Steve Matteo and NY1: A Speed Camera Is Working, So Vision Zero Is a Scam

Amanda Farinacci witnessed a “notorious” speed camera lighting up outside a Staten Island elementary school, but saw no speeding drivers. Image: NY1
NY1 reporter Amanda Farinacci witnessed a “notorious” speed camera lighting up outside a Staten Island elementary school, but saw no speeding drivers. Image: NY1

Speeding is the leading cause of fatal traffic crashes in New York City, and with unreliable police enforcement, cameras are essential to protecting New Yorkers from reckless drivers. Data released last summer showed that 20 speed cameras, covering a tiny fraction city streets, issued roughly as many speeding tickets in one month as NYPD did in six months.

Data also show that as drivers become accustomed to traffic cameras, law-breaking becomes less frequent. DOT says this happened after a camera was installed on Goethals Road in Staten Island, according to a report from NY1’s Amanda Farinacci. But the crux of Farinacci’s story isn’t a camera slowing drivers near an elementary school. It’s that speed cameras, and the Vision Zero initiative itself, are a money-making “scam.”

Says Farinacci:

In just 15 minutes time, NY1 witnessed the speed camera flashing eight times. At that rate, it could go off more than 30 times an hour. And with a $50 fine that means it’s big bucks for the city.

Farinacci could have reported that NY1 witnessed eight drivers exceeding the speed limit by 11 or more miles per hour outside a school, and that, thanks to restrictions mandated by Albany, the penalty for those drivers would be a mere $50 each, with no license points. She could have pointed out that motorists killed at least five pedestrians in Staten Island in the last year, and noted that lower speeds save lives.

Instead, Farinacci threw in a couple of standard gripe on the street quotes from motorists who can’t imagine adhering to the new 25 miles per hour speed limit “when they’re used to driving a bit faster.” And she spoke with City Council Member Steve Matteo about the “notorious” speed camera on Goethals Road, where the posted speed is 30 mph — meaning drivers have to be traveling at least 41 mph to get a ticket. Said Matteo:

“It provides the second-most revenue of any camera in the city. And I truly believe that that’s the purpose of the speed cameras. If you want to reduce speed, there are other ways to do it.”

Since succeeding James Oddo on the council, Matteo has shown no interest in street safety. He has one of the worst records in the council on safe streets legislation, and he was one of four council members to vote against lowering the city speed limit. (Fellow Staten Island rep Vincent Ignizio was one of the other three dissenters.) Of the five pedestrian deaths in Staten Island in 2014, two victims were killed in Matteo’s district. To our knowledge he said nothing publicly about either crash.

Given the number of tickets issued by this single camera, it’s clear that speeding is a major problem in his district, at least. If Matteo has other ideas on reducing the incidence of deadly driving, Farinacci’s story would have been the perfect opportunity to tell the public what they are.

  • ahwr

    3 won’t happen. You’re looking for a revolution to fix culture overnight. It won’t happen. Incremental fixes can. Like tolerating speed cameras, but only around schools during limited hours. Over a few years that can be expanded, both the number of cameras, their locations, and the hours they operate. No overnight revolution required.

    Cars going 20 or 30 are much more pleasant to walk next to, or to live next to, than cars going 40. They are also safer to cross in front of. When cars go slower it’s a less stressful environment for all. It’s easier for cars turning on and off the road, they have more time to see pedestrians. It makes little mistakes, like tripping in a crosswalk, or turning to check on your baby in the backseat less likely to lead to deaths. Speed enforcement is not instead of street redesigns or better education. It’s to supplement them. I don’t understand why you oppose it, why you want cars going faster.

  • Joe R.

    So with speed cameras near schools now, and maybe in some expanded locations later, you’ll get some reductions in speeds on a select number of streets but no real dramatically more pleasant environment everywhere until most streets are redesigned, if they’re ever redesigned. It’s an improvement but it’s not much. Where’s the plan for a long term traffic reduction? That’s what will really make us safe. Our congested streets breed frustration, which in turn breeds dangerous driving. Fix the congestion and most other problems will fix themselves.

