TA and Families for Safe Streets Call for Speed Cameras at #EverySchool

Graphic: Transportation Alternatives [PDF]

Assembly Member Deborah Glick will introduce legislation to significantly expand New York City’s speed camera program. To get the bill enacted, street safety advocates will have to build support in the State Senate and ensure that Governor Cuomo signs it into law.

At a press conference this morning, Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White joined members of Families for Safe Streets to call on Albany to allow automated speed enforcement by every school in NYC.

Amy Cohen spoke alongside other members of Families for Safe Streets in support of expanding the city's school speed camera program. Photo: David Meyer
Amy Cohen spoke alongside other members of Families for Safe Streets in support of expanding the city’s school speed camera program. Photo: David Meyer

State law currently limits the city’s speed camera program. No more than 140 locations can have the cameras, and they have to be placed within quarter mile of a school on a street that directly abuts the school. Enforcement is limited to hours when school activities are occurring, which leaves the speed limit unenforced during the 12 hours of the day when fatal crashes are most likely.

Glick’s bill would change the current set-up in three ways:

  • Any school in the city would be able to have speed camera enforcement within a half-mile radius, removing the limits on the number of “school zones” that can receive automated speed enforcement at any given rime.
  • Time restrictions on enforcement would be eliminated, allowing the cameras to operate 24/7.
  • The current sunset provision — under which the program would need to be renewed in 2018 — would expire, making the camera program permanent.

Albany first voted to allow speed cameras in NYC in 2013, and lawmakers expanded the program from 20 cameras to 140 in 2014. Since the debut of automated speed enforcement, traffic deaths and severe injuries in NYC have dropped to historic lows. Still, 239 people lost their lives on city streets last year.

“Unfortunately being struck by a motor vehicle is still the leading cause of death for New York City kids, and that’s a huge problem,” said White. “But we know the solution. We know that speeding reduces by 60 percent when we put speed cameras around schools. Speed safety cameras are saving kids’ lives.”

The bill has yet to pick up a sponsor in the Senate, but White said he was optimistic that the bill could win the support of a majority of legislators. “We’re taking this fight in a way that Albany has never seen,” he said. “We have hundreds of New Yorkers downstate and upstate demanding protection for our children.”

White admitted conversations with the governor’s office had been “opaque,” but he expressed confidence that Cuomo would support the legislation, pointing to his past support for lowering the speed limit in New York City to 25 miles per hour. “We have every indication that Governor Cuomo will again support safety for our kids over petty politics.”

So far, advocates have collected 950 signatures in support of the campaign and have been tweeting at legislators using the hashtag #EverySchool.

Speaking later in the morning at TA’s Vision Zero Cities Conference, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton expressed support for expanding camera enforcement, putting the onus on Albany to get it done. “Much of this is controlled by legislators in Albany,” he said, and “many of them do not have the same sensitivities to the extraordinary conditions we face in New York — the crowding conditions but also the sheer number of schools.”