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Orange jumps on anti-camera bandwagon

Freshman Congressman Kerry Bentivolio (R-MI) wants to use Congress' power over DC to ban red light and speed cameras. On Friday, at-large DC Councilmember Vincent Orange said he wants to take action, instead of Congress, to place a moratorium on cameras and other restrictions.


Photo by a simple bag on Flickr.

In his letter to Bentivolio, Orange referred to "problems" with the camera system, but didn't specify what problems. The only evident rationale is the widespread attitude among many elected officials and residents, that speeding is really not a problem and is not a law we need to enforce.

Camera opponents have repeatedly lamented the way camera revenue helps shore up DC's budget. However, Chairman Phil Mendelson actually just made a budget change to weaken the link between cameras and a balanced budget. Instead of making the objection to cameras go away, that may have given Orange an opening to block enforcement.

When cameras aren't about revenue, that's when they get cut?

In the final budget, Council Chairman Phil Mendelson rearranged the way camera revenues factor into the budget. Instead of the money going toward the general fund, Mendelson replaced it with revenue from an Internet sales tax, in the event that Congress lets DC and states tax Internet sales.

Mary Cheh and Jim Graham had hoped to use the sales tax money to fight homelessness. Mendelson used it to remove any budget dependency on cameras. The camera money would instead go into a pot for Metro long-term improvements like 8-car trains and connecting walkways.

Mendelson stated that his reason was to ensure that any changes the council might want to make to cameras has no "fiscal impact"; that it doesn't unbalance the budget. Orange's bill would cause a big budget hole, and DC can't pass bills which unbalance the budget. If the Internet sales tax comes in, however, Mendelson's maneuver would free Orange's bill of this problem.

The big loser would be that Metro money, but since that's in the future and the details are still fuzzy, the council can raid that with impunity. So while having camera revenue plug holes in the budget is not ideal, it kept members like Orange and Mendelson from putting their own lead feet over neighborhood needs. With the barrier gone, so is that obstacle to a bill like Orange's.

Scarcely was the ink dry on the budget before Orange took that next step to block any new enforcement, even where residents have been clamoring for slower speeds and less red light running in their neighborhoods.

Speeding is one of the few laws many people just don't want enforced

Orange said he was going to introduce his bill at the next legislative session, but is announcing now to try to let the council excuse speeding before Congress can. The bill would place a 2-year moratorium on any new cameras, require DC to place signs before each camera, and justify the safety basis for each location.

That last part, which just demands reports on the safety impact of each camera, isn't so terrible, but largely duplicates a budget amendment David Grosso (at-large) already added this year.

In response to the news, Benjamin Cooper tweeted, "guess someone got a ticket." Indeed, it would be fascinating to find out if Bentivolio received a ticket recently.

This is the fundamental problem facing pedestrian safety in DC neighborhoods. A lot of people don't believe speeding in residential areas, even 10 mph over the limit, is a big deal. Most of us who drive do it. But the consequences can be grave.

Lawmakers show little interest in excusing unlawful action in other realms. They don't seek to put limits on the police's ability to stop drivers and search for marijuana, guns, or stolen goods. This despite the fact that studies show black drivers are far more likely to get pulled over and searched than white ones.

Maybe that's because speeding is one crime where the lawmakers see themselves in the role of the hurried driver and far less often as the senior trying to cross a wide street on foot. All other consternation, like about the program serving as a revenue stream, rings quite hollow, especially since the amount of complaining only rose after DC lowered fines last year.

Sure, it would be nice if the counterargument that it's "just about revenue" didn't exist, but in fact, the revenue has prevented lawmakers from deleting cameras before. Ironically, the moment camera revenue and the budget get (at least provisionally) split up, alleviating arguments that DC is dependent on the revenue, that's the very time lawmakers start taking steps to block the government from curbing dangerous driving behavior.

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. 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 loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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Is these weeks of continual illegal firework activity that the police have decided to not bother doing anything about, why not increase revenue with firework cameras? I think this is a bigger danger, and much more of a nuisance than someone driving 38 in a 30 MPH zone.

by Tom A. on Jul 1, 2013 10:20 am • linkreport

You're ignoring a few things:

$100 fines are extremely steep considering the nature of the offense. Our peer communities, like Montgomery County, also use traffic cameras but do not have such steep fines

Many of the roads on which the speed cameras are placed are designed to support far higher speed limits, and it seems predatory to set much lower speed limits and then charge steep fines for simply traveling at an otherwise safe speed.

If you rarely drive in DC, then you might say "what's the big deal"? But given that the design of the city requires frequent driving for many residents and workers, it is a big deal.

by JustMe on Jul 1, 2013 10:21 am • linkreport

That said, Congress should stay out of this.

by JustMe on Jul 1, 2013 10:21 am • linkreport

The grammar in paragraph #7 is off - there are several sentence fragments and incomplete thoughts. Editing error?

by Alex B. on Jul 1, 2013 10:26 am • linkreport

@JustMe

I tend to agree somewhat. There should be a higher likelyhood of being caught, but a lower fine amount. Lets triple the amount of cameras, but reduce the fine accordingly to $30. I would be perfectly fine with that.

Plenty of roads are in places that are not meant for higher speeds. If someone is driving 37 down 7th street in Brightwood, they ABSOLUTELY deserve a ticket.

by Kyle-w on Jul 1, 2013 10:30 am • linkreport

Tom, how many people do you think are killed by fireworks every year and how many are killed by someone just going 8 miles over the speed limit?

by Alan B. on Jul 1, 2013 10:31 am • linkreport

Speed cameras can and SHOULD be about BOTH! It's a completely voluntary tax. If you don't want a ticket, don't go (at least 11 mph) over the speed LIMIT. Simple stuff really.

by thump on Jul 1, 2013 10:32 am • linkreport

I live in DC and I do not like people speeding through my neighborhood. I don't care how much of a hurry you're in. That being said, I wish that our government would start cracking down on:
  • Blocking the crosswalk and the box
  • Speeding through stop signs
  • Right-on-red
  • And speeding on neighborhood streets.
I don't care if it's done by camera, by the police, or street design. (I also believe that drivers would then want to get rid of that kind of enforcement too, because, you know, they have a Constitutional right to block the crosswalk, or some ridiculous reason like that.) I realize that people want to drive, fine, drive, but realize that when you drive you are driving through someone's neighborhood. It's not your personal highway to work or wherever you are going.

by dc denizen on Jul 1, 2013 10:32 am • linkreport

...Oh, and crack down on people driving and yakking on their phones. Every other person is on their phone while they drive.

by dc denizen on Jul 1, 2013 10:35 am • linkreport

Many of the roads on which the speed cameras are placed are designed to support far higher speed limits, and it seems predatory to set much lower speed limits and then charge steep fines for simply traveling at an otherwise safe speed.

Sure but this is often used as a straw man as a way to ensure that cameras (or other enforcement) is never put in place. Especially considering the fights that can happen whenever street calming measure are specifically proposed ("but what about emergency vehicles?" "this is a war on cars" "but I need to drive X-mph on this street!").

So lets build calmer streets but a bad design isn't a justification for unsafe speeds.

by drumz on Jul 1, 2013 10:38 am • linkreport

I think you're right that lawmakers don't want to enforce speeding because they want to be able to drive as fast as they see necessary or appropriate.

The cost of speeding should be high, otherwise it won't discourage driving. If the fine is low enough, drivers may factor it in as the cost of driving in a city. If the fine is high enough, it could change behavior. A small speeding fine does not create an incentive to not speed.

thump is right on -- the argument is simple, really. Don't like speed camera fines? Don't speed.

by Jamie Scott on Jul 1, 2013 10:41 am • linkreport

...Oh, and crack down on people driving and yakking on their phones. Every other person is on their phone while they drive.

Personally, I think it's more like 1 in 8. If I pass a line of 8 cars, I'm almost assured to pass one doing something on a phone. That's just my personal observation though.
That said, it's also incredibly obvious when someone is texting or talking, at least when you're on a bike (was actually just discussing this on the commute in this morning). This leads me to believe that MPD really isn't concerned w/ enforcing this law.

by thump on Jul 1, 2013 10:50 am • linkreport

The cost of speeding should be high, otherwise it won't discourage driving.

I'm all for discouraging driving, but DC lacks the alternative infrastructure to make this realistic. We're not really a transit-oriented city-- we are a very car-dependent city, and the places that cameras are located in (Upper NW on 16th St NW, North Capital Street by Washington Hospital, New York Avenue, Calvert St/Cleveland Ave, I-395), are places where there is no realistic alternative to driving to get to one's destination. Furthermore, the very locations of those cameras are places that are major thoroughfares in which the design of the roads is to support higher speeds.

by JustMe on Jul 1, 2013 11:14 am • linkreport

I think it is the police, not the lawmakers, that are most reluctant to do the work of actually chasing down speeders and pulling them over. It is dangerous; it undermines the cop-friend-on-the-street they need for community policing, necessary for them to solve more serious crimes. Far easier to let a camera do it.

by goldfish on Jul 1, 2013 11:17 am • linkreport

We're not really a transit-oriented city-- we are a very car-dependent city

Said regarding a city that has the 2nd highest ridership in the country on its rail system.

Sure there are places where its just easier to drive. One reason for that is because it's easy to speed on the roads. Speeding is dangerous so the best way to curtail the problem seems to be put cameras on roads with lots of speeding.

by drumz on Jul 1, 2013 11:17 am • linkreport

I'm in favor of the right of DC to use speed cameras for whatever they wish, be it safety rationale, or revenue grab, however I missed on exit off the Beltway a few weeks back, got funneled to 295, and had to make a u-turn somewhere near Bolling AFB. I got a ticket for 61 on a limited access highway at a speed trap set up just inside the beltway, with narry a sidewalk, pedestrian, cyclist or neighborhood in sight, and an interstate highway designed to support interstate highway speeds. Enjoy your $100. The problem is that the posted limits (which are not posted frequently enough) are very inconsistent with the roads. 395 tunnel is unnaturally slow, while DC 295 is posted 50 or 55, which I think is actually too fast and should be 45 for that road. If the policy focused on neighborhood streets and arterial, I think fewer people would view the scheme as confiscatory. In any case, its none of Michigan's business, and Orange is still a doofus.

by spookiness on Jul 1, 2013 11:18 am • linkreport

Tom, how many people do you think are killed by fireworks every year and how many are killed by someone just going 8 miles over the speed limit?

Don't be silly. If a driver is only going 8 mph over the speed limit, the police reflexively declare that "speed was not an issue in the collision". So the answer to that is "a positive number vs zero".

by oboe on Jul 1, 2013 11:19 am • linkreport

@JustMe: I don't follow your first point. The cameras do not prevent driving, so alternate modes aren't really relevant to the conversation (except insofar as the revenue from cameras might eventually find its way to Metro). Even if there is no alternative to driving in some area, there is an obvious alternative to speeding: driving the speed limit. If the speed limit is posted, the engineering of the road is nothing but scape-goating and does nothing to excuse the driver from responsibility for breaking the law.

by AMT on Jul 1, 2013 11:21 am • linkreport

Sure there are places where its just easier to drive. One reason for that is because it's easy to speed on the roads. Speeding is dangerous so the best way to curtail the problem seems to be put cameras on roads with lots of speeding.

Exactly. Lower the speed limit in the city to 20mph. Make enforcement universal, and a fine 100% certain. Then remove 90% of the traffic lights and replace them with stop signs at which pedestrians and cyclists have the right-of-way in all circumstances.

I think we'd see the mode share of the private automobile fall precipitously.

by oboe on Jul 1, 2013 11:21 am • linkreport

@JustMe: addendum - I seem to have missed the line you were responding to. That said, I do disagree that the purpose of speed cameras is to discourage driving. They're to discourage speeding and other dangerous/illegal driving behavior (red light running, stop sign running, etc.).

by AMT on Jul 1, 2013 11:22 am • linkreport

@JustMe,

If you rarely drive in DC, then you might say "what's the big deal"? But given that the design of the city requires frequent driving for many residents and workers, it is a big deal.

DC native here. I drive a car just about every day. Never been ticketed. What's the big deal?

by oboe on Jul 1, 2013 11:23 am • linkreport

@Thump That said, it's also incredibly obvious when someone is texting or talking, at least when you're on a bike (was actually just discussing this on the commute in this morning). This leads me to believe that MPD really isn't concerned w/ enforcing this law.

That's because MPD officers talk and text on their phones all the time. I live near a station that has it's own fenced-off, police-only lot. On at least three occasions, I've nearly been hit crossing the street by off-duty cops pulling into this lot, clearly distracted by their phones. They're big fans of the rolling-but-not-stopping right on red, too.

by Birdie on Jul 1, 2013 11:23 am • linkreport

Sure there are places where its just easier to drive. One reason for that is because it's easy to speed on the roads.

No, there are places where it is just easier to drive because there is little to no practical transit access unless you are commuting in from a specific part of MD or VA into downtown during rush hour on a weekday. Traveling to many parts of DC or even within DC is not remotely practical other than driving, regardless of whether you can speed or not. If you want to advocate for less driving, then make the necessary investments in transit to travel around the city. As it is, DC hasn't really done so.

by JustMe on Jul 1, 2013 11:26 am • linkreport

We're not really a transit-oriented city

Huh? Am I missing something here? So, how do I live in this city without a car...

by dc denizen on Jul 1, 2013 11:28 am • linkreport

If you want to advocate for less driving, then make the necessary investments in transit to travel around the city. As it is, DC hasn't really done so.

