As children return to class this week, speed-enforcement cameras will be turned on at five more Seattle schools, increasing the city’s lucrative network to a total nine locations.
Hundreds of speeders likely will be mailed a warning during the first month.
Then starting Oct. 1, they’ll be slapped with a $189 ticket, for exceeding 20 mph during certain morning and afternoon hours.
Last year, 47,621 camera-generated citations were issued to motorists outside the first four schools, generating $7.1 million net revenue. City Council policy is to reinvest the money into more speed cameras, crosswalks, sidewalks, signals and traffic-safety education.
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Two new camera zones are on Southwest Roxbury Street, in front of Roxhill and Holy Family schools, which sit a half-mile apart. Because the schools have different start times, some portion of Roxbury will be subject to a camera-enforced 20 mph speed limit between 7:25 and 9:40 a.m., and from 2:45 to 4:30 p.m.
Dearborn Park Elementary, on a slope of Beacon Hill, where Principal Angela Bogan has been pushing safer walk and bike routes, will finally get a speed camera.
Another new site is Eckstein Middle School, where drivers hustle along Northeast 75th Street between Interstate 5 and their homes. Two grandparents were killed there by a drunken driver in March 2013.
The slopes on Northeast 75th often cause drivers to be blinded by sunlight, said Clint Loper, co-founder of Eckstein Bikes. He said as many as 300 children walk to school, and 30 to 35 bike — or 60 when the school holds cycling events.
“Having lower speeds overall has got to result in drivers seeing kids better, and reacting better to kids in a crosswalk,” Loper said.
Cameras are also coming to Bailey Gatzert Elementary, next to crowded Boren and 12th avenues. Cameras will be mounted at the back of the campus, at East Yesler Way, targeting drivers who zip through as a bypass.
Holy Family Principal Michael Bacigalupi said his students didn’t face any near-hits last year, though cars routinely go more than 35 mph. Police have been good about conducting crackdowns, he said.
Virtually all his students live south of Roxbury, so they’re not crossing the street much, he said. School staffers also block adjoining 20th Avenue Southwest and walk children to meet their parents in a church parking lot. But he said other children are in the area, so he’s glad the cameras are coming.
Dr. Lawrence Clayman, of the nearby Roxbury Spine & Clinic, said he’s seen several crashes outside his door, between Roxhill Elementary and the Westwood Heights senior-housing towers.
“We appreciate it.,” he said of the cameras. “Do people appreciate it? No. Do people like it? No. Will it work to improve safety? Yes.”
Motorists commonly gripe that school-camera warning signs are difficult to see because of bad positioning, or they’re obscured by trees or the clutter of other signs.
The city’s intent is to shake down drivers for money, some argue.
This spring, a driver beat a ticket outside Broadview-Thomson K8 by arguing there were too many words on a 20 mph speed sign, which read “when lights are flashing” in small letters, instead of the simpler “when flashing.” The five new camera zones have been duly worded.
The city set a goal of zero traffic fatalities by 2030, and lower speeds greatly reduce the odds of death when people are hit. There were 20 traffic deaths in 2012. City Councilmember Nick Licata, who has championed walking safety, said the cameras seem to be reducing how often people speed. Shortly after the first four school zones received speed cameras in late 2012, there were 300 citations a school day, which dropped to around 200 a year later.
“What happens is a lot of people are on the same route over and over again. They have to slow down, which I think is a good idea,” he said. Licata said it would be politically dangerous for any elected official to object — if you’re going to have the cameras, schools are the ideal place, he said.
“There are still people complaining they don’t like speed cameras, but that’s pretty much a fixture in the population. When I go to community meetings, I hear positive things,” Licata said.
Speed crackdowns are just one step. By next summer, the Seattle Department of Transportation hopes to reduce the number of lanes on Roxbury.