FOLLOWUP: West Seattle low-bridge access changes now in effect, plus more on potential future camera enforcement

(Reader photo from April, when low-bridge enforcement began)

As first reported here Wednesday afternoon, SDOT told the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force that it recommended opening low-bridge access to all 9 pm-5 am and to school buses any time. Nobody on the CTF objected, so, SDOT says today, those changes are now in effect. Also mentioned briefly during the meeting: Future camera enforcement on the low bridge. There was not much elaboration on that during the meeting, but SDOT has more information today:

…SDOT is exploring the use of automated enforcement of Low Bridge restrictions and if feasible, could serve as a key milestone for equitably increasing access.

During (the) Task Force discussion, it became clear that most policy proposals to increase Low Bridge access in a way that is equitable and does not detrimentally impact public safety depend on the ability to enforce them.

A permanent SPD presence is not a preferred, scalable, or affordable approach and, thus, SDOT has begun to explore the potential use of automated enforcement mechanisms. This could mean that cameras are added to an existing contract managed by SPD, similar to red light enforcement cameras and school zone cameras.

The use of automated enforcement for Low Bridge access policies would have to be approved by City Council. If it were, SDOT anticipates this technology could be in place later this summer or early fall.

We look forward to sharing more about this potential solution in the coming weeks. …

Currently, as SDOT’s post notes, the city only uses camera enforcement for school-zone speeding and red-light running. Some other uses are now allowed after the Legislature passed a bill sponsored by local State House Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (who is part of the CTF along with other local elected officials.)

87 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: West Seattle low-bridge access changes now in effect, plus more on potential future camera enforcement"

  • Filbert June 25, 2020 (12:37 pm)

    Wonder if they’ll let Metro employees use the low bridge? My neighbor is a driver and say’s there are several drivers and mechanics that he knows of that live in WS. SDOT want’s more people riding the bus but that will be difficult if drivers have a hard time getting to work and mechanics have a hard time getting to work to keep them running.

    • Also John June 25, 2020 (9:08 pm)

      They simply leave to work a little earlier like everyone else.  Problem solved…. 

      • West Seattle Mad Sci Guy June 25, 2020 (10:55 pm)

        Or…take the bus. Though I’m not sure where the various service yards are and how many transfers.  Though I pass a few on my walks. (heh I’m weird.  Walk from West Seattle to sodo regularly)

  • Sillygoose June 25, 2020 (12:54 pm)

    So happy to read that night hours are legal to cross, as the mom of a teenager who leaves the city during late night hours after work, going through white center at night has been scary at times.

    • brian June 25, 2020 (2:52 pm)

      What about White Center is scary to you? Pretty sure the streets are paved and the traffic lights work. What’s the problem?  

      • twtissiri June 25, 2020 (9:55 pm)

        Indeed the streets are paved and the traffic lights work, but those aren’t the only measures of safety.  I also consider factors such as the fights I’ve seen on the sidewalks and numerous news reports of shootings and other crimes, particularly near the Bartell on 15th. I generally feel safe during the day and shop in the area frequently, but I’ll pass on White Center after dark.  That’s just my personal experience of course.

    • WSresident June 25, 2020 (3:19 pm)

      As a father of 2 kids I can say I’ve never been scared to travel through WC.  In fact I enjoy many of their establishments.

    • JCW June 25, 2020 (5:51 pm)

      30-something with a baby & a dog. We love our evening walks through the neighborhood and White Center in general! The only thing I fear is not walking fast enough to get to Full Tilt before they close!

    • Raised in WS June 25, 2020 (7:20 pm)

      Hoorah to all of these responses!

  • Al June 25, 2020 (1:16 pm)

    How is the low bridge camera idea not bigger news? This could easily pay for a new high bridge by itself! If we charge $200 a pop for scofflaws, and there are currently 500 per day in that steady stream of cars we’ve all seen going over the bridge, that’s $100k/day. We would be able to fund a new bridge in a matter of months!

    • WSB June 25, 2020 (1:31 pm)

      Well, short of 72-point bold type, we can’t make it any bigger than giving it its own story. We led with the low bridge yesterday too and promised more details, so here they are.

