FOLLOWUP: West Seattle Bridge bus-lane camera up and running and citing

A WSB reader texted:

Wondering if you might do a story on the new traffic violation cams on the high bridge – focusing on bus lane violators. I commute daily and take the 1st Ave exit right after the 99 exit and I wait until the last set of red painted lines that say BUS ONLY but I got a cautionary warning letter for this as a traffic violation . In the future the fine will be $75. Can you investigate where/ when it is legal to move over To the far right lane to exit on first?

It’s been three months since the last announcement about the new camera enforcement – when SDOT said in early September that installation was imminent. So first we asked SDOT if the camera – part of a “pilot” program also involving other locations in the city – was indeed up and running and citing. Yes: “The transit lane traffic safety camera on the West Seattle Bridge (high bridge), just east of State Route 99, has been activated. The first time someone is caught in a violation, they will be mailed a warning letter. For any new violations after that, they will be mailed a $75 ticket.”

How many warnings/tickets? SDOT refused to say:

This camera is part of an ongoing pilot program intended to evaluate the effectiveness of automated traffic safety camera enforcement in transit only lanes. The draft report on the effectiveness of the program will be submitted to the State Legislature in July 2024 and will also be available publicly at that time.

To get a report sooner, the spokesperson replied, we’d have to file a public-disclosure request.

To the original texter’s question, about the exact location to avoid if you don’t want to be cited: “The entire bus lane, which begins approximately 0.5 miles west of the exit to NB SR99, is restricted to buses only. The camera is located east of the exit to NB SR99. Drivers taking the exit to NB SR99 will not be impacted by the camera.” Here’s the design-document excerpt that SDOT sent us for a similar question pre-installation, showing the enforcement zone in yellow-green:

Meantime, no hint yet of when newly authorized camera types – like “racing” – might be installed, but we’re continuing to follow up.

40 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: West Seattle Bridge bus-lane camera up and running and citing"

  • Patrick December 1, 2023 (4:24 pm)

    Really great question, I was wondering the same. So to clarify—does this mean that as long as you take the 99 north ramp, then you will not receive a ticket?I hope that is the case, because you must cross the bus lane traveling east in the West Seattle bridge in order to get to the 99 north ramp exit.

    • Josh December 1, 2023 (10:13 pm)

      No you do not.  The bus lane does not start until a significant distance after the Delridge off-ramp.  People getting onto the bridge there have almost a half mile to move to the left two lanes. People traveling on the bridge wanting to take NB 99 also have plenty of time to move right while not entering the bus lane. 

      • Patrick December 2, 2023 (1:46 pm)

        Not true—there is very little roadway to merge from east bound on the WS bridge to the 99 N exit. And—it’s NOT clear where the bus lane “ends” and it’s “legal” to cross over to the 99 N exit. Very confusing.

        • Luis December 2, 2023 (3:16 pm)

          It’s 100% clear where the lanes are open to move over to the 99 exit lane. The bus lane begins where it says Bus Only with red paint and solid white lines. The lines are dashed in the transition area. And there’s plenty of space to make the switch. Couldn’t be more clear.

        • heartless December 2, 2023 (3:28 pm)

          Sorry, maybe I’m missing something, but if your question is really just “as long as you take the 99 north ramp, then you will not receive a ticket?” the answer is an unequivocal yes.  That is correct.  From the article above, the camera is EAST of the 99 north exit–if you are going eastbound and exit at 99 N, you will never trigger this camera.  I’m really not sure how you’re confused re: camera tickets.

      • Anywhere but here December 2, 2023 (3:54 pm)

        I take Delridge to 99 almost every morning.  There is a red ” Bus Only” marker painted on the roadway AS SOON as the Delridge entrance merges with the  bridge itself.  Like immediately. 

  • Blbl December 1, 2023 (4:36 pm)

    So I can cut everyone off by driving EB in the bus lane, then stop and park, blocking the bus lane, until someone lets me in to exit to NB99 and I won’t get a ticket? Cool!

    • Luis December 2, 2023 (3:18 pm)

      Yep. As badly as we needed a camera to stop lane violators, they finally implement the lamest solution. From the city that brought you stop signs at traffic circles!

    • heartless December 2, 2023 (3:28 pm)

      Sure, if that’s how you live your life.  Cool!

  • Jara December 1, 2023 (4:55 pm)

    I don’t think the OP’s question was answered. I read the question to be at what point can cars merge into/through the bus only lane to exit onto First Ave S (not NB 99). Can you please follow up with that specific question?

  • brizone December 1, 2023 (5:33 pm)

    It’s pretty clear where the bus lanes ends. Yet the OP said they ignored that, willfully cutting over the last section where it specifically calls out that lane as bus-only. Where those lane markings *END* is the first point where you can cut over without a citation.  Simple.

    • Luis December 2, 2023 (3:20 pm)

      Thank you! How obvious is this?

  • santa December 1, 2023 (5:40 pm)

    Don’t think the camera on the bus lane is a  good idea at all.  Not driving in that bus lane is impossible for about a third of the cars going through that need to merge.  The cons definitely outweigh the pros on this one.  

    • Bus December 1, 2023 (10:21 pm)

      If two thirds can do it, I’m pretty sure it’s also possible for the other 1/3.  If that red striping is just too tempting, try taking the Spokane Street bridge, which has neither a shiny red lane nor a camera.

    • Ryan December 2, 2023 (6:23 am)

      I take 99 to work every day. I’ve never once had to use the bus lane. There’s nothing special about me, or my car, which makes me able to do this. I simply change lanes before the bus lane begins, and you can do the same.

      • Blbl December 2, 2023 (11:50 am)

        @Ryan, They aren’t talking about 99, they’re talking about first Avenue.

