When Speeding Pays

Speeding is paying-off in the amount of $15 million for Seattle area schools thanks to speed-enforced cameras, a proven but nonetheless controversial traffic safety tool. Revenue will be used to make walking safer under a proposal by Mayor McGinn.
September 9, 2013, 11am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Seattle Times transportation reporter Mike Lindblom writes that the $14.8 million "would be spent to build safer passages for children walking to more than 20 schools".  Facilities would include pedestrian bulb-outs, amber warning lights and speed humps to slow vehicles. What's more, motorists should expect to see more of these cameras.

The Road Safety Initiative would increase four existing speed-enforcement cameras to a possible 15 cameras, where motorists who exceed 20 mph before and after school would be fined $189. About 30 percent of income goes to operate and install the cameras, and city staff to design and oversee walking-safety programs.

The cameras are proving to benefit the drivers as well, notwithstanding the $189 fine.  As Councilmember Nick Licata notes in Council Connection, "Ninety-six percent of all violators who have paid their tickets, have not gotten another violation. This is proof that these speed cameras are working to change driver behavior."

Unlike traditional "Safe Routes to School" projects that improve walkablility for schools, Seattle's Road Safety Initiative had a dual focus, exemplified by Dearborn Park Elementary School, writes Lindblom.  "New sidewalks were built on one side of South Orcas Street recently, and speed cameras are proposed next year."

The effectiveness of these cameras has not gone unnoticed elsewhere, particularly when it comes to school traffic.  Streetsblog Editor-in-Chief Ben Fried wrote last month that "(New York City) Mayor Bloomberg joined Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and NYPD Chief of Transportation James Tuller outside a Crown Heights high school this morning to announce the impending launch of the city’s first automated speed enforcement program."  New York speeders will get a break in comparison to their Seattle counterparts - fines will only be $50. No mention of how the revenue will be spent.

Motorists have been know to fight these cameras as they suspect that city government may be using them mainly as revenue measures, as we noted last month in Ohio. The same problem manifests itself with the more common red-light cameras.

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Published on Wednesday, September 4, 2013 in The Seattle Times
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