Greater Greater Washington

NBC story on cameras actually discusses safety

Something astounding has happened: A news story about speed camera tickets actually discusses whether or not they deter drivers from speeding, one of the acts which makes roads unsafe.

Mark Segraves dug up some information on whether drivers get more repeat tickets at DC or Maryland cameras:

Segraves got data from DC, Montgomery, and Prince George's about the percentage of drivers who get multiple tickets, out of all the drivers who get a ticket from the cameras. Ticketed drivers are twice as likely to have multiple tickets in the Maryland counties, and 20 times as likely to have 5 or 10 tickets.

What would cause this discrepancy?

This could be because the fines were much higher in DC in Maryland (they decreased in DC thanks the last year's camera bill). It could be that the lower fines mean people are less worried about getting caught. Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker thinks that's true. Anecdotally, I've heard from other drivers who say they're much more afraid of speeding in DC.

It also could be that different groups of drivers get tickets in each jurisdiction. John Townsend of AAA (who can sound entirely reasonable when he tries) thinks that the Maryland cameras are in neighborhoods where the same drivers ply the roads day after day. A possible counter-argument is that drivers who live nearby know where the cameras are, so they shouldn't get tickets.

Another possibility is that DC gets more tourists, who come in, speed, get a ticket, and then aren't around to get more. Martin Austermuhle muses that perhaps Maryland drivers are just worse.

One way to better analyze these possibilities would be to break the data down by state. Are DC drivers re-offending at the same rate on DC cameras as Maryland drivers on Maryland cameras? Are Maryland drivers (most of whom do commute) getting more or fewer tickets on DC cameras than the DC drivers do?

Or, to investigate Townsend's claim, what about just the DC cameras that are in neighborhoods? AAA mostly complains about the ones on freeways, but the most serious safety problems are where major streets cut through neighborhoods. Do people get multiple tickets at higher rates on those DC cameras?

Was it wise to lower fines?

The task force Councilmembers Tommy Wells (ward 6) and Mary Cheh (ward 3) put together couldn't find convincing evidence one way or the other, so the councilmembers decided to lower the fines because of the political blowback. I argued at the time that AAA is orchestrating a lot of that blowback, so if they want to trade peace for lower fines, they'll have to follow through.

Townsend hasn't. Instead, they've sent out a stream of press releases attacking the cameras, and given lots of juicy quotes to the press. He's called cameras "the mother's milk of additional revenue" for government, even though DC lowered the fines.

Townsend even complained about red light cameras after arguing in the task force for keeping the fines high. He told Ashley Halsey III, "The District collects nearly two-thirds, a stunning 61.6 percent, of the [red-light camera] revenue total for the national capital area."

Let's debate the actual safety, not the fake anti-government frame

Maybe cameras won't work. Mount Pleasant ANC Commissioner Jack McKay doesn't think they do. MPD does, but doesn't have good enough data to really prove it. It would be great to have a real debate about what measures will and won't make streets safer.

That's not the debate we are having, however. Instead, AAA is using misdirection. They aren't saying the measures don't improve safety; they are saying the whole thing is a government conspiracy to squeeze money out of drivers. And the non-revenue elements like bike lanes are a "war on drivers" and an attempt to force people out of cars.

This is a pernicious theme because it plays right into the press's existing biases to cover stories as government vs. the people. AAA doesn't want to talk about the people who get hurt from drivers turning right without stopping; they want everyone to blame the evil gummint.

For some reason which escapes me, most reporters seem to eat it up. Halsey led off his story with the extremely biased line, "The lucrative battle to keep drivers in the District from running red lights seems to be achieving more profit than success." It's amazing that there had to be a letter to the editor to point out that illegal driving is more than a revenue issue, it's a safety issue.

Let's look at that success, seriously. A debate about the cameras based on safety would be welcome. There are plenty of angles for reporters to investigate that relate to the actual safety, or the appropriate level of fines. Mark Segraves has taken one step toward that. Will others follow?

David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

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Go home folks.

This data does prove anything, because there is no way to know who was speeding; photo speed tickets are issued to the vehicle owner, not driver.

