Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Traffic lights to be timed. Preparation for Red Light Camera's ?

Russell Simon of the Albuquerque Journal reports that the State will begin a traffic study and synchronize the lights on Cerrillos and St Francis Drive. Although Red Light Camera's are not mentioned in the press release one of the big issues with the City of Santa Fe's consideration of using Red Light Camera's has been the timing and synchronization of lights on Cerrillos Road. Residents who posted to the New Mexican's Comments section on the issue actually timed the lights and compared the timing with national recommendations and found the yellow lights were well below the recommended length of time to be on before turning red.

I feel the timing and synchronization is very much needed. According to According to the Santa Fe's traffic operations engineer, Rick Devine, the timing for traffic signals on St. Francis hasn't been updated in at least a dozen years. Neither has the timing for the signals on Cerrillos Road. Studies have shown that proper timing is the most effective way to reduce accidents caused by red light runners. I also feel this is probably being done as a precursor to actually installing red light camera's at Santa Fe's intersections. Regular readers of my blogs know I have concerns over the use of red light camera's to raise income for cities. If we did have red light camera's installed I would like to see it be a fair program that is not overly excessive in fines and is not run by a private for profit company and rather run by the city itself. The city is considering going into this venture with a private company which provides the cameras and administers the program in exchange for a hefty cut of the fines generated.

In another Albuquerque Journal story
Sen. William Payne, R-Albuquerque, introduced legislation Monday to force the city to post flashing yellow beacons at 15 intersections where cameras are mounted to catch motorists running red lights or speeding.
The beacons, if flashing, would alert the motorists that the traffic light would turn red before they passed through the intersection, Payne said."Using public safety as a profit center is bad policy," Payne said.
His measure to warn motorists was met with strong bipartisan support Monday. Almost every senator endorsed the legislation by signing on as a co-sponsor.
"It was not a hard sell, and it won't be on the House side, either," Payne said. "Everybody I've talked on the House side says, 'Go get 'em.' ''

As of last month, Albuquerque has collected $5.2 million in fines on nearly 80,000 citations issued to motorists since May 2005.
But Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chávez said the city doesn't make a dime. He said the city funnels the collected fines back into the program to expand it.
For example, the proceeds recently paid for cameras at two additional intersections around the city to supplement the 13 already on line.
And Chávez argued that speeders and people who run red lights actually pay for the program, not taxpayers.
"It's just unfortunate that the senator doesn't have his facts straight," the mayor said.
Payne said that, while the fines go toward the program now, it is only a matter of time before they will be diverted to the city's coffers.
"How much will that raise if they double the number of cameras?" the GOP lawmaker asked.
Payne's legislation would require the city to post and synchronize the flashing yellow beacons with the traffic signal on all roads leading up to the camera-mounted intersections.
If the beacon was flashing, a motorist would know the traffic light would turn red before they got through the intersection.
The beacons would improve on the signs the city has already posted roughly 100 yards or so from each camera-mounted intersection, Payne said.
But Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schultz said the flashing beacons could "cause more harm than good" by encouraging motorists to speed up to clear the intersection.

The interesting thing about this story is that the company Albuquerque uses for the Red Light Camera's is Redflex Traffic Systems. This company has contracts in 106 cities* world-wide and, with 90 USA cities under contract, is the largest provider of digital red light and speed enforcement services in North America. It is also the same company who is proposing to supply them to Santa Fe. In most cities the company provides the camera's and administrative support in exchange for a cut in the revenues provided from the fines. I don't know what kind of contract the city of Albuquerque has with Redflex and the city does have to review all citations and photo's before they are sent out as well as provide for hearings on protested citations. This all cost the city money in salaries etc. but it almost seems impossible to me that the costs were 5.2 million dollars. It would be interesting to have one of our news outlets review the contract with Redflex and compare the costs of the program to the income. Although keep in mind that Redflex takes a hefty cut in most states that they have contracts.

I still have yet to see any data on rear end collisions at the intersections in Albuquerque where camera's are installed. Many other states have seen an increase in rear end collisions at intersections where camera's are installed. In some area's the increase was so bad that the camera program was ended. Here is a link to a previous blog post that refers to some of these studies.

This Article "Senator calls Red-Light Cameras traps" was posted by the Albuquerque Tribune as I was writing this blog post.

Finally to see all my blog posts on Red Light Camera's Click here.


Jim said...

Since cameras are already appearing all over town, there is no doubt in my mind that they won't be used to generate tickets/ fines. Yesterday, i made a left turn off guadalupe onto paseo de peralta entering on a green arrow signal. before i exited the intersection, the light turned yellow then red. Everytime that happens, i wonder if i just got a ticket since there are cameras at that intersection.

Sheriff Greg Solano said...

The Red Light camera's used to give tickets are not yet approved so are not yet in operation. I saw the camera you observed and this is probrably another test camera. Many people mistake the sensors which look like small camera's and are located at almost all major intersections as video camera's or red light camera's. They are not they are only sensors.

dave said...

Albuquerque should be very careful and not so aggressive with their Redflex/Photonotice.com program. There are several lawsuits going on right now around the country. Check out a federal case in Knoxville, Tennessee. If they win (and they probabaly will)there will be others and big class action suits too. The more these greedy local governments rake in now - the more they'll be paying back later. Don't go counting your chickens Mayor Chavez.

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