    Yes, I absolutely am looking for a revolution. I don’t want a quick fix, but rather a relatively rapid rollout of a series of permanent infrastructure fixes over perhaps a ten year period. I don’t even care about the political feasibility of it because there are ways of dealing with that. We basically need a Robert Moses for the livable streets movement and for mass transit-someone we put in power who can’t get removed, and whose word is law. There’s little arguing had Robert Moses been a fan of mass transit and cycling instead of automobiles, the city would now look dramatically different.

    Speed enforcement is not instead of street redesigns or better education. It’s to supplement them. I don’t understand why you oppose it, why you want cars going faster.

    I don’t if speed limits are properly set, whether it’s with a 50th percentile or 85th. That’s the key-some number which makes sense based on real data, not some number a legislator thought looks good. That’s why this rubs me the wrong way. I’m on board for everything except the legislated speed limits. They’re bad enough on surface streets but we even have them here in NYC on our expressways. I don’t know how anyone can be on board for letting legislators usurp such a basic part of street design as setting speed limits. Remember most of those who legislate are doing so because they can’t hold down real jobs. They don’t have a clue about the world or how it operates.

    I’m a data driven person so unless I see numbers justifying something I’ll reflexively oppose it. We just do too much these days by the seat of our pants instead of using data. Take the bike enforcement. There are zero statistics which remotely suggest enforcing bike infractions to the level the NYPD has, and yet nobody except the people on this blog seem to question it. That’s dangerous and wrong. The funny thing is you’re going by the assumption that speed limits set via a percentile will always be dangerously high. It may turn out on a lot of streets that the speed limit set properly ends up lower than the present 25 mph legislated speed limit. We don’t know one way or another until we try it.

    And speaking of questioning, that’s exactly why we need decisions based on data. While I feel we should let experts do their jobs, that doesn’t make such experts immune to scrutiny. If we ask a traffic engineer to justify a speed limit, then they should have the data available to do. Same thing if they install a traffic signal. Was the signal justified by traffic engineering practices or was it put there due to pressure from a community board? If the latter, and there is no data, then it should be taken down. The real danger of doing things with no data isn’t that experts will run amok, but that those who hire the experts will be able to make them do things which might be counter to public safety.

  • ahwr

    You won’t eliminate traffic overnight. It’s something else that will have to happen incrementally. Rezoning low density neighborhoods for more commerce and industry, and the residents to support them, will allow for fewer per capita miles travelled while still allowing people to reach many destinations, and at the same time increase the demand for travel to and from more areas, increasing the feasibility of improved transit services. Asking people to wait fifteen minutes or longer for a bus during rush hour to travel somewhere they can currently drive to in less than fifteen minutes isn’t going to be politically palatable. When you can run a bus every three minutes, or a train every six minutes that can change. But you need more people travelling by transit for that to happen.

    Your lifestyle might not require heavy use of public transit, and you don’t seem to drive or be driven much if at all, but that isn’t the case for everyone. You won’t be able to snap your fingers and make cars disappear. For many people cars = mobility. I’m speaking of city residents. You won’t change that by passing a law saying drivers have to yield to pedestrians. It will require a long time to change the built environment so that acceptably few people are dependent on cars. In neighborhoods in eastern queens that’s decades off. There won’t be an e-bike revolution or whatever you are depending on to get around that. Whenever you depend on a revolution to fix your problems, you know you’re in trouble.

    NY’s experimentation with public authorities (moses) are a demonstrable failure. Everyone loves a dictator when they get what they want. But it’s a poor system of governance. If you’re asking for a benevolent dictator to come in and save you, that’s a sign you’re in trouble.

