Successful Traffic Safety Camera Programs Tie Revenue to Traffic Safety Funds

New Jersey’s red light camera pilot program has officially come to a close as cameras went dark at midnight this past Tuesday after a long battle in Trenton. Supporters of the program cited myriad motorist, pedestrian and cyclist safety benefits, while those opposed insisted it was nothing more than a cash cow for municipalities. Nonetheless, efforts are underway to breathe life back in to the red light camera program. Legislative leadership in Districts 28 and 29 have introduced legislation to reinstate the program with a new requirement that one-half of the revenue be dedicated to improve highway safety:

“The bill provides that not less than one-half of any fine received by a municipality or county for a violation of a traffic control signal monitoring system is to be deposited into a fund established by the municipality or county to be used exclusively by the municipality or county to reduce traffic accidents and deaths, injuries, and property damage resulting from traffic accidents in the municipality or county.”

Half is a good start, but all would be better.

Just next door, Pennsylvania has dedicated total net revenue from the ARLE (Automated Right Light Enforcement) program to improve highway safety. System administrators are permitted to recoup costs for operation and maintenance, but are required to deposit the remaining revenues into a restricted Motor License Fund account used to fund the ARLE Funding Program. These fines deposited in the fund are used by PennDOT for a Transportation Enhancements Grant Program, a competitive statewide grant program. Click here for a detailed list of eligible projects.

Since 2011, 126 safety projects have been funded, and at least 17 projects were clearly bike or pedestrian specific. Philadelphia’s Bicycle Encouragement and Enhancement Project was also made possible through the funding from the revenues from red light camera fines.

Establishing a program similar to Pennsylvania’s would be a boon for bike and pedestrian safety in New Jersey. Pedestrian accidents in New Jersey have reached numbers twice that of the national average, earning it the status of “focus” state by the Federal Highway Administration, and New Jersey’s Bike-Friendly State status has dropped. The silver lining is that the number of municipalities and counties adopting Complete Streets policies is increasing every month. For all three of these reasons, more dollars must be made available for funding needed bike and pedestrian safety infrastructure projects.

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Newark’s Bike Safety Efforts

Several Newark elementary school students braved the unseasonably cold weather (and a few rain drops) in early November to attend a bike rodeo, a fun interactive event to teach children the skills and precautions necessary to safely ride a bicycle. As part of a Safe Routes to School non-infrastructure grant, five New Jersey organizationsTri-State, MeadowlinkLa Casa de Don Pedro, Urban League of Essex County and Ironbound Community Corporationhave partnered with six elementary schoolsCamden Street, Hawkins Street, Horton, McKinley, Sussex Ave and 13th Ave Schoolsto prepare School Travel Plans and also to facilitate a variety of educational outreach events to encourage safe biking and walking.

The students at November’s bike rodeo were guided through a series of drills to teach them the importance of pre-ride safety checks, bike sizing and helmet fitting. Drills and information about traffic safety were also conducted, including: where to ride on the road; stop, look left-right-left before entering traffic; hand signals; and visibility and predictability.

Since adopting a Complete Streets policy in September 2012, Newark has installed dedicated bike lanes and sharrows and promoted advanced safety initiatives to improve bicycling in the city. The City is currently in the midst of preparing a Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Action Plan and recently held the first informational and interactive open-house. Unfortunately, this applaudable progress is being undermined by the fact that Newark Mayor Ras Baraka is reportedly removing the recently-installed protected bike lanes on Mount Prospect Avenue in response to complaints from local business owners. The enthusiasm of the children at the bike rodeo shows that bike safety goes beyond engineering and education – true bike safety cannot succeed without public support for cycling.

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Wednesday Winners (& Losers)

A weekly roundup of good deeds, missteps, heroic feats and epic failures in the tri-state region and beyond. 

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo | Photo: governor.ny.gov

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo | Photo: governor.ny.gov

WINNERS

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker — “I cannot support high volume hydraulic fracturing in the great state of New York,” said Zucker, prompting the Governor to announce a ban on the controversial energy extraction process, which would have had a major impact on transportation across the state.

Opponents of the Sterling Forest casino proposal — The state casino siting board announced its choice developers today, none of which will be located in Orange County – great news for those advocating against the Sterling Forest proposal.

Connecticut commuters — Governor Dannel Malloy toured the CTfastrak busway yesterday and stated that he felt confident that “the route will ease traffic jams on I-84, generate economic development and make commuters’ lives better.”

New York City Planning Commissioner Carl Weisbrod — Weisbrod recently promised that future city development would be approached through the lens of coordinated rational growth, with a focus on transit-oriented development.

