Flaggers from a private security firm are no longer allowed to control traffic on the crowded side streets of South Lake Union, the city says.
The Seattle Department of Transportation said Tuesday that, based on a city attorney’s opinion, this kind of ongoing private traffic control is illegal:
“Based on the city’s review, only uniformed police officers may control traffic on the city’s right of way outside of a construction zone. Flaggers may only be used at construction zones when permitted by the city. SDOT will work with garage operators to ensure compliance with city law.”
For about a month, Star Protection Agency has hired employees and sent them through an intensive one-day course, before deploying them at parking garages. The flaggers wave motorists from Amazon and other employers into streets, often stopping other cars in the gridlock, as reported in Monday’s newspaper. This work was previously done by police parking-enforcement officers, but Amazon and Star say private flaggers were needed due to shortages of off-duty police. The larger story is how Seattle’s growth and inadequate road capacity have created a long-term demand for traffic shepherds.
This situation differs from temporary construction flagging, which is regulated by Washington state and overseen by the state Department of Labor and Industries. And police have continued to rule the SLU intersections, as well as major chokepoints at Fairview Avenue North and at Mercer Street.
Bryan Kettler, vice president of Star Protection, said nobody at Seattle DOT has spoken with him, and that some of his employees were scheduled to flag tonight. “No one has reached out to me at all,” he said. Typically, six to eight private flaggers would work mid-block at Thomas, Harrison and Republican streets in the afternoon peak.