NYC Will Take Another Shot at Expanding Speed Cameras This Year

Before today's hearing, council members thanked Families for Safe Streets. Photo: David Meyer
Before today's hearing, council members thanked Families for Safe Streets. Photo: David Meyer

This morning, officials from four city agencies shared Vision Zero “progress reports” at a joint meeting of the City Council’s transportation and public safety committees. Perhaps due to the mayor’s recent funding pledge, council members went light on the questions. Still, there were some noteworthy moments.

Here’s a rundown.

TA poll shows huge support for Vision Zero among voters

Just before the hearing, Transportation Alternatives unveiled recent polling of New York City voters’ views on Vision Zero and traffic safety [PDF].

The results are impressive. Among the 880 respondents, who skewed older and more likely to own cars than the average city resident, 72 percent support protected bike lanes, dedicated bus lanes, speed bumps and other traffic-calming measures “even if it resulted in fewer car parking spots and less space for vehicles.”

Meanwhile, 63 percent of respondents said they “strongly” support Vision Zero. That number was 73 percent among black, Latino, and lower-income voters.

“New Yorkers care about safety on our streets and are willing to do what it takes to achieve it,” council transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez said.

Another shot in Albany at speed camera expansion

Last year’s campaign to expand NYC’s automated speed enforcement program, which is currently limited to 140 locations within a quarter mile of a school entrance on the street abutting that school, did not overcome the apathy of Albany leadership.

Without an expansion of the program, the city has limited ability to enforce speeding on the city’s most dangerous streets, most of which don’t qualify for cameras, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told council members. “Unfortunately a lot of crashes do not happen near schools or during school hours,” she said.

Trottenberg said she discussed the issue with Mayor de Blasio yesterday and that “the city is committed to going back to Albany this year to try and get expanded authority” on speed cameras.

NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad still doesn’t investigate the vast majority of serious traffic collisions

NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad isn’t large enough to look into most serious crashes — trained CIS staff only handle the worst crashes. NYPD Transportation Chief Thomas Chan said CIS is called to the scene when a crash victim is “dead or likely to die” — criteria the NYPD supposedly retired in 2013 to enable more investigations — or when local precinct officers request their presence, often in the case of a child or senior victim.

TA Executive Director Paul Steely White has said CIS’s current load of about 300 cases per year lets thousands of crashes involving serious injury go uninvestigated. The unit has only grown from 19 to 26 officers since Mayor de Blasio took office. Council members didn’t press Chan on the department’s plans to scale up its investigations.

Chin presses NYPD on rampant placard abuse

Lower Manhattan rep Margaret Chin has been taking on placard abuse by city employees for years. Today, in an exchange with Chan, she said her district is teeming with illegally parked cars — many belonging to police officers — emblazoned with fake parking placards. As a result, delivery trucks and vehicles get parking on sidewalks.

“It’s not even a real placard — just a little note saying ‘I’m NYPD,'” Chin exclaimed. “How do you expect me to follow the law when the people who are supposed to be enforcing the law aren’t following it?”

Public safety chair Vanessa Gibson, who said she receives calls every day from her Bronx constituents complaining about city employees parking with illegal placards, asked Chan if he had a plan to address the placard abuse.

“We found that the most effective way of dealing with these particular issues is dealing with the local precincts that are involved at the locations and getting their participation,” he said. Not exactly a plan.