U.S. Representatives Richard Neal, Rosa DeLauro and John Larson, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, and Connecticut transportation commissioner James Redeker — The elected officials from both Massachusetts and Connecticut rode the rails to highlight recent upgrades to the regional transit line.

North Shore Bus Rapid Transit advocates — Councilwoman Debi Rose, The New York League of Conservation Voters and the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce have joined forces to raise awareness and grow support for expanding transit options to the rapidly-developing North Shore.

» Continue reading…

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NICE Bus Public Meeting Tomorrow

Tomorrow evening the Nassau County Bus Transit Committee will be holding a public meeting, which will include a presentation by NICE CEO Michael Setzer. Last week, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano stated that in order to make up for revenue lost after the repeal of the county’s school zone speed camera program, “painful” decisions about ways to increase revenue would have to be made, and he listed NICE Bus subsidies as one of the potential programs to be cut. If you’d like to share your thoughts about the importance of continued support for the bus system, don’t miss this meeting.

Nassau County Bus Transit Committee Regular Meeting
Thursday December 18, 2014, 4:00PM
Norman J. Levy Building/ NICE Office Facility, First Floor Training Conference Room
700 Commercial Avenue, Garden City, NY

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ABO Report Validates Transparency Concerns Regarding EFC Loan to Thruway Authority

ABO reportWith the recent release of the New York State Thruway Authority’s proposed budget, which includes a funding deficit of $305 million and $922 million in borrowing for the Tappan Zee replacement project, this is as good a time as any to revisit last month’s report detailing concerns about the approval of the Clean Water Funds loan to the Thruway Authority.

Public authorities like the New York State Thruway Authority or the Metropolitan Transportation Authority should be familiar to regular MTR readers, but readers may be surprised to know that there are 45 state public authorities, not to mention the even more numerous local public authorities, industrial development agencies and local development corporations. As Assemblyman Richard Brodsky said in 2009, “The lives of New Yorkers are impacted by the operations of state authorities to an infinitely greater extent than they are by the departments of state government”yet little is known about what they do or how they operate. Brodsky made that statement in support of legislation he sponsored that year that instituted a new fiduciary duty for authority board members and also created the Authorities Budget Office (ABO).

One of the many authorities, is the Environmental Facilities Corporation (EFC) which, with the Department of Environmental Conservation, jointly administers the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, a fund that provides low-interest rate financing to municipalities to construct water quality protection projects such as sewers and wastewater treatment facilities. Although those purposes have no relation to bridge construction, on June 16, Governor Cuomo announced the EFC had decided to make $511.45 million in “low-cost” loans to the Thruway Authority for the New NY Bridge project. The problem with this announcement is that the EFC Board had not yet acted on the loans, but rather met ten days later, officially voting on the $511 million loans on June 26. But this official decision was ten days after the Governor’s announcement, creating a timing problem for the Board’s decision.

This problem, as well as other red flags, led several organizations, including Tri-State, to request an ABO investigation of the loan process. The results of the investigation were released last week, in which the ABO found:

  • Instances where the EFC Board’s actions did not meet the standards required by the state’s fiduciary duty law;
  • The EFC Board did not comply with Open Meetings Law requirements; of particular concern was the Board’s unwarranted use of executive sessions under Section 105 of that law; and
  • The EFC Board failed to ensure that the EFC complied with 40 CFR 35.3150 when it did not question why the project was added to the Intended Use Plan (IUP) on June 11, 2014 and why the public was denied a comment period.

» Continue reading…

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It’s Not the Size of the School Zone That Matters, but Who It’s Meant to Protect

recent article published by Newsday argues that crash data does not support the location of speed safety cameras installed near schools throughout Nassau County. The “computer analysis” states that cameras have been placed in “dozens of areas with no history of speed-related accidents.” Of the 76 school zones that Newsday analyzed, they found that only 19 had seen any speed-related crashes between 2009 and 2013.

Newsday’s methodology used an extremely narrow definition of “school zone.” The analysis defines a school zone as marked areas of roads near schools where drivers are instructed to slow down, which essentially limits the analysis to a small sample of cherry-picked street segments near schools. This was based on the highly questionable tactic of “basing the length of each zone on a review of photos of traffic signs in the area taken by Google’s Street View Cameras. When such imagery was not available, Newsday created school zones that were the maximum length allowed by law.”

