LOW BRIDGE: Camera-enforcement signs about to go up

SDOT is about to take the next step toward camera enforcement of West Seattle low-bridge restrictions – installing signs this weekend, warning that the cameras are on the way. Today’s announcement notes that warning tickets will start “as soon as” December 1st, with ticketing – carrying $75 fines – then starting around January 1st. Also from the announcement:

To date, in an effort to ensure traffic volumes do not impact emergency vehicle response times as we develop our automated enforcement system and policies, Seattle Police Department (SPD) officers have been ticketing or turning around people using the Low Bridge during AM and PM peak commute hours. Enforcement by SPD alone is temporary until we implement automated enforcement, but SPD Traffic or Patrol officers, as well as other localized police agencies may continue to identify, stop and enforce the sign restrictions as part of their normal duties.

And in case you’ve forgotten, here’s the current rules:

Who CAN use the Low Bridge

Emergency vehicles
Transit vehicles (King County Metro buses and school buses)
Freight vehicles
People walking, rolling, using a scooter, or biking
Employer shuttles
People with placards (currently 160 distributed)
People driving personal vehicles at night (from 9 PM to 5 AM daily)

Who CANNOT use the Low Bridge

Ubers, Lyfts, or other ride-sharing vehicles
People driving personal vehicles, including motorcycles, during the day (from 5 AM to 9 PM daily)

The policies are always subject to change – the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force now has a low-bridge subcommittee to discuss possible changes.

53 Replies to "LOW BRIDGE: Camera-enforcement signs about to go up"

  • Jort October 21, 2020 (12:07 pm)

    Get ready for those tickets, you law-breaking selfish monsters! You’re going to pay up for your brazen lawlessness! There is no shortcut to personal driving misery other than getting on the bus or riding a bike. You are not entitled to break the law because you feel inconvenienced. You have a choice ahead of you: get in traffic with everyone else or pay up! I LOVE IT!!

    • Amen October 21, 2020 (12:27 pm)

      Agreed! Tired of being the responsible law abiding citizen waiting at that light watching all the selfish people who think they are more important than the rest go across the bridge. It’s time to follow the rules people or else we lose the lower bridge as well. 

    • LK1971 October 21, 2020 (12:55 pm)

      Hey Jort, I love driving my gas guzzling German car over the low bridge at all hours…to hell with the law and this city, they created this disgraceful situation.  A $75 fine is pocket change, I’ll continue to flaunt brazen lawlessness…2 sides to every coin. 

    • adam October 21, 2020 (2:01 pm)

      I havent been using the low bridge, but if it bothers jort this much i just may start….

      • B October 21, 2020 (3:26 pm)

        Me too !

        • Ice October 21, 2020 (6:45 pm)

          if you are seriously considering changing your real life behavior because you got offended by one internet troll, you need to get a grip.

  • skeeter October 21, 2020 (12:25 pm)

    I’m glad to see enforcement. Many car drivers are cheating and it’s unfair to reward cheaters with a faster travel time. I bike over the lower bridge daily and once counted 31 cars cheating as I crossed the bridge.  Cheaters were causing busses to get all backed up at the Chelan intersection all the way across the bridge westbound.  On the other hand, enforcement is going to cause many/most of the cheaters to route to the detour.  That is going to lead to much longer travel times for everyone (both those willing and unwilling to cheat.) In other words, cheaters actually do drivers a favor.  In a perverse twist, to the extent there is capacity on the lower bridge, better to use that capacity so that drivers on the detour are not delayed as much.  SDOT is really in a difficult position on this with no easy answer.

    • adam October 21, 2020 (2:02 pm)

      Skeeter with the correct analysis. Is using the low bridge fair? No. But does it alleviate congestion? Yes.

    • BW October 21, 2020 (2:38 pm)

      A rare voice of sanity.  Having the lowbridge open to all until 6 opposed to 5 could help slightly.  I think many people don’t realize how much worse traffic will get and any little thing we can do to help is beneficial. Also, if someone has the funds to pay the fine and doesn’t mind doing it….more power to you!

