West Seattle’s red-light camera debut: In place on “I-35”

Thanks to Al for letting us know the red-light camera first announced for 35th/Thistle 13 months ago has finally arrived. That’s the wide view as crews were finishing installation work a short time ago – the actual closeup camera is toward the right side of that photo, which shows the west side of 35th, north of Thistle (map) – here’s the view we got walking right up to it:

It was January 2008 when the city announced West Seattle would get two red-light cameras in ’08 – per our original report, one watching southbound drivers at this intersection, another one watching drivers heading west on Avalon at 35th. *Added 12:06 pm* Installation on that one is under way too, on the north side of Avalon, east of 35th, by the 7-11 gas pumps:)

We asked SDOT, which installs the cameras, when they’d be working, and Marybeth Turner just replied:

We are not able to give you a date when they will be operational except that we expect it will be within weeks rather than months. When the work is completed, they will begin operating without further notice. We install the equipment, and the Police Department manages the program.

The SPD website has an info-page here which explains how the cameras work and what happens if you get a ticket issued after one of them “caught” you running the light. That page points to this one where tickets can be paid online – and you apparently even can watch video of your “violation” as it happened. ADDED 1:15 PM: SDOT also just sent word of one addition: They will install signs at the intersections “one to two weeks before the cameras begin to operate” to warn you the systems are there.

Meantime, while out on the street some call “I-35,” we also photographed the repainted lines that James tipped us to via Facebook:

As you may recall, sand and snow rubbed out the original lines, so the repainting work’s been expected for a while.

34 Replies to "West Seattle's red-light camera debut: In place on "I-35""

  • Wally in the Junction February 4, 2009 (11:12 am)

    C’Mon. I only have so much in my pockets for this city. In how many ways can they extort money from us? These cameras are not for safety as they state- they are purely another means to generate more cash from us.

  • JumboJim February 4, 2009 (11:21 am)

    Wally, how is it that making people realize that they could get an expensive fine and need to stop running red lights is not pro-safety??

  • datamuse February 4, 2009 (11:21 am)

    These cameras are not for safety as they state- they are purely another means to generate more cash from us.
    On the other hand, all one need do to deny the city said cash would be to, y’know, not run the lights.

  • KM February 4, 2009 (11:30 am)

    No need to leave WSB HQ: I saw the crews installing the one on 35th and Avalon this morning at 9 am

  • JenV February 4, 2009 (11:45 am)

    glad to see they repainted the lines. Although, it doesn’t help if you’re still not paying attention to the road, like 90% of the drivers on 35th. It’s not a straight road, people – the lanes jog around every once in awhile!

  • MarcVH February 4, 2009 (11:46 am)

    When I first heard about red light cameras, I thought it sounded like a good idea to enforce traffic regulations and improve safety. Unfortunately, every study I’ve seen indicates that they do not, in reality, work. They don’t improve safety.

  • Save Our Streets Seattle February 4, 2009 (11:48 am)

    I agree that red-light cameras are just another way for the City of Seattle to squeeze its citizens for more of our money. I pay taxes on everything I buy, on my home, on my business, and I am unhappy that the City wastes my money on toys like this. These red-light cameras are a revenue stream. They have NO impact on traffic safety. It’s especially sad that the City put the cameras on 35th Ave SW. This is a corridor that the City COULD calm traffic on by timing the traffic lights properly. People run red lights on 35th because the speed is 35 MPH and the lights are set to trap you at every single light unless you drive about 39 MPH. After the first few tickets, can we file a class-action lawsuit against the City for entrapment by timing the lights to encourage red-light running and then installing red-light cameras? With Fauntleroy Way SW scheduled to be slowed down, how will West Seattle folks get around?

  • Save Our Streets Seattle February 4, 2009 (11:52 am)

    I definitely feel like I’m getting Nickels and dimed out of West Seattle. I pay SO much to live in Seattle and I get jack-squat in return for the money I pay and pay. Bad schools! Awful roads! Duplicitous City officials! Sound Transit is a giant money hole! I’ve GOT to get my business out of King County before it bankrupts me!