      • Snug Haven June 25, 2020 (4:14 pm)

          72 point bold type, ha, great response, great wit WSB. 

    • Tp June 25, 2020 (2:05 pm)

      Pretty sure if the ticket were to be $200 you wouldn’t see 500 cars a day driving over it.  Maybe that makes you happy, maybe it doesn’t, but let’s be realistic.

    • The King June 25, 2020 (7:34 pm)

      Great idea, we could put cameras everywhere like China and have rules for everything, constantly collect personal data about everything you do with fines attached to unapproved behavior. Which would generate billions after removing citizens and takeover of their homes, those who can’t pay will be sent to concentration…..ahem “re-education” camps for those who go against the govt narrative. Like China. Wouldn’t that be great. Then we could have our wonderful tunnel, even in the middle of a pandemic where historic numbers of businesses and jobs have been lost. 

      • Also John June 25, 2020 (9:12 pm)

        We can only hope….

      • mark47n June 26, 2020 (3:17 pm)

        There are cameras all over in Europe.You have no expectation of privacy when you’re out in public. Anyone can watch you, tape you, etc.Oh, and don’t be a pillock. Chicks don’t dig pillocks.

  • No Thanks June 25, 2020 (1:34 pm)

    I’ll pass on automated enforcement, thanks.  If SPD can’t afford to monitor then it goes unmonitored, just like all other traffic laws.  If it becomes a problem then it justifies the cost of putting cops down there.  Nothing in the middle is worth infringing rights over.  I do not welcome our new robot overlords.

    • Carl Rabeler June 25, 2020 (1:47 pm)

      I prefer robots and cameras to cops – just saying…less arbitrary and less bias

      • Eric Moon June 25, 2020 (2:17 pm)

        As long as the company providing the camera doesn’t get a cut of ticket revenue, then I’m with you, Carl!

      • East Coast Cynic June 25, 2020 (2:55 pm)

        I appreciate the lack of bias inherent in the camera and welcome overdue enforcement on the bridge.

      • No Thanks June 25, 2020 (3:31 pm)

        And I prefer no cameras or cops.  What I do prefer is a net reduction in authoritarianism, not automation of it.

        • S - In West Seattle June 25, 2020 (3:55 pm)

          I totally agree with you no cameras or cops. It’s a tax payer road and we should all have equal access to it. 

          • Also John June 25, 2020 (9:15 pm)

            Lets hope its your house that’s on fire when the emergency vehicles can’t make it passed the parked traffic on the low bridge.

    • EW June 25, 2020 (2:03 pm)

      10000% agree with this.

    • KK Admiral District June 26, 2020 (7:52 am)

      Totally support cameras for enforcement, and high fines. There must also be robust system for appealing;  with such a system in place, I don’t understand how this infringes on peoples rights.   Their right to break the law?  Yes, tickets go to car owners, not drivers.  If you loan your car to someone, yes, you are responsible. (Unless you have basis for appeal such as your car was stolen, Or emergency to get to hospital like your partner was in labor, or you were having an asthma attack…)I also think cameras are much less biased than cops, not to mention cheaper. 

  • Hannah G. June 25, 2020 (1:45 pm)

    I think I must have missed the part of the Bill of Rights that related to privacy to violate traffic laws with impunity.  If people would less energy into advocating for their imagined rights and more into what their responsibilities are to all of the other citizens living with them in this community, we wouldn’t need traffic enforcement cameras. West Seattle needs a little less “Me” and a lot more “We.”

    • AdmiralSDV June 25, 2020 (3:16 pm)

      Thank you! This is exactly it. If you’re wearing a mask but you still can’t obey a simple rule about crossing the low bridge, you’re doing it wrong. The entitlement in WS is strong. 

    • No Thanks June 25, 2020 (3:23 pm)

      I don’t drive much anymore and when I do it isn’t on the low bridge so I’m not being selfish. I trust my neighbors who do to generally do the right thing with or without cameras. I just don’t like the idea of the normalization of government controlled surveillance, which is the part that relates to our rights. You may think I am paranoid but I think you are naive and ignorant of the real abuses these types of systems enable.

      • Mark47n June 25, 2020 (4:31 pm)

        You don’t have a right to drive and you don’t have a right to violate the law.