    • Frog October 21, 2020 (3:50 pm)

      Easy answer:  establish a toll on the lower bridge, and set it at the level where traffic volumes are low enough to allow timely passage of emergency vehicles.  It could vary by time of day.  Maybe even $25 at peak times. That approach makes maximum reasonable use of the low bridge, and raises maximum revenue.

  • Lisa October 21, 2020 (12:29 pm)

     People with placards (currently 160 distributed)‘Who gets these placards? 

    • WSB October 21, 2020 (1:57 pm)

      The West Seattle Junction Association and West Seattle Chamber have each been allotted some. Originally there were some given to longshore workers who had to get to Terminal 5 but I’m not clear how that’s changed since Matson moved south.

      • Dan October 21, 2020 (2:47 pm)

        The WSJA and WSCC have exactly 13 passes total for over 400 businesses to share.  They are not allowed for commuter proposes.  They are allowed to be used for supply runs to keep products in-stock for businesses to operate.  Examples included: restaurant getting products from all the supply houses in SODO, electricians getting to the supply houses in SODO to get your power working again, HVAC companies getting to part suppliers to get your heat working.  They are not for driving to meetings, going to see friends or driving to work.  Almost all the rest are for maritime users who need to get onto Harbor Island.Those placards go away with the camera system install.

      • Lisa October 21, 2020 (11:44 pm)

        Thank you! I recently moved but stayed in west Seattle and now am within one bus to work and home. I’d never thought it would take me 30 minutes via bus to first hill. It’s actually faster than driving. I’m an essential worker and I work odd hours (swing shifts) I wish van pool was an option but there is only one vanpool and it’s traditional hours. I’m dreaming of the west Seattle water taxi will expand its hours when we go higher up in phases. 

  • Rara October 21, 2020 (12:43 pm)

    Let’s hope they figure out the bridge sooner than later. This is a challenge for all of us. Hang in there folks. And be patient with your fellow West Seattle neighbors. Tough year for sure and most likely many more. 

  • run_dmc October 21, 2020 (12:52 pm)

    hmm – THIS they can get done in a couple months….

    • KM October 21, 2020 (4:01 pm)

      I hate to break it to you, but experts are now saying that traffic cameras and bridges are slight different objects with different installation and maintenance requirements.

  • Anne October 21, 2020 (12:53 pm)

    OMG-circle the date & time because I actually AGREE with Jort-Won’t be taking a COVID breeding ground-bus (especially in winter) & bike not even a possibility for us. We will continue to drive -if we need to leave home. & fully expect to be stuck in traffic & obey law. We’re  absolutely ok with that. 

    • AMD October 21, 2020 (1:55 pm)

      Everyone is entitled to their own level of comfort with different situations and I respect that, but let’s at least be led by facts.  Buses aren’t somehow “dirtier” because poor people use them.  For those who want to know what it’s like taking the bus right now, mask compliance is almost 100%, buses are 1/3 full at most (everyone is several feet apart), and (most importantly) NO ONE IS TALKING so there are almost no respiratory droplets even going into the masks (let alone the air outside of the masks).  A Metro Bus is, statistically, safer than your friend’s barbecue or the restaurant down the street (indoor dining).

  • Vanpooler October 21, 2020 (12:53 pm)

    To clarify, not all vanpools can use the low bridge. Only vanpools of essential workers who apply and get a placard to carry in the van:

    Can vanpools, private shuttles, or school buses use the Low Bridge?

    School buses are allowed at all times. Otherwise, access to the Low Bridge is still very limited to make sure we’re never in a situation where an emergency vehicle cannot get through. People driving school buses, freight trucks, transit buses, and emergency response vehicles can use the Low Bridge at all times. Everyone can use the bridge between 9 PM and 5 AM. We recently began a placard system based on data that showed we could allow 160 more vehicles to use the Low Bridge without impacting emergency response vehicles. The 160 is a small number that was distributed among:  

    • Maritime/industrial users proximate to Harbor Island 
    • Employer shuttles 
    • Vanpools of essential workers 
    • International Longshore and Warehouse Union   
    • West Seattle Chamber 

    Vanpools and private shuttles will not be allows regular access to the Low bridge unless they have an approved placard. The placard system is temporary until automated enforcement of the Low Bridge begins this fall when all use must be tied to individual license plate numbers.  