I don't see where "and ban the use of cameras" plays here. Surely we can advocate for better transit while enforcing the speed limit.

by drumz on Jul 1, 2013 11:28 am • linkreport

Add: because saying that some areas must be left to make driving easy (easy being defined as low likelihood of being caughts speeding) until transit covers the area or the streets are re-engineered is just setting up a purposefully vague benchmark that isn't designed to actually be reached. It's a delay tactic.

by drumz on Jul 1, 2013 11:32 am • linkreport

Oboe: you forgot that if the other party is a cyclist, they HAD to be doing something wrong.

I gotta hand it to Orange: lets insure that corruption is not just confined to the City, but can be spread around to the common people.

by SJE on Jul 1, 2013 11:37 am • linkreport

The placement of the speed/red light cameras is indeed very odd and deserves to be re-examined. DDOT could certainly relocate a few of the MANY cameras lining K Street, Constitution Ave and I-395 to more residential neighborhoods and streets like Connecticut Ave, 14th St, 16th St, Georgia Ave, Columbia Rd, Mass Ave, Wisconsin Ave, etc.

Not only would that make the streets safer, I believe, but would also help combat the perception that the cameras are primarily set in place to generate revenue.

by Scoot on Jul 1, 2013 11:40 am • linkreport

Whose interest is Orange protecting here? The rights of speeders?

Orange can't be voted out fast enough. When is he up for re-election, 2014?

by wylie coyote on Jul 1, 2013 11:46 am • linkreport

@Scoot,

We've been over this ground many times. First you would need to lower the residential speed limit to 20 mph (or 15mph). Either that or eliminate the 10 mph "cushion" that MPD allows before enforcing the speed limit laws.

Currently the posted speed limit outside of my kid's school is 25 mph. During school hours, it's 15 mph. The "de facto" speed limit is 35mph.

by oboe on Jul 1, 2013 11:47 am • linkreport

We can also add cameras in more places AND keep them in the places they are right now as well. People still like to speed on K street and 395 after all.

by drumz on Jul 1, 2013 11:52 am • linkreport

@Scoot-I'm not familiar w/ the location of cameras on K Street, but I'd love to see them all over downtown. It doesn't have to be a neighborhood for there to be a ton of pedestrian activity. Put some more on L and M while you're at it. Speeds are still too high on L, even w/ the cycletrack.

by thump on Jul 1, 2013 11:52 am • linkreport

One last suggestion on the camera thing: we need to buy fake mobile cameras that look just like the real thing. Then we need to shuffle the real and fake cameras. And stop posting the location of cameras on the MPD website.

http://www.wtop.com/41/3284194/More-areas-consider-using-fake-speed-cameras

by oboe on Jul 1, 2013 11:55 am • linkreport

One last suggestion on the camera thing: we need to buy fake mobile cameras that look just like the real thing. Then we need to shuffle the real and fake cameras. And stop posting the location of cameras on the MPD website.

I wholeheartedly support speed cameras but I disagree with this. The best way to combat the whining about "unfair" speed cameras and how they are a "trap" is to prominently post the locations of those cameras and post speed limit signs on the roads that say "camera enforced." Then there's no legitimacy to the bogus excuse about how visitors don't know the speed limit in DC or how cameras are posted in secret places.

I agree fake cameras are fine, just put them in locations with limit signs that say "camera enforced" and post those locations on the web. Hell, the MPD site should have a google map with all the locations on it.

I want speeders to know that they are being targeted and that the solution to their problems with getting tickets is to slow the f--- down.

by MLD on Jul 1, 2013 12:00 pm • linkreport

Speeding is one of the few laws many people just don't want enforced

I don't agree with this sentence in the post. DC's camera program is wildly popular (in principle) with DC's residents based on polling data. What people oppose is not the camera program in theory or the idea of enforcing speed laws. Many people oppose the implementation of the program which leaves the impression that it is not just about safety but also about revenue enhancement.

It's great that Mendelson reduced dependence in the budget on camera revenue although it should be taken one step further. Rather than put Metro maintenance on the chopping block if camera revenue is reduced -- since Metro maintenance is absolutely critical and shouldn't be reduced -- Metro should be fully funded and camera revenue can go toward something that is truly optional like pre-paying general obligation bonds.

There is a great rationale for the camera program in increasing safety. But, as many commenters point out above, the program is also perceived as a revenue enhancer and some people seem fine with that. It's unfair to implement the program in a way that collects revenue over and above the minimum amount needed for safety when that's not done for any other law. For example, should we enforce public drunkenness laws in a way that collects revenue over and above what's needed to avoid the nuisance/hazard of drunkenness?

by Falls Church on Jul 1, 2013 12:10 pm • linkreport

We can also add cameras in more places AND keep them in the places they are right now as well. People still like to speed on K street and 395 after all.

Sure, I have no problem with that.

by Scoot on Jul 1, 2013 12:12 pm • linkreport

@ oboe - Oddly, since I think I agree with your position camera's, I think the 20 mph and no traffic lights is a pretty bad idea. It's just wasteful of gas and time and awful for cyclists too. I can't stand the fact that most of the city's designated bike routes (not lanes, but the roads they call "bike routes") have stop signs at every intersection. For us cyclists that follow the law, it's a real pain in the neck. I actively seek out the stop lights with timing the can be cyclist friendly and the mid-size streets with fewer stop-signs and crazy speeders.

I don't think there's anything wrong with efficient movement of bikes and cars, and I think that there's room in our transportation network for arteries.

I agree that people do --- and shouldn't --- be going over 25 mph in our residential neighborhoods. But I'd much rather see strong enforcement of the law as is rather than lowering the speed limit or continuing the campaign to make every intersection a 4 way stop.

The automatic right of way for peds and bikes is an interesting thought. I'm reluctant to give bikes and cars a different set of rules of the road, but nobody seems to follow right of way laws anyways, so maybe this would be helpful.

by John on Jul 1, 2013 12:20 pm • linkreport

It's unfair to implement the program in a way that collects revenue over and above the minimum amount needed for safety when that's not done for any other law.

Of course that would be unfair. However, has anyone established that this is the case with the camera program? How much revenue it collects in comparison to its costs is irrelevant when discussing the fines required to increase safety.

The fines are high (at least that's what the critics keep claiming) yet speeding continues. To me, that indicates that either the fines are not a high enough penalty that people change their behavior, or there is some confounding factor that prevents people from changing their behavior.

by MLD on Jul 1, 2013 12:21 pm • linkreport

>>The fines are high (at least that's what the critics keep claiming) yet speeding continues.

I disagree. Clearly speed cameras, properly marked with prominent signage, combined with tickets, slow down regular drivers on their regular routes. Take a look at Conn. Ave in Chevy Chase, or Western Ave. Everyone is on their best behavior, including me, and the streets are safer as a result. (OK, Conn. Ave isn't greatly signed, but that has been a speed trap for 30 years at least, predating cameras.)

What is a nasty little trick is the cameras that are both barely marked, and in 25/30/35 mph industrial/highway zones, that are, by design, speedtraps. New York Avenue. Entering K Street underpass from Whitehurst. SE/SE freeway. Etc. These leave a nasty taste and because they nab so many one-time visitors (or local residents making a one-off trip to Virginia, say) they are clearly designed as a stealth tax. Just as long as we're honest about it.

by 20816 on Jul 1, 2013 12:39 pm • linkreport

DC has had a nice cash cow -- 700,000 speed-cam tickets issued per year is really astonishing -- 1.47 per vehicle.

I think it is pretty clear that the speed camera revenue will decrease, no matter how this issue plays out.

by goldfish on Jul 1, 2013 12:42 pm • linkreport

Are you saying 1.47 tickets for every registered DC vehicle? Because there are lots of non-DC cars driving around at any given moment.

by drumz on Jul 1, 2013 12:48 pm • linkreport

However, has anyone established that this is the case with the camera program?

No, but no one has established that it's not the case either. And, very importantly, the program is implemented in a way that makes many people think revenue enhancement is part of the purpose. Perceptions matter.

That perception is partly created by all the people who say they think it's totally fine if DC is using the camera program to enhance revenue.

So, there's a chance the program is partly a revenue grab and a chance that it's not. The common person will probably never be able to know definitively which is the case. However, there are certainly changes that could be made to the program that would decrease the likelihood (and perception) that it's a revenue grab.

by Falls Church on Jul 1, 2013 1:00 pm • linkreport

My neighbors and I in Cleveland Park, DC would like to see more speed and red light cameras, especially along Connecticut Avenue and 34th St/Reno Road. If you don't want them in your area, please send them our way!

by Wally on Jul 1, 2013 1:08 pm • linkreport

@Drumz: 1.47 tickets for every registered DC vehicle

no that includes the out-of-state vehicles that commute into DC -- see here for the cites and arithmetic.

What many haven't fathomed is the incredible numbers of speed-cam tickets that have been issued by DC.

by goldfish on Jul 1, 2013 1:13 pm • linkreport

@John,

Sorry, should've been clearer: under the new regime, cyclists treat stop signs as yield signs. They are required to give way to pedestrians, but not to motor vehicles.

by oboe on Jul 1, 2013 1:15 pm • linkreport

@goldfish,

What many haven't fathomed is the incredible numbers of speed-cam tickets that have been issued by DC.

My guess is that the majority of tickets are issued to non-residents. This isn't just a matter of numbers, but of culture. Most suburban drivers are used to making up their own speed limits (at least until they pull into their own neighborhood). They're shocked and angered that someone would actually enforce the law efficiently...

by oboe on Jul 1, 2013 1:19 pm • linkreport

@oboe: "enforcement" means that if you keep on speeding, they take away your license. That does not happen with speed-cam tickets.

by goldfish on Jul 1, 2013 1:25 pm • linkreport

What many haven't fathomed is the incredible numbers of speed-cam tickets that have been issued by DC.

When you consider how many cars drive around on District streets each day, 700,000 is not that large of a number. By my back of the envelope calculation, more than 99% of speeders are not being ticketed.

by Scoot on Jul 1, 2013 1:27 pm • linkreport

Scoot: please share the details of your calculation.

by goldfish on Jul 1, 2013 1:28 pm • linkreport

As a DC resident 4 times out of 5 when I see reckless driving it comes with an out of state plate. Why should we put up with visitors who refuse to afford us basic decency of driving safely? I was raised to be respectful of my hosts as well as my guests.

by Alan B. on Jul 1, 2013 1:30 pm • linkreport

they are clearly designed as a stealth tax.

NO, absolutely not. They are a COMPLETELY VOLUNTARY tax! You know how you don't get taxed? You don't speed AT LEAST 11 mph OVER the posted speed LIMIT!!!

There are signs posted at regular intervals in DC that explicitly tell you what the speed limit on that particular stretch of road is? Nothing "stealthy" about it.

by thump on Jul 1, 2013 1:30 pm • linkreport

That should have said "road is.", not "road is?".

Also, DC pols, from the get-go, should have come right out and said, "Yup...it's about safety to our residents, and revenue." Problem is, politicians don't have the stones to do that, even in situations where a decision is widely popular. It's compounded by DC's lack of autonomy...I'm sure Congress, sorry Republicans in Congress, would have had an issue with that.

by thump on Jul 1, 2013 1:33 pm • linkreport

Thump,

Doubly so when there are only a few streets (most, if not all ending in "95") where the speed limit is something other than 25mph.

by drumz on Jul 1, 2013 1:37 pm • linkreport

Soo 700k tickets per year vs. 475k vehicles in the district on any given day (x365).

That's still pretty good odds for the speeders.

by drumz on Jul 1, 2013 1:41 pm • linkreport

@goldfish

700,000 tickets per year = 1920 tickets per day

Assume 500,000 drivers on DC roads per day (commuters+residents+visitors)

Assume 75% of drivers speed only once during their trip = 375,000 instances of speeding per day (this is generous because most drivers speed more than once in a single trip)

1920 tickets/375,000 incidences = 0.00512 or 0.5% of incidences result in a ticket

Even if you generously halved the number of cars on the road then only 1% of incidences would result in a ticket.

by Scoot on Jul 1, 2013 1:43 pm • linkreport


drumz: That's still pretty good odds for the speeders.

Yep.

but it looks more like a tax than a fine. More especially because there are no points on the speeders' licenses, so they can continue to speed.

So actually the speed cam tickets look a lot like the HOT lanes -- pay more to drive fast -- because the speeders never have to face losing their license.

by goldfish on Jul 1, 2013 1:47 pm • linkreport

Scoot: thanks.

I note that you think that 75% of people speed. I do not know how close that is to the actual number.

Here is a number I *am* confident of: 100% of drivers speed at one time or another. So lets get them ALL!

by goldfish on Jul 1, 2013 1:49 pm • linkreport

but it looks more like a tax than a fine. More especially because there are no points on the speeders' licenses, so they can continue to speed.

So why is it not possible to fix that issue while keeping the cameras? Much like David C said, hand out the points and set up a system where you can appeal the points if you let someone borrow your car that day. Then don't let that person borrow your car again.

by drumz on Jul 1, 2013 1:50 pm • linkreport

I hate policy that gives an advantage to people who don't abide by the laws, and I think policymakers are generally off target when they pursue these avenues. If anything, the point is that they don't feel they should be ticketed on certain roads. The proper way to fix that is to raise the speed limit on those roads, not to stop enforcement.

