NYC Has Installed All 140 School Zone Speed Cameras Allowed by Albany

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg says that, as of today, DOT has installed as many safety cameras as Albany will allow. Photo: Stephen Miller
Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg says that, as of today, DOT has installed speed cameras at as many locations as Albany will allow. Photo: Stephen Miller

Just in time for the start of the school year tomorrow, DOT has announced that it has finished installing speed cameras at the 140 school zone locations allowed by Albany.

“Our message is, to all drivers in New York, at all times and all places, you should be driving at a safe speed,” Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said this afternoon at a press conference on Fourth Avenue near Astor Place. “These cameras do protect lives. Speeding is the leading cause of fatal crashes.”

Drivers have to be exceeding the speed limit by at least 10 mph to trigger the cameras. Nevertheless, with just 140 permitted camera locations to monitor 6,000 miles of streets, the program is capturing an incredible number of speeders. The cameras have issued more than 940,000 violations since the beginning of last year, including more than 500,000 so far this year.

The $29 million in fines so far this year will probably lead to a few sensational local TV news segments about how the cameras are lightening driver’s wallets. But the fact is that revenue from the cameras, at $50 per ticket, decreases over time. A year ago, each camera issued an average of 192 violations per day. By last month, that number dropped to 69, DOT said, indicating that drivers are slowing down.

While early results are promising, Trottenberg said the city would have to wait a few more years before it had enough crash data to conclusively show how the cameras are reducing fatalities and injuries.

Today’s announcement marks a milestone for the speed camera program. Albany first approved 20 locations in 2013, then cleared an expansion to 140 last year. Now, more than a year later, the city has completed installing that allotment, with 100 fixed camera locations and 40 mobile units.

Daily News reporter Dan Rivoli asked why it has taken so long. “We wanted to make sure we did it right,” Trottenberg said. “In some jurisdictions, when you don’t do it carefully, the voters go at you and you can lose the whole program.”

Trottenberg was alluding to Long Island, where speed cameras became an election-year hot potato. Outraged drivers pressured Nassau County to shut down its program just months after it rolled out, and Suffolk County terminated its program before the cameras were even turned on. While some in New York City, primarily on Staten Island, have bristled at the safety cameras, there has been no gush of rage against them.

Now that the cameras have all been deployed, street safety advocates are taking aim at the restrictions imposed by Albany on how the city can use them. The cameras can only be located on streets that abut schools, within a quarter-mile of the school. That rules out many streets where speeding is a major problem.

“There are locations where the school is on a side street, and up the block is a main thoroughfare where everybody has to cross to get to the school. And because the law says it has to be abutting the school building, we can’t put them there,” said DOT Deputy Commissioner for Traffic Operations Steve Galgano. “Because the building doesn’t abut the roadway, I’m not allowed to put a camera up.”

Albany also only allows cameras to operate up to an hour before and after school events. That keeps the cameras off overnight and on weekends, when three-quarters of NYC traffic fatalities occur, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles [PDF]. They’re also not on at any time during summer recess, which leads to long gaps with no enforcement and causes rates of speeding to rise before the cameras are turned back on for the school year.

Advocates are pushing to expand the program. “There’s over 2,500 schools. We only have 140 cameras,” said Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White. “Every kid in New York City deserves these live-saving devices.”

While Trottenberg wouldn’t reveal what the city will seek from Albany next year to strengthen the speed camera program, she indicated that it would be a priority. “This is something that I’ve talked about and the mayor’s talked about that we need to tackle,” she said.

Legislators at today’s press conference were a bit more aggressive. “Over time we’ll demonstrate the fact that we are saving lives, and it will be very difficult for my colleagues to reject a program that saves lives,” said Assembly Member Deborah Glick. “Anybody who stands in the way is going to have to answer to their constituents.”

  • AnoNYC

    School hours only is ridiculous. It’s just asinine.

  • Zero Vision

    So it took DOT over a year to get up to the full 140 and then they held a press conference to pat themselves on the back for it?