  • Mj October 21, 2020 (1:01 pm)

    Jort – I’m happy to use a bus, but no service is being provided in my neighborhood midday.   It seems that the City needs to also provide the carrot not just the stick.  Yet on other City issues the City keeps providing the carrot with no stick!

  • Flivver October 21, 2020 (1:22 pm)

    Love your musings Jort. I take it you don’t drive YOUR can over the bridge?. 

  • Flivver October 21, 2020 (1:24 pm)

    Will these be moving violation’s that get reported to insurance companies??

    • psps October 21, 2020 (3:27 pm)

      No, these are like red light cameras. They can’t ticket an individual driver without a personal traffic stop, so they mail a “ticket” to the registered owner to scare them into paying the “fine” (the Arizona camera operator gets a cut of the take.) When I have to use the low bridge to service a client outside of the allowed hours (emergencies,) I just add the fine to the invoice and the client is fine with that. Everyone knows the real reason behind these cameras so it’s just a cost of doing business in Seattle.

  • smittytheclown October 21, 2020 (1:58 pm)

    My next purchase.

  • ShamefulDecision October 21, 2020 (2:13 pm)

    This is really curious. The City invested in studying punitive measures on the low bridge and is moving forward with cameras,  but where is the study to show how many vehicles, including port vehicles, should be allowed to use to the low bridge before emergency vehicle movement is impeded and emergency response is adversely affected?  Seems like the City and our own Councilperson prioritized punishing our community before checking to make sure our safety is safeguarded. 

    • WSB October 21, 2020 (3:12 pm)

      They have already cited those numbers, repeatedly.

  • EA October 21, 2020 (2:40 pm)

    Why are scooters allowed but not motorcycles?This makes zero sense! 

    • sw October 21, 2020 (3:45 pm)

      They don’t mean Vespa-type scooters.  Those would fall under the same classification as motorcycles since they are licensed for use on the road.  In this case they are referring to human-powered scooters or at most the new electric ones, for use on sidewalks.

    • juggernaughty October 21, 2020 (3:51 pm)

      Agree, SDOT had some asinine things to say in regards to morocyclists in the past when this question came up.I am basically about to assume the mindset of a “$75 toll” to use the bridge. Sure it’s expensive, but it beats the awful driver behaviour seen on Marginal or Highland park. Instead of SDOT vision zero nonsense, maybe Sam Zimbabwe should ride a motorcycle next to drivers distracted on their phones or driving impaired for once and see where the real issues are.

    • KM October 21, 2020 (4:04 pm)

      These are manual or e-scooters that use the separate bike/ped path, not Vespas.

    • Alf October 21, 2020 (7:07 pm)

      I know folks who have received camera tickets and simply attest they weren’t driving the car and don’t indicate who was driving and ticket goes away. I also see folks coming up with ways to disguise their car plates,   Folks who don’t want to adhere will come up with ways to skirt the system 

  • Blbl October 21, 2020 (3:19 pm)

    So a $75 toll? Worth it. 

  • susieq29 October 21, 2020 (3:57 pm)

    What does everyone think about these two ideas:1. Carpoolers with good to go pass set to carpool would be allowed over the low bridge?  Seems like if you’re trying to reduce trips,  they should reward it.2.  Weekends open to all traffic?  Seems like not as much cargo traffic on weekends and the bridge is under utilized.

    • Cass October 22, 2020 (8:09 am)

      We’ve been using it on weekends since it turns out we had erroneous info that was allowed. (I will think about jort and laugh every time I use it now, though.) Considering how light traffic volumes are on weekends compared to weekday commutes, I don’t see why it isn’t open then. I’d think the traffic remediation at any time possible would be crucial, especially since the city is concerned (for the first time in living memory and not really) about the impacts of the detours on minority communities in the south end. Using the low bridge on weekends might help traffic balance better on those days, reducing that impact.

