De Blasio and DOT Ring In the New School Year With More Speed Cameras

Mayor de Blasio and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg today officially announced the expansion of the city’s speed camera program, which will eventually bring automated enforcement to 140 school zones across the boroughs. Today’s event also underscored the fact that streets around schools won’t be as safe as they could be, thanks to restrictions imposed by Albany.

All 140 speed cameras allowed by Albany will be operational next year. Will state lawmakers lift constraints that prevent cameras from saving lives? Photo: ##
All 140 speed cameras allowed by Albany will be operational next year. Will state lawmakers lift constraints that prevent cameras from saving lives? Photo: ##

At a press conference this morning at PS 95, on Hillman Avenue in the Bronx, de Blasio and Trottenberg were joined by NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan and State Senate Co-Leader Jeff Klein, a key supporter of legislation that brought the first 20 speed cams to NYC streets last year.

“Our kids are going to be safer walking to school and coming home because of this new enforcement,” said de Blasio via a press release. “We are sending a powerful message that we take safety near our schools seriously, and we will enforce the law to keep children safe.”

With the new school year set to start Thursday, DOT is on its way to deploying the 120 additional cameras authorized by state lawmakers earlier this year. Twenty-three cameras will be up and running this week, according to a de Blasio spokesperson, with 40 to 50 cameras operational by the end of 2014. All 140 cameras are expected to be online by the end of 2015.

Speeding was the leading cause of traffic deaths in NYC in 2012, contributing to 81 fatal crashes. Automated enforcement is vital to reducing traffic casualties, but NYC’s cameras come with a bevy of conditions that limit their effectiveness. Per today’s press release:

DOT is permitted to place cameras within a quarter mile of a corridor passing a school building, entrance or exit of a school on the corridor. The cameras are only active on school days during school hours, one hour before and one hour after the school day, as well as during student activities at the school, and 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after school activities.

In addition, cameras can only ticket drivers who speed by 11 or more miles per hour, and the penalty for speed cam tickets is a nominal $50 fine, with no license points. According to a Transportation Alternatives analysis of DMV data, the majority of fatal speeding-related crashes statewide occur on weekends or between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. on weeknights — hours when speed cameras aren’t normally allowed to operate. To prevent as many injuries and deaths as possible, state lawmakers should remove these restrictions.

Still, cameras are ticketing drivers for reckless behavior that would otherwise go unpenalized, and the work they’re doing points to how rampant speeding is on city streets. The Post reported in July that the city’s first 20 speed cameras issued 48,517 tickets in June, the first month when 20 cameras were operational. In one month that handful of cameras nearly outdid six months’ worth of speed enforcement by NYPD, which through June issued a total of 54,854 speeding tickets. Speed cameras have issued almost 183,000 tickets so far this year, according to the mayor’s office.

There are about 1,700 public schools in NYC, and hundreds more private schools. To make the most of what is still a very small number of cameras, DOT has kept quiet about sitings and other details. (Photos from today’s event show a camera mounted behind the windshield of a Ford compact.)

“DOT deployed cameras during the summer months near schools with summer activities, but with the school year about to begin, any school meeting the requirements of the law could potentially receive fixed or mobile speed camera enforcement,” the press release said.

  • JK

    Does afterschool count as a “school activity?” If so, who has the big huge list of after school programs, Carmen Farina? Does se share it with DOT so they can keep the cams on? Seriously, this seems like it would be hard to keep track of,but hugely worthwhile since many afterschool programs continue until 6pm. Plus, what about night and weekend sports in school gyms? These cameras could be on a lot. Anybody looked at this? TA?

  • Morris Zapp

    Great question. From what I know DOE does well to keep the lights on. Since, for example, their email system dates to the 1990s, I can’t imagine them being able to pull that off at all. And if they can, what a clusterfuck it must be.

    All because Albany is afraid of lawbreakers who kill children.

  • R

    “Our kids are going to be safer walking to school and coming home because of this new enforcement.”

