New York City’s ability to address the deadly crisis in its streets is being held back by state lawmakers, according to a recent report by Transportation Alternatives. Traffic violence in the city is continuing to rise, but city officials do not have the power to implement essential enforcement measures like the operation of speed safety cameras, red light enforcement cameras, bus lane enforcement cameras, and local speed limits, per the report, which argues that New York City needs “home rule” to make its roadways safer.
As data analyzed by Transportation Alternatives demonstrates, both speeding and fatal car crashes are rising in New York City, making 2021 the deadliest year for traffic violence since 2013. Of the crashes in 2020 that didn’t occur on highways, almost 40% of fatalities occurred in areas monitored by speed safety cameras, but when state law required the city to keep the cameras off. Speeding, meanwhile, contributed to approximately 80% of deadly crashes, even though the city is prohibited by the state from reducing speed limits. “While the causes of the crisis are many,” the report says, “one solution could quickly and easily make streets safer: granting home rule over traffic safety to the City of New York and ending Albany’s control over New York City’s streets.”
By implementing “home rule,” state lawmakers would empower city lawmakers to install many more red light and speed safety cameras, operate cameras more frequently, and establish lower speed limits, among other measures. Polls show that New York City residents overwhelmingly support home rule, with 68% in favor of lowering speed limits on residential speeds and 72% in favor of granting the city the power to establish speed limits. These figures came from a poll by Emerson College, which also showed that 85% of city voters support its red light camera enforcement program.
As a report by City and State noted, state lawmakers can ensure New York City’s control of its own traffic enforcement measures in the new state budget. If they decline to include it in the budget, which is due at the beginning of April, they will have to take up the matter in their next legislative session. “To include the policy in the state budget, lawmakers would need to determine the parameters of the city’s jurisdiction over red light cameras before the one-house budget proposals are due at the end of the month,” City and State notes. One state senator who’s advocated for street safety measures, Andrew Gounardes, told the publication that he expects state lawmakers to address home rule in session rather than in the budget. “If for some reason we are unsuccessful at home rule, we will certainly have the ability to authorize the successful programs that have already been in place and expand them,” he said.