  • Pauline December 1, 2023 (5:51 pm)

    People better start opening space for every other car to signal in!!!! Especially during morning traffic! You got people trying to go to 99 and those from delridge going left to I-5 

    • WS Res December 2, 2023 (11:06 am)

      Why, maybe Seattleites will learn how to zipper merge…

      • The King December 2, 2023 (8:26 pm)

        I have a feeling there’s going to be some barrel rolling, airborn cars ablaze as the driver still manages to get that text off 

  • LivesInWS December 1, 2023 (9:10 pm)

    Perhaps I’m misreading the map — which IMO is confusing — but that gives only about 2 car lengths in which to merge. We’ll have to be prepared  for long backups before that exit. 

    • heartless December 2, 2023 (3:29 pm)

      Or take a bus.

  • CAM December 1, 2023 (9:36 pm)

    These comments would be hilarious if it was at all possible to think they weren’t serious. I must be doing something horribly wrong because I’ve driven over that bridge countless times in all manners of weather and traffic and have never been forced to enter the bus lane. Have I been caught not paying attention to my exact position on the bridge momentarily and had to correct myself because I ended up waiting a little too long to get over? Yes. Have I had to be very attentive when merging? Yes. Is that ever because it was impossible to do the thing correctly and in line with the law? No. It’s because I wasn’t doing my best at driving in that moment. Maybe focus less on how people are out to get you and instead on how you can contribute to making the situation better and the whole thing won’t be such a problem for you?

    • Seattlite December 2, 2023 (7:23 am)

      CAM…What a terrific common sense comment.  I have never had a problem following the marked roadway directions between the bus lane and the areas of broken lines where I can switch lanes.  One of the main factors drivers have that prevents them from just following the marked roadway directions, is speeding.  The higher the speed the less control a driver has over his vehicle and reacting to roadway markings.  The roadways would be 100% safer if drivers did not speed.

    • KM December 2, 2023 (9:55 am)

      These comments are shocking if serious, really. I am choosing to believe they are just trolling.

      • heartless December 2, 2023 (3:31 pm)

        Honestly, at this point I’m not sure what I’d rather believe: that people are really this incompetent or that they’re trolling.  <heavy sigh>

  • Admyrl Byrd December 2, 2023 (12:19 am)

    Other thing that is really bad about this zone is all the on-ramping trucks from the port that use the “if I’m going fast enough they’ll move out of the way” technique as opposed to merging as the enter just before the 1st ave offramp.  Dangerous as hell.

    • wetone December 3, 2023 (10:26 am)

      This is going to be a huge problem as you mention AB. I questioned this traffic problem point in early planning. Going to be huge traffic issues at this point where buses, Harbor Island traffic (cars, trucks, heavy trucking from port) merges and have to change lanes at same time vehicles cross to 1st ave.  Terrible planning is understatement. Just as SDOT did not fix road surface on Spokane st. viaduct while bridge was closed. Now we will have to endure that road closure soon also……limiting WS ingress/egress once again ;) 

  • Bridge driver December 2, 2023 (7:46 am)

    In response to the texter as I  too exit on 1st Ave everyday and was concerned about where it’s allowed to move over—There is a posted sign after the camera where the solid line ends that says “End restriction zone” or end restriction something and after that sign there is plenty of time to get over to exit :) hope this helps!! 

  • Adam December 2, 2023 (8:28 am)

    If you get a ticket, there’s a spot you can check called a declaration of non-responsibility. You can get out of the ticket. That’s what I have to offer, rather than a bunch of snide comments when people are just looking for clarity. 

    • Mellow Kitty December 2, 2023 (10:07 am)

      Or you can just follow the laws of the road and not get a ticket in the first place. 

    • DC December 2, 2023 (10:25 am)

      Checking that declaration of non-responsibility when you are in fact responsible is an illegal act of perjury. I recommend you just not break the law and pay the consequences for doing so if you do. 

      • Adam December 2, 2023 (1:41 pm)

        An act of perjury too costly to litigate, I’ll take my chances and I’ll keep my money. You’re certainly welcome to take this evidence of a crime to the authorities, but they’re inundated with taking down the criminal ring of geriatric recreationalists illegally occupying our parks with unsanctioned pickle-balling. I implore you to get Greta on the case, as this will have far reaching effects and lead to more hurricanes, dead puffins, and cosmetics corporations forcing monkeys to wear lipstick.

        • heartless December 2, 2023 (3:32 pm)

          What would your mother say?  No, really.  This is not okay behavior, and I’m sure you know better.

  • Matt December 2, 2023 (10:10 am)

    I genuinely don’t understand the point of this camera and it’s teeny tiny detection zone. Is it so busses can get on easier from Spokane? All I see are cars jumping into the bus lane, speeding all the way to the end, and getting over at the last second. Most of the time I can’t get the person in front of me to speed up to block the violators from being able to merge back in, but given the amount of murderous road rage that’s probably a good thing.

    • Luis December 2, 2023 (3:25 pm)

      Exactly. This does nothing to deter the people who cheat through the whole bus lane to avoid traffic.

  • Admiral-2009 December 2, 2023 (12:07 pm)

    Why does SDoT call them traffic safety cameras that is a misnomer, isn’t the purpose to better maintain the bus priority and travel time savings for transit users?

  • Michael December 2, 2023 (3:25 pm)

    How about a camera for drivers on the east bound west Seattle bridge to I-5 north bound exit that are cutting across the double white line?????? This illegal lane cutting is really getting bad. I have seen people being forced to stop due to the lane cutter,  road-rage of great concerns. Completely out of control. Cameras to keep drivers safe and to help in a traffic incident!

  • Science27 December 3, 2023 (3:57 pm)

    Can we do something about these cars driving around without license plates already?  

Sorry, comment time is over.