Schenectady council seeks OK for red-light cameras

Red-light devices seen as safety tool

Wednesday, June 4, 2014
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— If at first you don’t succeed, wait two decades and try again.

That’s the city’s new strategy for getting red-light cameras.

Mayor Gary McCarthy first asked the state for permission for the cameras nearly two decades ago, when he was on the City Council.

In all that time, the state has never responded to the request. Now the City Council is planning to try again.

A few municipalities in the state have red-light cameras, but everyone must ask for special permission before installing them. The cameras send automatic fines to the registered owners of cars caught running a red light.

Council members are now considering the technology again because they want to cut down on pedestrian-vehicle accidents. In particular, they want to put the cameras on the Brandywine Avenue corridor, between State Street and I-890, which has one of the highest rates of accidents in the city.

The accidents have persisted despite months of special focus from police, and a pedestrian died crossing Brandywine Avenue earlier this year.

Councilman Carl Erikson said red-light cameras, with signs warning drivers that they’ll be caught, could make the difference.

“I know personally some of our intersections are quite dangerous,” he said. “Would a camera, in certain locations, put people on their best behavior and save some lives?”

Council members said they would like to try it — but they can’t.

The state must give Schenectady permission first.

“I tried it 20 years ago,” McCarthy said. “It is in my mind lunacy that municipalities still have to ask for home-rule on this.”

He added that he considered red-light cameras “part of the solution.” They can’t replace police enforcement, lighting, and other methods, but they add to the overall strategy, he said.

“They’re better used at high-trafficed intersections,” he said.

The cameras are controversial, partly because they can wrongly fine cars for doing a legal right-on-red. The cameras must be perfectly aligned to prevent that mistake, McCarthy said.

The cameras also don’t put points on a driver’s license, because the cameras record the license plate, not the face of the driver. It’s never clear who drove the car, so the registered owner must pay.

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June 4, 2014
9:40 a.m.
reader1 says...

Why not?

June 4, 2014
8:30 p.m.
reader1 says...

Cost effectiveness can be built into the system. Install the system on a test basis and ascertain if it pays for itself. Structure the contract in a way that makes fiscal sense for the municipality. If it doesn't, don't enter into the contract.

Be careful who you loan your car to. Do you want people who borrow your car to be running red lights? I would think most people would want to know if someone used their car and was driving recklessly.

If you are rushing to a hospital, you plead not guilty to the ticket and explain what happened in court. Should be fairly easy to prove.

Having a camera focused on traffic at a red light is hardly able to capture "every move we make", and some moves particularly dangerous ones need to be captured.

June 5, 2014
4:31 a.m.
reader1 says...

Don't fall for the conspiracy theory that the government wants to use plate tracking technology to monitor your every movement. That technology is used is identify people who do not pay parking fines, etc. The cameras in the city are used for public safety - to deter and solve crimes, and the footage is not stored indefinitely. People seem to have an exaggerated notion regarding how interested the government is keeping tabs on them, at least at the local level.

June 5, 2014
11:49 a.m.
reader1 says...

Too 1984? Well, the government's actions in recent times have not helped in reducing those concerns.

We'll have to see what happens and revisit this issue down the road.

June 10, 2014
8:18 p.m.
robbump says...

I don't have any problem with the red-light cameras.
However, just how many car-pedestrian collisions in the area of Brandwine between State and I-890 are there where the pedestrian stepped into the path of motor vehicles? I've had many a walker who showed me a "screw-you!" type of contempt while stepping in front of me or nearby drivers ... almost daring us to strike them.
How about something to discourage (and ticket) THAT kind of behavior???

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