  • Danny G

    Is it possible to have the cameras issue license points either instead of or in addition to the monetary fines? The argument you hear from people who like to drive more than 5 miles over the speed limit is that the city uses these speed cameras not primarily to reduce speeding, but as a revenue source.

    I do agree with AnoNYC that if most people are dying when the cameras are off, it might be helpful to have the cameras on 24/7/365, because preventing dying is something worthwhile.

  • JK

    Brad, do you know if DOT does actually keep the cameras on longer at some locations than others based on whether a school has an after school event or program? There are 2000 plus schools, keeping track of all that after school activity would seem like a big job. Also, there are school athletic events and musical and drama performances on weekends, so in theory there could be a lots of cameras on outside of regular school hours? Can you tell us more about whether this is happening? PS Also, do advocates think it is impossible to get cameras authorized for 5mph or 6 mph over the speed limit? 35mph is still pretty damn fast on streets with pedestrians.

  • millerstephen

    Trottenberg said today that DOT works with each school where it has cameras to determine after-school and other schedules. And yes, it does seem like a big job.

    Not sure if advocates see reducing the 10 mph threshold as more or less doable in Albany than loosening the time/place restrictions or increasing the number of cameras. Increasing the number of cams seems to be where most of the interest is at the moment, though Galgano was saying the location restrictions are a big burden, especially in the outer boroughs.

  • MatthewMArnold

    Yes, please, more cameras and much stiffer penalties. I do sense less speeding over the past year or so, but I still see plenty of cars using the small streets by my kid’s school as a dragway. We do not have a speed cam or a red light cam. We really need both. We also need more traffic enforcement in general — for example, when I drop my kid off in the morning, there’s invariably a beer truck, parked with impunity (because the cops write tickets and the distributors eat the fines and pass on the costs) creating a dangerous bottleneck at an intersection teeming with children and parents.

  • millerstephen

    The speed cam fine is $50 and zero points. It doesn’t include points because with a camera there is no way to verify the identify of the driver at the time of the infraction. A reporter today thought the fines were graduated with higher fees for higher speeds, and DOT explained that the $50 flat fine was mandated by the state.

  • kevd

    The only people not deserving violent death at the hands of reckless, speeding drivers are children.
    Everyone else is fair game!

  • Tyson White

    and only when they are in school. Children outside of school are dead meat.

  • Emmily_Litella

    This must have been a heavy lift for all involved, considering the selfish neanderthals constantly objecting to routine traffic management tools like this. Lets keep the momentum up.

  • Kevin Love

    One thing that would be interesting is to see the data about car speeds. I suspect that there is a reckless minority of high speed car drivers.

    And yes, a flat fine is ridiculous. It encourages the high speed car drivers to say, “If I’m going to pay $50 no matter how fast I go, then why not go really, really fast!”

  • Andrew

    Albany also only allows cameras to operate up to an hour before and after school events.

    Albany only allows camera-based ticketing up to an hour before and after school events. But can’t the cameras operate around the clock for data collection purposes, perhaps building the case for a future expansion to 24/7 ticketing?

  • ““Our message is, to all drivers in New York, at all times and all places, you should be driving at a safe speed,” Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said this afternoon” But you know, you’ll only be getting a ticket if you do it during school hours. At all other times, you have the obviously entirely ineffective disincentive of occasionally murdering another human being with little to no consequences. And yeah, a flat 50 dollar ticket is pathetic. For some, that’s dinner for a week, for others, that’s a pretty good deal for having a little fun with people’s (children’s) lives.

    Also, “Legislators at today’s press conference were a bit more aggressive. “Over time we’ll demonstrate the fact that we are saving lives, and it will be very difficult for my colleagues to reject a program that saves lives,” said Assembly Member Deborah Glick. “Anybody who stands in the way is going to have to answer to their constituents.”” I have little doubt that many legislators have no difficulty justifying enormous loss of lives to their constituents to justify getting rid of this type of tool. Of course, I’m utterly utterly cynical these days.

  • Joe R.

