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Seattle drivers could be automatically ticketed at some intersections downtown

Drivers who are caught blocking crosswalks or driving in transit-only lanes will receive their tickets through the mail.

SEATTLE — Seattle drivers beware! A new program, which has been months in the making, will start automatically ticketing vehicles that block crosswalks or drive in transit-only lanes at certain intersections downtown next month.

The “Don’t Block the Box” program, initially announced by the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) in November 2021, consists of cameras at eight different intersections across the city that will photograph the license plates of vehicles violating the law.

The cameras will be activated gradually over the course of a few weeks so that SDOT can test the system and give drivers time to adjust.

Tickets will be delivered through the mail. For the first violation, drivers will receive a warning letter. For any new violations, drivers will be mailed a $75 ticket.

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The goal is to improve public safety, help keep transit moving and increase mobility for pedestrians with disabilities.

SDOT says that keeping vehicles out of transit lanes helps keep buses moving, which makes the transit system more reliable and keeps streets from being congested.

Keeping crosswalks clear is especially important as it lowers the risk of crashes and allows pedestrians with disabilities to safely cross the street. This is most evident for pedestrians in wheelchairs or those who are blind since vehicles in the crosswalk could lead to these individuals becoming stranded in the middle of the roadway.

The cameras will also help lessen the number of in-person traffic stops police officers have to make.

The eight locations where the cameras are being activated are:

  • Aurora Avenue N and Galer Street
  • Westlake Avenue N and Valley/Roy Street
  • 4th Avenue and Battery Street
  • 5th Avenue and Olive Way
  • 3rd Avenue and Stewart Street
  • 1st Avenue and Columbia Street
  • 3rd Avenue and James Street
  • 4th Avenue and Jackson Street

Cameras at each location will either enforce the transit lane law or the crosswalk law, with the 5th Avenue and Olive Way location enforcing both.

These locations were chosen based on past problems and ongoing violations, according to SDOT. Each intersection has been fitted with signs and pavement markings to ensure that drivers can easily discern where they should stop at traffic signals and which lanes are for buses only.

Half of the funds from the program will go to bicycle and pedestrian safety projects. The other half will be used to improve safety and mobility for residents with disabilities. Specifically, SDOT plans to use the money to invest in more accessible walk signs, which can vibrate and make noise to let those with limited hearing or vision know that it’s safe to cross.

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