3/6/2009California: City May Dump Cameras Over Insufficient Revenue
Revenue trouble may end red light cameras in Upland, California. Officials prepare for possible refund of illegally issued tickets.
The Upland, California City Council is expected to vote Monday to stop using red light cameras because the program has not only failed to improve safety, it has also failed to generate sufficient revenue. In a memorandum to the city council, Upland Police Chief Steve Adams recommended canceling the city's contract with Redflex Traffic Systems, the Australian company that has been issuing tickets on Upland's behalf since November 2003.
"The monthly revenue from the service has not covered the salary and benefits of those who review and issue potential violations," Adams wrote. "Redflex also desires to eliminate an $8,900 credit per month, which has allowed the system to remain financially neutral at best."
Upland's problem began in 2001 when the company that is now doing business as ACS was caught manipulating pavement sensors in a way that boosted the number of tickets issued in San Diego. At the time, the vendor was being given a monetary award for each red light citation the company generated. The state legislature responded to the scandal with a law banning compensation of the private company operating red light camera programs "based on the number of citations generated, or as a percentage of the revenue generated." To avoid upsetting local governments, contracts signed prior to January 2004, like Upland's, were grandfathered. The law only applied to new contracts.
As a result, Upland continues to reward Redflex with an $89 payment for every $426 ticket that the Australian company issues. This was perfectly legal until December 1, 2005 when the city quietly negotiated a change to the contract that gave Upland the first 100 tickets -- or $8900 -- free. This unofficial contract amendment created a new per-ticket compensation arrangement not permitted under the law.
"The contract issue is currently under court scrutiny, and, pending the outcome, has the potential to invalidate citations previously issued," Adams explained.
As with Norcross, Georgia which this week ended photo ticketing over revenue concerns, the red light cameras in Upland produced no safety benefit.
"The system appears to have little influence on the number of red light related collisions at monitored intersections," Adams wrote. "At times rear end collisions have actually increased."
Redflex did propose to resolve the legal difficulty by entering into a "pay per approach" deal that eliminates the monetary incentive for Redflex to issue more tickets. Adams did not like the plan.
"(It) would likely place the city in a position from which it would never attain a positive revenue flow," Adams wrote.
A copy of the contract amendment and the police chief's memo are available in a 450k PDF file at the source link below.