Governor Andrew Cuomo’s top aide said this morning that the governor is committed to signing a bill to expand the number of New York City school zone speed cameras before the end of April. The firm stance comes after a plan to expand the number of speed cams in NYC stalled during budget negotiations.
WNYC’s Brian Lehrer asked why speed cameras were cut out of the recent state budget deal, and Cuomo secretary Larry Schwartz responded:
There was a dispute between the Senate and the Assembly regarding speed cameras in Nassau County. So because we needed to get the budget printed, we’ve all agreed that in the month of April, both houses will pass a speed camera bill for New York City, Nassau and Suffolk county. And quite frankly, if there’s anybody else that wants to be included, we’re happy to include them. And we’ll get a bill passed before the end of April and the governor will sign it because he supports speed cameras.
The Assembly is in session Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday next week, followed by the Senate on April 23 and 24, before both chambers convene for the final three days of the month. Commitment to a timeframe is a very positive indication from the governor, who said on Tuesday only that a speed cam bill would pass “shortly.”
While the news today is good, it could be better. The proposals up for debate in Albany keep NYC’s speed cams shackled to a narrow set of streets and turned off most of the time.
Bills sponsored by Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Co-Leader Jeff Klein would allow the city to install up to 140 speed cameras, an increase from the current cap of 20 cams. But the bills would also keep in place restrictions that only allow cameras on roads with a school within a quarter-mile and limit operation to school days from 7:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. The vast majority of fatal crashes occur outside these hours, and speed is the leading cause of NYC traffic deaths.
The Klein-Silver proposal falls short of other plans to crack down on speeders. A request in the State Senate’s budget, which did not survive to the final budget deal, would have expanded the school zone program to 180 cameras. The Klein-Silver plan also falls far short of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s goal of securing home rule over automated enforcement. (A bill from State Senator Adriano Espaillat would permanently extend the city’s red light camera program but limits them to 150, the number of red light cameras already allowed by Albany.)
Advocacy group Right of Way estimates that NYC would need 1,000 speed cameras to see the level of enforcement that has led to dramatic reductions in traffic fatalities in Washington, DC [PDF]. Expanding the existing speed camera program is a step in the right direction, but is anyone in Albany willing to step up for the robust automated enforcement program New Yorkers need?