        • Margot June 26, 2020 (6:15 am)

          What does not having “the right to drive” have to do with not wanting video surveillance everywhere?  If the police set up a camera directed at every home, would you respond, “You don’t have the right to commit murder. These cameras are to catch murderers,” would you be ok with it too?  Because I would not. 

          • Jon Wright June 26, 2020 (2:22 pm)

            Margot, the police don’t have to set up a camera at every home. Your neighbors, with their Rings and Arlos, already have. I find the fear of “government surveillance” to be comical when collectively we have already pliantly surrendered more privacy than the most ardent anti-government conspiracy believer could ever imagine to commercial interests. I also don’t buy the slippery slope arguments. The government doesn’t have any interest in watching your front door. Given the preponderance of people who refuse to obey traffic laws in general and the danger they pose to others, I would be fine with traffic enforcement cameras everywhere.

          • mark47n June 26, 2020 (3:26 pm)

            That’s just ridiculous. Additionally, I’me far less concerned about my privacy as it relates to the Man, I have very broad rights protecting that. The internet, however, That’s where your privacy is being violated, and you’re helping.

      • wscommuter June 25, 2020 (4:50 pm)

        That would be a lovely sentiment if it weren’t true that except for when SPD is down there to stop violators, people are using the low bridge with impunity.  There is a genuine worry about the low bridge becoming damaged from too much use and loss of it along with the high bridge would literally be devastating to our “island.”  So I don’t much view it as authoritarianism as I do necessary the same way I do other reasonable safety measures that government sometimes has to impose to protect all of us.  Your philosophical perspective is worthy – keeping an eye on government intrusion into our lives is a good thing.  In this instance, however, I nod to practical realities – we have to protect the low bridge and making it too economically painful for people to illegally use it is just common sense.  

        • No Thanks June 26, 2020 (12:45 pm)

          Thanks for your reasoned response.I am not opposed to enforcement of the law.  I agree that protecting the bridge is important.  If there is indeed too much traffic on the low bridge then it justifies officers there to reduce traffic.  If the cost of an officer is not justified then it isn’t a problem worth worrying about.

    • KK Admiral District June 26, 2020 (7:53 am)

      Amen and Amen Hannah!

  • melissa June 25, 2020 (2:16 pm)

    The city could alway make it an unscheduled traffic infraction and add an additional amount that could be placed into a special West Seattle Bridge Fund.  

  • Stuck on Avalon June 25, 2020 (2:26 pm)

    Based on my reading of that bill, they can’t issue anything more than warnings until 2021. It’s got no teeth. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

  • JVP June 25, 2020 (2:45 pm)

    Thank goodness they took the extra time to run this by the committee!  That was almost efficient, and doing anything without burning a few extra FTEs in this town would be a travesty.

    • beanie June 25, 2020 (3:24 pm)

      Everyone hates consensus by committees, but a single person making decisions in the interest of “efficiency” without considering the wisdom and experience of others usually results in really terrible decisions. That we’d probably come here and complain about. “Why didn’t they consult the experts? Why didn’t the ask they community their input?”

      • KM June 26, 2020 (8:35 am)

        I think the point is the community members are not experts (unless they actually are). They are just people with opinions. Like us in the comments section. After all, this isn’t the “expert witness” section.

  • Jort June 25, 2020 (3:30 pm)

    It is my hope that the automated camera system would have progressive systems of enforcement, beginning with a warning, then moving to a $5,000 fine, then moving to a $250,000 fine, finally followed by automobile confiscation and destruction and a lifetime shredding of the drivers’ license of the person who thought they were better than everybody else and weren’t required to follow the law. I want to be clear: I do NOT support using the cameras to trigger an automated vehicle destruction system that would send vehicles launching at high speeds into the depths of the Duawmish River, as this would have Significant negative environmental impacts. THANKFULLY all these fines are 100 percent avoidable by not driving, illegally, over the bridge.

    • spooled June 25, 2020 (5:32 pm)

      Jort, You post your predictable anti-car rants on every transportation related topic ever to come up. Why do you care?! Just ride your e-bike smugly by and forget the rest of us in our cages. You seem like you are lacking manual stimulation in your life. Thank you.

