Speeding violations on Roosevelt Boulevard plummeted 93% in the first nine months after automated enforcement cameras were installed on one of the most dangerous stretches of road in the state, the Philadelphia Parking Authority reported Tuesday.
Citations for drivers traveling 11 miles over the posted limit or higher fell from 224,206 as of July 1, one month after the cameras were activated, to 16,776 speeding violations issued in February, the last month for which complete figures were available, the PPA said.
The numbers were included in a 32-page report filed with Gov. Tom Wolf and state legislators under the terms of the 2018 law that authorized the use of speed cameras on the boulevard. The Inquirer obtained a copy of the report.
“It’s had a substantial impact,” said Scott Petri, executive director of the PPA, which administers the cameras. “We were surprised at how quickly speeds came down.”
Officials acknowledged that stay-at-home orders and telecommuting spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic reduced traffic volume on the boulevard during the study period. But the rate of speeding among the drivers who were on the road clearly did drop, the report noted.
For the first 60 days of the pilot project, Roosevelt Boulevard drivers were mailed citations when they were electronically clocked traveling more than 11 mph over the posted limit, but they were not fined until August. Violations carry fines of $100 to $150, depending on how fast a car is traveling.
So far, the cameras have generated about $13.1 million in revenue for PennDot, after expenses of administering the program. The money finances a traffic-safety grants program.
Fine income has leveled off in recent months, Petri said, adding that the goal was not to make money for the city and the state.
“We want it to decline,” he said. “We don’t want violations. We want safer drivers. … It’s about saving lives.”
In August, the PPA issued 84,608 violations, which amounted to a reduction of 63% compared with June 2020, during the warning period.
The speed cameras are part of Philadelphia’s Vision Zero policy, adopted by Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration, to reduce traffic-related deaths to zero by 2030 via engineering changes that slow vehicles, more enforcement, and public education.
There are 32 cameras spread among the eight intersections on Roosevelt Boulevard, tirelessly clocking speeds and snapping pictures of license plates to track vehicle registration information. Though speeding drivers are fined, they get no points on their licenses for violations issued by the cameras.
The roadway has 12 lanes and long stretches without traffic signals and whisks vehicles from the heart of Philadelphia to Bucks County and back. Though built like a highway it runs through densely packed residential neighborhoods. Even though posted speeds are 40 mph and 45 mph along the route, traffic typically moves faster. Crosswalks are daunting.
In 2018, for instance, 18 people were killed in traffic accidents on the boulevard, including pedestrians, according to PennDot. Eight died in 2019. Last year, 14 people died on Roosevelt Boulevard, according to unofficial statistics kept by a traffic safety group.
Cameras at Devereaux Avenue have recorded the most violations at the highest rates of speed, the PPA report said.
Among the authority’s recommendations: Installing more cameras along the corridor, especially between Banks Street and Devereaux Avenue, and consideration of a traffic signal between Strahle and Woodward Streets.
Excessive speed played a role in 31% of U.S. traffic fatalities from 2005 to 2014 — or 112,580 deaths, according to a 2017 National Transportation Safety Board study. Investigations by others, including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, have attributed a smaller number of fatalities to speeding.
“A lot of people are worried about automated enforcement technology, but it’s been proven to work in other states and around the world,” said Randy LoBosso, policy director for the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, which lobbied for the law. “It brings down speeds, and our focus is safer streets.”
Speed cameras continue to be controversial, with opponents characterizing them as sources of revenue for the governments that install them rather than public safety measures. It took a concerted battle to get authority for the cameras from the state legislature, which for about five decades has resisted allowing local police departments to use radar.