    Why are you so fixated on picking speed limits based on what drivers think? They aren’t the only ones who use the street, but they are the only ones you’re talking to. Why do you keep bringing up expressways? I’m only talking about surface streets. Stop trying to derail by bringing up expressways. 20 mph is a nice arbitrary default limit. It’s relatively safe for pedestrians, minimizes the differential with bikes acceptably. There are probably cases where a faster limit could be appropriate. But it should be proven why it would be acceptably safe to do so. Asking drivers how fast they would feel comfortable driving is an absolutely inappropriate way to determine safety for pedestrians and cyclists, so you’ll have to do a bit better than that. The default should be safe, not absolutely dangerous and hostile to pedestrians and cyclists, which is what the 85th percentile you pine for give you all too often. The only reason to go with an 85th or 90th or 95th percentile is to minimize speed differential among motor vehicles. If you use something lower than that some people will follow the limit and some will not and that produces a dangerous situation where you have a large speed differential among cars. On surface streets there are also pedestrians and cyclists, so you have a speed differential that you want to minimize, and the need for vehicles to be able to stop quickly. That demands slow speeds, slower than most drivers think feels safe. That brings up the motor vehicle speed differential issue again, which is why you need expanded automated enforcement. I know it won’t be instituted overnight, but the right to have just a few thousand active cameras would do wonders. Most people who receive a red light camera ticket don’t receive a second, it will be the same with speed cameras.

    The funny thing is you’re going by the assumption that speed limits set via a percentile will always be dangerously high

    Whenever they are over 30 they are dangerously high. If they are 15 lowering the (almost definitely unposted) speed limit to 25 hurts how exactly? If people want to drive 15 when the limit is 25 they will, especially when like on most streets, there is no sign posted.

    I know you hate traffic lights. But you never talk about any specific ones you want removed. You’re a smart guy, why don’t you put together a master plan for your neighborhood, show all the lights you want removed, templates for intersections and midblocks for some streets, etc…It would be great to see.

    As to cops and bikes…I’ve posted several times that NYPD shouldn’t be going after bikes the way they do. Forget about what level of enforcement is appropriate for the moment, for years now they seem to have been unwilling to institute a safe way to pull cyclists over. Years ago there was that case of a cop tackling a cyclist during a critical mass ride that got caught on camera. His claim was that he was trying to pull the bike over, that his assignment was to ticket bikers who ran red lights or committed some other infraction. A month or so ago there was a similar case, a red light sting setup around the Manhattan or williamsburg bridge, the biker didn’t stop so the cop tackled him. A few months ago I remember a story of a similar sting where a biker didn’t stop so they just let him go when he got on the bridge bike path. Too much hassle to chase him down for a minor infraction. It’s not just cops on duty who happen to see a dangerous biker who’re unequipped to deal with the situation, even when officers are specifically assigned to crack down on bike infractions they station those officers on foot or in cruisers to pull over cyclists. It’s dangerous and ineffectual.

  • Joe R.

    Here’s my rationale for why I think we can reduce traffic levels dramatically in a few years. For starters, a supermajority of city residents don’t drive regularly, as in to work every day, or even running errands every day. That seems to only happen in neighborhoods like mine, without good transit. However, lack of transit isn’t the primary reason people here drive a lot. Even best case, transit isn’t all that useful for running errands, so lots of transit here won’t necessarily mean less driving without other changes. The reason people drive is we make driving more convenient than reasonable alternatives, like walking or biking. Just a simple thing like banning curbside parking might do wonders to decrease driving. Once driving decreases, guess what, suddenly a lot more people don’t mind walking or biking, even with little or no bike infrastructure, because the streets are now a lot more pleasant. People do what they’re incentivized to do. The built environment makes it easy for people to drive, so that’s what they do.

    There’s also the concept of induced demand. A lot of car trips are unnecessary, meaning the person can do the same thing without driving. It might be a choice of driving to a big box store versus taking a shopping cart to the local grocery three blocks away. Or perhaps ordering something online instead of buying it. There may be a desire to get the thing now, but if we make it difficult to do so by car, then the person may just mail order it instead.

    That’s my thoughts regarding city residents. The last piece of the puzzle is people from the suburbs who drive into the city for work or pleasure. That’s a huge traffic generator, but it’s also the easiest one to deal with. These people aren’t city residents, so local politicians don’t have to worry about losing votes by doing things which offend them. If some suburbanite complains you just made driving in a big hassle, you can tell them take the train or just find another job. The city is under no obligation to make your car commute easier. You could eliminate maybe 50% of traffic by ending the tide of suburban car commuters.

    I know you hate traffic lights. But you never talk about any specific ones you want removed.

