TIME Transportation

New Jersey’s Red Light Camera Program Is Going Dark

Red Light Cameras
A red light photo enforcement sign is seen on Route 1 in Lawrence Township on July 25, 2012. New Jersey's red light camera pilot program will end Dec. 16, 2014. Mel Evans—AP

The 5-year pilot program will end Dec. 16

Over the last five years, red light cameras across New Jersey have caught drivers speeding through intersections, irking motorists who view them as cash cows for local government rather than true safety measures. But after Tuesday, New Jersey residents won’t have traffic cameras to kick around anymore.

The state’s red-light cameras will go dark at midnight, ending a program some said would reduce traffic accidents at intersections. The program brought in millions of dollars to city and state governments, prompting many red light opponents to argue that the cameras are just moneymakers in the guise of a safety device.

(MORE: Ohio’s Traffic Cameras May Be on the Way Out)

City officials often argue that the cameras’ presence affects driver behavior. Union Township, for example, says 27,000 fewer drivers have run red lights in the 30 months it has used the cameras. Statewide, New Jersey Department of Transportation studies claim that crashes overall are down. The DOT numbers have been championed by public officials like Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, who has pushed for legislators to continue the pilot program.

But a couple of grassroots engineers have challenged those stats. Rick Short and George Ford produced a report detailing discrepancies between the red light camera safety claims and raw DOT crash data. “We have proved that the crash reduction percentages spread by the camera industry and town leaders are fictitious,” they said.

Polls show that the cameras have have slowly lost favor over the years, mirroring what’s happening in a number of states around the country. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 495 communities currently use the cameras down from a peak of 540 in 2012.

TIME weather

Know Right Now: Northeast Braces for a Holiday Nor’easter

Watch today's #KnowRightNow to catch up on the latest trending stories

In today’s trending stories, winter weather will wreak havoc for the 41 million holiday travelers expected to hit the roads on Wednesday and Thursday. Storms could dump as much as 18″ of snow in northern New Jersey, and will affect most of the northeast.

Airports in Washington D.C., Philadelphia, and Newark, NJ are expected to experience the most cancellations and delays. Interstates 76, 81, and 90 will experience the worst weather and traffic.

And lastly, many major airlines are allowing customers to rebook without fees. More than 200 flight cancellations have already been announced for Wednesday.

TIME Disaster

Before and After: How East Coast Bounced Back After Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy made landfall on Oct. 29, 2012 near Brigantine, N.J., cutting a swath through one of the most densely populated areas in the U.S.  Two years after the storm, a look back at how Sandy-ravaged areas fared in the 12 months afterwards.

TIME ebola

Christie Says Nurse Quarantined for Ebola Can Go Home

Governor had been criticized for quarantine measures

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Monday that a nurse being quarantined for Ebola despite testing negative for the disease can complete her isolation period at home in Maine, reversing course after his mandated quarantine drew criticism from health officials and a legal threat from the nurse.

Kaci Hickox was being discharged Monday morning, the New Jersey Department of Health said.

“Since testing negative for Ebola on early Saturday morning, the patient being monitored in isolation at University Hospital in Newark has thankfully been symptom free for the last 24 hours,” the department said in a statement. “As a result, and after being evaluated in coordination with the CDC and the treating clinicians at University Hospital, the patient is being discharged.

“Since the patient had direct exposure to individuals suffering from the Ebola Virus in one of the three West African nations, she is subject to a mandatory New Jersey quarantine order,” the department added. “After consulting with her, she has requested transport to Maine, and that transport will be arranged via a private carrier not via mass transit or commercial aircraft. She will remain subject to New Jersey’s mandatory quarantine order while in New Jersey. Health officials in Maine have been notified of her arrangements and will make a determination under their own laws on her treatment when she arrives.”

Hickox had been confined to a tent outside a New Jersey hospital for the past three days, after she returned from a trip to west Africa where she treated Ebola patients. Hickox publicly condemned the state for holding her under conditions that she described as inhumane. She also singled out Christie for blame for overstating her status as “obviously ill” when she had no fever-like symptoms upon landing, and her lawyer threatened to sue.

Christie defended his actions Monday.

“The fact of the matter is we’re going to protect the people of our state,” he told reporters in a video posted to YouTube by his office. “…I’m not going to step away for a minute from protecting the people of my state and our region. So I understand that she didn’t want to be there. She made that very clear from the beginning but my obligation is to all the people of New Jersey and we’re just going to continue to do that. So the critics are the critics no matter what you do there will be critics and you don’t worry that, you worry about doing what’s right for the people you represent and that’s what we’ve done.”