    Correction: some kids. Far too many children — and adults as well as anyone who doesn’t live near a school — will still be vulnerable, all because Albany lacks the courage to stand up to powerful motoring interestrs.

  • Eric McClure

    Why will it take 16 months for 140 cameras to be fully active? Anybody? Rapid deployment and activation of speed cameras should be a super-high priority, and 16 months is not acceptable.

  • Guest

    1700 public schools alone. Sure, 140 speed cameras should do it.

  • com63

    Does anyone have an idea of what steps are involved with setting up one of these cameras? Are there studies required? Does DOT have to coordinate with local politicians or other agencies? Do the cameras take a long time to procure? Is there a significant calibration process required? What are the reasons? Why can’t they roll them all out by the end of the year?

    I agree with Eric that it seems like this is taking way too long.

  • Jeff

    “[W]e take safety near our schools seriously.” The rest of the city? Meh.

  • Max P

    If safety were the issue they’d install speed bumps. Charging speeding fees by mail proves this is all about money and not safety.

  • Not true, if drivers feel they won’t get away with speeding in a school zone, they’re more likely to slow down. In fact, you don’t even need cameras, you just need everyone to think there are cameras.

  • I watch drivers go over those $12,000 speed humps and resume speeding immediately.

    I get a real kick out of people who think the city has to prove their measures are about safety by using less effective means to calm traffic.

  • The long range plan is for the rest of the city to benefit also.

  • I think a large part of the arsenal NYC camera opponents use is problems with cameras in other states and cities. The local media already made a hoopla over a speed camera that was illegally placed in Staten Island, which led to it being removed. Opponents use incidents like this to bolster their claims that cameras should not be used.

    I read a quote by Polly Trottenberg, “We want to move as quickly as we can but we want to make sure that we’re also careful and we’re treating motorists fairly”. I take that to mean she wants to avoid the problems camera enforcement has run into in Jersey (shortened yellow light durations), Nassau County (hundreds of bogus tickets issued) and elsewhere.

    The more accurate, efficiently, and less problematically the pilot program works the faster we’ll get cameras where they’re needed…which ain’t just in school zones.

  • Morris Zapp

    And all you have to do to keep the city’s hand out of your pocket is slow down. See how that works?

  • Eric McClure

    I certainly think it’s wise to be thorough and avoid problems that opponents can harp on, but I still think this seems like a really laborious rollout.

    The Mayor is adding staff at DOT; I’d certainly like to see some of those hires devoted to speeding up camera deployment.

  • Max P

    I want all bicyclists to have license plates so they too can be mailed tickets for the rampant moving violations they commit. I’d say its about 50-50 for whether a bike rider is breaking the law at any given moment. Can’t wait to see how you feel when $80 tickets show up in the mail weeks after you supposedly broke a law.

  • Joe R.

    Won’t happen. The minute they require bike license plates either nobody will be riding or nobody will get them.

  • NJ Gov Christie is about to ban red light camera, but the Blas wants more in NYC. They are a scam, read all about them.

    Rosy the Gym Rat

  • Dream on. There aren’t very many municipalities that require licensing for cyclists, because there just isn’t much reason to do so.

  • Guest

    It should be required… but it wouldnt… cause then the cops would have to actually do work and we know they too busy strangling people. There is a solution for these bike riders though a well place opened door as they are about to pass…. or on a nice cold day use your windshield washer as they pass by…


Advocates to Albany: Let NYC Enforce the Speed Limit at Every School

Advocates from Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets will head to Albany tomorrow calling on legislators to expand NYC’s automated speed enforcement program. They want speed cameras by each of the city’s 2,500-plus schools, operational at all times. Speeding is a leading cause of crashes resulting in injury or death, yet state law limits New York […]

De Blasio Previews His 2017 Street Safety Agenda

To ring in the spring construction season, Mayor de Blasio previewed City Hall's street safety priorities in the year ahead. De Blasio noted that to date, the city has relied on $100 million in federal funds for Vision Zero projects, and that the Trump administration's federal budget outline could slow the pace of street redesigns.