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After Albany lowers city speed limit to 25 mph, could Schenectady follow suit?

Dave Lucas

The city of Albany speed limit is expected to drop to 25 miles an hour, and Schenectady could be next.  

This month the Albany Common Council passed legislation to lower the city speed limit from 30 to 25 miles an hour. The measure is awaiting the mayor’s signature. For the past two years, councilors in nearby Schenectady have discussed reducing speeds on city streets. Democratic Councilwoman Carmel Patrick says the panel has had to navigate through some sticking points.

“We needed to have some various traffic studies done in order to have data in front of us to make that kind of decision. It has been a very slow moving process, and no pun intended on that. I have brought it back repeatedly over the last couple of years, and I'm hoping now that that we'll be able to actually make some final decisions. It is probably the number one concern that I hear about from residents on a weekly basis here. I want to examine it within an overview of what other types of traffic calming measures could also go along with reducing the speed limit. And when I talk about reducing the speed limit, it probably will end up being in certain on certain streets in the city of Schenectady. It probably, won't be across the board,” Patrick said.

Patrick says streets with high volumes of traffic wouldn't see their speed limits change.

"And then, of course, in the school district, in school neighborhoods, the speed limit would remain at 15 miles per hour. But basically, the research that I've done has shown that even reducing the speed limit 5 miles increases pedestrian safety for one and as we strive to try to make it a more walkable, bikeable city, I think that's really important. So that's basically what I've been trying to get accomplished, but we've talked about other things, like how like stop signs and lit stop signs and speed humps. We really need some recommendations from staff around some of those issues. But I think even if we could just move forward with the speed limit issue, it would be great,” said Patrick. 

The 25 mile an hour speed limit has never come close to being voted on. Democratic Mayor Gary McCarthy thinks the time has come to take it up a notch.

"Where it's been implemented, it seems to have the effect of slowing people down a little bit, and we're still going to get people who make poor choices and are driving too fast, so it's one of the call the tools in the toolbox to, again, get compliance and I'm looking forward to working with the City Council to adopt the lower speed limit on some streets in the city. Having said that, we're still not sure of the time to fully implement it, because you have to replace all the signs and do an education campaign. So it would probably be a six- or nine-month process to get it fully implemented," McCarthy said. 

McCarthy says he's also looking at enforcement.

"We would work with the police. There are other things, the speed cameras. In my understanding of the current state of legislation is that those can only be deployed in school zones. And I think that's a short coming on the state legislature where they ought to give local governments the ability to put areas where you have high traffic and you have persistent violations, to be able to do those type of enforcement, it's more the way it's set up and actually implemented. It's like a parking ticket, so the actual driver you can't necessarily identify, but the parking ticket goes with the vehicle, and you don't want to find structure that's too punitive. You want compliance. Albany's done some of that, and they're a little bit ahead of us and looking to learn from that as we go forward," said McCarthy. 

McCarthy expects the issue will again be discussed at Monday's council committee meeting.


Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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