Go home, folks.

by goldfish on Mar 26, 2013 12:34 pm • linkreport

What irks me is the false choice between "safety" and "revenue". Trying to think of a single downside to raising $30 million a month in revenue (all of it from lawbreakers) while possibly making things safer at the same time.

by oboe on Mar 26, 2013 12:47 pm • linkreport

According to NBC4's report, 56 cars were caught more than 10 times in D.C. in 2012, while the number jumped to 274 in Montgomery County and 859 in Prince George's County.

It would be interesting to see a breakdown by where the vehicle was registered.

by oboe on Mar 26, 2013 12:58 pm • linkreport

This data does prove anything, because there is no way to know who was speeding; photo speed tickets are issued to the vehicle owner, not driver.

I'm guessing that--unless we're talking about a Zipcar--the same person usually drives the same car. And that person is usually the owner. This "no way to know" thing is usually the recourse of hit and run drivers etc...

by oboe on Mar 26, 2013 1:00 pm • linkreport

Is there a meaningful number of people who don't 'own' the vehicles they drive on a daily basis. I mean when I was a teen my parents owned my car but I was on the hook for any tickets anyway.

by Drumz on Mar 26, 2013 1:03 pm • linkreport

"Is there a meaningful number of people who don't 'own' the vehicles they drive on a daily basis"

Yes. Husbands/wives. Friends. Children. And, biggest of all, commerical users.

I'd say AAA is scoring this one right. Cameras instead of a commuter tax.

Breathtaking that MPD is putting cameras in with no regard for the safety element.

by charlie on Mar 26, 2013 1:17 pm • linkreport

@Oboe,

False choice? Says who? The problem is the district government goes to enormous lengths to convince people these devices are for safety, and have nothing to do with revenue, when it is clear the opposite is true.

You would have a point if DC, MD, VA etc came out and said "We are installing these things because they are goldmines, and might make the streets safer too", but that is obviously not what they are doing.

by Cars on Mar 26, 2013 1:22 pm • linkreport

The problem is the district government goes to enormous lengths to convince people these devices are for safety, and have nothing to do with revenue, when it is clear the opposite is true.

This is pure supposition. Could you find a quote by any proponent of automated enforcement that they "have nothing to do with revenue"? I don't think you can.

Also, you'll probably want to who some evidence that they have "nothing to do with safety." Again, don't think you can.

Bottom line: they increase safety, and they fill DC's coffers with much-needed revenue. And the contributions that are made are purely voluntary. It's a win-win for everyone.

by oboe on Mar 26, 2013 1:26 pm • linkreport

Yes. Husbands/wives. Friends. Children. And, biggest of all, commerical users.

By loaning your car to someone else, you're obviously agreeing to be on the hook for any fines. It has always been that way. If you, as a parent, don't like it that your kid is racking up speeding tickets, you make them take the bus.

I'd say AAA is scoring this one right. Cameras instead of a commuter tax.

As a DC resident, I have no problem with this at all. It doesn't even meet the definition of a tax; it's more of a voluntary contribution.

by oboe on Mar 26, 2013 1:29 pm • linkreport

Erecting the false choice between revenue and safety is a classic straw man argument. It's like saying taxes aren't about raising revenues because they also are used for social engineering.

Everyone wants effective crime fighting, that is until they're the criminals.

And this is what it's all about really. Drivers don't really believe speeding or running a red light is or should be a crime. So any effective way of enforcing this "unjust" law is viewed as unfair.

When you normalize law breaking, it's the law enforcement you view as the undesirable behavior.

by TM on Mar 26, 2013 1:41 pm • linkreport

In my Baltimore commute - 7 miles through the city, I now go through 7 speed cameras and 3 red light cameras, twice a day, 5 days a week.
That's just my work commute. I've also received a ticket showing my car going through an intersection at 50 mph (according to the ticket), yet the pictures on the citation taken 1 second apart showed my car traveled only about 35 ft. I was really going about 28 mph.
(A car will travel 264000 feet per hour at 50 mph. 264000 feet per hour / 60 minutes per hour = 4400 feet per minute. 264000 feet per hour / 3600 seconds per hour = 73.33 feet per second.)
It's easier to pay the $40 for an obviously incorrect ticket, than to take a day off from work for court. How does one even fight a ticket like this? Hire a lawyer and summon the camera to court?
If you follow any of the Baltimore press - the Sunpaper or local news stations, recent coverage will confirm there are issues with tickets being issued, so I would suggest the whole premise here is based on uncertain "facts".

by Dee on Mar 26, 2013 1:43 pm • linkreport

@oboe, even if it was a rental like Zipcar, there are records of who is using that car at any given time so they'd be able to identify the user (Zipcar doesn't allow members to let non-members drive).

