Dispatch from Albany: Speed Cameras and the Transit Lockbox Redux

Assemblywoman Glick has introduced legislation that would bring speed cams to New York City

Legislators returned to Albany this week after a two-week hiatus, and with less than 30 session days left between now and the end of the legislative year, advocates and politicians got to work immediately.

Speed Camera Lobby Day

On Tuesday, Transportation Alternatives held a lobby day in support of speed camera legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Deborah Glick (D-Manhattan). The bill (A7737)—supported by the Bloomberg Administration—would place 40 cameras in the city to help enforce the speed limit. Studies have shown that speed cameras successfully reduce injuries and fatalities by 40%, while reducing speeding by 71% at camera-monitored sites. In 2010, pedestrians accounted for 55% of traffic fatalities in New York State, and speeding claimed twice as many lives as distracted driving. Reducing speeds will help change that. That’s because if a pedestrian is hit by a car traveling at 40 mph, there is a 70% chance that they’ll be killed; at 30 mph, there’s an 80% chance they’ll survive.

The Return of the Lockbox

Last year, transit funding “lockbox” legislation—which would have ensured that the diversion of dedicated MTA funds for other purposes was thoroughly documented—passed both chambers but was gutted as part of a deal that restructured New York’s income tax and scaled back dedicated funding for the MTA. Now, Assemblyman James Brennan (D-Brooklyn) and Senator Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn) have reintroduced the lockbox bill (A9017/S6170), and it’s better than ever. Instead of just protecting MTA funds, it safeguards dedicated funding for the 130 transit systems across the state. The bill would require an “impact statement” when transit funding is diverted, which would include information about how funding cuts impact riders. Such a statement, outlining the dire consequences of transit funding cuts, could discourage legislators from defunding the transit systems that power New York State’s economy. This would help make fare hikes less likely and shed light on reallocations of supposedly dedicated transit revenues, such as the one that reduced the MTA’s funding in 2009.

Next Steps

Neither bill is a sure thing. The speed camera bill, which has failed in past years, needs a Senate sponsor. Meanwhile, there is widespread support for the transit lockbox among legislators, with upstate representatives showing a particular interest in signing on. Securing Governor Cuomo’s signature will be the real hurdle.

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