    Probably the reason this program is so tepid (limited number of cameras, only on during school hours, 10 mph cushion) is NYC fears exactly what has already happened in other states. Once some significant fraction of drivers get nabbed by these cameras, there will be political pressure to just ban their use altogether. And sadly, quite a few of our legislators will be all too willing to accommodate that. Like I’ve said multiple times, start aggressively reengineering the streets, and let’s start doing this around school zones first. I we liberally use things like roundabouts, drivers can’t physically speed through intersections. Better yet, they can’t speed 24/7, not just during school hours. I’m sure a significant number will complain about that too, but they can’t argue with concrete.

  • walks bikes drives

    Those damned speed cameras! They are just a ploy to get me to lay more taxes. Straight up, they are a tax on drivers. So are tickets issued by police officers for speeding, for that matter. And those red light cameras too! Those are just to make money off anyone who is driving. Oh, and don’t get me started on the massive fines for drunk driving! Those are just to balance the budget.

    Wait a second, how come I, as a driver, have never had to pay any of those things? Oh wait, that’s right, I don’t break the law! Oops. Never mind.

  • Miles Bader

    Why the hell is there a “limit” set by Albany at all?

    It’s like limiting the number if parks the city can have, there seems no other explanation than spite….

  • Miles Bader

    As far as I’m aware, the bans of red-light and etc cameras in other places was pretty successful mainly because of the rather stupid financing used for them. The “anti-camera” camp jumped on the financing and successfully pushed the viewpoint that it was all a money-making scam not a safety protection program.

    It seems clear to me that most people hated the cameras not because of the financing issue, but because they were afraid of getting caught, but it doesn’t really matter as long as long as they could use the financing as a scapegoat to shut them down.

    The answer to this seems very simple: don’t use dodgy financing and private operation schemes, just make the cameras city owned just like stoplights etc, with the money from fines going to something like road safety programs or whatever that’s.

  • ahwr

    Political pressure to ban cameras is a concern, but political pressure to re-reconfigure the street wouldn’t be?

    What sort of roundabout? A small one like this?

    http://i.imgur.com/2UCWAl0.jpg

    Doesn’t get many cars through the intersection. And if it did, it would be pretty uncomfortable to walk there. Because to get through it cars swerve towards, and often into, the crosswalk. Driving through even in a large SUV you can stay out of the crosswalk, but sometimes you have to slow down a little more to do it. It’s fine when traffic volumes are low and you’re willing to let all the cars go first if they don’t yield (motorists get less considerate the more traffic there is). It’s a little uncomfortable for everyone even when volumes are low, but when too many cars try to get through it people find it too stressful and frustrating, so if someone tries to put up an apartment in Ballard everyone loses their mind. In NYC those apartments already exist.

    You can get roundabouts that serve high volumes of traffic. But they look like this:

    http://i.imgur.com/Fv9GQPU.jpg

    Doesn’t exactly fit in most NYC intersections.

    If this is a backdoor approach to cutting traffic volumes, you’re not gonna trick everyone into it, and the concrete will be gone before it’s cured. DOT has a hard enough time getting people to tolerate redesigns that have traffic impacts in the peak 15 minutes only a few days a year.

    If there’s a roundabout design that serves high traffic volumes and fits in the space typically available in NYC care to share a few pictures?

  • Joe R.

    Not every intersection near schools is high volume. Also, even though it’s not strictly kosher, and I’m not crazy about the idea, you could have a roundabout with a traffic signal if traffic volumes are a concern. You can only have the traffic signal active during times when traffic is heaviest (maybe 7AM to 8PM).

    The larger roundabout would actually fit just fine in many arterial-arterial NYC intersections. You may need to take a little real estate off the corners, or you could just shrink the size of the circle so it fits neatly in the existing intersection.

    The small roundabout is ideally suited to lots of low traffic, narrower streets where now we might put 4-way stop signs.

    Another idea is to just put bollards between lanes within about 50 feet of an intersection. This will slow drivers somewhat. More importantly, it will eliminate the dangerous lane jockeying which occurs near intersections. That in my opinion is more dangerous than speeding.

