7/14/2015Florida: Vendor Tries To Save Red Light Cameras Despite Accident Rise
For $100,000, ATS buys itself 60 days to strike a new red light camera deal in Hollywood, Florida.
Accidents are up at the intersections with red light cameras in Hollywood, Florida, but American Traffic Solutions (ATS) is desperate to keep the troubled system alive. City commissioners last week unanimously approved an ordinance to dump the controversial devices, only to back away from the resolution after ATS proposed a last-minute deal. The company will, in effect, pay the council to ignore the city police chief's warning about the impact of automated ticketing since January 2011.
"Just so we're clear, we looked at empirical data, we did a lot of thorough research on accidents and fatalities," Chief Tomas Sanchez said on Wednesday. "We have also seen a dramatic increase in most intersections of twice as much rear end accidents occur after the red light camera implementation [compared] to before the red light camera implementation. As a whole, there have been more accidents at each intersection."
The program has also failed to produce the promised amount of revenue to the city, largely due to state-mandated increases in yellow signal warning times that took effect on May 31, 2013. As most of the tickets were written for minor, split-second violations, the extra time has caused citation revenue to plunge. On top of this, a Florida Court of Appeals decision declared the process ATS used to review citations in Hollywood was illegal, so the city has been unable to collect fines since March. ATS will now forgive $100,000 in charges to the city in return for sixty days to find a way to work around the appellate court ruling and create a profitable ticketing program.
"We have some options that we've negotiated," ATS salesman Orlando Torres told the council. "Programs are not shutting down all over the state. Some have, many continue on as they make changes to their process. So allow us to continue to do this. Either we bring something back to you, or we don't, and at the end of the day you'll make your decision."
The proposal raised controversy with Commissioners Traci L. Callari and Peter D. Hernandez, who pointed out that the commission had already voted to dump ATS in a unanimous vote. Red light camera supporters, including Commissioner Patty Asseff, hoped the last-minute monetary offer would vindicate the photo ticketing program. Asseff insisted the cameras saved lives, but Chief Sanchez pointed out that this was not correct.
"So, for public safety and for the accidents, the data is not clear that -- does not show... a reduction in accidents," Chief Sanchez said. "It shows the contrary -- an increase in some places, as much as a three- or four-fold increase in rear end accidents."
The commission voted 4 to 3 to accept the deal under which ATS would not charge the contractual $48,000 monthly red light camera fee that the city would have to have been obligated to pay had it given the sixty-days notice that it intended to cancel the photo ticketing contract. The commission will vote again on a revised deal from ATS.