TIME ebola

Christie and Cuomo Announce Mandatory Ebola Quarantine

State health department staff will be on the ground at state airports

Healthcare workers returning to New York or New Jersey after treating Ebola patients in West Africa will be placed under a mandatory quarantine, officials announced Friday, one day after a Doctors Without Borders doctor was diagnosed with the virus in New York City. Illinois announced a similar policy Saturday, meaning it will be enforced in states with three of the five airports through which passengers traveling from the Ebola-stricken West African countries must enter the United States.

N.J. Gov. Chris Christie and N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo made the announcement as part of a broader procedural plan to help protect the densely packed, highly populated area from any further spread of the disease.

“Since taking office, I have erred on the side of caution when it comes to the safety and protection of New Yorkers, and the current situation regarding Ebola will be no different,” Gov. Cuomo said. “The steps New York and New Jersey are taking today will strengthen our safeguards to protect our residents against this disease and help ensure those that may be infected by Ebola are treated with the highest precautions.”

New York and New Jersey state health department staff will be present on the ground at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey. In addition to implementing the mandatory quarantine of health care workers and others who had direct contact with Ebola patients, health department officials in each state will determine whether others should travelers should be hospitalized or quarantined.

The announcements mark a dramatic escalation in measures designed to prevent the spread of Ebola in the United States. Previously, only individuals with symptoms of Ebola would be quarantined upon entry to the U.S. under a federal rule from the Centers for Diseases Control and the Department of Homeland Security.

TIME Transportation

Cities Have Found a New Way to Take Your Money

Yellow Traffic Light
Getty Images

Watch your speed at those yellow lights

Correction appended, Oct. 15.

All yellow traffic lights are not created equal, it seems. Especially in Chicago.

Earlier this year, the city began issuing tickets to motorists who drove through yellow lights that turned red fractions of a second shorter than the three-second city minimum. The change was slight, but the effect for the cash-starved city was real: nearly $8 million from an additional 77,000 tickets, according to the city’s inspector general.

All of those $100 tickets were issued after cameras installed at intersections caught the drivers as they passed through. These systems, known as red light cameras, are an increasingly controversial tactic for policing roadways. Established in the name of public safety, critics contend the cameras have become little more than a way for municipalities to funnel money into their coffers.

“If the machine is set to catch more people and generate more revenue, then it does not really seem to be about safety but about revenue,” says Joseph Schofer, a professor of transportation at Northwestern University.

Chicago isn’t the first municipality to benefit from shorter yellow traffic lights. In 2011, the Florida Department of Transportation secretly reduced its policy on the length of yellow lights, likely bringing millions of dollars in additional revenue to the state.

There is no federal rule for how long a yellow light should be illuminated, but the U.S. Department of Transportation recommends three to six seconds. Nationwide, a minimum of three seconds is generally considered standard. John Bowman, a spokesperson for the National Motorists Association, which opposes the cameras, says the organization routinely gets calls from people saying they received a red light camera ticket, believing the yellow light was too short.

“I don’t think you’re ever going to get a public official on the record saying, ‘We shortened them to make more money,’” Bowman says. “But I think that clearly goes on.”

Red light cameras gained popularity in the 1990s after New York became the first U.S. city to install a network. The initial motivation was safety, says Hani Mahmassani, the director of the Northwestern University Transportation Center. The hope was that cameras would deter drivers from running red lights if they knew it would lead to a ticket. But in the 2000s, as the popularity of the cameras grew, cities and the companies that manufactured, installed and helped operate the cameras adopted a revenue-sharing model. The more violations caught by the cameras, the more money the city and the businesses stood to make.

“That’s when it became a greed thing,” Mahmassani says.

By the end of the decade, red light camera networks were in hundreds of municipalities. Today, 499 towns and cities have adopted them, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

While the potential for profit is clear, the public safety value of red light cameras is fuzzy. Studies on whether red light cameras actually enhance safety are mixed. Several studies conducted by IIHS, which supports the cameras, show that crashes have not only decreased in intersections that utilize the cameras but that vehicle-related deaths have declined in those cities as well. But other research has shown that the cameras actually increase rear-end collisions because they force drivers to stop more quickly over fear that they’ll run the light and get ticketed, causing tailing motorists to smack into them.

And many of the systems have had other problems. In New Jersey, 17,000 motorists never received tickets for running a red light, while in Chicago, a former city official and the former CEO of Redflex Traffic Systems have been indicted as part of an alleged bribery scheme. There have also been reports of unexplained spikes in tickets given out by the system.

All of which has led to a growing backlash against the cameras. Red light cameras are currently banned in seven states, and others are considering outlawing them. In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie says it’s unlikely he’ll extend the state’s red light cameras beyond their expiration date at the end of the year. In Ohio, state lawmakers are looking at banning them by requiring speeding or red light tickets to be handed out in person by officers. And in Chicago, the city said it will no longer ticket motorists who breeze through the shorter yellow. But it’s keeping the money from the ones it already issued.