    The general idea though is there are many types of physical traffic calming. Roundabouts are just one. We need to get this done since it appears we can’t depend upon speed cameras alone to stop people from driving at highway speeds on NYC surface streets. On another note, I also feel we should raise highway speed limits in an effort to funnel some traffic off surface streets onto highways.

    If this is a backdoor approach to cutting traffic volumes, you’re not gonna trick everyone into it, and the concrete will be gone before it’s cured.

    We shouldn’t have backdoor approaches to cutting traffic volumes. It should be upfront as public policy. If we’re ever to get close to the stated goal of zero fatalities, we’re not going to do so just with lame attempts like speed cameras in a few locations only active during school hours. We need to seriously cut traffic volumes because that’s the primary incubator for the type of driving which kills. We’ll hopefully get congestion pricing passed which is a good start. After that we need to start gradually eliminating parking, or charging very high rates for it, starting in the most congested areas, then working our way out. Of course, as we slowly take cars off the table as an option we need to provide other options. That would initially mean more BRT type buses, eventually new subways. It will also mean more bike paths and bike parking. As we do these things, your idea of densifying the less dense parts of NYC becomes much more viable, so that’s another bonus. Robert Moses left us a legacy which will take many years to undo. We’re only currently taking baby steps in that direction. We need to go much further much sooner.

  • com63

    I think they should do the following:
    Keep the cameras on 24/7 and record data about who is speeding all the time. For now, they should only send fines to drivers who are caught during the legally allowed period during the school day.

    With the other data, they should publish statistics and release them to the media. The could report on the fastest drivers, the number of people driving recklessly overnight and things like that. They could even send letters to the people caught to shame them and warn that they almost got a ticket. It should be a big PR campaign. This would allow DoT to keep a focus on safety rather than revenue and build support for 24/7 operation.

  • Matthias

    Whatever happened to 15mph limits in school zones?

  • djx

    “As far as I’m aware, the anti-camera people in other places have been successful mainly because of the rather stupid financing used for cameras in many cases. The “anti-camera” camp jumped on the financing and successfully pushed the viewpoint that it was all a money-making scam not a safety protection program.”

    This.

  • djx

    ” DOT explained that the $50 flat fine was mandated by the state.”

    Face into palm.

  • Helen Smith

    That’s because MOST local drivers are now driving on the side streets because even locals with kids find these speeds stupid and ridiculous. If you want people to slow down, put in speed bumps. These cameras exist for one reason only, to make MONEY! Liars liars pants on fire. Who do they think they are fooling? Put in speed bumps and change the lights during school hours so that no cars are moving in any direction and the kids have the right away for a full 2 minutes. Install “pick up areas” so that the parents aren’t all double parked. Seriously, let’s get rid of these legislators who clearly don’t live in our neighborhoods and have no idea what’s going on.

  • bob88

    Well said!

  • bob88

    Excellent progress towards making this a safer AND more efficient city.
    Car crashes hurt people and tie up traffic for hours. When everyone on local roads follows the speed limit, we make the city a better place.

  • We are attempting to locate all of the 140 locations. Please give feedback and add new locations with proper detail on this map. http://www.photoenforced.com/ny.html

  • st4rchy

    Streetsblog readers, please post locations where they should be, i.e., on every corner, and maybe people will drive more reasonably. GTFO with your warn the speeders nonsense. There’s my “feedback” for you.

  • st4rchy

    I sort of wish the speed camera lottery prize idea didn’t work as well as it does–because I’d rather people cared about a kid or disabled person they might hit than whether they win money–but since it does, it is worth a shot in my book. That would shut these people up. http://www.wired.com/2010/12/swedish-speed-camera-pays-drivers-to-slow-down/

  • 1soReal

    They do have some intersections where its red all around to allow for a all pedestrian crossing. You can do that everywhere though. It would grind traffic to a halt, it can only be where it reasonably fits the traffic pattern. Also you can just put speed bumps any and every where. Its not suitable for major roadways, road with buses, or truck routes, and some streets have to be free of speed bumps for emergency vehicles.

