Drivers blocking intersections and bus-only lanes could soon be ticketed with the help of more surveillance cameras.
Click the above image to listen to KOMO News coverage of the story.
Seattle mayor, Jenny Durkan, and the city council want to use the traffic surveillance cameras to issue tickets to drivers who "block the box" and prevent cross-traffic from moving when the light turns green. According to KING 5, councilmember Mike O’Brien held a committee hearing on the issue, which also appears to have the support of Seattle police. The department has issued $136 tickets for “box blockers,” and nearly 100 of them in 2018. The numbers were higher in 2016 and 2017.
The pursuit of traffic surveillance cameras to discourage and ticket drivers from blocking intersections and bus-only lanes in Seattle illustrates a two-tier approach the city has to obeying the law. Seattle's prior mayor and city council enacted numerous laws on businesses from $15 minimum wage to paid sick leave and schedule notification. Laws that were meant to benefit employees and hold business owners accountable.
Remember, Seattle's mayor has repeatedly stated she wants to tax drivers with a system known as congestion pricing, a toll system drivers would pay which charges more to drive in the city during peak commute times. More rules and accountability from city hall.
The "block the box" enforcement effort with new surveillance cameras falls into this same category of accountability. Drivers hoping to sneak through that intersection before the light turns red are technically trespassing in the road. They've stopped at a spot they shouldn't be. Yet the Seattle city council doesn't hold trespassing homeless campers accountable in the same way, which creates this two-tier system of enforcing the law.
Anyone who's spent more than a few minutes with their eyes open in Seattle sees the homeless/drug vagrant tents or blue tarps. Those homeless/vagrants are trespassing where they're not supposed to be.
Seattle's homeless/drug vagrants were recently cleared out of the cloverleaf at the I-5 interchange in the Northgate neighborhood by the city's homeless navigation team and less than a week later, some homeless tent campers are trespassing again on the same field, which nearby businesses and neighbors have been complaining about for months. The city seems happy to hold some law-breakers accountable with the surveillance traffic cameras but is in no hurry to hold trespassing homeless/drug vagrants accountable. Why one, but not the other?
Well, that comes back to a matter of liquidity in the Rain City. And that's where the city's priority is: collecting money, not spending it wisely.