Now my feeling is that most of the downtown roads have proper speed limits. I don't drive much, but when I do, there's so much traffic downtown that I'd have a hard time speeding there anyway. I'd rather enforcement focus on more residential areas where crosswalks are not always accompanied by traffic signals.

And I'll concede that the 35mph on NY Ave towards the Balt-Wash Pkwy feels like a speed trap given few cross-streets and 0 pedestrians.

by jeremy on Jul 1, 2013 1:57 pm • linkreport

@drumz: hand out the points and set up a system where you can appeal the points

In principle, I suppose so, but: consider what will happen to the court system if even a small fraction of the 700,000 tickets issued annually file that appeal.

by goldfish on Jul 1, 2013 1:57 pm • linkreport

I note that you think that 75% of people speed. I do not know how close that is to the actual number.

If you do the math, it doesn't really matter whether it's 50%, 75% or 100% because the number of people ticketed is very low.

Even if 5% of drivers speed, then over 92% are getting off without a ticket.

by Scoot on Jul 1, 2013 2:00 pm • linkreport

I made a mistake earlier -- I meant to say the fines for speed cameras should discourage speeding, not driving.

by Jamie Scott on Jul 1, 2013 2:01 pm • linkreport

I don't know. Why is that the issue when we're discussing whether cameras should be used to enforce traffic laws? What if robocop handed out 700k tickets a year? What if few people let people borrow their car and get speeding tickets? Why all this goal-post moving from "the cameras are just a tax" to "they don't actually deter" to "if you really addressed these problems then the court system couldn't handle it"?

by drumz on Jul 1, 2013 2:02 pm • linkreport

@drumz: because Rep. Bentivolio and at-large DC council member Vince Orange want to limit or kill the entire program.

by goldfish on Jul 1, 2013 2:05 pm • linkreport

but it looks more like a tax than a fine. More especially because there are no points on the speeders' licenses, so they can continue to speed.

Why does it look more like a tax? It's easily avoidable. It would appear some states don't put points on your license for regular (non-excessive/reckless) speeding.

In principle, I suppose so, but: consider what will happen to the court system if even a small fraction of the 700,000 tickets issued annually file that appeal.

Hey look, more tut-tut concern trolling rather than addressing the actual merits of doing one thing or another!

by MLD on Jul 1, 2013 2:08 pm • linkreport

The basis of the 10mph buffer is that the devices were not that accurate. This is less true with newer technology, and even more so when the speeds are lower. Now that we know how much speed matters in collisions with peds and cyclists, we should mandate a lower "buffer" and higher fines for those streets where there are lots of peds and cyclists. 35mph on a residential street is not safe.

by SJE on Jul 1, 2013 2:08 pm • linkreport

Yet none of them raise the issue about gumming up the court system. Their contention is that cameras are somehow unfair. They aren't, they're more fair among several other advantages (in fact the nature of the bill considers the advantages of cameras to be disadvantages).

Also both officials are being disinegenuous by wanting to ban or curtail cameras while failing to provide any alternatives to help enforce traffic safety.

by drumz on Jul 1, 2013 2:09 pm • linkreport

Yet none of them raise the issue about gumming up the court system.

Because nobody is proposing adding points to speed-cam tickets.

Rep. Bentivolio and at-large DC council member Vince Orange are looking after their constituents, nothing more. VO's base is the W5, 7, and 8, where most voters drive, and get hit hard by the fines. The people that read this blog are more Metro-dependent, so of course it doesn't affect them that much.

by goldfish on Jul 1, 2013 2:15 pm • linkreport

So why the thing about courts if no one has raised it and its not even clear if it will be an issue points or no? Anyway,

The people that read this blog are more Metro-dependent, so of course it doesn't affect them that much.

Most everyone in DC is pedestrian at some point (even if its just from your parking spot to where you're going) and the speed of the traffic around them is very germane to the debate. I (and others who may not drive in DC, though I do, recently as of this past friday) think the speed of traffic is something that concerns everyone not just those driving. Vincent Orange may disagree but that doesn't make him right.

Meanwhile its hard to see who Bentivolio is protecting since this doesn't even applying to his constituents.

by drumz on Jul 1, 2013 2:18 pm • linkreport

"The people that read this blog are more Metro-dependent, so of course it doesn't affect them that much."

I drive in DC now and then. Its been YEARS since I got a red light or speeding ticket in DC. There's a difference between needing to use a car, and needing to speed or run red lights.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 1, 2013 2:24 pm • linkreport

Meanwhile its hard to see who Bentivolio is protecting

You should ask him, but I suspect he feels the speed-cam tickets in DC have gone too far -- the fines are too high and there are just way too many tickets issued (BTW, there is no way to beat one in court, as far as I know). He is protecting Michigan residents that do the DC pilgrimage, from predatory speed-cam tickets. A lot of people feel that the program has gone too far, as the Mayor recognized the backlash and reduced the fines somewhat last Fall.

by goldfish on Jul 1, 2013 2:25 pm • linkreport

And in the interim he provides another example of why DC needs its own real congressional representation. DC's course should be do what it can to make sure the bill doesn't get passed and then carry on with its plans to make streets safer.

by drumz on Jul 1, 2013 2:34 pm • linkreport

@goldfish,

VO's base is the W5, 7, and 8, where most voters drive, and get hit hard by the fines. The people that read this blog are more Metro-dependent, so of course it doesn't affect them that much.

Nonsense. Most of my neighbors drive to work. But they tend to strongly favor speed cameras, traffic calming, and other measures to rein in reckless driving. Why? Probably because of the stream of speeding, reckless drivers from Wards 5, 7, 8, and 9 that pose a constant danger to our kids and neighbors.

by oboe on Jul 1, 2013 2:36 pm • linkreport

@oboe: drivers from Wards 5, 7, 8, and 9

Ah, W9. Not even Vince Orange represents them.

by goldfish on Jul 1, 2013 2:38 pm • linkreport

there is no way to beat one in court, as far as I know

I've done it. I shouldn't have had to though. I went in, sat around, entered a plea of non-guilty and immediately had the case thrown out because the machine was not properly calibrated. Now they knew this, or should have, before I came in. They should have known it before I contested it and before sending me the ticket, but they made me come in and say not guilty before they would remove the ticket.

That's something that should be fixed.

But I still support photo enforcement. You can get the same problem with human enforcement for sure.

there are just way too many tickets issued

How many tickets should be issued? Assuming that most of those drivers are guilty, how much less enforcement should we have?

The fines probably are too high - if the goal is just to reduce speeding. But why not just change that?

by David C on Jul 1, 2013 2:42 pm • linkreport

Predatory speed-cam tickets? Drive the speed limit. It's not that hard, although I know folks from Michigan would argue otherwise.

by Birdie on Jul 1, 2013 2:43 pm • linkreport

@Birdie: Predatory speed-cam tickets? Drive the speed limit.

Have some sympathy for out-of-towners driving on unfamiliar roads that are poorly signed and marked, with hundreds of crazed commuters zooming around, trying to find their way to Aunt Mabel's house, driving through (what they imagine to be) very fearful and violent neighborhoods. Do you see every tiny signs under the speed limit post that say "photo enforced"?

Most out-of-town people that come visiting me get lost.

by goldfish on Jul 1, 2013 2:51 pm • linkreport

@goldfish,

Ah, W9. Not even Vince Orange represents them.

Untrue. VO walks and talks like everyone everywhere.

by oboe on Jul 1, 2013 2:52 pm • linkreport

Visitors on unfamiliar roads? Maybe on the 95s can someone be truly fooled by the lower speed limit but on regular city streets 25mph is a near universal standard. Plus when you're lost/looking for an address shouldn't one be driving slower?

by drumz on Jul 1, 2013 3:02 pm • linkreport

also, next time you hear about a hit and run, have sympathy for bond traders with married mistresses driving through areas with very high crime.

"shuhman, where are all the WHITE people?"

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 1, 2013 3:06 pm • linkreport

AWITC,

I appreciate that reference.

by drumz on Jul 1, 2013 3:10 pm • linkreport

Falls Church wrote: "It's unfair to implement the program in a way that collects revenue over and above the minimum amount needed for safety when that's not done for any other law."

Except for the income tax. And the sales tax. And the property tax. And a bunch of other taxes and fees, too.

I've never understood the anti-revenue arguments on speed cameras. Anytime you argue against getting revenue from speed cameras, you're arguing for raising other taxes (or for cutting spending, which seems to be even less popular than higher taxes). I'd much rather get extra money from speed cameras (which tax people who are breaking the law -- something we want to discourage) than from taxes (which tax people who are working, owning homes, and doing other things we want to encourage).

I'm still against having speed cameras enforcing ridiculously low speed limits -- limits so low that it's perfectly safe to speed -- but the answer there is to set more reasonable speed limits.

by Rob on Jul 1, 2013 3:11 pm • linkreport

@Rob

Completely agree. Just based off of our recent .25% sales tax drop that will cost ~20 million a year, that means we could drop the sales tax another full 1%, and it would simply be offset by people breaking the law. That sounds terrific, I certainly think they should continue ramping up the program. I would happily bring in an extra 100 million next year if it results in a .1% drop in the income tax rate, or an increase in the standard deduction etc.

You can put both my wife and I in the camp of people who drive daily in DC (from Petworth to Van Ness/Bethesda respectively) and have never gotten a speed camera ticket. It isn't that hard to just follow the law and drive safely.

by Kyle-w on Jul 1, 2013 3:36 pm • linkreport

BTW, there is no way to beat one in court, as far as I know

I got out of a ticket b/c, at least on this particular camera, it wasn't able to differentiate between one lane or the other. I assume that's different now..it was early days.
I remembered the occasion specifically b/c this guy in an SUV blew by me and I saw the flash go off in my rear-view. The ticket came in for 27!!!! mph OVER the limit! I was prepared from the start to contest b/c I looked down at my speedo right after and was just under the limit.

by thump on Jul 1, 2013 3:41 pm • linkreport

I've never understood the anti-revenue arguments on speed cameras.

I am ambivalent on the subject so let me give you some of my qualms.

1. If we have two unrelated goals then I worry that one might become subservient to the other. We might put cameras in places where safety is not an issue but speeding is rampant. Or lower speed limits too low. Or use gotcha signage etc...We should have laws that make sense and enforce them. If revenue comes into play, laws that make sense might be replaced by laws that make cents.

2. It's hard enough to get support when the goal is safety. Adding in taxing makes it even harder. So there is a political reason for not using this as a speed tax.

3. It's a regressive tax.

I think the fines should be lowered for first time offenders and raised for repeat offenders. I'd support a law that tied the fine to the value of the car. I'd support a law that allowed people to "pay" with community service (as they can in Arizona). I might even support a law that mandated community service (cleaning up trash for example) for repeat offenders.

I understand the appeal of this as a sin tax. I just don't think it's optimal.

by David C on Jul 1, 2013 3:42 pm • linkreport

@David C

3. It's a regressive tax.

No, it is not. It is a fine for people who are breaking the law. Poorer people have just as much opportunity to not break the law as rich people do.

by Kyle-w on Jul 1, 2013 4:32 pm • linkreport

Have some sympathy for out-of-towners driving on unfamiliar roads that are poorly signed and marked, with hundreds of crazed commuters zooming around, trying to find their way to Aunt Mabel's house, driving through (what they imagine to be) very fearful and violent neighborhoods.

Who drives all the way from Michigan to DC? The broader point here is that this doofy congressman thinks the 5 letters he got about speedcam tickets merits getting all up in DC's business.

by worthing on Jul 1, 2013 4:34 pm • linkreport

Didn't Gray recently raise the limit on the freeway-esque portions of NY Ave to something more reasonable than 35mph?

I'm 99% sure that the limit is now higher than it was 2 years ago (and that there's no longer a permanent camera there).

That being said, the 35mph speed limit on the ramp between NY Ave and the B-W Parkway is way too low, considering that it feeds into a 55mph left-hand merge.

by andrew on Jul 1, 2013 4:36 pm • linkreport

goldfish, my family comes down from New Jersey to visit me all the time. None of them have ever gotten tickets. Maybe they just drive the speed limit?

by Alan B. on Jul 1, 2013 4:58 pm • linkreport

Kyle-w, I guess I need to know how you define a regressive tax. If a poor person and a wealthy person both get the same fine for the same violation, it will be a larger proportion of the poor person's income and wealth. That's what I define as a regressive tax.

by David C on Jul 1, 2013 5:14 pm • linkreport

Falls Church wrote: "It's unfair to implement the program in a way that collects revenue over and above the minimum amount needed for safety when that's not done for any other law."

Except for the income tax. And the sales tax. And the property tax. And a bunch of other taxes and fees, too.

I'm not sure I understand what you're talking about. The penalty for breaking tax laws are for the sole purpose of keeping people from breaking the law. They're not designed to generate extra revenue.

If tax laws were purposefully designed in a way that people would likely break them just so the government could play "gotcha" and then hit them with a penalty + interest, then you would have a point. Also, the penalty would have to be higher than what's reasonably necessary to mitigate tax law breaking just so the government could raise extra revenue.

That said, not too long ago the scenario I described above was basically true. The IRS got to keep a portion of the revenue they generated through fines, so they had every incentive to maximize fines. They established quotas for revenue agents who then proceeded to nitpick tax returns to death so they could rack up fines. There were audits where they required you to provide documentation proving every single thing on your tax return including your SSN and if couldn't produce all that documentation, you were hit with a fine. These abuses eventually led to congressional hearings and the IRS Restructuring Act of 1998 which put an end to all the perverse incentives in the system.

