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Metro Moments with Mumbles

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?

Free tagging: 


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This is what a non-Adam post should be like; it shouldn't be like diarrhea of the fingers.

How the hell can they cost 60k per camera?

I definitely agree that the money could be spent on improving the lights instead of trying to catch people running lights. There have been so many times when I've been tempted to just run the light because it's a 90 second light, but there is no one around for miles and I'm the only car at the intersection.

What I don't understand (and this isn't really the fault of Boston)is what the hell is up with the crappy light timing at Leverett Circle? It's like the tech who set up the lights was, "To hell with driving patterns" and punched a bunch of random numbers into it. What I also don't understand is why the troopers at the station there don't just walk outside and start ticketing people who pull into the intersection and block the oncoming lanes of traffic causing massive gridlock.

While I don't know if this is the case for moving violations or not, but that whole non-refundable court fee for contesting violations is absolutely absurd considering how much the fee is relative to the price of the violation.

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I think you're being a little cruel to the other front-pagers ;-)

I stopped being lazy and actually threw in a few links just a few minutes ago (hope the edit is kosher.) The camera costs vary wildly, but $100k was the highest figure I saw, and the lowest I saw was $50k.

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A camera very easily could cost that much if you factor in equipment cost, installation, maintenance, wiring, etc. I don't find that number to be outlandish.

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The money would better be spent on updating lights to work in conjunction and with congestion, instead of on timers.

that’s way people wouldn't run as many red light, because they wouldn’t be stuck behind the same damn one for 5 switches.

Does anyone know if any of Boston’s light have even a rudimentary ability to gauge traffic congestion, and current needs?

I've noticed even the brand new lights, all along the Rose Kennedy Greenway, all seem to be on standard timers, not mater the situation, or time of day, causing rush hour backups.

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Even though the local traffic system is somewhat chaotic, it works OK most of the time. There is a 2-3 second period after the light turns red when people keep going through it (especially when turning left), and you learn about that quickly.

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Your argument for looking at someone's FIOS map of the state is weak. In the first image, towns are colored yet the author of the image (which is not Verizon) said "accuracy not guaranteed" and then the rest of the post is people responding with problems they know of in the map.

Just because it's on the internet doesn't make it true.

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here is a list from the state Cable Commission, while, oddly enough, they do not list Verizon as a cable operator:


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