If there is a problem with tickets being given wrongfully due to the camera(s)' fault, they need to correct that. What are the numbers on false ticketing due to these cameras? The problem seems to be the fact that the cameras exist at all.

I hope they keep the cameras, making sure they identify their presence well to drivers with signs, adjust yellow light times where needed, and raise the penalties on offenders. It's a cheaper alternative to having more cops everywhere.

by bobco85 on Mar 26, 2013 1:59 pm • linkreport

@ Dee:7 miles through the city, I now go through 7 speed cameras and 3 red light cameras, twice a day, 5 days a week.

Well, if you do not speed and stop for red lights, there should be no problem.

How does one even fight a ticket like this?

There should be strong safeguards against improperly calibrated equipment.

by Jasper on Mar 26, 2013 2:01 pm • linkreport

"Cameras instead of a commuter tax."

an odd commuter tax, that exempts metro riders, MARC/VRE riders, the folks who cycle in, and even the folks who walk across the Key bridge.

Not to mention those who manage to drive in without speeding or running a red.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 26, 2013 2:14 pm • linkreport

An additional data point... Most of the cameras in Prince George's are mobile cameras, and move from time to time, whereas the cameras in MoCo and most in DC are fixed in a single location. It's quite possible that people who get to know the locations of fixed cameras but otherwise speed just get caught more in jurisdictions (like PG)where the cameras are moved with regularity.

I think that any suggestion that drivers in a single municipality (DC, PG, MoCo, etc) are worse than other is an unprovable straw man in an area where all of these jurisdicitions are so closely located and share so many linkages, including roads, shopping etc. that are used on a regional basis.

by Jack on Mar 26, 2013 2:17 pm • linkreport

An excellent, and applicable, snippet from Tales From The Sharrows:

"I think some of the traffic might have to do with the red lights, those beacons that have the temerity to suggest to some people that they shouldn't go that other people might have the opportunity to go. You don't have to be a member of the Tea Party to see that this is unwarranted government regulation run amok. That's picking winners and it's wrong. We should just let the free market decide who crashes into whom. It would be great for the automotive repair, healthcare and funeral services sectors of the economy. I'm almost surprised that a Virginia legislator hasn't proposed this."

by CapHill on Mar 26, 2013 2:19 pm • linkreport

The point of this exercise is to correlate the fines by the number of repeat offenders, and thus draw conclusions about the effectiveness of the fines. In Montgomery County about 15% the vehicles received more than one ticket, whereas clearly far more than 15% of the cars are shared. Therefore, this data is not strong enough to support the measure of how effective the fines are.

Here is an interesting story of a DC repeat offender that I am acquainted with, whom I consider to be a very conscientious, courteous, and normally law-abiding driver. A couple of years ago he got his repeat tickets when he made two trips to pick up and then drop of a friend at the airport over a weekend, taking a route he does not normally drive. It was all a shock when opened the mail some three weeks later to find four tickets.

The repeat vehicle offender information more likely highlights the problems with the long delay in mailing the tickets, rather than effectiveness of the fines.

by goldfish on Mar 26, 2013 2:21 pm • linkreport

"There should be strong safeguards against improperly calibrated equipment."

You mean like DC's breathalyzers?

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/mike-debonis/wp/2013/01/09/three-years-after-breathalyzer-scandal-d-c-police-restart-alcohol-breath-testing/

by charlie on Mar 26, 2013 2:25 pm • linkreport

In Montgomery County about 15% the vehicles received more than one ticket, whereas clearly far more than 15% of the cars are shared

Not sure you get the 15% number, but if true, the fact that 15% of the vehicles were shared doesn't mean that there is anything like a 50/50 split of vehicle miles or trips.

A couple of years ago he got his repeat tickets when he made two trips to pick up and then drop of a friend at the airport over a weekend, taking a route he does not normally drive. It was all a shock when opened the mail some three weeks later to find four tickets.

That's a shame, but there's a reason speed limits are posted on the side of all public roadways. Granted, we're coming off of a half centry or more of not actually enforcing those limits, but times change. It's likely that drivers in the coming decades will have more responsibilities. (e.g. not driving drunk, yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks, and obeying speed limits).

by oboe on Mar 26, 2013 2:28 pm • linkreport

@oboe: so therefore, the amount of the fines had nothing to do with his compliance with the law.