I've never understood the anti-revenue arguments on speed cameras

It's unfair to implement the program in a way that collects revenue over and above the minimum amount needed for safety when that's not done for any other law. For example, should we enforce public drunkenness laws in a way that collects revenue over and above what's needed to avoid the nuisance/hazard of drunkenness?

by Falls Church on Jul 1, 2013 5:15 pm • linkreport

@David C., but a speed camera fine isn't a tax. To avoid the fine, you don't speed. It's not like this is a tax levied on all drivers. Do you consider all fines for minor law breaking regressive taxes as well?

by Birdie on Jul 1, 2013 5:22 pm • linkreport

Most everyone in DC is pedestrian at some point (even if its just from your parking spot to where you're going) and the speed of the traffic around them is very germane to the debate.

I can't say I've ever been a pedestrian around where a lot of the more notorious speed cameras are, which is precisely the issue at hand.

At issue is that in DC, there are some places where there is no option except to drive (walking is not practical, either). And it just so happens that these places are where the speed cameras are placed.

by JustMe on Jul 1, 2013 5:30 pm • linkreport

It is fine for DC to be unfriendly to drivers. But it is also unfriendly to transit users. And if they're going to make it unfriendly and impractical to use transit to get around the city, then they should stop being so predatory in its use of speed cameras.

I find DC is the only jurisdiction that is notably bad about this--- the speed cameras in Montgomery County and other parts of Maryland are not as burdensome, either in their placement or in the fines levied.

by JustMe on Jul 1, 2013 5:32 pm • linkreport

Do you consider all fines for minor law breaking regressive taxes as well?

Yes, pretty much all fines for minor law breaking are regressive. Even if they are not taxes.

In some countries (scandinavian) they base your speeding fine on your income.

by MLD on Jul 1, 2013 5:34 pm • linkreport

"predatory"

That speed camera is just lurking, waiting to jump out and catch you for going 11mph over the speed limit that is exactly the same 25MPH nearly everywhere in the District.

by MLD on Jul 1, 2013 5:36 pm • linkreport

Birdie, if you're using it for revenue then it's a tax. This is like a sin tax on alcohol. It's just a sin tax on speeding. A broad definition of the word tax was the basis for upholding Obamacare last year, So the Supreme Court agrees with me

by David C on Jul 1, 2013 5:41 pm • linkreport

Eh, that was just to show that obamacare didnt mean the govt could force you eat broccoli, or something.

I find the distinction between taxes and fines arbitrary. Somehow fines can be regressive, but NO tax should be. I don't think that moral calculus was what SCOTUS had in mind when making their definition.

Id say that judging the effect of a tax OR fine on income distribution, its only important what the net effect is. In the case of DC - the speed fines/taxes/bananas, are being used to lower sales taxes. I think thats fine.

Is it wrong if a carbon tax were regressive? (clearly we accept that there will still be carbon emissions, rather more than we accept that there will still be speeding) Even if the $ are rebated back to tax payers in a progressive fashion?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 1, 2013 5:52 pm • linkreport

Well pedestrian safety isn't the only reason o have speed cameras. Driver safety is important too (and I think it's perfectly justifiable to have 45mph on 395 for that reason) but the city is planning to expand the program anyway to all sorts of streets.

by drumz on Jul 1, 2013 6:01 pm • linkreport

@MLD: That speed camera is just lurking, waiting to jump out and catch you for going 11mph over the speed limit that is exactly the same 25MPH nearly everywhere in the District.

Out-of-towners take their speed cues from the road design and the traffic. Take East Cap -- it looks like an major artery, had long straightaways with has no cross streets, and no people on the street. Most places it would have a speed limit of like 45-50 mph. Go ahead, drive 47 -- get a $300 ticket in the mail 3 weeks later -- because the limit is 25.

That is predatory.

by goldfish on Jul 1, 2013 6:04 pm • linkreport

@worthing: "the broader point here is this doofy congressman..."

...has the Constitutional power and responsibility, as a member of Congress, to write laws for DC. So his opinion matters more than most.

by goldfish on Jul 1, 2013 6:59 pm • linkreport

@Goldfish

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.] He has the power, by a quirk of the system. He CERTAINLY does not have a responsibility to interfere with hyper-local affairs, such as speed cameras, unless I suppose he ran for office in Michigan, promising to interfere with D.C. affairs.

There is a large distinction between the ability to do something, and the responsibility to do something.

That is predatory.

I agree with you here. Regarding these cameras, I am a big proponent of eliminating the 10% of most egregious cameras. I do not know about the specific camera you are mentioning, but if it is bad, it should be removed. Looking at Google Maps, it does look like it should be faster than 25, so that is perhaps a camera that should be moved. With that said, the other 90% of cameras (maybe it is 80/20 or 85/15) are in neighborhoods, and are saving peoples lives.

by Kyle-w on Jul 1, 2013 7:09 pm • linkreport

Actually, it is a 35 where you are talking about:

http://goo.gl/maps/XvjP2

There are cross-walks and such at the 4000 block, and the 4100 block, as well as bus stops and such. I think 47 should get a ticket there, but it would be $92, not $300.

by Kyle-w on Jul 1, 2013 7:18 pm • linkreport

has the Constitutional power and responsibility, as a member of Congress, to write laws for DC. So his opinion matters more than most.

Just because you can doesn't mean you should. Not everything that's legal is advisable. The Congressman needs to butt out.

by Tyro on Jul 1, 2013 9:28 pm • linkreport

Somehow fines can be regressive, but NO tax should be.

We should avoid it except when it modifies behavior in a positive way. Like cigarette taxes.

Is it wrong if a carbon tax were regressive?

No.

Let's discuss the premise as I understand it. We can fine people for speeding and up to $X it discourages speeding, but after that point it does not. $X is the fine to modify behavior. Some people then want to add $Y on top of that as a tax paid by people who behave badly. $Y will not reduce speeding - or not by very much.

So in that premise, the $Y is a regressive tax that does nothing (or little) to reduce speeding.

But with a carbon tax each additional increment in the tax should reduce carbon use (because it is always paid and always charged). So that's the difference between that, a cigarette tax or an alcohol tax and an inflated fine used to raise revenue.

by David C on Jul 1, 2013 9:48 pm • linkreport

This is like a sin tax on alcohol. It's just a sin tax on speeding.

No this is not like a sin tax. Consuming alcohol is not illegal. Speeding is illegal. The proper alcohol related analogy would be the fine for public drunkenness.

People are confusing fines and taxes. There's a big difference. Taxes are for raising revenue and it makes sense to raise revenue in the least economically damaging way possible, hence the popularity of sin taxes.

Fines are punishment for breaking the law. Punishments should be designed with the purpose of deterring crime and in some cases, for rehabbing criminals. However punishments need to be fair and we should not punish criminals beyond what's needed for deterrence and rehab. Adding to punishment above and beyond what's necessary to accomplish these goals is simply excessive and unfair.

by Falls Church on Jul 1, 2013 10:38 pm • linkreport

No this is not like a sin tax. Consuming alcohol is not illegal. Speeding is illegal.

That's a fair distinction and maybe an important one. But these statements are almost identical.

If you want to buy alcohol, you can, you just have to pay the government money. There is no other requirement.

If you want to speed, you can, you just have to pay the government money. There is no other requirement.

In spirit, they're different. But in function - at least where speed cameras are concerned in DC - they're identical.

by David C on Jul 1, 2013 10:47 pm • linkreport

If you want to buy an apple you can, you just have to pay Safeway some money. Yet buying an apple is nothing like speeding.

To say if you want to speed you can, you just have to pay the fine is like saying if you want to rob a bank you can, you just have to serve 20 years in prison. Or if you want to vandalize metro cars you can, you just have to perform 300 hours of community service.

by Falls Church on Jul 1, 2013 11:02 pm • linkreport

No, those are more different from a sin tax in that it isn't just a matter of paying money. There is some other penalty that goes with it and that penalty will probably cost the state.

And the penalty is normally cumulative. You can get 10 million camera enforced speeding tickets and the penalty for the 10 millionth will be the same as the first. That isn't true of other crimes.

Also, Safeway is not the government. You can choose not to deal with them.

by David C on Jul 1, 2013 11:16 pm • linkreport

Oh boo hoo, visitors speeding through the city might get a ticket. I'm sure if you're killed by one of these people who can't keep their foot off the gas, your family will just say "it's okay" if they know it was an out-of-towner, because there's no choice but to drive.

It must be nice to have so little conscience that you can justify putting other people's lives at risk because you're in a hurry.

by Mike on Jul 2, 2013 8:25 am • linkreport

@David C

That is the important piece here. Everyone can choose not to deal with the government here, by simply not breaking the law, exactly as my wife and I have done for our three years in DC.

by Kyle-w on Jul 2, 2013 9:11 am • linkreport

When I saw the header "Orange Jumps on..." I confess I thought of "orange jumpsuit" -- which is what Orange likely will be wearing before 2013 is out!

by Alf on Jul 2, 2013 9:20 am • linkreport

Have some sympathy for out-of-towners driving on unfamiliar roads that are poorly signed and marked, with hundreds of crazed commuters zooming around, trying to find their way to Aunt Mabel's house, driving through (what they imagine to be) very fearful and violent neighborhoods.

Good Lord. This sounds like it came straight from the closing argument for the defense in The Bonfire of the Vanities.

"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, have some sympathy for Mr. McCoy. He was was "very fearful" of the "violent neighborhood" he was in. It was "poorly signed and marked" and there were lots of "crazed" people "zooming around." How could he POSSIBLY be expected to drive the speed limit -and not run over that young man?"

Do you see every tiny signs under the speed limit post that say "photo enforced"?

What does that have to do with anything? Are you suggesting that people should not be expected to obey the speed limit if they don't think there's a possibility that they'll be caught? "Look, Mabel, the speed limit says 30, but there's no photo enforcement, so drive however you like." That argues for more cameras, not fewer.

by dcd on Jul 2, 2013 9:24 am • linkreport

If you don't live in DC, I don't actually care what you think about speed cameras. You don't get a say. The people who live here generally like them because we don't like people driving through our neighborhoods at whatever speeds they feel like.

I drive most days and I've never gotten a ticket from either a speed camera or a red light camera. Possibly, because I obey the law and don't view DC as some place that exists for me to drive through as fast as I want to get somewhere I need to be.

The entitlement to break the law is amazing. It's like a bunch of college kids getting busted for underage drinking and being horrified because the law isn't really meant to apply to people think them. After all, everyone is doing it.

by Kate W. on Jul 2, 2013 9:43 am • linkreport

Everyone can choose not to deal with the government here, by simply not breaking the law

Or they can choose to not deal with the government by not buying alcohol. Then they don't have to pay the alcohol tax.

You're just saying that by not sinning, you don't have to pay the sin tax. That's inherent in the idea though.

by David C on Jul 2, 2013 10:00 am • linkreport

@dcd: Are you suggesting that people should not be expected to obey the speed limit if they don't think there's a possibility that they'll be caught?

I have never suggested anything of the sort. People should obey the speed limit (in fact, I am quite zealous about speeding where pedestrians are prevalent), BUT the speed limit needs to be reasonably enforced given the road design and traffic conditions. What I have been saying is that the automated enforcement in DC has gone beyond reasonable. If you are in doubt please review the many post I have provided in this and other threads.

by goldfish on Jul 2, 2013 10:04 am • linkreport

Honestly, most drivers are capable of using their best judgment when it comes to safe speeds. It's DC that frequently uses artificially low speed limits.

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by JustMe on Jul 2, 2013 10:14 am • linkreport

BUT the speed limit needs to be reasonably enforced given the road design and traffic conditions

Problem is, a lot of people espouse this view. Then when it comes time to suggest reducing a road by a lane width to make room for two-way traffic or bike lanes then you hear howls about how DC is "anti-car" in a city where people just NEED to drive. It's happened so often its hard for me to take the suggestion seriously. So let's keep the cameras where we are and just continue to reshape our streets and not make one conditional on the other.

by drumz on Jul 2, 2013 10:16 am • linkreport

Honestly, most drivers are capable of using their best judgment when it comes to safe speeds.

Really? And yet 200 people have been hit by cars in DC so far this year? And drivers are seemingly always unable to stop to let people cross the street, and blame the speed of surrounding traffic for it being unsafe to do so?

Drivers have no clue what a safe speed is, ESPECIALLY when it comes to the safety of people who are not in a car.

As for the "hall monitor" bashing, again, not productive discourse, and just sounds like whining coming from people who are sick of getting speeding tickets!

by MLD on Jul 2, 2013 10:17 am • linkreport

It's DC that frequently uses artificially low speed limits.

Constantly asserted, rarely proven.

by drumz on Jul 2, 2013 10:20 am • linkreport

Problem is, a lot of people espouse this view. Then when it comes time to suggest reducing a road by a lane width to make room for two-way traffic or bike lanes then you hear howls about how DC is "anti-car" in a city where people just NEED to drive.

I would be fine with this, actually. I wish DC had better transit support and more bike lanes. The fact is, though, that it doesn't. DC has major auto thoroughfares with neither transit, bike, nor pedestrian access, and then they place traffic cameras there calibrated for speed limits lower than is reasonable for the layout of those roads.

And yet 200 people have been hit by cars in DC so far this year?

