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11/13/2012
Another California City to Put Traffic Cameras to Public Vote
Red light camera referendum scheduled for June 2013 in Riverside, California.

Councilman Steve AdamsVoters in Riverside, California will decide in June whether red light cameras should be used in their community. The city council narrowly decided last month to renew the use of the controversial devices while also offering the public a chance to be heard. Documents show not only did the public in overwhelming numbers urged the council to drop the use of cameras entirely, but state officials also weighed in heavily against their use at specific intersections.

The ballot measure was offered as a compromise intended to head off a motion to disband the camera program entirely. The compromise passed by one vote, that of Councilman Steve Adams whose brother is paid to approve red light camera citations. Just prior to the vote, local activists warned his participation would be seen as an ethical violation.

"This is a violation of the duty of full disclosure and transparency and fairness by Councilman Adams as an elected official," wrote Jennifer Vaughn-Blakely and Katie Greene. "His strenuous argument in favor of keeping the program displayed a lack of judgment and a bias favoring a family member. He certainly did not show a standard of avoiding even the appearance of impropriety."

City Attorney Greg Priamos brushed aside the complaint and asserted there was no conflict. The mayor and the council majority also dismissed the complaints of over two hundred residents who wrote the city council urging termination of the photo ticketing contract.

"The Riverside traffic cams do not increase traffic safety, mostly they just make money for the company that runs them," one resident wrote to the council in an email. "I come to a slow, rolling stop at right turns, and I have been caught twice for not coming to a complete stop, resulting in fines, fees and traffic school for a total amount of over $1000! When at traffic school, I met folks who were caught speeding, and even for DUI, who had not paid as much as I had."

The most powerful complaint came from the state itself. On October 27, 2011, officials with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) noted Riverside's permits to operate red light cameras on the state right-of-way at three intersections near the 91 freeway had expired. Before renewing, state engineers asked to review accident data to confirm that the use of red light cameras at those locations was justified. After reviewing the figures, however, Caltrans realized the devices were not working as advertised. The results were essentially the same at all four camera locations.

"There were no broadside collisions that occurred between April 1, 2006 and May 30, 2008 when the red light camera was installed," CalTrans District Encroachment Permit Engineer Richard Goh wrote regarding 91 and Fourteenth Street. "Between June 1, 2008 and June 30, 2010, there were also no broadside collisions. The rear end collisions were 2 for 2 for the same time period, respectively. The deployment of the red light camera does not show significant safety benefit at this location. Based on the above findings, the red light cameras at these locations are not warranted and have to be removed."

City leaders ultimately were able to apply pressure on Caltrans to renew the permit for the cameras, despite the lack of any safety benefit. A copy of the Caltrans letters, courtesy HighwayRobbery.Net, is available in a 220k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Letter re: Red Light Camera Permits (Caltrans, 1/11/2012)

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