Vacca Watch: Transpo Chair Stays Strong on Speeding Enforcement

James Vacca and Janette Sadik-Khan take advantage of new pedestrian countdown timers crossing 165th Street at the Grand Concourse. Photo: Noah Kazis.

City Council Transportation Chair James Vacca showed his safety supporter side at a press conference in the Bronx this morning. Standing with DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan at the corner of the Grand Concourse and 165th Street to announce the installation of countdown pedestrian signals, Vacca had strong words for speeding motorists and endorsements for both automated speeding enforcement and slow speed zones.

“The accidents are too many and the speed is unacceptable,” said Vacca of the Grand Concourse. That avenue had 411 pedestrian injuries between 2005 and 2009 and nine pedestrian fatalities, according to Sadik-Khan. Vacca heartily endorsed the installation of countdown timers along the Grand Concourse, saying he hoped to see them throughout the city.

The countdown signals have also already been installed along Queens Boulevard, Hillside Avenue and Kissena Boulevard in Queens and West Street in Manhattan, among other streets. They will eventually be come to 1,500 intersections citywide.

Off the Concourse, Vacca called for two measures in particular to keep speeds down. He repeated his endorsement of 20 mile per hour speed limits, saying they could work in many neighborhoods, given “local input” in the process. Vacca had hoped that the city’s first 20 mile per hour speed zone would be located in his district, though DOT selected the Claremont section of the Bronx for the first site.

Vacca also urged Albany to pass legislation allowing the city to install automated cameras to enforce the speed limit. “Many motorists have to look themselves in the mirror,” he said. A pedestrian hit at 30 miles per hour, the New York City speed limit, has an 80 percent chance of surviving the crash; a pedestrian hit at 40 miles per hour has only a 30 percent chance of survival. Speeding, said Vacca, is “something we can’t have any tolerance for.”

Vacca’s commitment to promoting street safety through enforcement stands in tension with his positions on redesigning the streets themselves for the same purpose. The transportation committee chair seems more willing to let speeding continue if reining it in would require taking away a parking space, building a bike lane or creating a pedestrian plaza.