This data is useless.

by goldfish on Mar 26, 2013 2:30 pm • linkreport

You mean like DC's breathalyzers?

Exactly like DC's breathalyzers. If there were a problem with calibration of speed/red-light cameras, there is recourse thorugh the court system. If there were any "there" there, one of the countless lawsuits would have led to a suspension in automated enforcement by now.

Instead what we have are anecdata like "I was going 25 mph, but the camera said it was 65" or "DC shortened the yellow light timing" or various conspiracy theories.

Meanwhile, I've driving in DC for decades and never gotten a speeding or red-light ticket. How did I do it, you may wonder? I drive 20-25 on residential streets, and no more than 10 over on arterials. Crazy, I know.

by oboe on Mar 26, 2013 2:34 pm • linkreport

This data is useless.

If data is useless because there are statistical outliers in a large data set, then all data is useless.

by oboe on Mar 26, 2013 2:36 pm • linkreport

And this is what it's all about really. Drivers don't really believe speeding or running a red light is or should be a crime. So any effective way of enforcing this "unjust" law is viewed as unfair.

Isn't this solely written for effect? It's wrong to assume that drivers "really" believe speeding/running red should be legalized just as it is that cyclists really don't like anyone who drives because they don't think cars should be on the roads. Both are exaggerations.

by HogWash on Mar 26, 2013 2:37 pm • linkreport

The repeat vehicle offender information more likely highlights the problems with the long delay in mailing the tickets, rather than effectiveness of the fines.

This much is true. I just received a ticket which charged in December. It's almost April.

by HogWash on Mar 26, 2013 2:39 pm • linkreport

If data is useless because there are statistical outliers in a large data set, then all data is useless.

If were a matter of a glitch or two, there are statistical tools to account for and reject spurious data. That is not the case here.

by goldfish on Mar 26, 2013 2:41 pm • linkreport

Statistical tools: Chauvenet's criterion.

by goldfish on Mar 26, 2013 2:43 pm • linkreport

If were a matter of a glitch or two, there are statistical tools to account for and reject spurious data. That is not the case here.

In that case, I believe what you meant to say is "this data could be better" instead of "this data is useless."

by oboe on Mar 26, 2013 2:47 pm • linkreport

In that case, I believe what you meant to say is "this data could be better" instead of "this data is useless."

This data is kind of like a Rorschach test: it is good enough to support what you believe in. Otherwise it is rubbish.

by goldfish on Mar 26, 2013 2:52 pm • linkreport

...data "are" useless..."these" data...

by oops on Mar 26, 2013 2:53 pm • linkreport

"these" data...

Must be a Latin scholar. You are correct, of course.

by goldfish on Mar 26, 2013 2:56 pm • linkreport

outliers are not spurious just b/c they're outliers. The 7ft man is really 7 ft tall. His height also shows up as an outlier; it's not spurious.

by Tina on Mar 26, 2013 2:57 pm • linkreport

@goldfish
I bet if the data went the other way, you'd say the opposite. Saying that these cameras are all about safety is about as outrageous as saying that they're all about revenue. It's a voluntary tax.

the problems with the long delay in mailing the tickets

As to the delay in notification, they should just text, email, and send out a letter to you. Immediacy is important.

by dc denizen on Mar 26, 2013 3:00 pm • linkreport

...data "are" useless..."these" data...

I, of course, knew this, but was quoting goldfish, and thought correcting him would be in poor taste...

:)

by oboe on Mar 26, 2013 3:06 pm • linkreport

I bet if the data went the other way, you'd say the opposite. Saying that these cameras are all about safety is about as outrageous as saying that they're all about revenue. It's a voluntary tax.

I never said anything about safety or or revenue, only that the presented data are not convincing, that high fines are more effective in deterring repeat offenders. But obviously at a certain point, the size of the fines DO matter: if the ticket were only $1, everybody would ignore them. So given that the essential point is not in dispute, this exercise is all the more a waste of time.

by goldfish on Mar 26, 2013 3:06 pm • linkreport

The speed camera proliferation in Maryland is relatively new; many of the cameras (at least in Prince Georges County) are portable and therefore moved around.

