Wednesday, June 3, 2009

No Harm and No Foul

"Traffic enforcement on the Lowell Connector is strictly done for the purpose of public safety,'' said Lowell Police Capt. Randal Humphrey. "The cash cow perception is ludicrous."

That quote comes from the Sun article, "Lowell Police Hit the Gas on Connector Speed Enforcement." ( The quote stood out for me because at an LDNA meeting a few moons ago, Chief Lavallee was addressing some traffic and parking issues being raised by downtowners when someone innocently said something about how enforcement of a certain traffic rule (at the intersection near the YMCA on Thorndike) would help out the city's struggling coffers (hey, this was the same meeting where Bernie Lynch laid out the budgetary doom-and-gloom).

Instantly, Lavallee animatedly pointed out that he fundamentally disagrees with any city that uses enforcement of a municipal ordinance or other law for the explicit purpose of helping out the city's budget. He didn't really say much more about it beyond the firm disagreement on principle, and I never had a chance to follow up on it.

In fact, I hadn't really thought about it much since then until I read this article and saw Captain Humphrey's quote.

Personally, unless there's something dishonest or manipulative going on -- like as in that infamous little town near Orlando, FL where taxes are kept uber-low because tourists driving to Disney World are speed-trapped by a sudden 20 mph speed limit decrease which subsidizes the entire budget -- I don't really see the problem.

It's hard to argue *for* speeding on the Connector, or anywhere. What was once one of the most dangerous roads in the country has gotten considerably less so, thanks in large part to the guardrails but also to the presence of cops and the threat of an expensive ticket.

I know I got nabbed on the exit ramp for not paying attention to the drop down to 35 mph during my first year here. I got waved onto the shoulder by a police officer on foot, honestly having no idea why, but then got hit with a $200 ticket and told what had happened (only then did those 35 mph signs 'suddenly' appear in stark relief to the rest of the scenery). I just wrote it off as the "Blow-In" tax, wrote the check to the city, and haven't speeded on the Connector since. If it helped the City, or the Head Injury fund, then so be it. Lesson learned at the cost of a few weeks' groceries.

I'd like to think my $200 will make it back into the local economy somehow. Maybe a small piece of it will wind up in the pocket of a School District employee who walks down from the Rogers next year to buy a sub at Santoro's.

That having been said, I'm sure there's a philosophical, broad-brush, view-of-the-forest-and-not-the-trees principle behind what Chief Lavallee was saying. There's probably some issue about trust between a citizenry and its local government (as represented by the folks in the blue uniforms) that can be violated by using "Gotcha" as a way to make up for a budget shortfall.

I'm totally open-minded to hearing what it is, and then being convinced. In the meantime, however, I don't really *get* it.


C R Krieger said...

I understand the pinch of a ticket on the Connector.  And, the accidents that have happened on the connector do suggest the value of a little enforcement.  What I would like to see is even more enforcement around town.  There are a couple of traffic lights that would benefit from having police attention to people who don't understand that YELLOW to RED means stop going through.  My number one spot is Route 38 and Route 133, AKA Nesmith and Andover by Kitridge Park.

But, back to the Connector, I do think the signage for the 35 mph zone is confusing.  Which is the real 35 MPH sign, at which I need to be at 35?

Regards  —  Cliff

The New Englander said...


As for more enforcement, I'm all about it -- I cringe every time I'm coming back from Wal-Mart and making that left from Nesmith onto Andover, inching out as far left as possible and hoping no one is zooming ahead in the far right lane opposite me (I can't see them because of the cars in that left lane trying to go up onto Andover)..

either way, I support the enforcement of traffic laws, because they help promote public safety. If it helps the city's coffers, to me that's just a double win.