    • JB June 25, 2020 (6:20 pm)

      Any way we can make sure people pay the fines then put them directly to the cost of a new bridge? 

    • Go gull June 26, 2020 (3:16 pm)

      Lol, thanks for looking out for the salmon! ;)

  • DeadEnder June 25, 2020 (3:59 pm)

    Have they figured out a way to give citations to the Drivers who go over the low bridge? As it is, photo of license plates will only fine the Owners of the autos. Or, is facial recognition and a violation of our Civil Rights about to happen?Just curious.

  • S - In West Seattle June 25, 2020 (4:00 pm)

    @Jort – Just a question how is driving over a bridge that was paid for by tax payer illegal? Don’t you think we should all have equal access to the use of this bridge since we pay for it?  

    • Jort June 25, 2020 (8:25 pm)

      You do have access. You can walk. Deal with it.

    • bill June 26, 2020 (12:14 am)

      @S – IN WEST SEATTLE – Driving over the low bridge can be illegal in the same way it is illegal to use an HOV lane or exit when you are alone in your car. It is because the people we have elected to govern us have considered the options and decided it should be illegal. 

      • S - in West Seattle June 26, 2020 (8:09 am)

        Thank you for being reasonable in your response unlike Jort. That make perfect sense. But on that note the 405 toll lanes are totally illegal and shouldn’t be as they make traffic worse. Cheer

    • Carey June 26, 2020 (6:18 am)

      My tax dollars also paid for the sidewalks. Doesn’t mean I want people driving on them. 

  • KBear June 25, 2020 (4:16 pm)

    People talk about “authoritarianism” and “right to privacy”, but we all know the real reasons they object to camera enforcement—they like being able to break the law with impunity, and they don’t want to act like responsible citizens. 

    • Carey June 26, 2020 (6:20 am)

      That’s not my “real reason”. But it sure is easier to dismiss arguments by arguing the people making them are insincere criminals, I guess. 

  • Jonah June 25, 2020 (4:23 pm)

    Jort. Why haven’t you taken all your good suggestions to city council chambers? 

    • K. Davis June 26, 2020 (12:21 pm)

      Because he/she probably knows that ranting about his/her anti-car fanaticism on the WSBlog isn’t the same as, ya know, actual governance with reality and stuff.   No one would take him/her seriously because his/her ideas are ridiculous.   

      • heartless June 26, 2020 (2:45 pm)

        I take Jort seriously!  What parts of their arguments do you think are ridiculous?  That we have too much traffic?  

      • skeeter June 26, 2020 (3:29 pm)

        Hi K. DAVIS – I don’t think Jort is anti-car.  I suspect Jort has a car- or at a minimum has
        a keen understanding of how useful cars are. 
        Cars are fast, reliable, can carry a huge amount of weight, can travel
        in all weather conditions, are relatively safe if used carefully.  Etc. etc. 
        Jort knows all this.  Jort also
        knows that car use has to be limited in a dense urban environment.  Too many cars simply causes a huge waste of
        time and money as people sit in car traffic not going anywhere.  That’s why Jort advocates for walking and
        biking and transit as the best way to get around.  More people walking, biking, and taking transit
        frees up space on the road for people who need the power and capability of a car.  I am very much pro car.  That’s why I bike just about everywhere I
        can.  I’m freeing up space for people who
        don’t have the luxury of biking like I do. 

  • Tony G June 25, 2020 (4:27 pm)

    Ideally they should open the low bridge up to carpools at all times of the day. 

  • WS Resident June 25, 2020 (4:57 pm)

    I think those hours are dumb.  Seriously after 9pm?  Traffic eases down after 5:30pm.  And 5am?  Should be more like 6:30am.  We should put more realistic times there.  And weekends should be open to all.  You take away one bridge and tell us to spend the money to drive around or we have to pay for tickets?  This is our bridge.  We pay taxes for it.  This will not work for 2 years or longer.  We need a better solution to this problem.  

    • Lisa June 26, 2020 (12:51 am)

      Not everyone that live in West Seattle work traditional M-F 8 to 5 hours! 