  • Sue February 4, 2009 (11:59 am)

    These reactions are really laughable. Red light means stop. Red light doesn’t mean “I’m entitled to make all the green lights, so I’ll run this red one.” Just because “everyone” breaks the law and runs through red lights doesn’t mean it’s justified, no matter what. This is one thing that’s driven me crazy since moving here – the fact that so many people run the red lights. I’ve never seen anything like it anywhere else. I’m glad they’ll start giving tickets for it. And the city won’t make money off the cameras if we don’t break the law. Very simple people!

  • JRC February 4, 2009 (12:14 pm)

    These cameras were sold as preventing collisions in the intersections. All they have done is create more rear end collision’s and lined the city’s pockets. All it turned out to be was another tax.

  • brandon February 4, 2009 (12:22 pm)

    A good place to add a camera would be the crosswalk in front of EBay and Husky Deli for violators.

  • cmc February 4, 2009 (12:39 pm)

    A camera can’t climb down off the utility pole and intercede at the time of a violation. Cameras take pictures. Police enforce laws. Those concerned about the safety of these intersections should be requesting actual police presence at them to enforce the law by interceding at the time of the infraction, and issuing actual citations that reduce license points.

    I have no problem with the cameras being in place. They just need to be used as tools to record the events, like dashboard cams.

  • Mike February 4, 2009 (1:11 pm)

    Just another way to generate revenue. Watch for parking meters in the junction soon!

  • amnesiak February 4, 2009 (1:14 pm)

    Question about the cameras and violations:

    Often times, I will be at an intersection waiting to turn left. The way I was taught in school was that if you’re the first one in line, you can advance beyond the stop line and wait until it’s clear to go. Many, many times at 35th/avalon I have to wait until others cut it extremely close or run the red light outright before making my turn. I’d obviously be caught on camera in this situation. Is this a ticketable offense? I can’t find any definitive answer in the RCW. Maybe WSB could take this up at an appropriate meeting?

  • MarcVH February 4, 2009 (1:47 pm)

    The SDOT report on the pilot project claims that:

    The stills show the vehicle behind the stop line with the traffic signal showing red in an “A” photo and the same vehicle fully beyond the stop line with the traffic signal still showing red in a “B” photo.

    This would seem to suggest that amnesiak’s case is OK, because the light was not red at the time you entered the intersection. But that’s just my barely-educated guess using data more than a year old; anybody know better?

  • Save Our Streets Seattle February 4, 2009 (2:39 pm)

    I’m not saying that people have a right to run a red light, but I am definitely saying that the City is double-dipping on the 35th Ave red light cams by timing the lights to encourage slight speeding to avoid waiting at EVERY SINGLE light on 35th Ave SW. The lights are timed to reduce traffic flow and increase greenhouse gas emissions. NOW, on top of THAT poor planning, the City is adding yet ANOTHER layer of stupidity. Let’s set up a red-light camera on a major arterial where the lights are incorrectly timed. It’s just shady. Anyone at SDOT who claims these red-light cams are for safety is a bald-faced liar. I though the Bush years were over. How about a little transparency at City Hall?!

  • Left Turner February 4, 2009 (3:01 pm)

    So theoretically, making a left from 35th onto Thistle northbound against the absurdly slow to cycle left turn arrow should be ok – as the southbound light is still green…plus my car would be sideways, wonder if they’d still be able to get my plates…now, how to test that theory…

  • Brian February 4, 2009 (3:29 pm)

    Sounds like SOSS is a conspiracy theorist. Did you ever notice that the lights are not always on timers but on sensors as well? Some lights only change to red when there are cars waiting to turn off of the side streets onto 35th.

  • Al February 4, 2009 (3:49 pm)


    They work. Been through the intersection of Denny & Fairview lately? No one runs that light anymore. Anything that discourages red light running is fantastic. If you rear-end someone who legally stops for the light you are following too close. There’s no excuses.

  • CMP February 4, 2009 (4:16 pm)

    Geez, you’re going to hit a red light eventually…the lights can’t be timed perfectly for you. If people would pay attention and not run red lights then SDOT and SPD wouldn’t have to resort to installing cameras to catch the offenders. If this will get people to stop driving like a$$holes on 35th (sadly, probably only near these intersections) then I’m all for it.

  • Cleveland Ken February 4, 2009 (4:21 pm)

    Cool now I can go fast down side streets and not get caught. There aren’t any stop signs and cameras there. FLOOR IT!!!!

