Frequently Asked Questions
Confused? Need some answers? Seattle's streets abound with traffic controls that direct us to go straight, turn, stop, walk, yield, merge... Below is a list a frequently asked questions that Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) staff field on a regular basis. If your question isn't answered below, or you would like more detail, give us a call at (206) 684-ROAD and our ROAD staff will direct you to the person with expertise to answer your specific question.
Traffic Operations – Where to find local road laws, how to report missing traffic signs, malfunctioning traffic lights and street lights, and other common traffic questions.
Neighborhood Traffic Operations – Who has the right-of-way at an intersection, how to turn left at a traffic circle, questions on speeding, stop signs, and more.
Parking Program – What do the parking signs mean, how much does on-street parking cost and hours of operation, what is an RPZ and other questions about parking.
Where can I find the local road laws?
The Washington State Driver’s guide is an excellent tool that explains basic rules of the road and gives you valuable information about safe and responsible driving. The drivers guide is available at: http://www.dol.wa.gov/driverslicense/guide.html. Washington State Traffic Code regulations are also available online. The online Seattle Municipal Code contains a searchable database where you can look up traffic codes unique to the City of Seattle. Another good online research tool is the Municipal Research and Service Center of Washington.
How do I report a broken or malfunctioning traffic signal?
How do I report a streetlight outage?
To report street light trouble and to request repairs for streetlights, call Seattle City Light at (206) 684-7056, or use the Streetlight Online Trouble Report.
How do I request a traffic signal for an intersection or a crosswalk for a busy street?
Can I turn left over a double yellow line?
Can I turn left from a two-way street onto a one-way street if the signal is red?
Yes, but only into the nearest lane and you must yield to pedestrians, bicyclists, and oncoming traffic.
Can two lanes of traffic turn left or right?
Are motorists required to yield to buses or other transit vehicles?
Yes, motorists must yield to transit when the bus has signaled and is reentering traffic flow. It is also a good idea to watch for buses making a right or left turn as they may need additional room to maneuver.
How do I get the worn street (pavement) markings (white lane lines, arrows, yellow center line, etc.) repainted?
SDOT annually remarks all the lane markings throughout the city beginning in the Spring. We remark arrows (left, straight and right) and crosswalks as they wear out, which may not be annually. Please contact (206) 233-0033 if you have any further questions about street (pavement) markings.
There is limited parking in my neighborhood so vehicles sometimes block my driveway, why doesn’t the City install more parking restriction signs for driveways?
Under SMC 11.72.110 - Driveway or alley entrance, neighbors are not permitted to park a vehicle:
The prohibited area for a driveway may be painted and maintained with traffic yellow paint by the property owner or occupant. Interested? See driveway sketch for specifics.
I have a concern with cars parked too close to an intersection and blocking the crosswalk, what should I do?
If cars are parking illegally, you can call SPD parking enforcement at (206) 625-5011. If you would like SDOT to evaluation your concern and determine if additional signs or parking restrictions should be considered, please contact (206) 233-0033. If it is a non-arterial intersection, please contact (206) 684-0353.
We constantly work to balance the needs of motorists with the needs of pedestrians, and the parking needs of local property owners and businesses. We study the traffic volumes, patterns and distributions throughout the roadway network to determine when changes are needed (i.e. parking, turn restrictions, turn pockets, signal timing, etc) to improve traffic flow. Often, the traffic changes to improve flow are made on a corridor basis to maximize benefit rather than at spot locations.
I have an issue with Interstate 5 or Interstate 90, why doesn’t the City do anything about the freeways?
Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is responsible for operating and maintaining Interstate 5 and Interstate 90. The City is responsible for city streets and some state highways, like Aurora Ave N. The City works closely with WSDOT to improve locations, like the viaduct, where both jurisdictions have common interests.
Who has the right-of-way at an intersection?
Under State law, when two vehicles approach an intersection with no stop signs at about the same time, the driver on the left shall always yield to the driver on the right. This is also true for intersections that have a traffic circle or all-way stops.
How do I turn left at a traffic circle?
State Law does not distinguish between a traffic circle and a larger roundabout. Consequently, a driver turning left at a neighborhood traffic circle must proceed counterclockwise around the traffic circle. However, we recognize that there are instances when drivers may need to turn left before a traffic circle, such as when cars park too closely to the right side of a circle or when a driver can't maneuver a larger vehicle around to the right. Turning left in front of a traffic circle in those instances can be safely performed if the driver exercises reasonable care and yields to pedestrians, bicyclists, and oncoming traffic.