Duh!

The question isn't whether there are "more repeat speeders in Md. than D.C..", it's whether drivers are as used to the cameras in Maryland as they are to the cameras in DC.

Obviously not.

by ceefer66 on Mar 26, 2013 3:14 pm • linkreport

@Oboe,

You can't be serious?
Could you find a quote by any proponent of automated enforcement that they "have nothing to do with revenue"?

“D.C. Councilmember Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large), who chairs the Judiciary Committee, told WRC-TV/NBC4 that the city "should not be balancing budgets based on ticket writing. Ticket writing should be based on public safety,"

Tommy Wells :"The goal is to make sure the automated enforcement program is about safety, not revenue," stated Wells.

Directly from the MPD speed camera website: “Speed camera enforcement zones are selected by the MPD based on recents incidents of speeding-related fatalities and crashes, proximity to school zones and other places where children or other vulnerable populations may be present, and known sites of chronic speeding”.

Odd, no mention of placement to maximize revenue.

Cheh and even Barry have gone on record about DC speed cameras.

DC public officials, like public officials of surrounding jurisdictions go to great lengths to tell us the cameras are for safety. Then they go and put them in limited access tunnels and highway interchanges where its illegal for peds or cyclists, and the story becomes even more ridiculous.

by Cars on Mar 26, 2013 5:07 pm • linkreport

Cars: They're for safety, not just ped/bike safety. MPD says they are in the tunnels because people speed there, there are curves, and there are a lot of crashes. I'd be okay with just focusing them on places with vulnerable road users, but it's not inherently paradoxical to put them on a freeway and say it's about safety. People can die in cars too.

by David Alpert on Mar 26, 2013 5:15 pm • linkreport

@David Alpert,

But that wasn't what Oboe was saying was it? And if they were for safety, why were the tunnel camera and 295 camera removed? Surely if there was a safety issue there, they would have remained. No, instead they were removed, just as the one on Porter in Cleveland Park was removed because no city official, including Cheh (Counciman for that Ward) (who went on record shrug her shoulders when asked at one of her "sit down with Cheh" get togethers, what public safety purpose that camera served).

As I stated, Oboe's argument, your apparent argument that it is "ok" for the cameras to be about money as much as safety would be true if our public officials didn't expend so much effort saying otherwise.

But they don't, and never have.

by Cars on Mar 26, 2013 5:23 pm • linkreport

Again I was fine with moving the cameras out of the tunnels and off the freeways, but let's just note that there are plenty of times when the government does the less safe thing because of political pressure. It seems totally believable that MPD thought the cameras on the freeways helped safety, but the mayor decided politically to take them off anyway and figured they can go elsewhere that's also good for safety.

by David Alpert on Mar 26, 2013 5:47 pm • linkreport

@ jasper
I do agree that not speeding or running red lights is a solution, however if you had read my entire comment
"I've also received a ticket showing my car going through an intersection at 50 mph (according to the ticket), yet the pictures on the citation taken 1 second apart showed my car traveled only about 35 ft. I was really going about 28 mph."

I was not speeding for the ticket I received,which was my point - the cameras are not always accurate.

by Dee on Mar 26, 2013 6:17 pm • linkreport

I don't really have a problem with speed cameras as long as they and the speed limit are clearly signed day and night.

Those hypersensitive "red" light cameras are a pain in the ass though. In driving school they always taught to go through a yellow light if you can't safely stop before the intersection. Not anymore. Now if the light suddenly turns yellow just as a driver reaches an intersection, he/she has to choose between slamming on the brakes or accelerating through the intersection to avoid getting caught in the camera's crosshairs. Neither option increases safety for anyone.

by Chris S. on Mar 26, 2013 6:32 pm • linkreport

@Chris

I was taught not to enter an intersection if it's not clear that you can make it in time.

by onelasttime on Mar 26, 2013 11:58 pm • linkreport

Want to make our city safer and make a profit? How about turning out better citizens from the schools? They will enhance the economy, be less reckless/careless, and be unlikely to be “out and about” after midnight when most of the trouble happens. I don’t see the 196 million dollars from parking tickets being shared with the schools or even much of the city’s 11 billion dollar budget for that matter.

by AndrewJ on Mar 27, 2013 5:56 am • linkreport

@AndrewJ

I agree. Lets improve the schools. It is not a money issue, they have plenty of funding, and have no issues getting more funding when requested. Lets stay on topic though.

