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Automated Enforcement Block the Box & Transit Lanes
Automated Enforcement
Block the Box & Transit Lanes

Background

Both block the box – when a vehicle fails to properly clear an intersection, blocking cross traffic – and transit only lane violations create significant mobility and public safety issues for municipalities. Specifically, these violations negatively impact:

Emergency response time

Congestion, particularly during rush hour

Transit speed and reliability

Pedestrian and bicycle safety and mobility

Blocking the box and improper use of a transit only lane are both already established as traffic infractions under RCW 46.61 – Rules of the Road. Currently, however, these violations can only be enforced manually by a Uniformed Police Officer who witnesses the incident. There are several significant challenges and drawbacks to manual enforcement, particularly in high-traffic areas:

It’s resource intensive for local law enforcement

It’s potentially dangerous for officers who must navigate to the violator’s vehicle.

It further disrupts traffic, creating additional congestion and inducing unpredictable driving behavior

Case Study: 4 th and Battery, Seattle In January 2018 the City of Seattle conducted an observation of block the box and transit violations at a major downtown intersection, 4 th Avenue and Battery Street, which revealed the following:

Block the Box: an average of 6 violations per day, with a high of 53 violations

Transit-Only: an average of 361 violations per day, with a high of 418 violations

4 th and Battery is on a high-volume corridor and includes a bus only lane. Fire Station 2, the busiest station in the city for emergency calls, is located on the corner of the intersection. Both block the box and transit lane violations frequently obstruct emergency personnel trying to leave the station.

Overview of Legislation

The proposed legislation would strengthen local governments’ ability to address congestion and public safety by making the following changes to RCW 46.63.170 – Automated Traffic Safety Cameras:

Adding block the box and transit only lane violations to the list of violations for which

automated enforcement is permitted Adding mid-block on arterials to the list of locations where automated enforcement cameras may be installed (critical to effective enforcement of these violations)

The legislation would not change any of the robust privacy protections in place around automated enforcement. Specifically, the underlying statute prohibits any local government from:

Capturing the driver’s or passenger’s face in photograph

Retaining photographs longer than necessary to enforce the violation

Using photographs for legal proceedings beyond the specific violation

Further, prior to installing an automated enforcement camera, a jurisdiction must prepare an analysis of the proposed location, install clearly marked signage at least 30 days prior to activation, and provide a 30-day grace period after activation during which time violators receive a warning and no fine. Further, any local government that employs automated enforcement cameras must report annually on the number of infractions and traffic accidents at each location.