    That one is easy-all of them except those in places with uncorrectable poor lines of sight, like abutments under highway overpasses. Everywhere else do stuff like stop/yield signs on the minor road, automatically giving right-of-way all the time on the major road (but narrow the lanes and put in visual cues so drivers won’t hit high speeds just because they won’t be stopping much). Put pedestrian underpasses or overpasses at regular intervals so you’re not depending upon drivers stopping to let people cross at busy times. At less busy times there will be enough natural gaps in traffic for people to cross without waiting long. Put in islands so you can cross partway without waiting for the entire street to be clear.

    Where arterials intersect use roundabouts similar to this Dutch design:

    Note how easy it is for both pedestrians and cyclists to get across.

    Traffic lights in general are a tool which should be seldom used. NYC uses them to the exclusion of just about all other tools. They’re awful for cyclists, and none too great for pedestrians, either. They also have a tendency to make cars go faster, either to make the light, or just because a string of greens encourages it.

    I should also note that the best tool we have in the toolbox is separation. The more we separate disparate modes, the less it matters how fast cars, or to a lesser extent bikes, go. NYC won’t work as one big shared space. We need trunk routes where both motor vehicles and bikes, each in their own space, can go at reasonable speeds. Your 20 mph arbitrary speed limit might make sense on minor side streets where the main people using them are those who live there. It makes little sense on arterials. Note even in the Netherlands which we often use as a model, there are lots of fast roads, even in cities. The key is the other modes get their own space, so it’s all safe. For example, read this comment:

    I’m of the mind that we should do all we can to discourage unnecessary driving, but at the same time it must remain reasonably fast for essential motor vehicles like delivery trucks, buses, etc. to get around. That’s probably the biggest reason why I might be against very low speed limits like 20 mph citiwide.

    Your lifestyle might not require heavy use of public transit, and you don’t seem to drive or be driven much if at all, but that isn’t the case for everyone.

    And I can do this because I make conscious choices which enable me to. I do nearly all my shopping except food online. I just don’t go places which can only be reached by car. I work at home, which is something probably half the work force could potentially do if employers were less paranoid. The best way to reduce transit problems of all kinds is just to reduce the need to travel. I’ve taken that philosophy to heart in my own life.

  • ahwr

    >Just a simple thing like banning curbside parking

    Just because it sounds simple doesn’t mean it’s doable. In eastern queens? Not happening. Destinations are too far away. You need to reduce how much people travel by bringing origins and destinations closer together to make walking and biking feasible for more trips. There is no city where walking and biking make up most travel when people travel as much as they do in eastern queens. You know this, which is why you push for revolutions with ebikes and velomobiles instead of incremental changes to the built environment that can reduce how far people have to travel. You’re plan is dependent on a benevolent dictator to come in and enforce your changes instead of incremental improvements that allow for a steady gain in popular support.

    Pedestrian overpasses? They aren’t cheap.

    Have any data to support your assertion that 50% of traffic in eastern queens is not city residents?

    The footprint of that roundabout is huge. You’re going to have to bulldoze a lot of property to fit it in most arterial-arterial intersections.

    You know what else I see in that video? Just a few people, all moving slowly. Get everyone at main and union out of their cars and it would be a lot more crowded than in that video.

    Any data to support that 50% of the work force could work from home?

    I want 20 mph to be the default. In some cases it can be increased, but that would be the exception, not the rule. When there’s no cycle track it’s dangerous for cyclists if cars go 30+. Roundabouts with high traffic levels are unpleasant on foot. Have a video of a roundabout that sees 50k+ cars per day move through that’s good for pedestrians and bikes that have to cross it and that can fit in to the footprint of current arterial-arterial signalized intersections? You can magically wave cars away, if you want political support in eastern queens you have to first reduce the share of travel by car. Better buses, and more destinations that can be walked to are a necessary first step.

  • Joe R.