The safety of a school zone monitored by camera technology extends beyond the designated school zone and is an added benefit for the technology. Wherever speed cameras have been installed, researchers have found that automated enforcement prompts drivers to slow down both before and after drivers enter areas monitored by cameras. This phenomenon, known as the distance halo effect, means that drivers are altering their behavior outside camera range as well. This is particularly important because children traveling to and from school are not confined to sidewalks and crossings solely within school zones.

For these reasons, Tri-State’s analysis used a single definition of “school zone” that encompasses a full quarter mile buffer around a school – the maximum allowable area according to state law. This method paints a more realistic picture of the safety conditions along routes that school age children actually take and vehicles travel. Our finding that 40 percent of the pedestrian fatalities occurred within the maximum allowable school zone is determined by state law and is based on a legal definition, not Tri-State’s interpretation, unlike the subjective school zone created for the Newsday analysis. While not everyone killed in these areas were school-aged children as Tri-State notes, it is irrefutable that 14 pedestrians were killed by cars in these zones.

» Continue reading…

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Wednesday Winners (& Losers)

A weekly roundup of good deeds, missteps, heroic feats and epic failures in the tri-state region and beyond.

New Jersey State Senator Loretta Weinberg | Photo: johnjay.jjay.cuny.edu

New Jersey State Senator Loretta Weinberg | Photo: johnjay.jjay.cuny.edu

WINNERS

New Jersey State Senator Loretta Weinberg — The Senator solidified her role as champion for New Jersey bus riders by calling for equal investment in and improved conditions at the Port Authority Bus Terminal at today’s Port Authority budget hearing. She is also holding a second commuter feedback meeting this Thursday.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka — The mayor has joined other leaders in calling for the continuation of the state’s red light camera program.

New York State Senator Jeff Klein — The Senator wants to see part of the state’s windfall bank settlement money used to create a new program called Empire Public Works, dedicated to upgrading the state’s infrastructure, rather than seeing the funds go to a one-shot project.

Camden, NJ — The city recently approved six new major development projects, including Subaru’s new corporate headquarters, “leading to the creation, retention or relocation of some 2,000 jobs.”

Village of Mamaroneck, NY  After completing a zoning study and public engagement process partially funded by Tri-State’s Transit-Centered Development Grant Program, the Village has approved a transit-oriented development rezoning that promotes green building codes, green infrastructure, and green roofs in the TOD district.

PATH riders — Weekend service connecting Exchange Place and the World Trade Center is finally set to resume next week.

Mark Fenton — The public health, planning and transportation expert and Tufts University adjunct professor engaged New Haven residents in a walking tour and planning workshop for the Route 34 development corridor.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo — The mayor is banning cars in central Paris neighborhoods.

» Continue reading…

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There’s Not a Single Reason Why Governors Cuomo and Christie Shouldn’t Sign Port Authority Reform Bills

This afternoon, New York State Assemblymembers Jim Brennan and Amy Paulin along with New Jersey State Senator Robert Gordon and New Jersey State Assemblymember Valerie Vainieri Huttle will join fellow legislators and advocates to urge Governors Cuomo and Christie to sign two bi-state reform bills aiming to overhaul the Port Authority. According to spokesmen from both governors’ offices, the bills are currently “under review.”

Tri-State will be joining Citizens Union, AAA New York and Reinvent Albany at today’s event. You can read our testimony below:

Tri-State applauds the efforts of both the New York and New Jersey legislatures for working diligently, and together, to pass legislation that—if signed into law—will significantly improve transparency, public disclosure, and accountability of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

The New Jersey and New York Sponsors of these two bills were able to garner unanimous support in their respective houses, solidifying the progress of these bills and highlighting their importance.  However, Governor Cuomo and Governor Christie have yet to sign the legislation into law threatening to thwart much-needed reform.  While more comprehensive broad reform pertaining to operations and the mission of the bi-state agency warrant further discussion and due diligence, these bills are a simple, basic, and crucial step for improving transparency and accountability.

The Port Authority owns and controls some of the most significant infrastructure assets in our region including bridges, bus facilities, tunnels, the PATH, ports, airports, and the World Trade Center site. The Port Authority impacts the daily commutes and pocketbooks of millions of New York and New Jersey residents and businesses. Billions of dollars at stake and the public deserves a more open and accountable entity.

With the New York legislative session coming to a close at the end of this month, the clock is ticking, and there is just one more bridge to cross: The Governors need to grab hold of this low-hanging fruit that the legislature and the public demand. Sign the bills and then use that victory to build toward broader reforms and transparency.

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If Nassau’s Speed Camera Program Is Working, Let It Keep Working

Since Nassau County’s school zone speed camera program went into effect, there has been a 70 percent decline in violations. County Executive Ed Mangano’s spokesman Brian Nevins acknowledged that this decline in violations is indicative of a “dramatic change in driving habits”, saying “This program has increased student safety and potentially saved lives.”

