SCHENECTADY — While Police Chief Eric Clifford said earlier this week that he supports reducing the city’s speed limit to 25 mph, he noted it will likely take months before his department will be able to enforce the change.
Clifford, during a meeting of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee on Monday, said he is “generally in support“ of lowering the speed limit to 25 mph, but noted any reduction of the speed limit must be preceded by traffic studies and an extensive public information campaign — steps that could take the city months to complete.
“I think we’re becoming a more pedestrian-friendly community,” Clifford said. “You see many more people riding bicycles out there and there’s just a lot of general activity in the streets where encouraging motorists to drive slower is a good idea.”
Last month, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed legislation allowing municipalities across the state to reduce the minimum speed limit from 30 to 25 mph — a move designed to increase pedestrian safety.
City lawmakers in June unanimously agreed to send a letter to the governor’s office asking she approve the legislation, which went into effect Aug. 12.
The cities of Albany and Troy and also considering reducing the speed limit to 25 mph.
For years, local neighborhood groups in Schenectady have asked the city to reduce the speed limit and adopt a complete streets model that includes protected bike lanes, raised crosswalks and narrower streets, which have been shown to reduce speeding.
However, before the city can reduce the speed limit, a traffic study must be completed, which will help determine where the problem is most persistent and what other steps can be taken to reduce speeding.
While Mayor Gary McCarthy said the city has been collecting data via sensors installed as part of the Smart Cities Initiative, henoted the data is basically “white noise” and must be further analyzed.
“We would get a traffic consultant to do that,” he said. “We can provide them some data, but it’s going to require outside engineering and evaluation.”
Clifford said the lower speed limit will naturally encourage some drivers to slow down and give the court system the ability to hand down stiffer punishments to those who fail to comply.
“It gives our judges a little bit more ability to give points to reckless drivers that are going over the speed limit,” Clifford said. “It gives motivation to the driver to drive slower knowing that that could be the repercussion — that they could have points put on their license, which increases their insurance rates.”
However, Clifford said the city must implement a public relations campaign should it reduce the speed limit that would alert drivers of the new speed limit and inform drivers about the importance of following the law, should the change be adopted.
The department, he said, would also take a “gradual” approach to enforcement.
Staffing at the police department will also likely be a factor on when the city would enforce the speed limit. Clifford said that while he is currently down one officer in the traffic division, he expects the department to be fully staffed in about a year.
Reducing the speed limit is not the only action officials are looking to take to reduce speeding and bolster traffic safety.
The city is planning to install a series of speed humps along Duane Avenue as part of a pilot program to examine whether the traffic-control devices will reduce speeding, and officials are also examining potential locations to install flashing stop signs and radar devices that show drivers how fast they’re going, according to City Engineer Christopher Wallin.
Officials are also hoping the state will pass legislation that would allow municipalities to install speed cameras, which would photograph speeding vehicles and automatically mail a ticket to the owner of the vehicle.
“I think the goal is to always have more tools in your toolbox because enforcement can only do so much,” Wallin said.
Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.