Albany’s Slimmed-Down Speed Cam Legislation Could Cross the Finish Line

Larger circles indicate a higher incidence of speeding near schools. ## for full-size PDF. Image: NYC DOT

This afternoon, the City Council passed a home rule resolution calling on Albany to pass legislation enabling speed enforcement cameras in school zones. The last time there was action on speed camera legislation, more than two months ago, Mayor Bloomberg was chastising state senators Marty Golden, Simcha Felder, and Dean Skelos for torpedoing the program in the Senate’s budget legislation after the Assembly moved ahead with automated enforcement in its budget proposal. Now it looks like a more restricted version of that bill has a good shot at passing.

After speed cams failed to make it out of the budget process, State Senate Co-Leader Jeff Klein picked up the issue, and this week, a slimmed-down speed camera program is being readied before the legislature closes out its session on June 20. The legislation matches the program outlined in the Assembly’s budget plan, allowing the city to deploy 20 cameras, limited to areas within school zones and to the time period beginning up to one hour before school hours or activities and ending one hour after.

Fines would not exceed $50 per violation, unlike earlier legislation that would have allowed fines up to $100 for more egregious speeding, and tickets would only be issued for drivers speeding at more than 10 mph over the limit. Drivers would not receive points on their licenses for speed camera tickets.

While the bill is limited, advocates see it as a necessary first step. “What we are doing is getting our foot in the door. This is the start of the program,” Transportation Alternatives general counsel Juan Martinez said. “The key is to get the authorization so we can start eliminating these needless deaths.”

“I think it helps [gain votes] that the legislation is now isolated to a quarter-mile around schools,” said Nadine Lemmon of Tri-State Transportation Campaign, adding that legislators she’s spoken to are now more interested in supporting the bill. “It feels like it has momentum.”

At least one speed camera supporter, however, is not pleased. “I don’t think we should limit it to just around schools,” State Senator Andrew Lanza of Staten Island told Streetsblog. “Let’s put the cameras where we can affect dangerous situations and make them safer.” Lanza, who sponsored previous speed camera legislation, said that he would resubmit his bill for a broader speed camera program.

Focusing the initiative on school zones, however, could finally put speed camera legislation over the top in Albany after years of failed attempts. The bill might pick up some unexpected votes along the way. On Monday, Transportation Alternatives delivered nearly 1,000 signatures to Golden’s Bay Ridge office, asking him to support speed camera legislation. While Golden has aligned with his allies at the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association in opposing speed cameras, advocates noted his history of supporting street safety measures. “He’s been on the right side of these issues for a long time,” Martinez said. “I think he gets the speeding issue.”

“There have been signals from Senator Golden that perhaps he would be amenable to it. I don’t think it’s as polarized an issue as perhaps has come across,” said Tri-State’s Lemmon. Streetsblog asked Golden’s office if he has a position on Klein’s school zone-only speed camera bill but has not received a reply.

Today’s City Council resolution follows a March resolution that expressed the council’s support for speed cams while they were being considered during the budget process. Speed cameras already have the support of Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance. The Assembly bill has 42 co-sponsors, including a majority of the New York City delegation. The Assembly is expected to take up the issue only after the Senate moves on a bill.

Klein is presiding over the Senate tomorrow and Saturday, as well as Monday, Wednesday, and Friday next week. He’s scheduled a press conference on speed cameras at P.S. 81 in Riverdale with Sadik-Khan for Friday morning.