    I have a kind of sinister master plan here-you put things like banning curbside parking up to a citiwide referendum. A majority won’t support that in eastern Queens but citiwide there’s a good chance they will. When it passes, eastern Queens residents have three choices-live with it, move, or try to secede from NYC. My guess is most will go with the first choice. Once it’s a lot harder to drive, then people will look seriously at viable alternatives. That’s where the e-bikes, perhaps in time velomobiles, come in. With much lower traffic levels, even without my bike highways an e-bike will seem like a great way to get around. In fact, why not put a repeal of NYC’s e-bike ban in with the curbside parking ban referendum? If people know they’ll immediately have a great alternative to driving, then you’ll get those on the fence to vote for it. After a relatively short time with fewer cars, you can do small things to make the streets better for bikes, like take out traffic signals. Even in transit dense neighborhoods, people generally don’t use public transit for local errands. They mostly do them on foot, or potentially by bike for longer errands. I recall you’re the one who said most trips in NYC are under 5 miles. That means they can easily be done by bike.

    Honestly, geographically, eastern Queens and Brooklyn might be closer to most of the Netherlands than the rest of NYC, so bikes could work great out here. It won’t happen though until we reduce driving so people feel safe biking. Reducing driving will probably need more stick than carrot.

    Any data to support that 50% of the work force could work from home?

    I’m going by the number of jobs where you don’t require a physical body on site. Anything where the employee sits in a back office on a terminal and doesn’t deal face-to-face with customers is a potential work-at-home job. Point of fact even if we moved only 10% or 20% of jobs to home that could make a huge difference during peak times.

    The footprint of that roundabout is huge. You’re going to have to bulldoze a lot of property to fit it in most arterial-arterial intersections.

    A slightly scaled down version might work in many cases. I’m just saying NYC should at least be open to using something other than traffic signals and regular intersections all the time. There are lots of three road intersections which practically cry out for roundabouts instead of the very complex, very long light cycles they have now.

  • ahwr

    You’re not going to sneak in anything. If your plan requires you to
    trick people into supporting something it’s a bad plan.

    Especially since most people don’t vote. What’s the car use, either driving or being driven, among voters? Probably much higher than the general population.

    Are 50% of jobs back office work that don’t require regular in person interactions? Doubtful.

    And what about 50% of traffic being from Nassau or suffolk?

    Most trips are short. It’s less true in eastern queens, but still true enough that small changes to make biking and walking better without significantly impacting motor vehicle travel – breaking the street grid so a few cars can’t cut through side streets to avoid traffic jams on arterials – are worthwhile. It’s not true that people can maintain their current level of mobility if you sneak in and ban cars.

  • Joe R.

    Sneaking in things sometimes works. Do you know how many coin tosses I won saying “heads I win, tails you lose”? 🙂 Even if it doesn’t, there are other ways to do it without requiring the public’s approval. Maybe something along the lines of anti-terrorism, like preventing car bombs. You might only need a mayoral executive order to ban private autos from entering Manhattan on those grounds. After a year or two, people will get used to ban, then you could ask the City Council to make it permanent. The funny thing about people is if you mention radical changes most will go bonkers. However, if circumstances force the same changes on them, they may actually like it better than before. I’ve little doubt that enough city residents would love a city with less traffic enough to make it permanent if it was somehow initially forced on them. People are surprisingly flexible. In a few months you’ll have people who didn’t think they could survive a day without driving never wanting to drive again.

    Are 50% of jobs back office work that don’t require regular in person interactions? Doubtful.

    You have teleconferencing for that. The lack of employers offering telecommuting is not because it can’t work. It’s because we haven’t gotten used to the concept of paying people to do a job instead of paying them to physically be at work x number of hours. The only jobs which can’t be done via telecommuting are those requiring a physical body on site.

    And what about 50% of traffic being from Nassau or suffolk?

    50% from ALL places outside the city, not just Long Island.

    It’s anecdotal but I see most vehicles going east on the LIE in the PM rush hour not getting off within city limits. And obviously close to 100% of the cars entering via the Lincoln Tunnel and GW Bridge in the AM rush hour are from out of town. Even in areas like mine most people take mass transit to work. I’m pretty sure if there was data it would support my assertion about 50% of the peak hour traffic being from NJ, CT, and LI. Remember teachers and police are two groups who largely commute by car and mostly live outside the city. Those two groups alone account for some tens of thousands of extra vehicles daily.

    It’s not true that people can maintain their current level of mobility if you sneak in and ban cars.