Yet rather than showcasing the program’s success, Mangano is planning to drastically reduce the hours of operation for speed cameras in school zones. At the same time, Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams and other Minority Democrats are calling for the county legislature to “give the residents of Nassau the holiday gift they truly deserve and would appreciate: an immediate termination of the speed camera program,” while Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves says that the county Republicans “have been looking into the possibility of a repeal for weeks,” but want to cease more gradually.

Opponents of the program have complained about the lack of adequate signage, or that it is unclear when school hours are in effect, or that it is simply too difficult to slow down so quickly in some instances. However, there is no need to repeal the program in order to improve education. School zone speed limits are not new. The cameras may be a new means of increasing enforcement in areas with particularly vulnerable populations (i.e. children), but the laws regarding speeding in these zones were already in place, and a previous lack of enforcement does not necessarily mean that the speed camera program is unfair or unjust. In fact, the penalties issued by school zone speed cameras are significantly lower than State law requires, and thus could be considered warnings for drivers in and of themselves.

Opponents have also argued that “No one reported an epidemic of serious accidents in school zones recently.” Tri-State analyzed crash data in Nassau County in 2012 and found that nearly 40 percent of total pedestrian fatalities countywide occurred within a school zone. The analysis was based on the New York State Department of Transportation’s maximum school zone length regulations, which is .025 miles. Regardless of how one chooses to interpret these findings, the simple fact is this: suggesting that lawmakers wait until a child is killed within a school zone to justify the program’s existence is abhorrent. Safety programs, by definition, should be put into place to prevent injury, not to react to injury. Why wait until a life is lost to change behavior?

“Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano’s decision to cut back on the hours of school speed cameras sanctions the illegal and dangerous behavior of a few drivers at the expense of the safety and quality-of-life for Nassau County residents, workers, visitors and students,” stated Veronica Vanterpool, executive director for Tri-State. “Requesting the speed cameras around schools is not a mistake to be rectified. It is a measure to be applauded. However, the County went wrong in tying the revenue to County budget holes instead of dedicating the revenue to capital, aesthetic, and livability improvements countywide that would increase traffic safety. If the County wants the public to believe in the benefits of speed cameras, the County must do better to link the problem to the solution, and it did not.”

Tri-State is a non-profit advocacy group that does not receive donations or contributions from companies manufacturing camera technology. Our opinions and advocacy are based on saving lives.

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Wednesday Winners (& Losers)

A weekly roundup of good deeds, missteps, heroic feats and epic failures in the tri-state region and beyond.

New Haven, CT city transit chief Doug Hausladen (left) and City Engineer Giovanni Zinn (right) | Photos: Facebook, New Haven Independent

New Haven, CT city transit chief Doug Hausladen (left) and City Engineer Giovanni Zinn (right) | Photos: Facebook, New Haven Independent

WINNERS

Connecticut residents and businesses — This morning, Governor Malloy joined elected officials and transportation advocates to kick off a series of speakers discussing transportation’s role in jobs access.

New Haven, CT transit chief Doug Hausladen and City Engineer Giovanni Zinn — The two local leaders are pushing a “Complete Streets 2.0” program of low-dollar, quick turnaround projects to implement more safety improvements faster.

New York State Assemblyman Michael Miller — The assemblyman is working with the NYC DOT and Mayor de Blasio to bring Vision Zero improvements to Woodhaven.

New York State Department of Transportation — In a recent report, the agency has cited “incorporation of bicycle facilities, consistent with the Complete Streets legislation” as “integral” to Syracuse’s I-81 replacement project.

Cities with red light camera programs — At the 100 intersections with red light cameras in Suffolk County, traffic crashes declined by an average of 5.4 percent, accidents involving injuries dropped 10.6 percent, and side-impact accidents fell 30 percent compared to the previous year.

New Jersey State Assemblymembers Ralph Caputo and Grace Spencer — As the state’s red light camera pilot program comes to a close, the Essex assemblymembers are fighting for local control so that municipalities can reinstate the program at their will.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone — The county executive spearheaded the successful application for a $1.5 million grant for planning, design and construction of a BRT system along Nicolls Road.

Suffolk County Legislature — A bill was approved to improve traffic and pedestrian safety in Huntington Station in advance of new development projects.

Hamilton Township, NJ — The township’s leaders are working to improve traffic safety along the deadly stretch of Black Horse Pike in the wake of three recent casualties.

» Continue reading…

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