    • wscommuter June 26, 2020 (11:01 am)

      I expect the limits are about engineering concerns … there is a genuine worry that excessive weight (= too many cars and buses all at once) will further damage the low bridge and put it out of commission.  So these times are designed to allow use when very few cars are apt to use it.  It isn’t about social engineering/behavior modification.  

  • AB83 June 25, 2020 (5:36 pm)

    I have an idea how about we get rid of the walkway and bike lane and put a middle lane In between eastbound and westbound traffic only for emergency vehicles 

    • Tsurly June 25, 2020 (8:35 pm)

      Have at it, you will just get all the cyclists occupying the lane as we are LEGALLY allowed to do, slowing you down even more.

      • mark47n June 26, 2020 (3:30 pm)

        Sounds like it’s time for a little malicious compliance  from us cyclists.

        • Tsurly June 26, 2020 (5:09 pm)

          A critical mass over the low bridge traffic lanes when SPD is not out there enforcing the restrictions? Please tell me where to sign up!

          • AB83 June 27, 2020 (3:27 pm)

            Please please do that what a great way To illuminate yourselves from the usage of the lower bridge

  • Smittytheclown June 25, 2020 (6:23 pm)

     Nice start. When they adjust it to 8pm to 6am then we will be talking!  Love this.

  • not how it works June 25, 2020 (6:27 pm)

    We “pay” for city hall but we can’t go claim an office. We “pay for the police but we can’t take a cruiser out for a drive.

  • Cindy Lou Who June 25, 2020 (6:30 pm)

    As an experiment—let everyone use the low bridge.  Once cars are backed up to the junction and I-5 and beyond, (massive gridlock) maybe the current restrictions won’t seem so bad.

  • Kristin June 25, 2020 (6:34 pm)

    Why don’t they just do a version of the Good to Go pass? Apply to get a pass for your car, and if you meet qualifications , you get pass…if don’t,  then automatically get ticket if drive on it from  5-9…If have a medical emergency or something , then can petition ticket you receive.

  • Mo June 25, 2020 (10:51 pm)

    What if the low bridge stops traffic shortly before 5am to let a ship through – would an automated system be smart enough to let the folks in line drive across without ticketing, even if it’s after 5am? Probably not a common occurrence, but still…

  • Emy June 26, 2020 (5:19 am)

    Just remember computers use cold hard logic, not emotions. your new automated police will be even more unforgiving than your human ones

    • heartless June 26, 2020 (7:52 pm)

      Sounds like more of what we need these days, given all the incidents coming to light about police acting on their emotions rather than using cold, hard logic.

      And as for cameras being more unforgiving than cops?  That equation might just boil down to the color of your skin and the mood of the cop.

  • LK June 26, 2020 (7:23 am)

    A hard ‘No’ to the cameras.  It absolutely does infringe on privacy, something people are all too willing to give up these days for the sake of ‘enforcement’ or ‘protection’.  Just keep giving and giving and soon there’s nothing left that’s private anymore. There are exceptions to everything, and hard and fast rules won’t work here…the family that’s trying to get to the hospital to deliver a baby for example.  Someone like this shouldn’t have to fight a ticket issued by a camera cop.  

    • heartless June 26, 2020 (7:55 pm)

      Why on earth do you think you have an expectation of privacy while driving down public streets? 

      You don’t–you never have–and you never will–because you are in PUBLIC!  Public! 

      Public as in the exact opposite of private! 

      AAAAARGGGGHH!!!!!!

  • KM June 26, 2020 (8:29 am)

    Bring on the cameras! I cannot believe how many believe that they can break the law freely as a right, but if they are caught by a camera, it’s actually communism. Time to think about why we are here in the first place—selfish behavior. I used to think cameras were oppressive until I had my life threatened too many times by people who should not have the privilege of driving. We truly deserve cameras.

  • Douglas Kilpatrick June 26, 2020 (8:32 am)

    Make it a toll road with a $500 (or whatever the appropriate number is to get traffic levels down to desired levels). Use toll infrastructure as automated enforcement, put the tolls towards fixing/replacing the bridge.

    Toll systems already have automatic enforcement.

    Toll systems already have time-of-day adjustments.

    Toll systems allow you to easily add special one-off exceptions by job type if desired: tag account appropriately.