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the relationship between the length of Chicago’s yellow lights and the city’s ticketing policy. Chicago began issuing new tickets for traffic violations after the city started using a different red light camera vendor earlier this year.

TIME New Jersey

Watch Chris Christie Get Totally Defensive About Being Friends With Bruce Springsteen

Chris + Bruce 4Ever

Correction applied Wednesday, August 20

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie lost his cool Tuesday after a state resident suggested that the Bruce Springsteen superfan might not be in the Boss’s good graces.

After being asked about a rumor that Springsteen had requested Christie stop using his music at his rallies (a rumor that has not been substantiated), Christie totally freaked, as seen in this video from NJ.com.

“No. Never did that. No, you’re wrong about that,” Christie said. “Bruce has never asked me to do that. He never has. You’re wrong.”

The New Jersey resident then asked about whether he had been dancing with Bon Jovi in the Hamptons, prompting Christie to remind her that he has many celebrity friends besides Springsteen.

“I wasn’t dancing with Bon Jovi, actually, I was dancing with Jamie Foxx,” he said. “So if you’re gonna be cute, we should get the story right.”

But of all his famous friends, the Boss is Christie’s BFF. In fact, they hung out just recently!

“I saw Bruce about a week and a half ago,” Christie said. “And he had every opportunity to tell me not to, he didn’t, and he never has told me not to. Listen, I know him and you’re wrong. I know Bruce, and I’ve spoken to Bruce, and you’re wrong.”

The governor appeared furious at the insinuation that he and Bruce were on the outs, although he did not provide any proof of their friendship, such as letters from camp, friendship bracelets, or selfies. He ended by telling the female journalist, who seemed very calm, to calm down.

“When I leave, just so we can have this lady be a little calmer, let’s play Bon Jovi on the way out,” he said, adding: “If you want to debate, run for governor and I’ll debate you.”

Correction: The original version of the story incorrectly described the woman who confronted Christie. She was a New Jersey resident.

[NJ.com]

TIME politics

Chris Christie Shows Off His World-Famous Dance Moves Onstage With Jamie Foxx

The New York Post called it "rambunctious gyrating"

At a benefit in the Hamptons this weekend, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie busted out his incredible dance moves (which he recently showed off on The Tonight Show), much to the delight of the crowd.

“I know you’ve got a dance in you, Chris Christie,” said Jamie Foxx, who urged the politician to join him onstage, according to the New York Post. He promptly made his way up to the stage for what the Post aptly described as “rambunctious gyrating.”

Sadly, there’s no audio, so we recommend turning on some Donna Summer to play in the background. Here, hit play on this and then return to the Christie video:

 

TIME 2014 Election

Fact Checking Group Slams New Democratic Ad for ‘Deception’

Tom MacArthur
In this Thursday, April 24, 2014 photograph, candidate in New Jersey's 3rd Congressional District, Tom MacArthur answers a question in Brick Township, N.J. Mel Evans—ASSOCIATED PRESS

Factcheck.org comes down on the DCCC but the Democratic group stands by the ad

The political fact checking site FactCheck.org slammed the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Thursday over an ad the group described as deceptive, a characterization the DCCC disputes.

The ad was released by the DCCC in the New Jersey race between Republican Tom MacArthur and Aimee Belgard. It accuses MacArthur of “cheating disaster victims” while a CEO of a risk management company. MacArthur and Belgard are competing to fill the congressional seat being left open by GOP Rep. Jon Runyan, who is not seeking reelection.

Factcheck.org’s primary objection to the ad is that MacArthur was never personally cited for wrongdoing, but rather that his company was sued—twice—for mishandling insurance claims of Hurricane Ike and the 2008 Syre Fire in California, while MacArthur was chairman and CEO. Factcheck objects chiefly to a visual that placed MacArthur’s name above the quote “accused of cheating disaster victims.” The audio of the ad does say that MacArthur ran the insurance company, not that he was personally accused.

In a statement to TIME, the DCCC stood by the ad and criticized FactCheck.org for not contacting the group for comment before running it’s critique.

“If factcheck.org had called us before running their item, we would have happily shared the reality: that this ad clearly and accurately communicates to voters that under Tom MacArthur’s leadership, his company was accused of cheating disaster victims and he profited,” said DCCC spokesperson Emily Bittner.

 

TIME animals

Here’s a Bear Casually Strolling Around New Jersey Like It’s a Person

This is both wildly entertaining and extremely unsetting

What’s this? Oh, you know, just a giant bear walking upright like a human. The bipedal creature is seen in the video above just going for a stroll, occasionally pausing to do things like peek into a trash can. According to the video description, the bear was seen in Jefferson Township, NJ.
 
A Facebook user near Green Pond, NJ, posted an additional — and slightly more unnerving — video of the bear hanging out in a backyard and terrorizing a neighborhood dog:
 

 

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