As has been pointed out, many of the traffic cameras are most certainly NOT placed with anything resembling pedestrian safety in mind.

by JustMe on Jul 2, 2013 10:22 am • linkreport

"Honestly, most drivers are capable of using their best judgment when it comes to safe speeds. It's DC that frequently uses artificially low speed limits. "

Most drivers choose a speed that's safe FOR THEM. They generally do not care about other road users, especially those not in cars. (This is why we have so many pedestrian deaths.) They'll often say something silly like "well, there are no pedestrians" which ignores the realities that 1) drivers tend to just not notice pedestrians/cyclists (which is a major source of collisions) and 2) pedestrians tend to avoid roads with out of control drivers, which is something that public policy may reasonably want to reverse.

It's important public policy to encourage/force drivers to choose a speed which is safe FOR OTHERS, not just to pander to their selfish interests.

by Mike on Jul 2, 2013 10:22 am • linkreport

Is it wrong if a carbon tax were regressive?

"No.

Let's discuss the premise as I understand it. We can fine people for speeding and up to $X it discourages speeding, but after that point it does not. $X is the fine to modify behavior. Some people then want to add $Y on top of that as a tax paid by people who behave badly. $Y will not reduce speeding - or not by very much.

So in that premise, the $Y is a regressive tax that does nothing (or little) to reduce speeding."

Im sorry, I thought you were arguing as to intent, not amount. its possible that there is a fine amount X that discourages speeding, but that a substantial amount of the support for it comes from people who are not that concerned about speeding, but like the revenue source. In that case the GOAL of the fine/tax/banana would be revenue, even though the effect would be largely to discourage speeding. That makes a difference, as far as relevant evidence. In one case we look at the empirical effect of higher fines on speeding behavior - in the other, we look at the legislative history to see the actual concious motives of the supporters.

This is complicated by the tax beyond still having some impact.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 2, 2013 10:24 am • linkreport

Someday, sometime in the near future, I will likely move away from DC. And one thing I will remember is how much time I spent stopped at traffic lights because of the poor road design and poor synchronization of the traffic light system. And it's not because I want to drive or particularly prefer driving to some other method of transportation, but because the greater DC area is not designed for alternative methods of transportation, outside of certain government employees and lawyers who have jobs downtown. The traffic cameras, poorly designed roads, and inappropriately low speed limits on major roads are just symptoms of DC's overall transit incompetence.

Even Montgomery County and the MD state highway system, which have own set of problems, seems to handle the traffic camera situation much better than DC is capable of.

Defenders of the incompetent traffic camera placement, fining, and speed enforcement are just serving to prop up and defend was is an overall incompetent and broken institution.

by JustMe on Jul 2, 2013 10:28 am • linkreport

"If you don't live in DC, I don't actually care what you think about speed cameras. You don't get a say. "

Just to clarify, while this post is about DC cams, there are red light cams in Arlington and Fairfax.

"Or they can choose to not deal with the government by not buying alcohol. Then they don't have to pay the alcohol tax."

Its my legal right to buy and consume alcohol (well, not in every jurisdiction, but in all in this region) Its not my legal right to exceed the speed limit.

Thats for clarification. Actually if the tax on liquor is an effective revenue raising instrument with minimal efficiency effect - due to, say, high inelasticity of demand - I have no problem with it. Even if it IS regressive as long as the entire tax system is progressive. Or, more importantly the entire social system. Most countries in europe for example rely on a flat or regressive VAT - but they also have extensive social welfare systems that serve to lessen income inequality. Here in the US we avoid a VAT - but we also skimp (relatively) on social welfare - do we end up with a society that is better for the worst off as a result? I don't think so.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 2, 2013 10:31 am • linkreport

but because the greater DC area is not designed for alternative methods of transportation,

Well there's much DC can do about how difficult it is to get to Burke or Gaithersburg. Moreover, I don't see what traffic cameras have to do with making that trip any easier.

Defenders of the incompetent traffic camera placement, fining, and speed enforcement

Again, constantly asserted and rarely proven. We all know where the cameras are, what the fines are, and what the process is for appeal. It is exceedingly easy to avoid getting a ticket this way. The placement is usually on roads meant to move high volumes of traffic but are very close to local and city streets where traffic is going to slow down regardless.

would be fine with this, actually. I wish DC had better transit support and more bike lanes. The fact is, though, that it doesn't.

If this is case why does that make the option of speed cameras conditional to street reconfigurations?

by drumz on Jul 2, 2013 10:36 am • linkreport

its possible that there is a fine amount X that discourages speeding, but that a substantial amount of the support for it comes from people who are not that concerned about speeding, but like the revenue source.

I see your point. I'm OK with that - as long as there is a positive behavior change, but it means we have to be more vigilant against gaming the law to increase revenue [Gotcha speed limit changes for example].

by David C on Jul 2, 2013 10:37 am • linkreport

Its my legal right to buy and consume alcohol. Its not my legal right to exceed the speed limit.

That's a real distinction. But as we practice it with regards to speed cameras, there is no difference.

Here in the US we avoid a VAT - but we also skimp (relatively) on social welfare

Then the solution is to not skimp on social welfare.

by David C on Jul 2, 2013 10:44 am • linkreport

justme - what does being a lawyer have to do with anything? are lawyers more able to use transit than folks in other jobs? Or is what you are saying that transit is particularly convenient for people who work in the CBD? But thats true of transit in almost every north american city of a size comparable to Metro DC, or smaller.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 2, 2013 10:50 am • linkreport

what does being a lawyer have to do with anything? are lawyers more able to use transit than folks in other jobs?

They are more likely, compared to many other professions, to have a job in the downtown core district of DC, accessible via metro.

by JustMe on Jul 2, 2013 10:57 am • linkreport

what does being a lawyer have to do with anything? are lawyers more able to use transit than folks in other jobs? Or is what you are saying that transit is particularly convenient for people who work in the CBD? But thats true of transit in almost every north american city of a size comparable to Metro DC, or smaller.

The point is to take a stab at Metro by saying it's a transit system built for government paper pushers and zillion dollar lawyers rather than regular joes.

Of course, we could put more jobs in the CBD and therefore make more jobs transit-accessible, if only the CBD could get more dense than it already is. But we have a 12-story limit in place.

by MLD on Jul 2, 2013 11:04 am • linkreport

Only rich people take metro therefore we must ban speed cameras because DC doesn't have trains that take you from your house to wherever you need to go. Also the speed limit is to low despite the expertise that traffic engineers brought in determining the speed limits (which in this case, focusing on auto through-put and LOS actually helps the pro-camera crowd if we know that traffic engineers are institutionally disposed to focus on auto-traffic).

by drumz on Jul 2, 2013 11:09 am • linkreport

Of course, we could put more jobs in the CBD and therefore make more jobs transit-accessible, if only the CBD could get more dense than it already is. But we have a 12-story limit in place.

I would totally be fine with this! But the fact remains that the greater DC area is an auto-focused, not transit-focused region, and talk about how we need to discourage driving and the like isn't helpful when the development of alternatives has been pretty incompetent, and the use and placement of speed cameras is also fairly incompetent.

by JustMe on Jul 2, 2013 11:14 am • linkreport

and talk about how we need to discourage driving and the like isn't helpful

In a city that usually ranked top 2 in bad traffic scores I think it helps to talk about ways to not need to drive so much.

when the development of alternatives has been pretty incompetent,

Ok

and the use and placement of speed cameras is also fairly incompetent.

Unless you're arguing that the cameras make traffic worse I don't see why they're relevant to an argument about traffic levels in DC. Also, the use and placement doesn't seem to be incompetent at all. They apparently work very well.

by drumz on Jul 2, 2013 11:20 am • linkreport

I have never suggested anything of the sort. People should obey the speed limit (in fact, I am quite zealous about speeding where pedestrians are prevalent), BUT the speed limit needs to be reasonably enforced given the road design and traffic conditions. What I have been saying is that the automated enforcement in DC has gone beyond reasonable. If you are in doubt please review the many post I have provided in this and other threads.

Well, opinions vary, I suppose. But you also said,

Do you see every tiny signs under the speed limit post that say "photo enforced"?

What is the point of that statement? Why is it important that drivers see "photo enforcement" signs?

by dcd on Jul 2, 2013 1:13 pm • linkreport

@dcd: What is the point of that statement? Why is it important that drivers see "photo enforcement" signs?

For the reason why it posted -- otherwise, why spend the money to put it up?

by goldfish on Jul 2, 2013 1:40 pm • linkreport

"But the fact remains that the greater DC area is an auto-focused, not transit-focused region,"

It is in fact more transit focused than most metros in the US, by far. But in any case, Im not sure how the auto vs transit mode share in say, Loudoun, relates to the question of whether there should be a speed cam on NY avenue.

" and talk about how we need to discourage driving"

The only reference to that in this thread was a typing error, the person corrected themself - they mean "discourage speeding"

That said, the MWCOG is interested in fewer VMTs, mostly to deal with congestion (though also for enviro reasons).

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 2, 2013 1:44 pm • linkreport

"For the reason why it posted --"

And that was . . .

by dcd on Jul 2, 2013 2:21 pm • linkreport

@dcd: you tell me. Why did they post the sign? If they posted it, they surely wanted people to read it.

by goldfish on Jul 2, 2013 2:24 pm • linkreport

@goldfish - with all due respect, you're obfuscating. You wrote:

Have some sympathy for out-of-towners driving on unfamiliar roads that are poorly signed and marked, with hundreds of crazed commuters zooming around, trying to find their way to Aunt Mabel's house, driving through (what they imagine to be) very fearful and violent neighborhoods. Do you see every tiny signs under the speed limit post that say "photo enforced"?

In that context, you said that the "tiny little signs" should increase our sympathy for the poor guests of Aunt Mabel, driving through the homicidal frontierland of DC. The implication clearly is that since they can't read the signs, they didn't know about the photo enforcement and couldn't know to slow down. (To which I respond, in the immortal words of Bill the Cat, Thbbft! If they can't be bothered to slow down just because they realize they're speeding, I have zero sympathy for the ticket, whether they're DC residents, commuters from VA/MD, tourists from Iowa, expats from Germany used to driving on the Autobahn, or Christopher Buckley's famous Little Green Men.)

Now, if that's not what you meant, by all means, please explain.

by dcd on Jul 2, 2013 2:41 pm • linkreport

Traffic cameras are just another form of Policing for Profit as Capitalism distorts our Justice System. These companies are bottom-feeders and take a 40% cut of the tickets while creating MORE dangerous intersections by fixing the lengths of yellow lights to entrap drivers. You can read about how private companies and crooked politicians have turned our Police forces on their ear in every attempt to squeeze money out of the general public at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-privatized-police-state.html

by Brandt Hardin on Jul 2, 2013 2:44 pm • linkreport

Haha only rich people take the bus and metro? Yup that's exactly what I notice everyday, when all million or so of us rich people take our personal elevator to the metro stops which are in front of our mansions of course so we don't have to walk to it. Thanks for the chuckle.

by Alan B. on Jul 2, 2013 2:57 pm • linkreport

Haha only rich people take the bus and metro?

No, but only certain people with certain kinds of jobs are able to use the metro for commuting purposes. The rest of the DC metro area is not especially transit-friendly.

by JustMe on Jul 2, 2013 3:28 pm • linkreport

What does the inaccessibility of the rest of the metro area have to do with Cameras in the district?

by drumz on Jul 2, 2013 3:33 pm • linkreport

@dcd: Now, if that's not what you meant, by all means, please explain.

I seriously doubt I could explain anything to your satisfaction, given the accusatory tone of your post.

The reason why there are little "photo enforced" signs are to warn drivers of the extra scrutiny -- for the same reason why there are "radar enforced" signs, which are quite widespread.

If we respect Mabel's intention to drive safely and responsibly, she deserves the warning.

by goldfish on Jul 2, 2013 3:59 pm • linkreport

The speed limit sign isn't warning enough?

by drumz on Jul 2, 2013 4:04 pm • linkreport

I seriously doubt I could explain anything to your satisfaction, given the accusatory tone of your post.

Scornful, not accusatory.

But, the larger point remains. The reasons that those warnings are there is so people will slow down and drive safely. If they're too small to achieve that purpose, then by all means, make them larger. But the notion that motorists deserve some sort of enhanced warning - above and beyond the posted speed limit - before being issued a speed camera ticket is absurd. That such an enhanced warning is a prerequisite before issuing a ticket is ludicrous.

But, as you suggested, I did go back and look as some of your writings on this topic. I was particularly entertained by this one:

Equitably hosting visitors is a *vital* function for DC, if not its *only* function. Tourists come here to reflect on what citizenship means to each of them personally, the sacrifices people have made for it, and to ask themselves if they could also make this sacrifice. These personal reflections are the core to the national character.

So, speed cameras are detrimental to the national character. Gottcha.

by dcd on Jul 2, 2013 4:22 pm • linkreport

"And yet 200 people have been hit by cars in DC so far this year?"
=====

Maybe, just perhaps, it's because the traffic cameras aren't located in the right places.

I wonder how many LESS peple would be hit by cars in DC if the traffic cameras were REALLY deployed with safety in mind as opposed to being deployed as revenue streams.

Hmmmmm...

Foggy Bottom-GWU is NOT between Rosslyn and Farragut West. Wow! - One more reason why I think CAPTCHA is bullshit.

Make that Two. Looks like the Woodly Park station has moved.

by ceefer66 on Jul 2, 2013 4:44 pm • linkreport

I wonder how many LESS peple would be hit by cars in DC if the traffic cameras were REALLY deployed with safety in mind as opposed to being deployed as revenue streams.

