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12/9/2011Pasadena, California May Dump Red Light Cameras
Lack of demonstrated safety benefit or profit turns Pasadena, California officials against red light cameras.
Major cities across the country have begun having second thoughts about photo enforcement. In California especially, heightened public scrutiny of red light camera programs and lower than expected profits have turned city councils against automated ticketing programs. On Monday, top city officials in Pasadena recommended against renewing their red light camera contract. When neighboring Los Angeles dropped its program in July, the news made nationwide headlines.
"The overall result of the Los Angeles issues is heightened scrutiny of all red light camera programs in LA County including the city of Pasadena's program," Transportation Director Frederick C. Dock and Police Chief Philip L. Sanchez wrote to the city's public safety committee. "This in turn has led to increased criticism from the public of Pasadena's red light camera program."
Safer Streets LA Executive Director Jay Beeber pointed out that the city could not claim its cameras were responsible for a reduction in accidents because yellow signal timing was increased between 0.3 and 0.4 seconds at the photo enforced intersections when the cameras were installed in 2003 and 2005. As a result of this criticism, city staff undertook a more rigorous analysis of accident data comparing the intersections with cameras to those without cameras.
"The long-term trends at both types of intersections are shown to be similar, which then brings into question the long-term utility of continuing to use the red light camera system or to shift the enforcement activities to sworn personnel in the field," Dock and Sanchez wrote.
The yellow timing change proved to be so effective that the city will now implement the longer yellow settings at every signalized intersection in the city over the next 18 to 24 months. From a monetary standpoint, however, the cameras were not effective -- despite the $476 fine. The program raised $344,013 in revenue in the last fiscal year, but American Traffic Solutions (ATS) took $274,100 of this amount. The rest of the profit was split between the county and the state. After accounting for the cost of electricity and personnel ($74,400), Pasadena claimed a net loss of $4487. Profit would have been greater had residents not learned that Los Angeles County courts will not enforce automated tickets and that there is no penalty of any kind for ignoring them.
If the city council agrees with the staff decision, Pasadena would join Grand Terrace, Loma Linda and Whittier, Los Angeles, Moreno Valley, Rocklin, San Carlos, Union City, Yucaipa and Costa Mesa. Berkeley, Burlingame, Cupertino, Compton, El Monte, Fairfield, Fresno, Fullerton, Indian Wells, Irvine, Maywood, Montclair, Paramount, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, Roseville, San Jose (photo radar), Santa Fe Springs, Santa Maria, Santa Rosa, and Upland have also rejected their automated ticketing programs.
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