Timing essential to the success of red-light cameras
I would like to offer comments with respect to the June 6 editorial on the use of red-light cameras. The use of cameras for enforcement purposes has risen rapidly in recent years.
The popularity of the cameras falls generally in the use of speed and red-light enforcement.
The cities of Albany and Schenectady have been seeking permission to install red-light cameras at selected signalized intersections.
Traffic signals are near the top of traffic-control strategies. Their installation and operation are fairly complex.
In the case of the "red-light" cameras, the focus is on the timing of the clearance interval (yellow) and the change interval (all red). The calculation of the clearance (yellow) interval requires the use of data, including, but not limited to, speed, grade of roadway, perception-reaction time and vehicle length.
The change interval (all red) requires data on length of vehicle, width of intersection and presence of crosswalks. These calculations are important because they serve as a legal aspect of the signal operation. The two intervals must comply with the Vehicle and Traffic Law to provide a legal operation.
Further, the change interval (all red) is not a time when the intersection is clear of moving traffic. Legally, the all-red interval provides time for vehicles to vacate the intersection before green is assigned to conflicting movements.
Without correct signal timing in place, challenges could be made. It may be that DOT's review of potential red-light camera locations could be as an oversight to ensure that the signal timing at any intersection is correct. This would not only provide better operation at the intersection, but also reduce the chances that a legal challenge could be offered by an offender.
Taking time to provide a comprehensive plan for the use of red-light cameras may result in installation delay, but could prove to be wise in the long term.
The writer is a traffic engineer of more than 40 years, including in the city of Albany.
Drug laws impede freedom of choice
Sara Foss' June 22 ["Drug laws evolving with times"] piece on drug policy is on target.
It's a practical analysis. However, I think the underlying issue is liberty.
The state, no matter how "well meaning," should not be able to tell an adult free citizen what substances he or she may put in his or her own body, whether it is drugs, trans fat, sugar, tobacco, e-cigarette vapor, alcohol, or anything.
Self-ownership and bodily autonomy are at the core of all other liberty.
Naturally, the individual must also be responsible for the consequences of his choices and not expect society and taxpayers to bear any burden of bad choices.
Liberty is the most important reason to get rid of all prohibition. But, as Sara alludes to, there are many practical reasons to end it as well.
With the end of all prohibition, there may be some increase in drug use.
But the overwhelming good effects and harm reduction (as in Portugal) that would come with ending the anti-liberty, counterproductive, wasteful and failed drug war overshadow any possible negative effects by orders of magnitude.
This would be a huge benefit to society and a reaffirmation of the natural human right of self-ownership.
Revive rail stations to boost local cities
The fine June 28 article, "Back on Track," points out the opportunities we have to restore the rail system that once served our cities so well. We need a comprehensive vision of the role that rail passenger service can play in the revitalization of our urban cores by using the rail rights-of-way that are still available.
The opportunity exists to restore Troy as the northern rail terminus of the Hudson River mainline to New York City, and to connect the tri-cities with local rail transit.
The rebuilding of the rail bridge at Albany and the restoration of multiple tracks from Albany to Schenectady make possible a local commuter service that would serve the Albany, Schenectady and Troy central business districts.
This service would enable a rail transit connection to the Amtrak service at the Rensselaer station, improving transit access and reducing the need for the already-overloaded car parking at Rensselaer.
Where is our vision here? We all know the sad story of dismantling the rail service that focused on our downtowns and made them unique and valuable. Restoration of tracks between Albany and Schenectady only recognizes the necessity of undoing our neglect.
The new station in Schenectady only recognizes the essential design and access role of rail in cities. Schenectady is fortunate in having retained its central station. Albany and Troy lost theirs.
We are starting to recognize that a rail service that focuses on the cores without dumping cars and parking lots in them has a unique role in restoring the economic function of cities.
We should not overlook that the great potential for growth in our region is the economic pressure in the New York City metro area.
Putting our downtowns on the rail map for that market has at least as much effect on our real growth as the casino craze.
With the downtown Schenectady station in place, we can restore the trifecta of three urban stations that are local transit hubs, as well as inter-regional attractors of growth.
Gary G. Nelson