@Cars

Oboe explicitly made the argument that he is fine with the fact that they BOTH increase safety and raise revenue. I agree, and much prefer the city gets a couple of hundred million from speeders and law breakers than tax the citizens to make that money.

by Kyle-W on Mar 27, 2013 9:47 am • linkreport

@onelasttime - Sure, if you are some distance away from the intersection when the light turns yellow, then it is safest to stop at the light. I'm talking about a situation where the speed limit is 30+ and the light goes yellow just as you reach the intersection.

by Chris S. on Mar 27, 2013 9:51 am • linkreport

@Chris S.

You won't be ticked unless the first image on the citation shows you clearly outside the intersection and the light is red (not yellow). There's absolutely no reason for slamming on the brakes when the light turns yellow. This is a driver education issue.

by oboe on Mar 27, 2013 10:01 am • linkreport

If you are saying that you will not get a ticket unless you enter the intersection on an already red light, that is incorrect. You can also be ticketed if you enter on yellow and the light turns red before you fully exit the intersection, which is an extremely short interval at some intersections.

by Chris S. on Mar 27, 2013 10:25 am • linkreport

DC continues to add speed cameras, which is a good thing IMO. I heard Cleveland Park in DC is slated to get a bunch of them on Conn., Wisconsin and Reno Rd. Speeding drivers be forewarned!!

by Chas on Mar 27, 2013 11:34 am • linkreport

One explanation is that, for some, the red light camera ticket is the last staw and they curtail coming into DC.

The reason reporters eat up the "War on Cars" is they have driven in DC. They looked for a parking space for 20 minutes, had to go 4 blocks past where they were going to make a left turn, parked in a garage overnight to get charged for 2 days, been confused by (sometimes contradictory) parking signs/regulations, been ticketed by aggressive parking enforcement and outlandish penalties.

You save your cynicism for AAA while most people use it on people who take their money. We see speed traps and cameras set up where they can make the most money (where speed limits are too low or lights short time) not where there are a lot of crashes.

by Oldscool on Mar 27, 2013 11:56 am • linkreport

There is an easy fix to the controversy.... Take all of the "profit" from camera tickets and apply it to the school system with NO corresponding budget cut from the city... PERIOD! Who could reasonbly complain about that use of the money?

Would that EVER happen???? I seriously doubt it, because I truly believe that the cameras were not meant to be revenue generating, but since it is, there's NO WAY they will give up the MASSIVE windfalls!

by TC on Mar 27, 2013 1:42 pm • linkreport

There is an easy fix to the controversy....

But there is no controversy. At least not among DC voters, and that's the only place that counts. What we have is a lot of resentment among a subset of car-commuting suburbanites. And general support among DC voters.

There's a political boundary between your state and the District. For that you derive certain benefits. For example, de facto school segregation. There are certain drawbacks. This may be one of them.

by oboe on Mar 27, 2013 2:11 pm • linkreport

@oldscool: One explanation is that, for some, the red light camera ticket is the last staw and they curtail coming into DC.

Yes, people are often saying, "Well, then I just won't come into DC anymore, so there, ha!" But here is my question, as somebody who does not live in DC: if these people do indeed not come into DC anymore, is that bad for DC? Maybe it's good for DC to not have so many people who (for example) speed and run red lights driving around looking for parking places in DC?

by Miriam on Mar 27, 2013 2:27 pm • linkreport

I'm guessing most law-abiding drivers coming into DC are either looking to spend money or going to employers who pay corporate taxes. Not sure why you would not want them to come.

by Chris S. on Mar 27, 2013 2:37 pm • linkreport

Obviously it's good to have visitors. At the same time, as in everything there are tradeoffs. If greater numbers of visitors (or more importantly, certain behaviors) reduce the quality of life for residents, and make it less likely that people will move to the city, spend even more money, and pay income and property taxes, then it becomes a problem.

It's true that increased enforcement may lead to some suburban drivers no longer coming into town to see a movie or eat dinner. But if each of those non-returning visitors is replaced by three new middle-class residents, it's a huge win for the city. That's where we as a city have been moving over the last decade, and it's working.

by oboe on Mar 27, 2013 5:00 pm • linkreport

Oboe,

"But there is no controversy. At least not among DC voters, and that's the only place that counts."

