Yesterday's installment of Metro Moments with the Mayor has two juicy gems. First, Mumbles tackles Verizon FiOS, or more appropriately, The Internet Service You Can't Get in The Technology Center of The East Coast. Second: he wants $50-100k red light cameras. Ahh, Massachusetts, where the answer to everything is civil fines.
On the first- While Mumbles raises some great points (Verizon claims they're not doing "urban" deployment, yet New York City and Washington both have it), he fails to distinguish between FiOS internet service (which is what most of us care about) and FiOS TV. The Mayor's list is: Boston, Brookline, Somerville, Cambridge, Everett, Revere, Chelsea, Medford, Melrose, Watertown and Quincy. If the mayor spent a few seconds with Google Images, he'd see that Cambridge already has FiOS internet customers. What the mayor did not say, perhaps intentionally: Verizon is holding out because they desperately want a state-wide cable franchise license. Which is the last thing established players like Comcast and RCN want, and the last thing town selectmen want. Funny how the Patrick administration almost a year ago was promising to get right on that- and, like every other Patrick (and Romney) "initiative", nothing's happened.
Other negatives for Verizon: First, sharing/leeching connections is more probable as population density rises. A single residential FiOS internet service is a fat enough pipe for an entire city block or apartment building, and can be easily shared via wireless, either by a resident or a business like a coffee shop. Second, deployments in cities are much more challenging, and you have a lot more customers suddenly clamoring for bandwidth and placing a lot of demand on your internal network and backbone connections to the internet. Third, Verizon has consistently rolled out service most aggressively in the richest towns, where they'll find the greatest number of HDTVs and the like. People in the city are highly likely to either only buy internet service, or buy the minimum TV package.
Part Deux: Mumbles wants red light cameras. Number three in his recipe for responding to "drivers who don't so much as tap the breaks [sic]":
Third, is to readdress our push for Red Light Cameras. These cameras would decrease the number of motorists running red lights in the City, and I have petitioned the State to allow us to pursue them. I have submitted a bill to the State Legislature that would enable the City to install and use these cameras at signalized intersections. If approved, cities and towns in MA can install these cameras, which provide pictures of vehicle license plates that have not stopped for the red light. Law enforcement personnel can use the pictures to issue a violation to these vehicles.
Yes, running red lights is a huge problem in Boston. What the mayor again neglects to mention:
Red light camera vendors charge the municipality for installation and then get a commission on each fine. In most municipalities, officers don't write the tickets; the images are analyzed by optical character recognition or a human types in what they think the plate number is- and the company sends a ticket in the mail on the municipality's behalf. Even if an officer looks at the photo and writes the ticket, they're still relying on evidence collected by an extremely biased commercial entity- in an industry proven to do whatever they can to boost profits, safety (and motorist rights) be damned.
The vendor (mostly Lockheed Martin, a defense contractor) often gets control of light timing, and (gasp!) they usually do not follow federal guidelines for timing- the length of the yellow period drops. This is so that they write more tickets because drivers are expecting standard yellow times (based off typical travel speeds through the intersection.) The result: motorists are put in danger- both when they end up in an intersection with oncoming traffic having a green light, and when they slam on their brakes for a light which changed to red too fast (and get rear-ended.) Google around, and you'll find that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety admits that setting proper timing for yellow lights reduces red-light running by 33%.
So. How about focusing on enforcement of traffic regulations in Boston (you know, the ones that don't involve a radar gun?) and not just when Boston PD thinks someone looks suspicious and wants to run their license for warrants? How about spending the $60k-per-camera money on keeping crosswalks painted so drivers can see them, and smarter traffic lights so motorists don't get frustrated sitting at 1970's-era timer-based lights? How about not setting up "traffic calming" systems which make traveling through Boston an endless series of waits at red lights, even if there's no traffic?