July 5, 2013 in Uncategorized By: Dave Emerson
(Los Alamitos, 7/5/2013) This week our Thursday columnist turns our focus to something that’s focused on most of us at one time or another.
by Highlands’ Guy: First off, I must admit I have a bias against red light cameras, in general.
I do not have a problem with them in concept, but in practice.
Everything I’ve read about their operations in cities across the country, has been negative. For instance, a recent (Apr 4, 2013) article posted on voiceofoc.org by Adam Elmahred, noted that our very own RedFlex Traffic Systems, is behind a $2-million bribery scheme at Chicago City Hall.
A federal investigation is now underway. It is also noted that the company in under investigation in two other cities. Separately, former Santa Ana City councilman Brett Franklin said he would not support the system today because it seems designed more to make money than save lives.
Los Al’s red light history:
It is my understanding that Los Al and Redflex began a contractual relationship in 2005. That agreement put a “fixed fee” of $5,730 per month. If the ticket money brought in is less than that, we pay only the money received.
But, the deficit carries over, and if the money received the next month exceeds the fixed fee, we have to make up the previous deficit. But in 2007 (in case No. LA007022PE) this was found to be in violation of Vehicle Code Section 21455.5(g)(1)). Can we presume they are living up to the law?
Other cities and Reflex:
How have other cities responded after signing contracts with Redflex? Over the past 5 years a whole bunch of cities, big and small, have ended their red light programs.
The reasons are many. From Redlands, where they found an increase in rear-end collisions, to Dalton, Ga. where they found the vendor has shortened the yellow to produce more tickets, to Corona, where they found the cost of operations far exceeded the unproven benefits, to Los Angeles, where they found that operationally, the program did not make sense.
Who is Redflex, & what’s our deal with them?
So, who the heck is Redflex and what is their relationship with Los Alamitos? They are owned by an Australian company, but make most of their money in the U.S., and have also been expanding operations in China.
They cut lucrative deals with cities all over the world to install and maintain red light cameras. But the numbers relating to accidents and the cost to municipalities just do not hold water. And after recent scandals, numerous heads rolled, the company stock plummeted, and they have now posted a fiscal year loss.
The agreement signed in September, 2010, by our then city manager, Jeff Stewart, is 31 pages. Highlights include:
- ● It is a five year contract, unless the city manager renews for 2 more years before the term expires.
- ●The city cannot reference “Redflex” in any information or discussions or in data for any reason, unless the company gives its OK. (Does that mean the city council cannot discuss the bribery scandal among themselves?)
- ●Exhibit “D” notes a fixed fee of $4500.00/mo. (Tell me it ain’t so)
- ●Each year the price will increase by the CPI.
- ●If a system is deactivated at the request of the City due to roadway construction, the monthly fee will continue.
Please note: I am not positive the agreement is still in force and I have interpreted the meaning of some data.
What to do?
A sample of articles seem to show a downward use trend.
A Dec 14, 2011 Daily Breeze article on the City of Gardena, reflected the end to its red light cameras, noting a Police study that found no substantial decrease in traffic collisions. Mayor Paul Tanaka said the program was too costly for the city and was not effective.
A June 13, 2013 San Mateo Daily Journal article told of Belmont getting rid of the Redflex cameras. Why? “Accidents have not gone down, and the fine money goes to the sate, county, and Redflex.” I have also read where the yellow light was decreased to “catch more folks” and increase revenues.
I guess my conclusion is that I would expect our city council-persons to take a really hard look at our red light program during the 2013/2014 budget process. And in so doing, report to their constituents on a number of levels, to include:
►A clear statement of the program’s goals and statistical evidence of accomplishments.
►Clarify any signal timing manipulation.
►Exact cost to run the program.
►Processing of and enforceability of tickets, and distribution of fines.
Oh, and one last small rant. I gotta tell you, I think the cameras look like crap (can I use that word Dave?). Every other city I know of has incorporated the system into the existing signals. Ours look like some leftovers from a 1950’s sci-fi movie. And they tore up our new, at the time, center dividers to install them. Who gets the blame for that?
“The marvel of all history is the patience with which men and women submit to burdens unnecessarily laid upon them by their governments.”
- George Washington (1732-1799)
…And that’s just the way I see it.
As always, your perspective is welcome.