NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, February 18th, 2020

Senate adopts legislation permitting Seattle to keep intersections clear with safety cams

The Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate has approved a bill that would allow the City of Seat­tle to enforce pro­hi­bi­tions against “block­ing the box” by motorists at high­ly con­gest­ed inter­sec­tions using auto­mat­ed traf­fic safe­ty cam­eras.

Sen­ate Bill 5789, prime spon­sored by Sen­a­tor Marko Liias and strong­ly cham­pi­oned by cospon­sor Sen­a­tor Joe Nguyen, received the sup­port of a con­sti­tu­tion­al major­i­ty of the Sen­ate a few min­utes ago.

The roll call was as fol­lows:

SSB 5789
Auto­mo­bile traf­fic safe­ty cam­eras
Sen­ate vote on 3rd Read­ing & Final Pas­sage
2/18/2020

Yeas: 25; Nays: 21; Excused: 3

Vot­ing Yea: Sen­a­tor Bil­lig, Car­lyle, Cleve­land, Con­way, Darneille, Das, Dhin­gra, Frockt, Hasegawa, Hobbs, Hunt, Keis­er, Kud­er­er, Liias, Lovelett, Mul­let, Nguyen, Ped­er­sen, Ran­dall, Rolfes, Sal­daña, Salomon, Stan­ford, Takko, Wil­son (Claire)

Vot­ing Nay: Sen­a­tor Beck­er, Braun, Brown, Erick­sen, Hawkins, Holy, Hon­ey­ford, King, Muz­za­ll, O’Ban, Pad­den, Rivers, Schoesler, Short, Van De Wege, Wag­oner, Walsh, War­nick, Well­man, Wil­son (Lyn­da), Zeiger

Excused: Sen­a­tor For­tu­na­to, McCoy, Shel­don

The bill passed with a bare major­i­ty of twen­ty-five in favor, as two Democ­rats vot­ed nay: Kevin Van De Wege and Lisa Well­man. Repub­li­cans Phil For­tu­na­to and Tim Shel­don missed the vote, as did Sen­a­tor John McCoy. The remain­ing Democ­rats vot­ed aye, while the Repub­li­cans col­lec­tive­ly vot­ed nay.

Sen­ate com­mit­tee staff have ably sum­ma­rized the pro­vi­sions of the bill as fol­lows:

  • Allows cities with a pop­u­la­tion over 500,000 [in oth­er words, Seat­tle… no oth­er city has half a mil­lion inhab­i­tants] to cre­ate a pilot pro­gram in a defined area with­in the city, expand­ing the use of auto­mat­ed traf­fic safe­ty cam­eras to detect and issue infrac­tion notices for vio­la­tions relat­ed to: stop­ping at an inter­sec­tion or cross­walk or when traf­fic is obstruct­ed, using pub­lic trans­porta­tion only lanes, and stop­ping or trav­el­ing in a restrict­ed lane.
  • Requires fifty per­cent of the penal­ty monies be deposit­ed into the new state Coop­er Jones Active Trans­porta­tion Safe­ty Account and fifty per­cent to be spent by the city on trans­porta­tion infra­struc­ture mobil­i­ty improve­ments for per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties.
  • Lim­its the infrac­tion fine to $75.
  • Requires that a city [again, effec­tive­ly just Seat­tle] report back to the Leg­is­la­ture on the pro­gram, includ­ing, but not lim­it­ed to, the loca­tions of the cam­eras, total warn­ings and infrac­tions issued, and rec­om­men­da­tions on use of auto­mat­ed cam­eras to detect the list­ed vio­la­tions.

SSB 5789 failed to receive a vote in the cham­ber last year, so today’s action is an impor­tant devel­op­ment for the bill. The House com­pan­ion, HB 1793, has received two floor votes: one last year and one again this year on Jan­u­ary 30th, so the bil­l’s prospects in the House would seem to be very good.

The prob­lem these bills are attempt­ing to solve can best be under­stood by watch­ing this video from our friends at Root­ed In Rights.

TRANSCRIPT: 

VANESSA: Hi, I’m Vanes­sa.

CLARK: I’m Clark.

VANESSA: We both live in Seat­tle.

CLARK: We both use wheel­chairs.

VANESSA: And we’re both tired of these [BLEEP]
cars block­ing the [BLEEP] inter­sec­tions!

[upbeat music]

(Clark and Vanes­sa attempt to cross the street but a van blocks the cross­walk. Then, they nav­i­gate around a huge char­ter bus block­ing the cross­walk. Next, they attempt to weave through sev­er­al cars block­ing an inter­sec­tion.)

VANESSA: Seri­ous­ly?

CLARK: I don’t know.

VANESSA: Try not to die, please.

[BLEEP]

CLARK: For pedes­tri­ans who can’t step up
onto the side­walk, a blocked curb ramp means

we have to ride in the street through traf­fic
just to get out of an inter­sec­tion.

[music con­tin­ues]

The real­i­ty is, when you block the box,
you block us out.

VANESSA: It’s our access, and it’s our safe­ty.

CLARK: Bet­ter enforce­ment at inter­sec­tions
will make our streets safer for every­one.

As not­ed above, the bill would also allow cam­eras to be used to enforce rules pro­hibit­ing motorists from dri­ving in tran­sit-only lanes, which is a relat­ed prob­lem that the City of Seat­tle has been try­ing to address.

Traf­fic safe­ty cam­eras are cur­rent­ly used in Seat­tle to catch peo­ple who blow through red lights at inter­sec­tions and speed in school zones.

Traf­fic safe­ty cam­eras could become more preva­lent in the city if this bill becomes law, although not nec­es­sar­i­ly ubiq­ui­tous, because the bill only autho­rizes a pilot pro­gram. Bet­ter enforce­ment is clear­ly need­ed, because dri­vers are not respect­ing users of oth­er modes as they should and as the law requires them to.

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One Comment

  1. Final­ly, some con­cern for the well-being of peo­ple trav­el­ing on foot through Seat­tle!

    # by Isha Noor :: February 21st, 2020 at 1:00 AM