Constantly asserted, never proved.

by drumz on Jul 2, 2013 4:58 pm • linkreport

@dcd: So, speed cameras are detrimental to the national character. Gotcha.

You are trying to distort what I wrote, but I neither said nor implied anything like that. Good luck finding someone to argue with.

by goldfish on Jul 2, 2013 8:57 pm • linkreport

drumz,

Can't you do better than just throwing out insults? I hope you copied that from somewhere else because you should be embarrassed for taking credit for something so unoriginal.

Next time, use your brain.

by ceefer66 on Jul 3, 2013 12:18 am • linkreport

Well there are a bunch of cameras deployed in places where there is speeding causing those contributing to te problem to get tickets. That seems to tear away at "they don't promote safety" argument. Even if the camera is in a highway they're still in places that sees lots of traffic and is part of an already confusing network. You're going to have provide more than "but they're on highways" in your claim that the cameras don't help with safety. Highways are pretty unsafe, the issue of pedestrian safety came up when the city was looking to expand the program.

Meanwhile if there is a better idea than monetary fines to go along with the tickets I'm open to suggestion. There really isn't and until then its disingenuous to think that the money is any different than if a policeman writes someone a ticket?

by drumz on Jul 3, 2013 12:37 am • linkreport

But the notion that motorists deserve some sort of enhanced warning - above and beyond the posted speed limit - before being issued a speed camera ticket is absurd.

I recently learned that, in Maryland, enforcement of speed cameras is only permitted between M-F, 6am to 8pm. There is also a 12mph cushion. Any municipality is also required to "publish notice of the location of all unmanned stationary ASE systems on its website and in a newspaper of general circulation in the jurisdiction."

I think it's a beautiful thing that MD provides so many layers of protection for its reckless drivers. That's what freedom smells like, my friend.

by oboe on Jul 3, 2013 7:41 am • linkreport

@goldfish: You are trying to distort what I wrote, but I neither said nor implied anything like that. Good luck finding someone to argue with.

Well, that's probably true.

But, you did write:

Have some sympathy for out-of-towners driving on unfamiliar roads that are poorly signed and marked, with hundreds of crazed commuters zooming around, trying to find their way to Aunt Mabel's house, driving through (what they imagine to be) very fearful and violent neighborhoods. Do you see every tiny signs under the speed limit post that say "photo enforced"?

So, I'll ask for the third time - what did you mean with your reference to the size of the signs that say "photo enforced."

by dcd on Jul 3, 2013 9:20 am • linkreport

@dcd So, I'll ask for the third time - what did you mean with your reference to the size of the signs that say "photo enforced."

I do a fair amount of cross-country driving -- I will drive through Chicago this summer (not stopping, unfortunately). Lately I have driven through Boston and NYC. It is tough navigating through large, busy city that I do not know well. There are a lot of distractions, and it is not possible to read every sign.

The signs are too small for their intended purpose -- to warn drivers of added scrutiny. So, "if you don't want the fine, don't speed" is disingenuous when the city is passing out 1.47/year tickets for every damn car that comes into DC. The rate is 10x that of any other jurisdiction, on par with the worst speed traps in the country.

That camera on I-295 near DC water is clicking away constantly, catching people that aren't expecting the unusually low 50 mph speed limit on a road that fully complies with interstate standards. People that are driving safely, for the most part, in an area where pedestrians are not allowed, in a manner that anywhere else in the US would NOT get them a ticket.

I do not think that DC should be known far and wide as a speed trap.

The other point is that most other states do NOT have speed cams -- so as the federal capitol, we need to consider and accommodate that, for the people that are visiting here. But it is tough to overcome parochialism; that is why Congress has the power to change DC laws.

by goldfish on Jul 3, 2013 10:20 am • linkreport

is disingenuous when the city is passing out 1.47/year tickets for every damn car that comes into DC

Well, it's disingenuous to claim that the "the city is passing out 1.47/year tickets for every damn car that comes into DC".

That is not what that number is. That's the number of registered cars + an unsourced claim that there are 200,000 out of state people who commute by car into DC. But that does not constitute the full number of cars in DC. There are unregistered and out-of-state cars owned by people in DC (some legally). There are cars that pass through DC. There are cars that are driven into DC that are not driven by commuters. There are buses and trucks, Etc... You are undercounting the number of cars on DC roads per day.

So, if being disingenuous is bad, then stop using that number.

by David C on Jul 3, 2013 10:33 am • linkreport

Well, you already have the speed limit signs. I don't see why a sign that also mentions the method of enforcment is also necessary (same goes for "speed limit enforced by aircraft" signs all over Va.).

Meanwhile, other states don't have cameras so DC shouldn't out of courtesy? Nah dog, that's the argument they also use in trying to keep gun control measure out and abortion restrictions in. All of those problems would go away if DC was or becomes a state in the future. It's not parochialism for jurisdictions to have different laws. National capital or not.

by drumz on Jul 3, 2013 10:35 am • linkreport

So, "if you don't want the fine, don't speed" is disingenuous when the city is passing out 1.47/year tickets for every damn car that comes into DC. The rate is 10x that of any other jurisdiction, on par with the worst speed traps in the country.

I'm sorry, where is the information that is backing up the claim of "10X that of any jurisdiction"? Because it's not in that article.

That camera on I-295 near DC water is clicking away constantly, catching people that aren't expecting the unusually low 50 mph speed limit on a road that fully complies with interstate standards.

Yes, everyone knows that everywhere in the US, the speed on the interstate inside of a city is always 65! I mean I can't imagine that any place in the good-old American Heartland would be so horrible as to reduce the speed limit on a road built to interstate standards to 50MPH! It's unconscionable!

by MLD on Jul 3, 2013 10:46 am • linkreport

Also, one could look up why DDOT decided 50 mph on 295 and challenge it. A few things could happen.

A: The speed limit stays because it's justified.
B: The speed limit goes up unconditionally
C: The speed limit could go up but only with certain improvements (widening, lengthening of ramps and the sort).

The 50mph designation isn't arbitrary. And considering how institutionally pro-car most traffic engineers are we can also assume that 50mph is a very allowable limit.

Of course then you just put up a new speed limit sign if need be and if you break that you get a ticket.

by drumz on Jul 3, 2013 11:00 am • linkreport

@David C: That is not what that number is. That's the number of registered cars + an unsourced claim that there are 200,000 out of state people who commute by car into DC.

You are nitpicking.

From wiki:

in Washington, D.C. 671,678 people are employed in Washington, D.C., with only 28% commuting from within the city.

Of those that work in Washington, D.C., 44.8% drive alone to work, 21.2% take Metro, 14.4% carpool/slug, 8.8% use Metrobus, 4.5% walk to work, 2.7% travel by commuter rail, and 0.6% ride their bicycle to work.

So, 671678*0.72 = 483608 workers that come from places outside DC.

483608*0.448 = 216656 of those workers drive alone.

(note the figures are a little dated, 2006).

My estimate of 200,000 ain't bad at all., but lets say the correct number is closer to 250,000. That would mean 700,000/(275,000+250,000)=1.33 tickets per car. Not a lot different, and the point is, far higher than unity. This is a comparably huge number of tickets, much more than any other large city. It is on par with one of those tiny towns in Texas with a radar gun and a police department cop that is tasked with making up for the town's low tax revenue. Except that DC is rich city, with generous Federal support, and should not resort to such desperate tactics.

DC is speed trap city.

by goldfish on Jul 3, 2013 11:12 am • linkreport

@Oboe:

"I recently learned that, in Maryland, enforcement of speed cameras is only permitted between M-F, 6am to 8pm. There is also a 12mph cushion. Any municipality is also required to "publish notice of the location of all unmanned stationary ASE systems on its website and in a newspaper of general circulation in the jurisdiction."

Just curious- where did you find this? I assumed the cameras in MD were always on.

In addition, doesn't the DC government post the location of its cameras online as well?

by Andy on Jul 3, 2013 11:12 am • linkreport

There's also 365 days a year. Which makes the 700K tickets a little less imposing and a lot less than 1.47 tickets for every car.

by drumz on Jul 3, 2013 11:14 am • linkreport

This is a comparably huge number of tickets, much more than any other large city. It is on par with one of those tiny towns in Texas with a radar gun and a police department cop that is tasked with making up for the town's low tax revenue. Except that DC is rich city, with generous Federal support, and should not resort to such desperate tactics.

DC is speed trap city.

But where is the comparison information? I don't think that "data" you cited means what you think it means.

by MLD on Jul 3, 2013 11:17 am • linkreport

I drive in NYC too, goldfish. I would think innocent tourists who need everything signed, would have far more trouble with NYC's no right turn on red rule, which is not signed, and is different from anywhere else in the country (except Chicago?) then with following posted speed limits.

Oh and IIUC speed cams are happening in many other metro areas.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 3, 2013 11:17 am • linkreport

My estimate of 200,000 ain't bad at all

That's debatable, but what isn't is that your estimate is irrelevant. Because - at best - it's only counting the number of cars that are registered in DC and the cars used to get people to and from work from outside the District. This does not represent the number of cars that drive in DC on any given day. If it did, the streets would be empty during working hours. There are students, visitors, people driving through, people shopping etc...who come to DC everyday.

Hell, 250,000 cars go over the Wilson Bridge every day and a similar number over the 14th Street Bridge. You are massively undercounting. You don't even address all the other vehicles that I mentioned in my earlier post.

And since you are undercounting, that undermines your whole argument that DC is a "speed trap."

DC may have higher than normal enforcement. But since when is that a bad thing. Would you be upset if DC were the most aggressive enforcer of laws against assault or theft or littering?

by David C on Jul 3, 2013 11:44 am • linkreport

@Walker,

There are signs announcing New York City's no right turn on red rule at every entrance to the city, in all 5 boroughs.

I know. I lived there from I was born until 1988 and I visit often.

by ceefer66 on Jul 3, 2013 3:20 pm • linkreport

somehow when driving over the Outerbridge crossing, Im too focused on traffic on that narrow bridge I guess, I never notice the sign about the red light rule.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 3, 2013 3:27 pm • linkreport

@David C: That's debatable, but what isn't is that your estimate is irrelevant. Because - at best - it's only counting the number of cars that are registered in DC and the cars used to get people to and from work from outside the District. This does not represent the number of cars that drive in DC on any given day. If it did, the streets would be empty during working hours. There are students, visitors, people driving through, people shopping etc...who come to DC everyday.

Hell, 250,000 cars go over the Wilson Bridge every day and a similar number over the 14th Street Bridge. You are massively undercounting. You don't even address all the other vehicles that I mentioned in my earlier post.

Your turn.

I provided estimates, with citations. You have provided unsubstantiated musings.

Incidentally, the streets are empty during the day, atg least compared to rush hours.

by goldfish on Jul 5, 2013 10:14 am • linkreport

If you don't live in DC, I don't actually care what you think about speed cameras. You don't get a say.

Ah, the irony of a city with "taxation without representation" printed on its license plates. I pay more in DC taxes (business and property taxes) than the average resident, yet you think I'm not a stakeholder?

by Falls Church on Jul 5, 2013 11:27 am • linkreport

The entitlement to break the law is amazing. It's like a bunch of college kids getting busted for underage drinking and being horrified because the law isn't really meant to apply to people think them. After all, everyone is doing it.

Or, it's like the police busting every single drunk person in Adams Morgan on Saturday night for public drunkenness. Would that be fair?

by Falls Church on Jul 5, 2013 11:33 am • linkreport

Or they can choose to not deal with the government by not buying alcohol. Then they don't have to pay the alcohol tax.

Or, they can choose not to deal with the government by never buying anything that requires paying sales tax or never earning any income requiring income tax. I still don't buy this belief that punishments for breaking the law are anything like a tax if that punishment happens to be strictly monetary.

by Falls Church on Jul 5, 2013 11:35 am • linkreport

If you don't live in DC, I don't actually care what you think about speed cameras. You don't get a say.

Also, for those of us living in places with Congressional representation, we do legally and technically get a say. All laws in DC are required to undergo a 30 day Congressional review period.

by Falls Church on Jul 5, 2013 11:42 am • linkreport

FC wrote:
t's like the police busting every single drunk person in Adams Morgan on Saturday night for public drunkenness. Would that be fair?
I think this comes down to the central question I posed in the article: Do people think speeding is a serious problem, or not? People in Adams Morgan being drunk on Saturday night is not something, as a whole, we want to stop. Sometimes a few drunk people cause fights or something, but we don't want to stop people from drinking in Adams Morgan.

Many people speed. Is it just that, well, there's the occasional pedestrian who gets killed a result, but generally we want to shrug our shoulders and say we don't really want people not to speed? Or do we want people to drive at the speed limit?

If the former, then just raise the speed limits. If the latter, enforce them. I think we should strictly enforce the actual limit but set the limits to what we expect people to drive. So no more 35 when you really mean 45, raise those to 45 maybe, but enforce for even 1 mph over, and in residential neigbhorhoods, don't raise them at all and enforce at the 25/30 that they are now since 35/40 is too fast for these neighborhoods.

by David Alpert on Jul 5, 2013 11:46 am • linkreport

. Even if the camera is in a highway they're still in places that sees lots of traffic and is part of an already confusing network. You're going to have provide more than "but they're on highways" in your claim that the cameras don't help with safety. Highways are pretty unsafe, the issue of pedestrian safety came up when the city was looking to expand the program.

