New York City’s pilot program for speed and red light cameras in school zones is coming to an end. The cameras were put in place four years ago as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative. However, the NYS Assembly and Senate failed to agree on a bill extending the program before the legislative summer recess at the end of June. Without the extension, authorization to use the cameras will expire on July 25, 2018.
Discussion of the traffic cameras hit a fever pitch in the final days of the legislative session in Albany. NYC Department of Transportation data showed that the use of traffic cameras cut speeding by 63 percent and crashes by 15 percent in school zones that use them.
The Assembly had passed a budget bill that would have nearly doubled the number of the speed cameras in use, from 140 locations to 290. However, the State Senate excluded the speed camera funds from the budget.
State Republicans offered a compromise bill 48 hours after the legislative session ended that would extend camera use for six months, but Democrats derided it as a caveat-riddled distraction that failed to address the issue. At this point, the program could only be continued if both chambers held a special session before July 25, something both Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie told reporters was not going to happen. Governor Andrew Cuomo also said he would not call for a special session unless both parties offered assurances that they would pass a speed camera bill.
According to the NYC Comptroller’s Office, red light, speed camera and bus lane cameras are the second-largest fine-based revenue source, bringing in $96 million in FY 2016. NYC’s school zone cameras only ticket drivers who exceed the 25-mph zone limit by 10 mph or more. Drivers caught speeding on NYC speed cameras are fined $50, far less than a traditional school zone speeding ticket, which can cost between $300 and $1,200 for a first offense.