Bus-ted! DC drivers to soon face fines for using bus lanes

Automated cameras on buses will soon catch bus lane and zone violators
This Metrobus in D.C. is one of 140 that are equipped with cameras that will catch motorists, who block bus lanes and zones in the city. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)

Blocking the bus lane while waiting for someone or quickly popping in to grab a mobile order will soon be a costly mistake in D.C.

The District Department of Transportation announced that beginning July 24, cameras designed to catch bus lane and bus zone violators will go live.

For the first 45 days after the program’s rollout, motorists will receive a warning. After that, the fines get pricier.

The fine for motorists driving, idling or parking in a bus lane, where they are not allowed, is $200. The fine for idling or parking in bus zones near bus stops is $100. Any vehicles parked in a bus lane long-term will be towed.

Motorists blocking bus lanes and zones have a big impact on transit times, Metro claims, after finding buses only move an average 9.8 mph. In addition, prototype test equipment caught more than 60 violators per day on average over a 30-day span.

The project, which is a joint venture between the District and Metro, will equip 600 buses with cameras over the next decade. The program will begin with 140 buses on select routes.

Metro will buy and install the cameras, which automatically capture video and pictures of cars and their license plates. The footage will be sent to the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles, and the city will handle the violation process and pay for the secure network that will handle the videos.

DDOT graphic on bus lane/zone violation camera process
This graphic shows how the camera program on buses will work. (Photo Credit: DDOT)

Within the more than $7 million program, Metro will pay $4.6 million to get the cameras on board, while the city will provide $3.1 million to help fund the “Clear Lanes” program.

It is not only Metro buses that are allowed in bus lanes; tour buses, school buses, paratransit vehicles and authorized emergency vehicles can use them, according to city laws. Cyclists may also use the bus lanes.

However, there are some exceptions, DDOT said. Drivers can enter a bus lane to make a turn at an intersection, alley or driveway, as long as signage and pavement makings indicate that is OK. When there is no signage, DDOT said cars can enter a bus lane 40 feet before a turn. Red paint on the roadway will typically be hatched to tell drivers where they can enter to make a turn.

The program will take full effect on September 7.

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Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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