Motorists blocking the Battery Street bus lane. (Photo by Doug Trumm)

Reports from Olympia are that House Bill 1793 is in danger. The bill would authorize local jurisdictions to do use camera enforcement to keep motorists from illegally blocking intersections, crosswalks, and transit lanes. Authored by Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, the bill made it out of committee and onto the floor calendar, but it’s far from certain that it has the votes. The cutoff for legislation this session is fast approaching: HB 1793 needs to be called to a vote by 5pm tomorrow (Wednesday, March 13th).

Please contact your representatives to let them know you value safety, transit priority, and climate action and that you expect them to put those priorities before the desire of motorists to be break traffic laws with impunity. Transportation Choices Coalition has provided a template for emailing your legislators, so it’s quick and easy. It takes just seconds. Help put this beleaguered but essential bill over the top.

Local disability rights group Rooted in Rights have been powerful advocates for legislation to prevent blocking the box, a term for when a car obstructs the crosswalk rather than waiting behind the box. Their video has illustrated how bad the problem has gotten in Seattle and how challenging the situation we’ve created for disabled pedestrians is.

“Obstructed crosswalks are dangerous for everyone. Anytime drivers block the box they put people at risk, and for disabled pedestrians that risk is disproportionately greater,” said Clark Matthews, Lead Producer for Rooted in Rights. “Studies like the one from Georgetown have shown that the majority of car-pedestrian deaths happen to those in wheelchairs, often at intersections.”

The legislation may seem like a no-brainer, but last session it stalled out as some suburban members raised concerns about facing any repercussions for any vehicular crimes they perpetrate in Seattle.

Meanwhile, Mayor Durkan has identified as a strategy to deal with the Seattle Squeeze, and officials say that camera enforcement of transit lanes would greatly improve transit reliability.

“In Metro’s view, such a pilot would significantly reduce violations of transit-only restrictions on Third Avenue and produce benefits for Metro riders, such as improved reliability,” then King County Metro spokeperson Scott Gutierrez said last spring as the pilot bill was being debated.

Camera enforcement could become even more crucial as buses come out of the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel and crowd onto busy surface streets. When that happens, the Seattle Squeeze could be worse than ever, and transit riders will need all the help they can get.

In addition to Rep. Fitzgibbon, Representatives Eric Pettigrew, Nicole Macri, Javier Valdez, Jake Fey, Eileen CodyTana Senn, Larry Springer, Gerry Pollet, and Gael Tarleton sponsored the bill. Kudos to them and godspeed to all trying to convince enough of their colleagues to go along to do this commonsense reform to protect people from traffic violence and to speed transit. Lives are counting on it.

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Doug Trumm is publisher of The Urbanist. An Urbanist writer since 2015, he dreams of pedestrianizing streets, blanketing the city in bus lanes, and unleashing a mass timber building spree to end the affordable housing shortage and avert our coming climate catastrophe. He graduated from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington in 2019. He lives in East Fremont and loves to explore the city on his bike.