MTA Responds and Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Association Wants Red Light Cameras

The Oriental Boulevard "Speedway." Source: Google Maps

THE COMMUTE: Two weeks ago I reported on a 25-minute Brighton delay northbound at around noon on December 13. I stated that the delay apparently resulted from a work train used to pick up trash from the tracks. In the comments, reader Andrew stated he was on a northbound Q at around the same time, which was stuck for one or two minutes due to a signal problem.

Although I never received a response to the email I sent to the NYCT President, I did receive a response to the email I submitted through the MTA website on December 16. The automated reply I immediately received stated that a response would take up to 15 business days or three weeks. Therefore, I was surprised to receive a response only two business days later on December 20. The response, which was nine paragraphs long, was all boilerplate except for three sentences relating to the specific delay.

“We can report that the delay you experienced on the B and Q lines was due to signal problems at the Prospect Park station” and “We have forwarded your e-mail to supervision in our Department of Subways for review. They will continue their efforts to minimize the effects of delays in the future and ensure that customers are properly informed in the event of a delay or service change.”

No mention was made of why the passengers on the B train, delayed for 25 minutes, were not informed of any signal problems, or why the motorman also seemed not to be aware of the cause of the delay. Only that: “Our policy requires staff to make clear, audible public address announcements regarding the nature of the delay and/or service diversion and what alternative services are available.”

If signal problems were really the true cause of the delay will never be known. However, the MTA does deserve credit for promptly responding and for attaching a name and title to the response, rather than simply responding – “Sincerely. Customer Service.” They could, however, make it easier to send a complaint by providing a direct link on their home page for complaints. Instead you have to go to “MTA Home” at http://mta.info/. Then, in the upper right hand corner, you have to click on FAQs / Contact Us. Then you click on “E-Mail.” It only takes a few minutes, so the next time you encounter a problem, you may find out the reason if you ask and it will also help the MTA provide better service.

Red Light Cameras

This week, The Bay News reports on a bill in the Assembly in Albany, which would legalize red light cameras to catch speeders. The Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Association (MBNA) supports the legislation and, if passed, is ready to petition Albany to install the cameras along Oriental Boulevard to curb speeding, although Community Board 15 voted to reject cameras for the district earlier this year.

Speeding and illegal passing in the zebra stripes are a problem on Oriental Boulevard and also on Shore Boulevard, but this proposal will not solve the problem. It will, however, raise tons of money for the City.

Here are the problems: When police officers give speeding tickets, they use discretion. Rarely does anyone receive a speeding ticket for driving less than 10 miles over the speed limit since speed limits are always 10 to 15 percent lower than the speed actually deemed safe to drive during normal driving conditions to allow a cushion.

Who among us hasn’t unintentionally found himself driving at 32 or 33 mph in a 30 mile per hour zone before slowing down? These cameras will allow no leeway. According to The Bay News, “Under the law, speeding motorists would be fined $50 for driving up to 10 miles-per-hour over the speed limit, $75 for going 10–30-miles-per-hour over the speed limit, and $150 for driving faster than that.”

There is no mention of leeway. That’s a $50 fine for every occurrence passing a sensor at 32 mph. Also, we do not know how often the cameras will be calibrated or how accurate they will be. If your speedometer says 30 mph, and the camera says 32, how do you prove your case in a court of law? How many innocent drivers will be ticketed? What will happen is that, within the first week, daily drivers will learn the location of the sensors and slow down to below 30 when passing them, and speed up after. Those not willing to do that will likely switch to Shore Boulevard, which will not have any sensors, and speed there instead. If traffic becomes too heavy on Shore Boulevard, some cars will switch to Hampton Avenue to move faster.

The real speeders causing problems on Oriental Boulevard will be smart enough to avoid tickets, while unsuspecting motorists straying a few miles over the speed limit will account for the bulk of the $50 fines. There are better ways to catch speeders, like regular unannounced enforcement. Instead, the only time there is enforcement is after there is a rash of accidents or, God forbid, another fatality. Too much of an emphasis is placed on ticketing at expired parking meters and not enough on ticketing speeders and reckless drivers. Kingsborough Community College also needs to do more.

The MBNA should focus instead on:

  1. Moving the bicycle lane from Oriental Boulevard to the dual sidewalk on Shore Boulevard.
  2. Removal of the zebra stripes on Oriental Boulevard.
  3. Reducing alternate side parking (ASP) from four days a week to two days a week to provide more parking spaces and less of a reason for students to speed to obtain a parking space. If neighborhoods more dense than Manhattan Beach can keep their streets clean with two day a week ASP regulations, and parts of Sheepshead Bay can have clean streets without any ASP regulations, there is no reason why Manhattan Beach needs ASP for four days a week.

Let us hope the MBNA changes their mind and that this bill does not pass the Assembly and Senate but, if it does, and you suddenly find yourself with a stack of $50 speeding tickets, just remember who asked for the cameras.

The Commute is a weekly feature highlighting news and information about the city’s mass transit system and transportation infrastructure. It is written by Allan Rosen, a Manhattan Beach resident and former Director of MTA/NYC Transit Bus Planning (1981).

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