On what basis are you saying "highways are pretty unsafe"? Unsafe compared to what? Furthermore, if 85% of drivers think that driving faster than the posted speed limit on a highway segment is safe enough for them, doesn't that imply that the speed limit is set too low? Or should we be beholden to whatever the slowest 15% of drivers would like to set the speed limit at on a highway?

Granted, I'll agree that what drivers want shouldn't be the only criteria for setting speed limits on roads that only drives use, but it should be the biggest and most important criteria.

by Falls Church on Jul 5, 2013 12:01 pm • linkreport

Many people speed. Is it just that, well, there's the occasional pedestrian who gets killed a result, but generally we want to shrug our shoulders and say we don't really want people not to speed? Or do we want people to drive at the speed limit?

I think most people agree that excessive speeds in the residential areas should be caught and punished as much as possible. And that the default limit of 25 mph is a reasonable speed, and should be enforced to the letter -- you go 26, you get a ticket. Me included.

OTOH, as DC is issuing 1.47 speed-cam tickets per vehicle, the automated enforcement has gotten out of hand. Think what that means: if you are an "average driver", you get one or two tickets per year. Compare this with overall national average of 20.6% of drivers getting a speeding ticket per year -- the DC rate is seven times the national average. (btw, speeding ticket data is very hard to come by.) I don't traffic conditions in DC are 7 times worse that of the national average.

DC has basically stopped doing officer-issued citations, which is unfortunate because due to the points on a license, get the worst, most aggressive drivers off the road. Think of how many bad drivers would be in danger of losing their driving privileges if a fraction of the 700,000 DC annual speed-cam tickets were from a police officer, carrying points against the license. Think of how much more conscientiously they would drive after their 2nd officer ticket, that they can disregard with the new speed-cam tickets.

The over-reliance of automated enforcement means that these drivers continue to drive badly, with impunity. But the city profits.

by goldfish on Jul 5, 2013 12:13 pm • linkreport

I think this comes down to the central question I posed in the article: Do people think speeding is a serious problem, or not? People in Adams Morgan being drunk on Saturday night is not something, as a whole, we want to stop. Sometimes a few drunk people cause fights or something, but we don't want to stop people from drinking in Adams Morgan.

I agree that speeding is a serious problem, there should be a camera enforcement program to curtail that problem, speed limits should be strictly enforced, in some residential areas speed limits should be lowered to 20mph, and roads should be re-designed where necessary to discourage speeding.

However, I don't think any element of the camera program (e.g., the level of fines, the placement of cameras, the turnaround time for mailing out tickets) should be designed to enhance revenue over and above what's needed to promote safety -- specifically safety for ped/bikes. While it is impossible to know definitively whether the program is designed to enhance revenue beyond what's strictly needed to promote safety, if the program was trying to enhance revenue, it would be doing many of the things it is doing today. For example, while there's a safety argument for placing cameras in places with high vehicle traffic and very low ped traffic, that's also where you would place cameras if enhancing revenue was part of your goal.

The city may claim that revenue has zero influence on the program's design but in this case, that claim is not sufficient. Perceptions matter, and the perception has already been established in both antis AND many supporters of the program that part of the reason for the program is to raise revenue. It's not enough for the city's actions to be ethical, they also need to be perceived as ethical. Therefore, there should be a redesign of the program that sufficiently squashes the perception that there is an element of revenue enhancement -- or at least squashes that perception among supporters of the program.

For example, removing cameras from the limited access highways and the more highway-like portions of NY Ave (even some areas where peds are permitted but not ones with a substantial ped presence) would go a long way in squashing the revenue perception and would likely have very little impact in decreasing ped/bike safety. In fact, there could be a deal where for every camera removed as suggested above, three new cameras would be placed in places like Wisconsin Ave or 16th ST -- i.e., places that have both significant volumes of vehicles speeding AND significant numbers of peds.

by Falls Church on Jul 5, 2013 12:21 pm • linkreport

"Ah, the irony of a city with "taxation without representation" printed on its license plates. I pay more in DC taxes (business and property taxes) than the average resident, yet you think I'm not a stakeholder?"

when that phrase was invented in 1775, it was not meant to suggest voting rights in proportion to tax payments. there have been systems where property holders got to vote in jurisdictions they did not live in, even in multiple jurisdictions. But that's not the case in the USA today.
Someone who lives in DC and owns property in fairfax or falls church does not get a vote in those jurisdictions. Why should it work in reverse?

Clearly the phrase as used on DC license plates suggests that people who reside in a jurisdiction that pays federal taxes, should get votes in the federal congress. Its not a suggestion for shifting from residence to property ownership as the basis for suffrage.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 5, 2013 12:32 pm • linkreport

"On what basis are you saying "highways are pretty unsafe"? Unsafe compared to what? Furthermore, if 85% of drivers think that driving faster than the posted speed limit on a highway segment is safe enough for them, doesn't that imply that the speed limit is set too low? Or should we be beholden to whatever the slowest 15% of drivers would like to set the speed limit at on a highway?

Granted, I'll agree that what drivers want shouldn't be the only criteria for setting speed limits on roads that only drives use, but it should be the biggest and most important criteria."

are there any studies showing that the 85% standard is better than say, standards set by highway engineers? And why 85% and not say, 75%? Or 95%?

I hear the 85% standard mentioned alot in these discussions, but I'm not sure where it comes from or why its privileged.

AFAICT we use that for speeds - but for other kinds of driver behavior - if 85% of drivers don't use their turn signals, should that be legal? or for behavior of other modes (like, er, the Idaho stop)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 5, 2013 12:36 pm • linkreport

Your turn.

I don't understand. What are you looking for me to prove? That there are people driving on DC roads who are neither driving DC registered cars nor driving to work? Is that something I really need to prove?

I provided estimates, with citations. You have provided unsubstantiated musings.

Again, what do I need to substantiate. Do you not believe that no one is driving from PG County, through DC, to work in Arlington?

You have provided estimates, but as I noted they're flawed. Attacking me doesn't make them any less flawed.

Incidentally, the streets are empty during the day, at least compared to rush hours.

So then you agree that they are not empty.

by David C on Jul 6, 2013 12:21 am • linkreport

Falls Church,

Or, they can choose not to deal with the government by never buying anything that requires paying sales tax or never earning any income requiring income tax

I think you're arguing with Kyle-w here. I agree that it's extremely difficult (impossible?) to avoid dealing with the government. Was that your point?

I still don't buy this belief that punishments for breaking the law are anything like a tax if that punishment happens to be strictly monetary.

OK, so what is the difference (other than semantics) between taxing you to do something that the government would like you not to do and fining you for doing something that the government would like you not to do?

by David C on Jul 6, 2013 12:29 am • linkreport

Also, for those of us living in places with Congressional representation, we do legally and technically get a say.

You do. That's messed up, but you do get a say. Of course that's irrelevant to the point you're responding to.

But Kate W. is saying that she doesn't care what you think if you don't live in DC. Is it your position that she does care?

by David C on Jul 6, 2013 12:32 am • linkreport

DC is issuing 1.47 speed-cam tickets per vehicle.

Again, that number is wrong. And on top of that, you're stating it wrong at worst it's per vehicle PER YEAR. Otherwise you make is sound like every driver in the District gets 1.47 tickets and that's not accurate.

the automated enforcement has gotten out of hand.

How much should the law be enforced?

Think what that means: if you are an "average driver", you get one or two tickets per year.

Considering how many times the "average driver" breaks the law, it seems like their getting off easy. Don't you think that on average most drivers break the law daily?

the DC rate is seven times the national average.

So we should stop enforcing the law down to the level of the national average? In a jurisdiction that catches and prosecutes murderers above the national average, has enforcement of murder gotten out of hand?

DC has basically stopped doing officer-issued citation

Have they? If so, that's a problem, but we can fix that without getting rid of camera enforcement.

by David C on Jul 6, 2013 12:59 am • linkreport

I drove to work in DC today. Silver Spring to Georgetown. On my trip I saw plenty of Maryland drivers. I'd say more than half the cars. I don't see what the problem is making me subject to DC laws.

I work in DC, I use its roads. I drive through neighborhoods. I was pulled over for a broken head light. I get parking tickets. If I get caught for speeding, I will get a ticket. If I don't like it, I can quit my job or drive slower. Its really not hard to understand.

by SJE on Jul 6, 2013 12:28 pm • linkreport

@David C: I don't understand. Clearly.

What are you looking for me to prove? That there are people driving on DC roads who are neither driving DC registered cars nor driving to work? Is that something I really need to prove?

Let me repeat: 700,000 speed-cam citations.

275,000 vehicles registered in DC. Of course, not all of these cars are driven every day -- in fact, some only 62% of DC resident use their car to commute to work -- so the real number will be somewhat less.

In a nod to greater accuracy, I now estimate 216656 out-of-town commuting vehicles/day. (Can't figure out how to display the broken wiki for this, which was http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transportation_in_Washington,_D.C.) On top of this, there are the non-commuting tourists that drive here for purposes other than working. Also there are people driving in from the suburbs for some other reason besides work, such as going to a sporting event, physician appointment, shopping, etc.

The number of DC-registered vehicles that are not driven every day, is probably larger than the number of out-of-state vehicles driven in DC for reasons not related to work, but good luck trying to find the data.

Ignoring the unknowns, there are 275k + 217k = 491k daily drivers in DC. So the DC "ticket rate" is 700/491 = 1.43/daily vehicle.

Somehow you think that is grossly incorrect, even when I include the uncertainty of ±0.25 -- i.e., it could be anywhere between 1.18 to 1.68. You note (unsubstantiated, btw) that there are 250,000 vehicles using the 14th St and Wilson Bridge -- the later of which is on the beltway, carrying cars that do not go into DC. I find this number dubious, and with a cursory googling I did not find any data.

So it is up to you to knock down the the number, as you have not come up with anything at all to back up your claims.

Even if I pretty far off, the number is greater than one, meaning the odds are good that every daily driver will get at least one speed-cam citation, which do not carry points, and therefore they cannot loose their license for this unsafe driving behavior. This is more like a tax than a fine.

But now for your more interesting point: So we should stop enforcing the law down to the level of the national average? In a jurisdiction that catches and prosecutes murderers above the national average, has enforcement of murder gotten out of hand?

So speeding = murder? Don't you think that is a little extreme? My God, that means everybody, but everybody, should be put in jail for life.

If all of the 491,000 vehicles are speeding, but only about 30 pedestrians are killed per year (the mistake here is attributing them all to speeding), then the odds are that any one driver speeding does NOT cause someone to die.

@Dave Alpert's question was, where do we draw the enforcement line? As a matter of *safety*, not every infraction needs to be ticketed, because most infractions do not lead to loss of life or property damage.

I don't want to live in a police state, one that will scrutinize my every driving maneuver. But apparently you do -- have fun with those Idaho stops.

by goldfish on Jul 6, 2013 6:02 pm • linkreport

Clearly.

I'm glad I was clear. Earlier this week I was discussing a matter with someone and after I made some very valid criticisms of one of their points, they just childeshly replied "you're turn" without even really explaining what they wanted me to do. I'm sure you'll see why that was very confusing and obnoxious. So, unlike that person, I strive to be clear and I'm glad I was in this case.

Now then, as to your number.

For an avearge day, you're claiming that

{# of DC car owners that drive in DC}+{non-dc car commuters per average day in DC}+{all other drivers in DC} = 491,000

Except that you don't know the third vlaue. You also admit to not knowing the first value - though you do have an upper bound. But you assume that the two together are less than that upper bound. Why do you assume that? Not said, but it's a pretty dubious claim considering the fact that the average household in the DC area makes over 8 trips a day - so commuting is a minority of all trips (on the link above "work" is only the 6th largest generator of trips, right behind 'eat meal'). Regardles, you have no idea what the third value is and we're just suppossed to take your word for it.

Now, let's look at the 2nd value. You get a number of non-dc residents who work in DC and then multiply it by 44.8%. But that number, 44.8% refers to (quoting your source here) "Of the 260,000 Washington, D.C. residents that were employed as of 2000...that work in Washington, D.C 44.8% drive alone."

You can see that that number is wrong twice. First, the 44.8% number seems to refer to DC residents that work in DC. It does not refer to all workers who work in DC. And even if does refer to all workers who work in DC - and it is just poorly written - it would include DC workers who work in DC and those workers are less likely to drive, throwing off the average. Second, it's only the people who drive alone. There's another 14.4% who carpool which you didn't count.

So there are a lot of unknowns, and even where we have data, you've made mistakes. But you want to "ignore the unknowns" and still use a number that you report to three significant digits. Do you know what kind of accuracy using three significant digits implies? Much more than "I had some critical unknowns and ignored them" would represent.

I don't have to know how many cars drive in DC on an average day to know that your number is completely unreliable. You are giving an entirely unreliable value (and misstating it to boot), that's vastly underreports drivers (to your argument's favor) and you're reporting it at an accuracy that simply is incredible.

So, that's disingenous. Would you not agree?

You note (unsubstantiated, btw) that there are 250,000 vehicles using the 14th St and Wilson Bridge

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilson_Bridge
http://www.roadstothefuture.com/14th_Street_Bridge.html

the later of which is on the beltway, carrying cars that do not go into DC.

If you drive across the Wilson Bridge in either direction, you go into DC.