Simply because you decide to flagrantly ignore something doesn't make it true. Just as you were proven wrong above by your cavalier statement of "This is pure supposition. Could you find a quote by any proponent of automated enforcement that they "have nothing to do with revenue"? I don't think you can" ...

which you decided not to rebut when given clear examples of District officials doing just that, you are again wrong.

http://www.wjla.com/articles/2012/02/speed-cameras-entrapping-motorists-community-says-72399.html

I could give you another 50 recent (last 6 months) examples of District residents going on the records to local press about the speed camera controversy, but you would simply move on to your next fallacious hyperbolic statement.

by Cars on Mar 27, 2013 8:40 pm • linkreport

The reason reporters eat up the "War on Cars" is they have driven in DC. They looked for a parking space for 20 minutes, had to go 4 blocks past where they were going to make a left turn, parked in a garage overnight to get charged for 2 days, been confused by (sometimes contradictory) parking signs/regulations, been ticketed by aggressive parking enforcement and outlandish penalties.

The issue is that a set of people still think that you should be able to drive directly to your destination at 45+mph and then find a parking place directly outside it or directly adjacent in a garage for little/no cost.

And that is incredibly unrealistic. There is literally not enough space in the city to make that possible.

by MLD on Mar 28, 2013 8:49 am • linkreport

@MLD, you see the unrealistic expectations that suburbanites have when they visit DC. This is true, but on top of that there is the needless hassling of well-intentioned visitors coming to town to spend money and have a night on the town. Hassle them too much and they won't come back.

The good news is that the photo enforcement has backed off a bit -- speed limits have been raised in a few places to reflect the speeds people drive (such as the SE/SW expressway and the Anacostia freeway), and fewer speed cameras. This is a tacit acknowledgment that this went too far.

by goldfish on Mar 28, 2013 9:05 am • linkreport

Just as you were proven wrong above by your cavalier statement of "This is pure supposition. Could you find a quote by any proponent of automated enforcement that they "have nothing to do with revenue"? I don't think you can"

I didn't say you couldn't; just that I didn't think you could. Never underestimate the mendacity of the average politician. Of course revenue is a component, as it should be.

As far as "examples of District residents going on the records to local press about the speed camera controversy", sure, there are lots of them. DC residents who live in extremely car-dependent neighborhoods have the same outlook as many suburbanites. But they make up a substantial (and shrinking) minority of the city.

I say speed cameras aren't controversial not because every single District loves them, but because a super-majority of District residents supports them. Speed-cameras are as "controversial" among District residents as giving new restaurants liquor licenses. There's opposition, but they're a significant minority, and have no Council representation.

by oboe on Mar 28, 2013 10:45 am • linkreport

Hassle them too much and they won't come back.

Sometimes it's a hassle to obey the law. The overriding question is, does this improve the quality of life for residents? If the answer is "yes", then it's in the economic interests of the city to follow these policies.

This is a tacit acknowledgment that this went too far.

Actually, the political pressure has come from residents who want to see more enforcement in neighborhoods. Which we're seeing.

by oboe on Mar 28, 2013 10:48 am • linkreport

@oboe: obeying the law is one thing, the fines for violations another. Raise the speeding fines to $10,000 for the first offense of driving 12 mph over, and to the death penalty for the second offense, and see what happens. (Actually in olden days the penalties for just about everything was death, so the precedent is there.)

The extremes are not helpful; the original point in this article was identify the "right" fine. The fines have recently been lowered because of the widespread perception that they were too high, which is a class-A hassle of DC residents and well-meaning visitors alike.

by goldfish on Mar 28, 2013 11:00 am • linkreport

The fines were recently lowered and yet drivers still feel the need to complain - now the problem is that the city has sneakily lowered fines so that it's no longer worth it to contest a ticket!

The city can't win because the real reason these people are complaining is that they used to be able to go 15 mph over the speed limit without being punished and that dynamic is now changing.

by MLD on Mar 28, 2013 11:18 am • linkreport

@oboe: obeying the law is one thing, the fines for violations another. Raise the speeding fines to $10,000 for the first offense of driving 12 mph over, and to the death penalty for the second offense, and see what happens. (Actually in olden days the penalties for just about everything was death, so the precedent is there.)

