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Buffalo Public Schools opposes proposal to limit hours in speed zones

Buffalo Public Schools opposes narrowing the hours the 15 mph speed limit around 10 schools would be enforced.

The Common Council's proposed amendment to the program would establish enforcement of the 15 mph speed limit around 10 schools from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. and from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. only, eliminating the midday enforcement hours. The speed limit would be 30 mph outside those four hours.

"The law is clear: Speed zone cameras are to operate on school days during school hours," said Will Keresztes, BPS' chief of intergovernmental affairs, planning and community engagement.

More than 20 people spoke during a public meeting Tuesday about the new school zone camera speed enforcement system.

The current hours of enforcement – one hour before the start of school, one hour after the close of school and during the school day and student activities – were set by New York State law specifically for Buffalo, but the city can limit the hours of enforcement during arrival and dismissal times, officials said.

Other speakers were in favor of the change. Some suggested using traffic-slowing measures like speed bumps and lane narrowing instead of cameras. Many said the speed limit should be raised to at least 20 mph.

"I think (15 mph is) scary because when you're driving doing 30, and all of a sudden you look up at a sign saying 15 and you slam on your brakes. To me it's just unsafe," said Rhonda Lee, who lives on Bissell Street near a school.

The Council set the 15 mph speed limit last year. But Council President Darius G. Pridgen said he will bring forth a resolution soon re-establishing the speed limit to 20 mph.

Mayor Byron W. Brown announced Monday that the first set of flashing lights – or beacons – will go live at Wednesday on Delaware Avenue at Canisius High School and on Jefferson Avenue at the Stanley Makowski Early Childhood Center. The beacons will flash only during the time the school speed zone limits are in effect. Drivers near the two schools who are captured on camera traveling at least 26 mph while the beacons are flashing will receive a $50 violation notice.

Speeders caught on cameras at the other eight schools in the program will not be given citations until the beacons are up and running at the sites.

Of that $50 violation, $36 goes to the city and $14 to the camera company, which also handles the collections, said Parking Commissioner Kevin Helfer.

Even with the cameras, police can issue tickets with fines and points – as set by state law – for traveling at 16 mph or more in the speed zones.

The school speed zone enforcement system started Jan. 6, when motorists caught on camera traveling 26 mph or more were issued warnings without fines. The grace period ended Feb. 6, but the city decided to install flashing lights – or beacons – to provide an additional warning to drivers approaching a 15 mph school zone.

About 89,000 warnings were issued during the two-month grace period. About half of the drivers traveling at 26 mph or more were not city residents, Helfer said.

Last month, vehicles in compliance with traveling less than 26 mph during school hours was at 82%, up from 34% the month before.

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