What is the purpose of a traffic circle, and how do I get one installed on my street?
Seattle has well over 1,000 neighborhood traffic circles. They are effective at reducing accidents at intersections. They also reduce speeds at the intersection and multiple traffic circles can reduce speeds along the entire street corridor. We receive many requests for traffic circles, although there are funds to install only about 10-15 each year. Traffic circles are prioritized on how many accidents have occurred at the intersection, as well as on the measured speeds and traffic volumes. More information can be found in Neighborhood Traffic Operations.
A traffic circle near us needs the landscaping maintained, who do we call?
Traffic circle landscaping is not maintained by the city, but rather by community volunteers. Those volunteers do their best at keeping the landscaping in good condition. However, if you feel a traffic circle is becoming overgrown, or if you are interested in volunteering to help maintain an existing traffic circle call our Urban Forestry Section at 206.684.TREE (8733) and we will try to get in touch with the volunteer and/or include you in our volunteer program.
If you and/or your neighbors want to completely renovate the landscaping in the traffic circle, there are limited funding opportunities through the Department of Neighborhoods at http://www.seattle.gov/neighborhoods/nmf/smallsparks.htm.
Can we install stop signs to slow traffic?
Wouldn't additional speed limit signs help to slow traffic?
What can our neighborhood do about people who speed on our street?
Can’t we install speed humps right away?
Traffic calming devices such as speed humps may not be the best answer to a speeding problem. Every traffic calming device has advantages and disadvantages and selecting the device that is most appropriate for the street is a collaborative process. Additionally, high demand and limited funding require SDOT to prioritize those streets where such measures will have the most benefit. For more information on traffic calming devices, please go to our Traffic Calming Program.
My street has a lot of cut-through traffic, can the street be made one-way or can we install “Local Traffic Only” signs?
“Local Access Only” signs aren’t enforceable and as such are ineffective. Making a street one-way, can have negative consequences such as encouraging people to speed or accidents can increase if drivers don’t comply with one-way designations. Our residential streets are public streets, and everyone has a right to use them. The main goal is to encourage those drivers that do use your street to drive safely.
What about installing Children at Play signs?
The City of Seattle does not install these signs. We want drivers to be aware that children could be present on or near any street. We also don’t want either children or their parents to feel that such signs make children “safer”. It is important to note that in jurisdictions where such signs have been installed, they were shown to have no effect in reducing collisions or vehicle speeds.
There is speeding on our alley, what can I do?
The speed limit on alleys is 15 mph. SDOT does not install speed limit signs in alleys and installs traffic calming in very few alleys. Residents are welcome to participate in the Traffic Calming Program if they believe vehicles are speeding in their alley.
Is there anything we can do about speeding on my arterial street?
If you have speeding concerns on an arterial street, you are welcome to participate in the Arterial Traffic Calming Program. SDOT prioritizes speeding concerns on arterial streets that come from residents annually and we develop appropriate traffic calming measures for the streets that rank highly. Traffic calming on arterial streets is challenging because of the multiple purposes served by arterials. Sometimes, the only feasible solution is enforcement. You are always welcome to contact the Seattle Police Department at 625-5011 directly if you desire additional enforcement.
I have other safety issues on my residential street. Who can I call?
What do the signs for paid parking mean?
SDOT’s new paid parking signs are designed to indicate the time limit and hours that paid parking is in effect. These signs are located near parking pay stations. For details on symbols on SDOT’s new paid parking signs, click here.
Many blocks also have some restricted spaces or restrictions at certain times of day. Make sure to check for any restrictions. Parking Enforcement and the Seattle Police Department have put together a parking education brochure, explaining additional on-street parking signs and how they are enforced. Sometimes blocks have restrictions, during certain times (such as peak travel hours), which indicate that you cannot park. Make sure to follow these regulations.
How does SDOT make decisions to change rates or hours, or to install paid or time-limited parking on previously unregulated streets?
SDOT uses data collected from regular manual counts and pay station transactions to understand demand for parking and set rates, time limits, and hours of operation accordingly. In 2010, the Seattle City Council and Mayor developed the City policy for this performance-based pricing system, with the goal of having approximately one to two spaces available throughout the day. See the ordinance here.
For requests to install new paid parking or time-limit (free) signs, contact SDOT at 206-684-ROAD (7623).
How much does on-street parking cost?
The price of on-street parking varies by neighborhood. Rates range from from $1.00 per hour to $4.00 per hour. For a full list of rates by neighborhood, see paid parking rates and hours.
