City will invest $14.8M from school zone speed cameras into Safe Routes to School

Image from Seattle's Road Safety Action Plan

Image from Seattle’s Road Safety Action Plan

The city will invest $14.8 million in road safety projects near schools by the end of 2014, all funded by new school zone speed cameras.

This means safer crosswalks, traffic calming and new sidewalks near 20 schools. And the best part is that the bill will be paid by people caught speeding near schools. Seriously, how brilliant is that?

The city installed a couple cameras last year, and the revenue generated far exceeded expectations (bad and good news). But there are also signs that the cameras themselves are changing behavior. Citations have fallen 16 percent since cameras were installed, and nearly every person who has received one ticket has not received a second.

So generating the money makes streets safer, and investing the money makes streets safer. Perfect.

The end game for the cameras would be zero speeding in school zones. People in Seattle will know that school zone speeding is taken extremely seriously. Of course, this would theoretically dry up the millions the cameras generate for school safety, but that would be a beautiful problem to have.

In the meantime, the city is investing camera money back into more cameras, and the city will be on track to grow the annual school safety funds in years to come.

In addition to road design changes, the funds will also help start walk/bike encouragement programs at schools and fund road safety education. Programs like walking school buses and bike trains have been remarkably successful in schools across the city, and a little funding could go a long way to increasing the number of kids getting to school safely under their own power.

The more kids walking and biking to school, the less crazy the school drop off/pick-up times are and the less traffic there is clogging streets during rush hour. And, of course, kids will be healthier.

Earlier this year, we challenged the city/region/state to work toward the very ambitious (maybe impossible?) goal of zero dangerous streets near schools by the end of the year. Impressively, Mayor McGinn may have actually figured out how to make a huge dent in the problem in just a couple years. This is no small feat.

The city is now working on a plan to direct school safety investments. The School Road Safety Plan will be completed next year.

More details on the investments, from the mayor’s office:

Mayor Mike McGinn today announced substantial new investments for road safety at Seattle-area schools. $14.8 million in revenue collected through the City’s school zone speed cameras will be re-invested in safety improvements at schools across Seattle over the next two years. This will include improvements like new sidewalks, improved street crossings, and traffic calming at more than 20 schools as well as expanded education and encouragement programs to increase safety for students.

“Keeping children safe as they travel to and from school, as well as throughout their neighborhood, is a top priority,” said McGinn. “This substantial new investment will help us make lasting improvements and encourage everyone to be safe on our roads.”

This effort is part of the School Road Safety Initiative launched earlier this year. This initiative is being advised by a School Road Safety Task Force and Interagency Team, made up of residents and members of school communities throughout the city, Seattle Public Schools, representatives of Public Health – Seattle & King County, King County Metro, Sound Transit, Safe Kids Seattle, Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center, members of the Seattle Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Boards, and non-profit leaders such as Feet First, Cascade Bicycle Club, Bike Works, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, the Bicycle Alliance of Washington, the Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition.

“Safety is SDOT’s number one priority, as stated in our 2012-2013 Action Agenda. We are committed to improving safety for all users of the transportation system. I am pleased that the school camera enforcement program will enable us to invest in significant improvements around schools and throughout the city,” said Peter Hahn, Director of the Seattle Department of Transportation.

The first school zone speed cameras were installed near four schools in November 2012. Between December 2012 and April 2013 citations fell by 16 percent overall at those locations. 15 school zone speed cameras will be installed by the end of 2014. Revenues from these cameras will be used to fund safety improvements and road safety education efforts near schools.

The City estimates $14.8 million in revenue will be generated by these cameras by the end of 2014. To date in 2013, an estimated $2.9 million has been appropriated for road safety education, operations, and infrastructure. An additional $3.3 million is proposed as part of a 3rd Quarter supplemental budget request. The Mayor will include $8.6 million for school safety investments, including capital infrastructure, operations and maintenance in his proposed 2014 budget. Safety improvements will be constructed in 2014 and 2015, while education efforts will be ongoing.

“How exciting! Money to support safer streets for the most vulnerable people in our communities — our children! We are delighted and strongly support Seattle’s new School Road Safety investments,” said Cathy Tuttle, Executive Director of Seattle Neighborhood Greenways.

“Parents are less likely to allow their children to walk to school if the neighborhood lacks sidewalks or crossings that feel safe,” said Lisa Quinn, Executive Director of Feet First. “This substantial road safety investment supports walking routes to school, safety education, school zone traffic enforcement, and more. Together, these improvements make the healthy choice the easy choice.”

A School Road Safety Plan will be completed next year. This plan will guide future investments for infrastructure, review best practices for school road safety for engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement, and for evaluation. It will look at funding and implementation strategies for safe routes to school, develop safety education and encouragement curriculum, evaluate all existing school zones and walking routes, develop prioritization criteria for future improvements, and more.

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10 Responses to City will invest $14.8M from school zone speed cameras into Safe Routes to School

  1. Doug Bostrom says:

    Isn’t -anybody- going to construct a tortured argument for how speed cameras in school zones cause accidents, or at least go directly to an appeal over violating our freedom to break the law?

    Here, I’ll have a go: “I have to look at my speedometer so closely that I can’t pay attention to the road.” Or how about “Braking to slow down to the speed limit causes rear-enders?” How’s that? :-)

    • Law Abider says:

      If you are comparing speed cameras to red light cameras, you are comparing apples and oranges.

      I don’t think a single person would argue that speed cameras cause sudden braking and the potential for increased accidents.

      • Doug Bostrom says:

        The problem with rear-enders at intersections is the same with or without cameras: tailgating. Don’t blame some dumb camera for sloppy habits, or letting our inner baby get the best of us.

        For the following-distance-challenged or those who need immediate numerical data indicating their defective driving habits, increased availability and willingness to look at crosswalk countdown timers would be a great help. I’m not sure if it’s an intentional design feature but those countdown timers are a great thing for forward awareness.

    • Steve Campbell says:

      Doug you’re too late. Go read the comments for any Seattle Times article where the school zone cameras are mentioned. Some commenters seem to think going 35 through a 20 mph school zone is in the Bill of Rights.

    • Allan Dunlop says:

      Well played, Doug, and I like your follow-up comment. Thanks for being the first in line and posting this!

  2. Dennis Bratland says:

    Nice. It’s good to see this.

    But where was the camera revenue going before this? What was the size of the safety budget before this announcement? It’s rarely true that money gets earmarked from one specific source to a specific budget line item. In the end it’s all the city’s money and whenever you spend it on one thing that means you didn’t spend it on something else.

    It’s mostly showmanship to say people caught speeding are the ones paying for it.

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  4. Mark says:

    That is a brilliant funding mechanism. Now if only highway spending could be limited to gas tax receipts.

  5. biliruben says:

    Love it, but we should make it a less regressive fine, going the income-based route, like Switzerland’s speeding tickets.

    http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Speeding-fines-being-linked-to-income-in-Europe-3275939.php

    One Swedish motorist could be facing a gargantuan speeding fine — up to $962,000 — after he was caught driving 180 mph along a Swiss motorway.

    Police seized the Swede’s driver’s license and 570-horsepower black Mercedes-Benz after he was released from police custody, The Local, a website that covers Swedish news, reported. He could face a penalty of up to 1 million Swiss francs — or $962,000 — depending on his income level, The Local reported.

    In Switzerland speeding fines are based on the severity of the offense and the offender’s income level.

    One ticket for Bezos = a mile of sidewalks or a cycle track!

  6. Pingback: Two chances this week to weigh in on school road safety investments | Seattle Bike Blog

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