Imagine this: A driver in his car approaches a traffic light in downtown Washington. The light is green, so the driver crosses into the intersection but can’t make it all the way across before being forced to stop behind a line of other cars.
Before the driver can move through the intersection, the light changes to red. Now he or she is blocking cross traffic from moving through the intersection in the perpendicular direction.
Anyone who has ever driven, bicycled or walked around downtown Washington at rush hour knows that the scenario described above is replayed in real life thousands of times a day. Drivers routinely “block the box” by inching into a crowded intersection when they have a green light, and then staying there once their light turns red, blocking cross traffic.
The practice is tantamount to running a red light, and it is a major contributor to auto and bus gridlock downtown during rush hour.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
We already have red light cameras at multiple locations throughout the city. Why not roll out a hundred more downtown? Block a box? Snap! Picture taken, your ticket is in the mail. If ticketing were to become commonplace, it’s logical that blocking the box would stop being such a widespread crime.
Any time someone suggests anything that reduces drivers’ sense of entitlement, such as ticketing drivers who break the law, apologists come out of the woodwork to fight the proposal. But in this case, increased ticketing of drivers who block the box would serve to directly improve traffic flow.
Unlike cameras aimed at reducing speed or generating income, cameras aimed to primarily ticket box blockers would benefit all other drivers in the city by virtue of reducing congestion. Bus riders, cyclists and pedestrians would benefit as well, since they suffer as much from gridlock and blocked crosswalks as anyone.
Increased red light cameras downtown aimed at ticketing box blockers seems like it would benefit everyone, including the majority of drivers, without harming anyone except those who choose to break the law and make congestion worse. Why not do it?
Cross-posted at BeyondDC.