    Paying a toll isn’t an infraction, so you avoid some of the “surveillance state” issues around cameras and automated enforcement. (Some, not all). It just means someone else has too much expendable income and different priorities than you do.

    The main downside I see if that you’ll end up having to forgive a fairly large number of bills due to the car owner not being able to afford a $500 toll… but that’s not really much different than forgiving court fines due to the driver not being able to afford a $500 fine.

  • Mj June 26, 2020 (9:46 am)

    I’m concerned that the City and Metro will fail in providing a viable alternative, aka all day bus service throughout WS.  Not everone works the 8 to 5 shift.  College students going to the UW need service to DT where they can catch the LR for example. 

    It’s extremely frustrating the lack of clarity on adding service.  Yes there are budget challenges, the City and Metro need to shift resources to provide the added service.

  • Peter S. June 26, 2020 (11:20 am)

    As I said in a related thread, tolls, which are bills for a service you voluntarily purchased, are not the answer.  There’s the issue of fairness, because the “rich”can more easily pay the toll and it becomes a class perk.  First class plane ticket?  Fine for that, but not cool for something as necessary to all of us as this.  Install the cameras similar to 520 bridge to issue TICKETS/FINES, not tolls.  While I completely agree with concern about government overreach, it’s been well-established that none of us has a legal expectation of privacy when in PUBLIC.  Why are you worried about a picture of your license plate?  The government already has your picture (driver’s license), already knows what car you drive and where you live (registration).  Your cell phone is tracking where you are going.  Merchants know what you are buying.  Etc, etc. etc.As others have said,  it would be great if everyone was decent enough to follow the rules without the threat of punishment.  Unfortunately, not all of us operate that way.

    • Paul Davidson June 30, 2020 (8:36 pm)

      Peter. Using a toll system, one that would charge an exorbitant amount during peak hours if people wanted to pay it, could help pay for the bridge replacement or repair project. Sure it’s like first class, but the money for the bridge project has to come from somewhere. May as well “toll” the wealthy.

  • wetone June 26, 2020 (12:47 pm)

     I agree 100% smitty, the 9pm-5am does little to help morning commute and city knows this, it will be nice for Port of Seattle and a few others. ;)  City is just throwing a bone, thinking people will be happy with there big effort;)    8pm-6am would actually help with traffic as usual traffic pattern builds between 7am-9:30am and 4-6pm.  It’s time for city to require all bikes to have ID plates(not tabs) that’s readable to cameras or SPD (same as car plate) and paid for by owner just as motor vehicle owners do every couple years. For tracking same as cars and issuing citations for non-legal habits or other things. If city wants bikes to be major commute tools then hold them to same accountability as motorized vehicle driver;)  No Helmet, not wearing seatbelt same thing.

    • Tsurly June 26, 2020 (5:13 pm)

      Bikes with ID tags? Dream on dude, NEVER going to happen.

    • AB83 June 27, 2020 (3:07 pm)

      I support that 

  • anonyme June 26, 2020 (1:18 pm)

    Thumbs up to the comment by Hannah G.  I fully support the use of traffic cameras EVERYWHERE.   Police haven’t done traffic enforcement in a long time, and this is a perfect example of where their efforts could be put to better use.  I’m all about protecting privacy, but as long as any idiot in Seattle can fly drones around and spy on neighbors and private citizens while on (and in) their own property, then I’m not going to worry about a traffic camera on a public street.  You give up your right to privacy as soon as you break the law.  There’s no exception simply because you were in a vehicle at the time.

    • heartless June 26, 2020 (2:47 pm)

      Yes, this (with the addendum that the income from fines doesn’t go to private companies).

  • Diverlaura June 27, 2020 (11:18 am)

    8p-5a would be awesomeness but I’m just hugely grateful they heard our pleas and are now allowing 9p-5a.  This really and truly helps me take care of my elderly father who lives over on the ‘mainland’, for which the drive increased from ~20 min Each way on a good day to between 40 min – 1.5 hr each way currently using all the detour routes depending on what construction is ongoing.    

  • Metromiss June 27, 2020 (12:31 pm)

    #FIXTHEBRIDGE

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