For how long can I park?Time limits generally vary by neighborhood as well. Time limits are 2 hours, 4 hours, or all day. In some areas, the time limit is 2 hours for most of the day and changes to 3 hours after 5:00 pm. Check the paid parking hours page for more details
What are the hours during which pay stations and meters are in effect?
Pay station hours of operation vary by neighborhood.
See a map of the paid parking areas at: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/parking/paidparking.htm
When is on-street parking free?
What if the pay station next to where I parked isn’t working?
You need to pay at another pay station and display your receipt in your vehicle. Pay stations are ticket vending machines not specific to individual parking spaces. A short-term receipt can be purchased and used at any parking spot in the city. Long-term (10-hour) receipts must be used within the same neighborhood as purchased and may only be used on blocks with 10-hour time limits. If you do not pay at a pay station and properly display the receipt, you risk receiving a parking citation.
What do I do if a pay station takes my credit card but does not print a receipt?
Your credit card will not be charged if the pay station does not print a receipt. Try again at the same pay station, use a nearby pay station, or pay with cash. If you need assistance on the street, you may call the number on the side of the pay station (206-684-5260).
If I have a disabled permit license plate or hang tag do I still need to pay for parking and observe the posted time limits?
Vehicles with legitimate disabled permits may park at any legal parking space at no charge and for unlimited time, except where other restrictions are in place such as load zones and restricted hours. Vehicles with valid disabled permits are also subject to the 72-hour rule and must move vehicles after that time.
What is a Restricted Parking Zone (RPZ)?
The Restricted Parking Zone (RPZ) Program was created to help ease parking congestion in residential neighborhoods, while balancing the needs of businesses. RPZs help neighborhoods deal with parking impacts through signed time limits from which vehicles displaying a valid RPZ permit are exempt. Go to SDOT's RPZ Program Page to find out more about RPZs and whether your residence qualifies.
Can I park my car indefinitely in a space that has no time limit restrictions?
Every on-street parking space in Seattle is subject to a 72-hour parking limit, even if there are no other posted restrictions. Although some people may not use their vehicles on a regular basis (and therefore leave them parked on the street), the vehicles must still be moved to a different block every 72 hours. You must comply with all posted signs, including temporary parking restrictions, which go into effect after 24-hours notice. Drivers who park on public streets are encouraged to check their cars at least once a day.
How can I get an abandoned vehicle towed away?
To report an abandoned vehicle, call the Seattle Police Department Abandoned Vehicles Hotline at (206) 684-8763 or report on-line here.
On some major arterial streets, parking is restricted to accommodate morning traffic (6:00 to 9:00 am) or evening traffic (3:00 to 6:00 pm). Restricted hours vary by block and are clearly noted on the face graphic on the pay stations, and on signs along the curb.
Where can I park a motorcycle?
More than one motorcycle or scooter may occupy a parking space as long as there is sufficient space and all parking regulations are observed. The City has also designated more than 100 parking spaces around the city for the exclusive use by motorcycles and scooters.For more information and regulations click here.
Litter and recycling cans are serviced by (Seattle Public Utilities) SPU's commercial contractors. The cans in most areas are serviced two to three times a week; high-traffic areas may be serviced daily. To find out when cans in your neighborhood are serviced view the Schedule of Litter Can Pick-Ups. For more information visit SPU's website
To report problems with public place litter or recycling cans, call the Seattle Public Utilities Hotline at (206) 615-1700.
How do I find out about truck regulations in the city of Seattle? How do I obtain a permit for an overlegal load?
Over-Legal Vehicles and Loads, Travel Directions, and Downtown Traffic Control Zone Regulations - Call: (206) 684-5086
Temporary No Parking signs are put up by city agencies, contractors or other users when a street or part of a street needs to be temporarily blocked off.
Temporary No Parking Zone users can complete the self-verification process here.
Who do I call if I have a question about a Temporary No Parking sign?
Please contact one of the following agencies if you have a question or concern about Temporary No Parking signs.
For Information about the Self-Verification Process: Traffic Permits Counter at (206) 684-5086.
For questions about Temporary No Parking easels that are placed on a street, check the company name and phone number on the bottom of the sign and call that number. If there is no company name or number the sign is not valid. To report this infraction, please call Parking Enforcement at (206) 386-9012.
If you have a vehicle that was towed from a Temporary No Parking Zone: City Towing at (206) 684-5444.
For complaints about Temporary No Parking zones: Customer Service Bureau at (206) 684- CITY