  • anonyme October 21, 2020 (4:13 pm)

    Ticket NOW.  This is another situation where the City refuses to enforce the law, then whines for more and more money from taxpayers.  I’ve never seen a city so intent on punishing law-abiding taxpayers while simultaneously rewarding the bad behavior of scofflaws.  Every day is backward day in Seattle. They call it “education and outreach”, which is accurate in the sense that the citizenry are being educated on how to be entitled jerks, like LK1971.

    • WSB October 21, 2020 (7:09 pm)

      They have BEEN ticketing. With in-person officers. The cameras require a grace period by state law. (Same thing happened for installation of school-zone speeding-ticket cameras.)

    • KM October 21, 2020 (7:27 pm)

      They legally cannot give out tickets with these cameras (due to state law) until next year, take your rant up with the state legislature.

  • Alki Heights October 21, 2020 (4:31 pm)

    Listen my FriendsThe traffic will only get worse before it gets better on the detour. The less people we have using the First Ave South Bridge will makes the traffic flow faster.  Lets open the low bridge to motorcycles to help everybody using the  First Ave South Bridge. I do not own a motorcycle.

  • wetone October 21, 2020 (4:46 pm)

     “People with placards (currently 160 distributed ”  Curious if all city council members living in WS have these issued ? How about Dow Constantine,  and many other high ranking city and county employees living here ? If these people have placards then I see bridge and traffic issues lasting much longer than if they didn’t.  It’s shameful bridge is not open to all 10am-2:30pm daily to help with personal appointments, supplies/materials runs, and so much more. 

    • WSB October 22, 2020 (4:01 pm)

      No, they do not.

  • Steve October 21, 2020 (5:15 pm)

    I love these uber-rich that poopoo the $75 fine.  Let’s see…each way, five times a week.  That’s $3000 a month.  Must be nice.  

  • Flivver October 21, 2020 (5:36 pm)

    psps. I’ve heard that also that businesses are adding costs for WS because of the extra time or fines. And i fully agree that there are enough wealthy people that will have NO PROBLEM paying the fine and as you say chalking it up to “the cost of doing business” 

  • Flivver October 21, 2020 (5:39 pm)

    shamefuldecision. AMEN! There WILL be a time when emergency vehicles WILL be blocked and it will be busses and “authorized vehicles” that are the cause. My bet:SDOT will be “unavailable for comment”  

  • Dunno October 21, 2020 (5:56 pm)

    Only because Jort made me do it!  Me too!!!!!

  • Really? October 21, 2020 (11:42 pm)

    I have to assume they farmed out the administration of these fines to out of state organizations not unlike the red light cameras all over downtown? Paying folks in AZ to police our streets. Awesome. Way to go Seattle. Again

    • WSB October 22, 2020 (4:02 pm)

      I checked that with SDOT. Their vendor/contractor is Verra, the new name for what was Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions.

  • DB October 22, 2020 (9:26 am)

    Unclear if Ubers or Lyfts can use the lower bridge at all, even from 9 PM and 5AM.

    • WSB October 22, 2020 (9:58 am)

      ALL VEHICLES can use the low bridge 9 pm-5 am, 7 nights a week.

  • zark00 October 22, 2020 (1:30 pm)

    This sucks, will have zero impact, is ill thought out, poorly implemented, and will fail spectacularly as all of SDOTs plans fail.  A slap in the face, yet again, to West Seattle.  This bridge mess is an absolute SDOT &*%$ Show.  Figure out how to expand the use of the low bridge not how to rake in more revenue from their own failings in maintaining the bridge.  West Seattle should just start with the lawsuits now – start racking up the fines and judgements until we can just strong arm them into doing their jobs.  Durkan has the call on the repair vs replace – it’s going to be replace, it’s going to cost $1.2B we do not have, and it’s going to be 2030 at the earliest that we see bridge traffic resume.  We’re screwed.

  • AKH October 30, 2020 (8:23 pm)

    The way I see it is worry about yourself and what you are doing. If people want to unfollow the rules that’s their problem.I do feel like the hours could be adjusted a little bit (like 6am to 7pm) but probably won’t happen. I’m surprised the fine is only $75 but its not pocket change for me.My main gripe in general about people is stop worrying what others do, feel good about your own choices and most of all remember this won’t last forever. But I am in agreement we are pretty screwed! 

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