The problem is the culture of permissiveness that we extend to drivers. If you're driving 12 mph over the speed limit in a residential neighborhood, we should be charging people with reckless driving (which is 37 in a 25 mph zone, or nearly 30 mph in a 15mph "school zone"). Instead we program our speeed cameras with a 10mph cushion, and if you're caught, we give, what? A $50 fine and a couple of points?

by oboe on Mar 28, 2013 11:33 am • linkreport

And before you say a reckless driving charge is excessive, I'd point out that in VA, driving 75+ in a 55 mph zone will get you reckless driving. I don't think anyone can argue with a straight face that driving 75 on an interstate is less dangerous than driving nearly 40 mph in a residential neighborhood.

by oboe on Mar 28, 2013 11:37 am • linkreport

@oboe, no, I agree that driving 37 mph in an 25 residential zone is worthy of a very stiff fine with severe consequences. If that rises to the level of "reckless" I can't say, that depends on its legal definition. IIRC in most places reckless driving is reserved for the most egregious violations, like going 120 mph (notwithstanding the low threshold in VA, which I think has since been changed).

But that is not what is being discussed here -- the appropriate fines for automated enforcement on the main arteries, which btw can never carry points -- and it is a mistake to confuse the two.

by goldfish on Mar 28, 2013 12:03 pm • linkreport

Driving 75 on an interstate is not particularly reckless if the limit is 65 or 75. As for a culture of permissiveness, if that ever existed, it is certainly long dead now with Big Brother monitoring driver behavior 24/7 on most major roadways, at least in DC and MD.

Anyway, having drivers' eyes obsessively fixated on their speedometers may not be the best way to make them more aware of surrounding cars and pedestrians.

by Chris S. on Mar 28, 2013 12:16 pm • linkreport

Anyway, having drivers' eyes obsessively fixated on their speedometers...

This only happens because drivers are used to speeding with impunity. Over time people adjust to the new (more reasonable) speeds. Particularly with changes to the road configuration.

by oboe on Mar 28, 2013 12:26 pm • linkreport

, I agree that driving 37 mph in an 25 residential zone is worthy of a very stiff fine with severe consequences.

I see the major failing with enforcement in DC as the 10 mph cushion that MPD gives all drivers. While 37 in a residential zone may be worthy of a stiff fine with severe consequences, per MPD policy, 35 in a residential zone is not even a violation. So we end up with speed cameras on NY Ave...

by oboe on Mar 28, 2013 12:28 pm • linkreport

It doesn't really matter if the speed target is low or high - if you are trying to prevent any variation in speed you will need to spend a lot of time watching the speedometer instead of other traffic.

What would be helpful is to install RFID chips broadcasting the speed limit in each area so you car knows the limit and can provide audio alerts when you are near the limit.

by Chris S. on Mar 28, 2013 12:38 pm • linkreport

While 37 in a residential zone may be worthy of a stiff fine with severe consequences, per MPD policy, 35 in a residential zone is not even a violation. So we end up with speed cameras on NY Ave

What we are instinctively groping for is the sensitivity of the fines to the area. Driving 12 mph over the limit, particularly in an area with an artificially low speed limit, such as on NY Ave (30 mph in far NE), is not as bad an offense as driving that fast on a crowded residential street with kids playing, etc. And because nearly all speed cameras are on the arteries and none are in residential areas, the rational for stiff fines is undermined by their placement.

The fines go by speed over the limit, with no consideration to environment. Maybe they could have higher fines on residential streets and built-up commercial strips, and lower fines on the highways.

by goldfish on Mar 28, 2013 12:39 pm • linkreport

It doesn't really matter if the speed target is low or high - if you are trying to prevent any variation in speed you will need to spend a lot of time watching the speedometer instead of other traffic.

If you are incapable of driving at around a specific speed without constantly looking at your speedometer I have to question whether you should be driving at all.

I agree that DC could use more speed limit signs.

by MLD on Mar 28, 2013 12:52 pm • linkreport

In addition to location, it seems that time of day should play some role. Going 45 in a 30 zone at 2 AM when streets are deserted seems less of a safety hazard than doing it during the evening rush.

by Chris S. on Mar 28, 2013 1:22 pm • linkreport

So we should start speeding when it's dark out? Yes that's much safer.

by Alan B. on Mar 28, 2013 1:37 pm • linkreport

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