    I’m saying they don’t need to. Shopping online can largely substitute physically shopping. Some large percentage of jobs are amenable to being done at home. In the end the best way to fix our problems might be just to incentivize traveling as little as possible by making it difficult and costly to get around. The trip with the least impact, regardless of mode, is the one which never gets made.

  • Andrew

    The idea of using some percentile is valid if the primary goal is to reduce collisions between motor vehicles and other motor vehicles. It is completely and utterly irrelevant if the primary goal is to reduce collisions between motor vehicles and pedestrians (and the secondary goal, when collisions do occur, is to reduce the likelihood that those collisions prove fatal).

  • Joe R.

    If the primary goal is to reduce collisions between pedestrians and motor vehicles then the obvious best solution is total physical separation! Despite your own personal prejudices this is not the primary goal here, except at intersections. At intersections we already use the traffic lights you love and I hate to slow vehicles down to 0 mph so people can cross the street. Why isn’t this good enough for you? Is it perhaps because it doesn’t work all that well in practice, as I’ve said many times? People still get killed by cars turning or running lights. Waiting for traffic signals can cut average walking speeds in half.

    So what should we use here to determine what speeds we allow vehicles to travel at? All the Monday morning quarterbacks here seem to hate the idea of percentiles, but offer nothing else which is useful to a practicing engineer. Any number you pick has to have some justification. Would you feel good if legislators decided what size and yield the steel beams in buildings should be? Well, it’s just as much out of their league for them to decide speed limits. They don’t have the expertise to do so, plain and simple. Nothing you or anyone else says is going to alter this fact. Besides that, 75+ years of studies all tell us the same thing-drivers will go whatever speed they feel comfortable at on a given road, regardless of the speed limit, or even if there isn’t one. The whole validation of a speed limit based on a percentile is to let law enforcement go after the outliers who are statistically the most dangerous.

    If your goal is truly what you stated, then you should favor one of two things:

    1) Complete physical separation of pedestrians from cyclists and motor vehicles, including at intersections.

    2) If #1 isn’t practical, then speeds in the range of walking speeds for ALL users to ensure perfect safety. This obviously negates the whole point of motorized surface transportation (and bicycles) altogether.

    The logical end result of #2 then is we turn our streets over 100% to people on foot. That’s how we’ll all get around in your world, in perfect safety-on foot and subway where it exists.

    What I’m trying to do here is show you is the end game of all this. If we keep slowing down motor vehicles, now to 25 mph, perhaps soon to 20 mph, then 15 mph, at some point you might as well just do it my way, and get rid of them altogether. After all, what’s the point of motorized transportation which can go no faster than 15 or 20 mph, has to stop for a gazillion traffic lights, then ends up averaging 5 or 6 mph? Why even allow a resource-intensive mode of transport which we then purposely cripple to the speed of a fast walk in the supposed name of safety? Just get rid of it entirely. Let people who aren’t in a hurry walk while those who are bike. Plenty of room for both to safely coexist once motor vehicles are out of the mix.

    I’ve said it before but it bears repeating-large numbers of motor vehicles and large numbers of pedestrians on the same streets are simply incompatible. There is no good, safe way for them to coexist without dramatically compromising the efficiency of both. Given these incompatibilities, plus how much more space per user motor vehicles consume, it makes sense to get rid of them in favor of people on foot or bikes.

  • ahwr

    I just can’t take seriously your suggestion that we have dictators trick the city into banning cars. It’s ridiculous.

    Perhaps you misunderstood me, but what does teleconferencing do for a cashier or a nurse? Are 50% of jobs office jobs where it would even make sense for some workdays to work from home?

    ~62% of nypd live in NYC

    ~67% of teachers live in NYC

    Where do you live? Zip code 11365 in eastern queens census 2013 5 year ACS gives commute by car alone or carpool:10,133 transit:6,478

    90% of workers are from a household with at least one vehicle available, 80% of households overall had at least one vehicle available. People drive out here, they won’t like it if your dictator takes away their cars.

    There’s a problem with anecdotes you know.

    I don’t know that vehicle use in the manhattan CBD is representative of use city wide, but here on 24, 25 in the pdf

    60% of auto trips with an origin or destination in the manhattan CBD were taken by NYC residents.