Even if I pretty far off, the number is greater than one

There are too many unknowns for you to even make this statement with any accuracy. Again, you've used commute trips only. Commute trips are only part of work trips and work trips are only the 6th most common source of trips.

meaning the odds are good that every daily driver will get at least one speed-cam citation,

PER YEAR. You keep leaving that part off. That's critical. And so what if it is true - which it's not? Does 1 speeding ticket per driver PER YEAR - considering how much people speed - really seem like too much? People make 8 trips a day, every day of which 80% are by car. That's 2336 car trips per driver. And once they'll get a ticket for speeding. That's a pretty low rate, would you not agree? What other crimes should you be able to get away with 2335 times before finally getting caught?

So speeding = murder?

Obviously not. But they're both crimes and I'm trying to determine why you think we should not enforce this one.

Can you now answer the questions I asked you? Should we be enforcing the law down to the level of the national average? In a jurisdiction that catches and prosecutes murderers above the national average, has enforcement of murder gotten out of hand?

As a matter of *safety*, not every infraction needs to be ticketed, because most infractions do not lead to loss of life or property damage.

So we only need to ticket people when there is a victim? Bad behavior that only COULD lead to loss of life or property damage need not be ticketed? Discharging a firearm in a public plaza is only a crime if someone is hurt or something is broken?

I don't want to live in a police state, one that will scrutinize my every driving maneuver.

Don't you think that is a little extreme? In a place where people speed every minute of every day, 1 ticket per person per year (or the much lower number that it likely is) is a police state?

But apparently you do -- have fun with those Idaho stops.

Well, I think the Idaho stop should be legal, so that's the difference there. But no, I don't want to live in a police state. I do want to live someplace where the police enforces laws that we all agree are good laws worth having - especially where compliance can save lives. And speed cameras let them do that better.

I agree that we should assess points for speed camera tickets. I agree that the fines are higher than they need to be. I don't agree that things have gotten out of hand or that we are living in a police state. And I think that you're estimate of the number of tickets per daily driver is based on some pretty awful calculations and assumptions and is disingenuous.

by David C on Jul 6, 2013 8:38 pm • linkreport

@David C: Let me remind you that the point of my calculation is if you are an "average" daily drivers in DC, how often you can expect to get a speed-cam ticket. Of course a better measure would account for mileage, but that is beyond the limits of the data on hand. So when you point out that "the average household in the DC area makes over 8 trips a day," that is not relevant to this particular metric, as I am only considering cars that are driven daily, not how often they are driven within a day.

PER YEAR. You keep leaving that part off. I have included it many times in this and the other thread. By the time people have read this far (and I doubt anyone is still reading), they know what is meant.

If you drive across the Wilson Bridge in either direction, you go into DC.

This is what I mean be nitpicking. The Wilson Bridge cuts a corner in DC, with a total length of about 400 ft. The vehicles traveling this section must also leave DC, as there is no opportunity to exit. This stretch of road is not patrolled by DC police, and clearly this has no relevance to the discussion of whether or not DC issues too many speeding tickets.

I note that your citation about the number of vehicles using the 14th St bridge (242,000 in 2001), the number includes trips both coming and going, so that the cars are double-counted for the purpose of this calculation. It also included vehicles are licensed in DC. So while the total number of "vehicles crossing the bridge" is an interesting figure, it does not shed any light on what I am trying to determine.

So, that's disingenous. Would you not agree?

Not at all, as I have acknowledge the shortcomings of the calculation (the most severe of which are offsetting), and even provided error bars. You have harped on these uncertainties without improving them.

Bottom line: when I said "your turn," that was an invitation for you to do better. But you have not, and based on what you have written so far, you won't. In the end my calculation stands, because you cannot improve it.

Well, I think the Idaho stop should be legal, so that's the difference there.

That's the funny thing about laws -- they are enforced whether we agree with them or not. Strict, automated enforcement of stop signs for bicycles is closer than you think...and the danger to bicyclists justifies it.

Speeding laws were written in the day when the scrutiny was quite rare, but speed cams have changed that. The laws, and the enforcement, should be updated to reflect this new reality.

by goldfish on Jul 8, 2013 12:26 am • linkreport

So we are ok with an estimate of 1.47 tickets per driver per year. And that seems outrageous?

by drumz on Jul 8, 2013 8:49 am • linkreport

yeah, I think I've made my point that your calculation is way off. That it has some pretty big errors which I think I noted pretty clearly and which you failed to address.

But even if that number is right, I don't see the relevance.

If 700,000 tickets per year (a number we agree on) is too many, how many speeding tickets a year is too many?

Strict, automated enforcement of stop signs for bicycles is closer than you think

How close do I think they are, and how close are they? It's one thing to say "I don't think we should have this law" and quite another to say "I think the law is good, but we shouldn't enforce it or should only enforce 0.000001% of all violations."

The laws, and the enforcement, should be updated to reflect this new reality.

What updates are you talking about?

by David C on Jul 8, 2013 9:34 am • linkreport

how many speeding tickets a year is too many?

Or really, how many speeding tickets a year is right?

by David C on Jul 8, 2013 9:35 am • linkreport

"Strict, automated enforcement of stop signs for bicycles is closer than you think"

source for this?

"...and the danger to bicyclists justifies it."

Such evidence as we have suggests otherwise.

"Speeding laws were written in the day when the scrutiny was quite rare, but speed cams have changed that. The laws, and the enforcement, should be updated to reflect this new reality."

You mean speed limits should be higher? Right now Arlington county is moving to lower the limits from 30 to 25MPH on several roads. AFAICT the sentiment in DC on the ideal limit is quite mixed, despite speedcams.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 8, 2013 10:48 am • linkreport

"So speeding = murder? Don't you think that is a little extreme? My God, that means everybody, but everybody, should be put in jail for life.

If all of the 491,000 vehicles are speeding, but only about 30 pedestrians are killed per year (the mistake here is attributing them all to speeding), then the odds are that any one driver speeding does NOT cause someone to die.

@Dave Alpert's question was, where do we draw the enforcement line? As a matter of *safety*, not every infraction needs to be ticketed, because most infractions do not lead to loss of life or property damage."

the point was, that DC enforcing more does not mean DC is wrong. if you want speeding to be a secondary offense, ticketable only where it leads to an accident, say, thats one thing. AFAIK in every jurisdiction in the USA speeding is a primary offense - IE its illegal whatever it leads to. period. Ergo, ticketing it EVERY time would be proper, if that were feasible. Cams make it more feasible.

"I don't want to live in a police state, one that will scrutinize my every driving maneuver."

When you take a car out into the public space, you subject yourself to the traffic laws. The enforcement of such, is not a police state.

"But apparently you do -- have fun with those Idaho stops."

Enforcement of the law against Idaho stops would probably lead to the law being modified. You may hope that will happen with speeding, but that does not seem to be whats happened so far.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 8, 2013 10:54 am • linkreport

@AWitC: "Strict, automated enforcement of stop signs for bicycles is closer than you think" source for this?

Please, take your mind out of "this is what the law will allow" mode and put in "what can software do now, and what is within reach" mode.

When there are driverless cars running around, submitting a stop sign or stop light violation is a simple email click away.

The biggest obstacle is identifying the bicyclist. As the number of these increase -- as many here hope -- there will be more bike-on-bike and bike-on-pedestrian accidents (should be proportional, in fact). Bike operator licensing and bicycle registration follows, to catch the bicyclists that are at fault. This is not a new idea, as I recall bike tags in Wisconsin (which I think was abandoned).

How soon? 10-20 years is my guess.

"...and the danger to bicyclists justifies it." Such evidence as we have suggests otherwise.

Stopping a bike at a stop sign is obviously the safe thing to do. It is akin to the seat belt requirements to protect the people in cars.

by goldfish on Jul 8, 2013 11:27 am • linkreport

Stopping a bike at a stop sign is obviously the safe thing to do.

Not self-evident at all. As anyone who's spent time on GGW should be aware.

by oboe on Jul 8, 2013 12:29 pm • linkreport

Well it is safest, but it's similarly wrong to presume that a bike executing an idaho stop is a lot more unsafe than always stopping. It isn't, which is why it was codified in Idaho in the first place.

by drumz on Jul 8, 2013 12:35 pm • linkreport

^similar to the contention that if a cyclist gets hit then that's a signal he/she was traveling too fast more than anything else. It's obviously safer to go slower than fast.

by drumz on Jul 8, 2013 12:55 pm • linkreport

"When there are driverless cars running around, submitting a stop sign or stop light violation is a simple email click away."

A lot of Idaho stops happen where there are no cars around. And of course most drivers won't be bothered to report. I'm a driver, and I wouldn't. I suppose this will provide an outlet for a certain subset of angry motorists - maybe they will troll this forum less.

" As the number of these increase -- as many here hope -- there will be more bike-on-bike and bike-on-pedestrian accidents (should be proportional, in fact). "

In recent years that proportionate increase has NOT taken place, afaik. Again, any data you have would be appreciated.

"Bike operator licensing and bicycle registration follows, to catch the bicyclists that are at fault."

AFAICT most cyclists carry ID now, so the idea of police stopping a cyclist lacking ID simply isnt that big a deal, AFAICT. as for using a license plate to ID a hit and run cyclist, my understanding is that such accidents are very few in number, and license plate of reasonable size and weight will present visibility issues.

"This is not a new idea, as I recall bike tags in Wisconsin (which I think was abandoned)."

Pretty much all such schemes have been abandoned.

But I have no objection if some folks dream about bike licensing and enforcement against Idaho stops. Such dreams are harmless, even if no more realistic than transit fantasy maps, say.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 8, 2013 1:08 pm • linkreport

If such technology IS realistic, I suppose it could be used to report jaywalkers too. And to report people who drive 1MPH over the speed limit. We could have a veritable orgy of angry mode vs mode reporting to police.

Im not sure the police will appreciate that.

It could lead to a massive reform of traffic laws (realist speed limits with no 10MPH buffer, legalized Idaho stops, and changes in pedestrian rights)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 8, 2013 1:11 pm • linkreport

when you point out that "the average household in the DC area makes over 8 trips a day," that is not relevant to this particular metric

Actually it is, because you're using commuter data to create your count. But commuter trips make up a minority of all trips, so you're underestimating.

I have acknowledge the shortcomings of the calculation (the most severe of which are offsetting)

I don't think you have proven that they're offsetting. And when you report 1.47 tickets per driver, that is not showing the error bars. If you want to say "around 1 ticket per driver" that would be showing the uncertainty in your estimate. Or preface it with "by my estimate, there are about ..." But just reporting the number as fact and with great specificity, without qualifying it, is disingenuous.

While I'm at it, reporting the number of cars in DC underreports drivers, since there are more drivers than cars. Many families have only 1 car but multiple drviers and, of course, there are drivers who don't own a car but use car-sharing.

In the end my calculation stands, because you cannot improve it.

while I don't know the right number of drivers in DC per day, that doesn't mean your number stands. If someone were to say that George Washington was born in 1827, I wouldn't have to know what year he was born in to know that they were wrong.

I know you're methodology is wrong - and that your calculation is thus 99.999% likely to be wrong, even though I don't know what the right answer is.

by David C on Jul 8, 2013 1:16 pm • linkreport

more bike-on-bike and bike-on-pedestrian

and

a veritable orgy of angry mode vs mode reporting

I'm going to need a cold shower soon...

by David C on Jul 8, 2013 1:18 pm • linkreport

@AWitC: its illegal whatever it leads to. period. Ergo, ticketing it EVERY time would be proper, if that were feasible. Cams make it more feasible.

...and...

If such technology IS realistic, I suppose it could be used to report jaywalkers too. And to report people who drive 1MPH over the speed limit. We could have a veritable orgy of angry mode vs mode reporting to police.

Regardless of how angry the person who reported it was, if a violation occurred, it should be cited -- according to you.

by goldfish on Jul 8, 2013 1:28 pm • linkreport

"ticketing it is appropriate" /= "citizens should or will go to the trouble of reporting it"

If you mean Idaho stops should be ticketed - thats back to Dave C's point. Idaho stops should probably be legal. Speeding should not be (though individual speed limits are debatable). In neither case are either of us advocating that something remain illegal as a primary offense, but enforcement be light enough so that most people can get away with it, because it really isn't that bad a thing. And again, another option would be to make it illegal but only as a secondary offense. Do you know of any jurisdiction that has made speeding only a secondary offense
?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 8, 2013 1:38 pm • linkreport

"A lot of people don't believe speeding in residential areas, even 10 mph over the limit, is a big deal. Most of us who drive do it."

That's true. The reason we do it is because the speed limits are set artificially low. Even DC doesn't start ticketing until you're speeding more than 10 mph over the limit. So it's actually not a big deal. We're just driving the speed intended by the engineers who designed the roads. We are responding appropriately to the infrastructure that exists. If the city wants to reconstruct roads for lower speeds (and there is a movement to do that, which I support), then they should.

That's why these cameras have no legitimacy - everyone knows it's a joke. I know the author thinks they're the greatest thing since sliced bread, but until the speed limits are set at the speed the engineers designed the road for, it's just entrapment.

by Brian D on Jul 9, 2013 5:37 pm • linkreport

Brian,
There is merit to the idea that the roads need to be redesigned. However that takes time and money an there is a present problem now with speeding. It's hazardous to the pedestrians and cyclists that also use the roads designed for high speed. That's why we need the cameras now despite bad road design.

by drumz on Jul 9, 2013 5:48 pm • linkreport

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