    I cant say I have never sped but if you get caught just suck it up and pay the ticket. When your wrong just take responsibility and move on. All these childish rationalizations are getting old. Besides, I”d much rather a speeding cam ticket than being pulled over by a cop. Camera tickets are $50 and not considered a moving violation vs $200+ when pulled over, plus points on license.

  • 1soReal

    It’d have to be a moving violation for that and you have to actually get pulled over for to receive one.

  • STEVEN RUBEN

    SPEED CAMERA’S ARE GETTING OUT OF HAND. GOT 2 SPEED TICKET 4 BLOCKS FROM THE SCHOOL ON DIFFERENT DAYS . BARELY OVER SPEED LIMIT. NOT EXACTLY NEAR THE SCHOOL EITHER. I REAL CASH COW FOR NYC. NOTHING TO DO WITH SAFETY. VOTE REPUBLICAN FOR MAYOR AND CITY COUNCIL THE NEXT TIME. GET RID OF ALL DEMOCRATS INCLUDING THE MAYOR WHO VOTED FOR SPEED AND RED LIGHT CAMERA’S. IT’S MAKING ME AND YOU POORER AND THE CITY RICHER. GOT TO CONSTANTLY LOOK AT YOUR SPEEDOMETER.

  • STEVEN RUBIN

    VOTE REPUBLICAN FOR MAYOR AND CITY COUNCIL.

  • STEVIN RUBIN

    VOTE REPUBLICAN FOR MAYOR OF NYC AND CITY COUNCIL. GET RID OF THE DEMOCRATS THAT ARE COSTING YOU LOTS OF MONEY FOR THESE SPEED CAMERA’S AND RED LIGHT CAMERA TICKETS. THEY APPROVED THESE CAMERA’S.

  • STEVEN RUBIN

    IN NASSAU COUNTY L.I., THEY GOT RID OF SPEED CAMERA’S BY SCHOOL ZONES. LOT’S OF PEOPLE COMPLAINED AND IT WAS ABANDONED. POLITICIANS WORRIED THEY WOULD NOT GET VOTED IN AGAIN.

  • STEVEN RUBIN

    THE PEOPLE THAT POST FOR THE CAMERA’S THE MAJORITY OF THEM DO NOT DRIVE A CAR.

  • Andrew

    GOT 2 SPEED TICKET 4 BLOCKS FROM THE SCHOOL ON DIFFERENT DAYS .

    If you don’t want speeding tickets, don’t speed.

    BARELY OVER SPEED LIMIT.

    Speed cameras in New York City don’t issue tickets within 10 mph of the legal speed limit. In other words, you were speeding by more than 10 mph. (And, incidentally, driving “barely over speed limit” is speeding nonetheless.

  • Roman Osmanov

    is there app that notifies as you approach cameras?

  • Joe R.

    Yes there is. There is a speedometer app for most phones. Keep it under 35 mph and you won’t get a ticket.

  • Roman Osmanov

    red light cameras is also head ache, sometimes one stops on crosswalk avoiding going on red light for miriads reason

  • Roman Osmanov

    the problem is that they do not differentiate between passing red light with negligence and attempting to stop to avoid crossing an intersection on red light. It is mechanical collection of money? they follow the leeter of law not a spirit

  • AnoNYC

    You won’t get ticketed at a red light in a crosswalk because they take two photos (initial trigger and in intersection).

  • AnoNYC

    Red light enforcement cameras only ticket when an automobile travels through a red light.

  • AnoNYC

    Most people in NYC do not own an auto. Fewer use one on a regular basis.

  • AnoNYC

    Thankfully, most New Yorkers (city) don’t drive on a regular basis.

  • We are trying to get the data on other apps. For now you can use this light mobile web page that does not require a download. http://www.photoenforced.com/mobile.html

  • Peter

    So when I get a $50 ticket for driving slowly the money gets sucked out of my budget–there goes the Saturday night movies with the kids (and then the movie theatre has to lay off employees, etc.) –and everyone wonders why business is slow–it goes to pay for NYC so they can feed the illegals and fund their programs–Govt. being too big is not good for us but good for the deblasio communistas

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