  • Andrew

    Total physical separation does not exist and will never exist. There is neither the money for it nor the interest in it. And even if there were, it would take decades to build a pedestrian overpass at each crosswalk; we can’t afford to wait that long to start saving lives.

    Traffic signals serve a purpose. But they are not immune to motorist error or pedestrian error, and they do not protect against turning vehicles. They also, obviously, have no effect where they don’t exist – at unsignalized intersections and between intersections.

    You know what can help save lives in all of these situations? Lowering the maximum speed of motor vehicles on city streets. That way, motorist error is less likely to result in collision, and collisions are less likely to result in fatality.

    Motorists ignore the speed limit on our city streets because enforcement is negligible, and they know quite well that they can drive at whatever speed they choose with no repercussions. Except where there are cameras. Which is exactly why the cameras lead to such a hue and cry among motorists.

  • Andrew

    I just can’t take seriously your suggestion that we have dictators trick the city into banning cars. It’s ridiculous.

    ahwr, meet Joe R.

  • Joe R.

    Actually, much heavier enforcement of failure to yield will save a lot more lives than speeding enforcement. Given the fact that there’s going to be backlash if we try any type of enforcement on motorists, I’d rather enforce things where you get more bang for the buck (no pun intended). Failure to yield, distracted driving, and lane jockeying (a subset of aggressive driving) are three things which not only kill lots of people, but make life highly unpleasant for pedestrians or cyclists.

    Lowering maximum speed is a second order concern, except in places where we have unsignalized crosswalks and such speeds make it difficult to cross the street. In the long run I absolutely agree speeds need to be lowered, but it must be done nearly 100% through street redesign. That will work without the expense and potential backlash of enforcement. Reducing motor vehicle volumes drastically is another thing we need to do to make life more pleasant, and again that should be another long term project. The hard fact is no matter how much enforcement or street redesign you have, if you put enough motor vehicles together with enough people walking, there will be a large number of casualties. The only way to not have this is by radically reducing the number of motor vehicles on the streets, or by total physical separation (not practical in NYC for now). Traffic volumes in NYC are just f-ing insane, to the point reducing them should take front and center.

  • Andrew

    I certainly agree that there should be much heavier enforcement of failure to yield than there is today. But speed enforcement is also a very important piece of the puzzle, and it can be easily automated to vastly increase both the quantity and the quality of enforcement – only state legislation holds us back from citywide implementation. I don’t know how well automated failure-to-yield works.

    In terms of bang for the buck, automated enforcement will always win out.
    The reason there’s a backlash against speed enforcement – the ONLY reason there’s a backlash against speed enforcement – is that, in its absence, motorists have grown accustomed to driving at whatever speed they feel like driving at, safe or not.

    The point of slowing traffic is to be tolerant of mistakes. If drivers are told that there’s nothing wrong with driving 40 or 50 mph on a city street, a pedestrian who trips and falls off the edge off the sidewalk is dead, as is the pedestrian on the sidewalk hit by the motorist who overcorrects for something on his left and inadvertently serves onto the sidewalk. At 20 mph, the motorist is far more likely to avoid striking the pedestrian on the first place, and even if the pedestrian is struck, he is far more likely to survive.

  • sammy davis jr jr

    You do realize that you contradict yourself when you say “Drivers can often ignore speed limits without consequences” and in the same breath argue against speed cameras, right?

  • Joe R.

    I argue against them because they’re a lazy person’s tool. For starters, you’ll never get enough of them deployed to make a significant difference. That would require a speed camera on practically every block. Second, if you’re rich and don’t care about the $50 fine they basically just toll you for speeding. It’s still physically possible to speed if you don’t care about the fine. Good infrastructure on the other hand makes it physically impossible to drive at inappropriate speeds-impossible as in “total your car and possibly DIE” if you do.

