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1/29/2010
California Cities Dumping Red Light Cameras
Moreno Valley, California dumps red light cameras while Loma Linda seeks to get out of its existing contract as soon as possible.

Ovidu PopescuThe allure of red light cameras has worn off in a pair of Southern California cities. In Moreno Valley on Tuesday, the city council voted 3-1 to shut down the automated ticketing machines that have been operating since 2008.

"Due to legal activities in the state legislature in the past few years regarding red light photo enforcement and the lack of public support for the program, city council's consensus is to discontinue the existing red light photo enforcement service at the end of its 2-year pilot program," Public Works Director Chris A. Vogt wrote in a memo to the mayor and council.

At least one member of the public believed the council's unspoken motivation has been the lack of expected revenue being generated by the program.

"Now the red light cameras were a loser -- they didn't make any money," a resident who identified himself only as 'Pete' told the council. "You took all that money that went to the red light company... it just went gone. It went to Arizona."

Instead of using automated ticketing machines, Mayor Bonnie Flickinger promised to use the local police to monitor any troublesome intersections. Redflex Traffic Systems will have to remove the cameras by the end of the month.

Also on Tuesday the Loma Linda City Council appeared unanimous in its desire to terminate the red light camera contract with Redflex, but the city attorney insisted staff needed time to determine the cost of an early contract buy-out. Councilman Ovidu Popescu led the effort to remove the cameras without delay, accusing the Australian automated enforcement company of quietly shifting its focus after selling the council on the safety benefits of installing cameras to stop straight-through violations.

"I've done a fair amount of research on this issue," Popescu said. "Loma Linda has eight approaches, four of those approaches are for right-hand turns. So we have fifty percent of our cameras dedicated for right-hand turns. It's becoming apparent that this is the biggest problem people have with the red light cameras."

Popescu argued that the penalty was not appropriate for such a minor infraction and that visitors hit with such tickets have told him they would never return to do business in the city.

"Most people may say, 'Well, they broke the law, they have to pay.' What we must become very sensitive to is that some of these individuals are senior citizens, some of them are on fixed income, some people may be laid off. And some of these people don't have any problems with driving -- most of the time they don't get any tickets. To find themselves suddenly getting a $500 ticket is quite concerning. Running a red light on your record is one point that can cause some people's insurance to go up as much as $700."

So far, Redflex has mailed $30.5 million worth of tickets in Loma Linda. Councilman Rhodes Rigsby agreed with Popescu, urging his colleagues to take emergency action to pull the plug on cameras immediately.

"If you look at the best studies nationwide, cameras either increase accident rates or don't change them, or have only sporadic decreases," Rigsby said. "When the data were presented from Loma Linda... they were not very compelling. Never once was there a mention of right-turn violations as being involved in a statistically significant number of the accidents. And if you think about it, most accidents aren't going to be from creeping around a right turn."

Loma Linda extended the duration of the yellow warning period at several intersections causing the amount of tickets issued for through violations to plunge significantly. This drop in revenue has spurred other council members to decide that photo ticketing should come to an end.

"I see no support to continue the program," Mayor Stan Brauer said.

At its next meeting, the city council will consider the between the options of allowing the ticketing contract with Redflex to expire in December, forbidding Redflex from issuing right-turn tickets and ending the contract immediately.




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