Sunday, July 15, 2012

San Angelo's Sparse Red Light Camera History

Red light camera revenue made City Council's list of options for reducing a projected budget shortfall.  This isn't the first time Council considered red light cameras, also known as photographic traffic systems.  On November 6, 2007:

Councilmember Hogg requested consideration of red-light cameras in conjunction with traffic tickets.

Council took up the topic in the next meeting.  Flashback to November 20, 2007:

Councilman Hogg stated he had received correspondence regarding citizen concerns and due to recent legislation, such ordinance would require a citizen committee and traffic study. He suggested any revenues would be for public safety use only to help fund trauma facilities and emergency medical services.  Councilman Hogg noted he was not in favor of the revenue; however, he was interested in utilizing such a tool at specific intersections.

City Manager Harold Dominguez stated in light of recent legislation, staff is researching intersections with numerous red light violations specifically identified by the Police Department. He noted the challenge is to utilize such a tool to either monitor the intersection or protect the streets. Mr. Dominguez asked whether the Council preferred a mobile or permanent unit.

Councilman Hogg stated the cameras could not be used for traffic studies, and the legislation had specific requirements which may raise concerns. Councilmember Farmer spoke in favor if the cameras assisted the Police Department in controlling traffic issues.

City Manager Harold Dominguez read the legislation into the record.

Councilman Morrison stated studies have shown an increase in rear-end accidents and suggested staff consider a yellow light time increase. Mayor Lown added it was sometimes difficult to identify the driver. Both spoke in opposition to the proposal.

Councilman Hogg replied studies have also shown a decrease in citations and violations, and the City of Garland has had the successful system in place for years.

Councilman Fields suggested all parties research the studies prior to further consideration.

Motion, for staff to explore studies and draft an ordinance for red light camera enforcement, was made by Councilman Hogg and seconded by Councilmember Farmer.

Citizen Jim Turner commented on privacy issues and how cities with cameras have abandoned then. He suggested issue research be redirected to other areas that need to be addressed prior to considering cameras, i.e., yellow light timing, etc. Mr. Turner noted the system has false positives, and the technology is premature.

City Manager Harold Dominguez stated new systems from various companies indicate the technology has improved. He noted staff was in the process of finalizing the Traffic Engineer position and once hired, the individual could research the project in more detail.

Councilman Hogg recognized the need to evaluate and receive additional information regarding traffic studies and issues at particular intersections, and if so warranted, Council may direct staff to draft such ordinance.

Motion, to amend the prior motion and direct staff to evaluate the possibility of such ordinance, was made by Councilman Hogg and seconded by Councilmember Farmer.

Councilman Morrison and Mayor Lown reiterated their disinterest.

Citizen May Johnson suggested Council may appreciate such technology if they had been the victim of a red light accident as she had been. She noted this project was a valid study.

A vote was taken on the motion on the floor. AYE: Fields, Perez-Jimenez, Hogg, and Farmer NAY: Lown, Morrison, Cárdenas. Motion carried 4-3.

What progress did the city make on red light cameras since 2007?  The City's website is virtual black hole on the topic.

Did staff ever draft an ordinance?  Did the traffic engineer ever finish their assessment?  What were their findings?  How does it compare to others, including local red-light activist Greg Mauz of Christoval?

Cameras can have different uses, but I find it odd that a newly lit intersection has something that looks like a red light camera ready to be used.

Which cameras perform what function in America's surveillance state, where revenue is badly needed?


JWT (ConchoInfo Blogger) said...

Those are not red light cameras. They are vehicle presence cameras, they replace the old magnetic loops that were used to detect when a vehicle is in an intersection. Major advance as you don't have to tear up the streets to use them. Also being optical, they can detect motorcycles which the old loop detectors had problems with. Texas law currently forbids using them for anything except detecting vehicles in the intersection to activate the traffic signals. Can't use them for red light or speed or surveillance, crime contol etc.. At least that's today's law. Subject to change by DHS/TSA with no notice.

JWT (ConchoInfo Blogger) said...

One other interesting item: they never hired a traffic engineer. There were no takers for the job at the salary level they offered. Such traffic engineering as has been done has either been done by the city engineer or contracted out. Good traffic engineers cost money.