    Third, and probably most important, all this focus on speeding is a distraction from what is the real cause of deaths and injuries-the f-ing insane levels of motor traffic in NYC. No matter what you, just by virtue of street users making mistakes you’ll get a lot of deaths when you have large numbers of motor vehicles and large numbers of other users. You might cut deaths in half by reducing speeds, but that’s an optimistic estimate. You’ll still have an unacceptably high number of deaths, plus about ten times as many silently killed by motor vehicle exhaust. You’ll continue to have very high levels of aggressive driving which directly result from drivers frustrated at lack of forward progress due to congestion. In addition, when you try to shoe in this many motor vehicles you end up with streets which are highly suboptimal for cyclists or pedestrians. Look at all the damn traffic signals we use just to let people cross the street and keep cars from crashing into each other. Those same signals often make it take two or three times as long to walk or bike anywhere (or they predictably get ignored by cyclists/pedestrians, leading to other issues, including police harassment).

    You’re all ignoring the elephant in the room. There are just too many cars and too much driving in this city, even in places with many other reasonable options. There’s no reason for this other than continuing to allow cars easy, free curbside parking plus access to most streets. Get rid of curbside parking, then start breaking up the grid (i.e. closing off most minor streets except to peds, cyclists, delivery/emergency vehicles) to make it less convenient to drive.

  • ahwr

    plus about ten times as many silently killed by motor vehicle exhaust.

    Is this still true?

    in 2005 travel by motor vehicles in New York City generated 11% of the local PM 2.5 emissions

    Estimates 380 annual deaths avoided if PM2.5 concentrations reduced by 10%.


    especially since most of the deaths from air pollution are people over 65, in terms of life years lost might cars do more damage directly?

  • Joe R.

    Aren’t most of the pedestrians killed elderly also?

    Estimates 380 annual deaths avoided if PM2.5 concentrations reduced by 10%.

    380 deaths avoided by reducing these emissions only 10%? In that case how many deaths overall are caused by them? It might actually be way more than ten times as many killed directly by motor vehicles.

    In addition to deaths, motor vehicle exhaust is a persistent quality of life problem. I can’t even go out before about 8 or 9 on warmer days without feeling nauseous. I don’t doubt there is improvement from years ago, but the air is still far from good.

  • ahwr

    It was in the pdf, I think 3200. the 2007 PLANYC docs said something like 55% of total PM2.5 levels were not generated in NYC. So a minority were locally emitted in the first place. Of those local emissions something like 11% were from MVs, a disproportionate share from diesel trucks. They’ve cleaned up new diesels a lot since then. But old ones last a long time. See here

    Eliminating all MV emissions would cut total PM2.5 levels less than 10%, and wouldn’t avoid even those 380 deaths.

    There’s a reason that Bloomberg made a big stink about heating oil no. 6. Those old boilers were responsible for a lot.

    FWIW I think the cleanest new cars – PZEVs like prius, some subarus etc…- are 90% cleaner than the fleet average.

    ~33% of pedestrians killed by MV crashes are over 65. ~75% of deaths attributed to PM2.5 are those over 65.

  • BlackCrimesMatter

    Looking for where a camera is placed is distracting and takes focus off the road.

  • John

    Same thing off Manhattan bridge lower level to Brooklyn. School speeding camera with no visible speed limit (bridge limit is 35miles). Pathetic…

  • Andrew

    Is the speed limit enforced by the camera below 25 mph? If not, you should be fine, since the cameras all permit 10 mph above the actual speed limit, which conveniently gets you to the speed limit on the bridge. If you’re not speeding on the bridge, what’s the problem?


So Far Suburban Opposition to Safety Cameras Isn’t Playing in NYC

Well, that was quick. Two nascent safety camera programs on Long Island have been shut down, despite demonstrable success in Nassau, after elected officials turned tail in response to complaints from law-breaking motorists. Meanwhile, red light cameras in New Jersey were turned off this week after that state’s five-year demonstration failed to secure renewal in the legislature. […]

Today’s Headlines

6-Year-Old Hit by School Bus Driver in Parkchester Gets Attention of City Hall Press Corps (WABC, NY1) Brian Lehrer, Errol Louis, NY1 Viewers Discuss Implications of Vision Zero (WNYC, NY1 1, 2) Vision Zero Coverage Everywhere: The Nation, Atlantic Cities, Ditmas Park Corner, Bklyn Paper City’s 20 Speed Cameras Issued 12,000 Warnings in Four Months (NY […]