  • Left Turner February 4, 2009 (4:45 pm)

    My complaint is not with the north/south traffic, though I do not agree with red light cameras. What bugs me is that the left turn lights onto Thistle are of the “turn only on the green arrow” instead of the “yield on green ball” variety. If they are going to force me to wait, they should not have the pedestrian light cycle automatically. If I can see a half a mile up the hill, why do I have to wait at the light, causing wear on my engine, and wasted fuel?

  • MarcVH February 4, 2009 (5:14 pm)

    Remember, “preventing red-light running” isn’t the goal, but rather is supposed to be a means to improving traffic safety. SDOT’s own numbers show that the benefits in traffic safety are questionable at best: no reduction in number of accidents, small reduction in number of injuries which may not be statistically significant given the tiny sample. The report also claims no rear-end collisions; I’m skeptical of this claim given that minor rear-end collisions often go unreported.

    In other municipalities the net result has been that, once deployed, the cameras are a victim of their own success. Fewer people run red lights and therefore fewer citations are being issued by the cameras. Unfortunately, the city has spent that money already (in large part to pay for the cameras) and so they have to maintain their revenue by shortening the yellow time so that more citations are issued. One hopes this temptation can be avoided here but I’m not optimistic.

  • JumboJim February 4, 2009 (6:05 pm)

    Yeah right CleveKen – try that on our sidestreet and you’re gonna launch your car over one of the many traffic circles! Speeding is not such a problem there…

  • DaveS February 4, 2009 (6:59 pm)

    I’m glad for this. People do NOT see this light. I live on this block of 35th and cross there all the time for the bus stop and walking the dog. I won’t even start walking across a lane until I know for sure that a driver is stopping because many times drivers have blown right through this light in front of me.

  • PSPS February 4, 2009 (9:16 pm)

    I’d believe these cameras were really for traffic safety if not for two details:
    1. A police presence is what affects people’s driving. These cameras are just cash registers for the city while the cops hang out at Dona Queen. The cameras are for revenue generation, pure and simple. The “red light camera” moniker just makes it an easy sell to those authority-enthralled among us.
    2. The cameras are operated by a private company who gets a cut of the take. If safety were the real concern, why entrust a police law enforcement function to a profit-motivated private company?
    In any case, these “tickets” are easy to beat. You simply say you weren’t driving the car and they have to drop it.

  • seahag February 5, 2009 (6:11 am)

    We had these where I live in Minneapolis for a short time. The state supreme court ruled that they violated state law and they can no longer be used.

  • 56bricks February 5, 2009 (6:51 am)

    Which one of Greg’s cousins has the contract for these cameras? Maybe the same one that paints the “sharrows”? Wise investments of our money.

  • JJs February 5, 2009 (11:16 am)

    And just in time, too, to make revenue as traffic goes thru the roof in W. Seattle — the planning dept. has decided it will cut down Fauntleroy lanes, turning it into a parking lot for rush hours & pushing even more traffic onto 35th

    They won’t stop until it gets as bad as Mercer St. downtown


  • M February 5, 2009 (12:01 pm)

    Google “red light Paint” and you’ll get a website that sells paint for your plate that makes it difficult for camera’s to take pictures of it.

  • fiz February 5, 2009 (5:15 pm)

    Southbound on 35th and Avalon is sorely needed as well, cannot count the close calls with idiots coming off the West Seattle Freeway headed up 35th. We never enter that intersection when the lights change, always delay until it’s clear.

  • Big Al (No, Not THAT One) February 5, 2009 (9:48 pm)

    Great to see cameras on 35th. Red light runners beware. Today, cameras…tomorrow, we reclaim I-35. Tomorrow, we turn it INTO A TWO LANE ROAD LIKE FAUNTLEROY!!!

  • westwoodmom February 6, 2009 (12:03 am)

    Too bad the cam is only pointed southbound. Some idiot tailed us down California to Thistle, honking when we didn’t zip off on green lights with pedestrians in the walk, then blasted past us across 35th on the red light, after it turned red. It feels like aggressive and stupid drivers are at a high these days, just leave me room to keep away from your death wish, would you?

  • JEM February 25, 2009 (4:50 pm)

    I’m with you Left Turner! I am now waiting to see if I will be ticketed after giving up on waiting forever at the red left turn arrow. I just went – there was no traffic coming. We’ll see. It sounds like this is only capturing southbound drivers in which case I’m in the clear.

Sorry, comment time is over.