If at first you don’t succeed, wait two decades and try again.
That’s the city’s new strategy for getting red-light cameras.
Mayor Gary McCarthy first asked the state for permission for the cameras nearly two decades ago, when he was on the City Council.
In all that time, the state has never responded to the request. Now the City Council is planning to try again.
A few municipalities in the state have red-light cameras, but everyone must ask for special permission before installing them. The cameras send automatic fines to the registered owners of cars caught running a red light.
Council members are now considering the technology again because they want to cut down on pedestrian-vehicle accidents. In particular, they want to put the cameras on the Brandywine Avenue corridor, between State Street and I-890, which has one of the highest rates of accidents in the city.
The accidents have persisted despite months of special focus from police, and a pedestrian died crossing Brandywine Avenue earlier this year.
Councilman Carl Erikson said red-light cameras, with signs warning drivers that they’ll be caught, could make the difference.
“I know personally some of our intersections are quite dangerous,” he said. “Would a camera, in certain locations, put people on their best behavior and save some lives?”
Council members said they would like to try it — but they can’t.
The state must give Schenectady permission first.
“I tried it 20 years ago,” McCarthy said. “It is in my mind lunacy that municipalities still have to ask for home-rule on this.”
He added that he considered red-light cameras “part of the solution.” They can’t replace police enforcement, lighting, and other methods, but they add to the overall strategy, he said.
“They’re better used at high-trafficed intersections,” he said.
The cameras are controversial, partly because they can wrongly fine cars for doing a legal right-on-red. The cameras must be perfectly aligned to prevent that mistake, McCarthy said.
The cameras also don’t put points on a driver’s license, because the cameras record the license plate, not the face of the driver. It’s never clear who drove the car, so the registered owner must pay.