[Update below] It's a red-light cam scam! According to AAA New York the city's many intersections equipped with red-light cameras also happen to have suspiciously faster-than-average yellow-lights. And the Department of Transportation isn't even denying the clear money grab. "There is no legal requirement for the length of a yellow signal," a spokesman told the Post when confronted with the report.
New York City was one of the first cities in America to equip intersections with ticketing red-light cameras and currently boasts 150 of them (with a few dummies to keep you on your toes). And all those cameras are a good income producer for the city to the tune of nearly $250 million in the past five years—though camera revenue is reportedly down this year nearly 33 percent. If you are curious, here are many of the red-light cameras in town.
The Mayor's office, which has been pushing for more red-light cameras, insists the $45+ million a year they put in the city's coffers isn't the point of the cameras—safety is. But apparently nobody told the DOT? In Manhattan the Post was able to count multiple camera-equipped intersections where the yellow light lasted less than the standard 3 seconds. At First Avenue and 125th Street, for instance, it only lasted 2.53 seconds!
But the DOT says it isn't doing anything wrong: "Our practice is consistent with federal guidelines that 'the yellow...should have a minimum duration of three seconds.' This provides adequate time for a motorist traveling the speed limit to come to a stop."
The AAA is planning on using its findings to try and keep the program from expanding—at least until there are better timing guidelines. AAA is "in favor of red-light cameras," a spokesman says. "But it must be fair. People lose respect for these programs if they view them as revenue enhancers."
Update: DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan released the following statement regarding the short-yellow claims:
“This ‘study’ is bogus and the real victims here are the New Yorkers who have lost their lives in red-light running crashes. Red-light cameras save lives and deter dangerous driving, and we should dedicate resources to dangers that are killing people instead of false ‘gotcha’ claims. Two of the locations in this ‘study’ don't even have red-light cameras and the other two—out of nearly 12,500 signalized intersections citywide—are properly timed. New York's red-light cameras operate with a 0.3-second delay so that any minor variations don't result in violations. Even though there is no legal requirement, all signals citywide are timed to the same standard.”