We have begun activating new traffic cameras which 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

Update: April 6, 2022: This blog post was originally posted in November 2021 and has been updated with the latest information about timing. SDOT has begun activating cameras in several locations, and is continuing to activate the remaining cameras over several weeks.

Translated versions of this blog post are available in Amharic, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Somali, Tagalog, Vietnamese, and Chinese:

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and Seattle Police Department (SPD) have begun turning on new traffic cameras which will take photos of cars that are illegally driving in bus lanes or blocking crosswalks and intersections. These cameras will help improve public safety, reduce congestion, keep transit moving, and increase mobility for people with disabilities. 

The City of Seattle has now activated transit lane enforcement cameras in several locations. The cameras are being turned on gradually over several weeks in order to test the system in each location and give the public time to adjust to the changes.  

The new traffic cameras will photograph the license plates of vehicles violating the law. The first time someone is caught they will be mailed a warning letter. For any new violations after that, they will be mailed a $75 ticket.  

Activated camera locations:

  • Aurora Ave N at Galer St (Transit Lane)
  • 3rd Ave and Stewart St (Transit Lane)
  • 5th Ave at Olive Way (Transit Lane)*
  • 3rd Ave at James St (Transit Lane)
  • 1st Ave at Columbia St (Transit Lane)
  • 4th Ave at Battery St (Crosswalk and Intersection Blocking)

Planned camera locations:

  • 4th Ave at Jackson St (Crosswalk and Intersection Blocking)
  • Westlake Ave N at Valley St/Roy St (Crosswalk and Intersection Blocking)
  • 5th Ave at Olive Way (Crosswalk and Intersection Blocking)*

* 5th Ave at Olive Way will have both kinds of cameras, activated on separate dates.

All locations have clear signs and pavement markings, with white lines indicating where the intersection “box” begins, and road markings indicating lanes which are restricted to buses only.  

The cameras are located 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.  

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

The City will begin by turning on cameras which 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.  

The City will then turn on cameras 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.  

Traffic Enforcement Camera Locations

Map of locations in and around downtown Seattle where traffic cameras have been installed and are being gradually activated to help reduce blocking of key intersections, crosswalks, and transit lanes. Cameras that have been activated are shown with a light yellow highlighted outline.
Map of locations in and around downtown Seattle where traffic cameras have been installed and are being gradually activated to help reduce blocking of key intersections, crosswalks, and transit lanes. Cameras that have been activated are shown with a light yellow highlighted outline. Graphic: SDOT

The Washington State Legislature authorized the use of cameras to enforce bus lane and intersection violations in 2020.

SDOT announced the new camera locations and installed signs in November 2021 to make sure people had time to learn the rules of the road and avoid receiving tickets. SDOT has published this announcement in 10 languages, and will continue to share reminders on social media, with community based organizations, and through public service announcements. 

Under state law, half of the net revenue from the traffic cameras will go to a Washington Traffic Safety Commission fund for bicycle, pedestrian and non-motorized 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.