeps buses moving, which in turn makes our transit system more reliable, benefiting everyone. Buses move more people at a time than individual cars, and every person taking a bus means one less car on the road, which is an incredibly important way to help address congestion and climate change for everyone.

Cameras will be installed in eight locations in downtown Seattle, South Lake Union, Belltown, Pioneer Square, and State Route 99. These locations were chosen based on their history of problematic and ongoing violations of people blocking the intersection or driving in the transit lane.

Traffic Enforcement Camera Locations

Map graphic showing the location where cameras will be installed in downtown Seattle and South Lake Union. Several blue dots indicate where transit lanes are located, orange dots indicate 'don't block the box' enforcement, and green dots indicate both. Streets and highways are labeled, with the water of Elliott Bay visible in blue on the left side.
Map of locations in and around downtown Seattle where traffic cameras are being installed to help reduce blocking of key intersections and transit lanes. Graphic: SDOT

The Washington State Legislature authorized the use of cameras to enforce bus lane and intersection violations in 2020, as part of a pilot project authorized in certain locations until July 2023.

Under state law, half of the net revenue from the traffic cameras will go to a Washington Traffic Safety Commission fund for bicycle and pedestrian safety projects, and the other half of the net revenue must be used to build safety and mobility improvements for people with disabilities in Seattle. SDOT plans to invest this in building more accessible walk signals which vibrate and make a noise to let people with limited vision or hearing know when it is safe to cross the street.

The cameras will work like photo-enforcement cameras in other parts of Seattle which issue tickets for red light violations or speeding in school safety zones. This will mean fewer police officers making in-person traffic stops, so that police can focus on other public safety needs. This also makes enforcement more consistent, objective, and fair.

To protect privacy, the cameras will only record vehicle license plates and not the people inside the car. The photos are only intended to be used for enforcing the bus lane and blocking the box laws, and are not intended for other law enforcement action.

Here are the locations where traffic cameras are being installed:

  • Aurora Ave N at Galer St (Transit Lane)
  • 3rd Ave at James St (Transit Lane)
  • 1st Ave at Columbia St (Transit Lane)
  • 3rd Ave and Stewart St (Transit Lane)
  • 4th Ave at Battery St (Don’t Block the Box)
  • 4th Ave at Jackson St (Don’t Block the Box)
  • Westlake Ave N at Valley St/Roy St (Don’t Block the Box)
  • 5th Ave at Olive Way (Both Transit Lane and Don’t Block the Box)