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SeaTac, Washington Dumps Red Light Cameras
Instead of dumping Redflex, the SeaTac, Washington city council decides to dump red light cameras entirely.

SeaTac city council
City leaders in SeaTac, Washington were worried about doing business with Redflex Traffic Systems, a firm whose top executives were convicted of bribery. To avoid being associated with the Australian firm's "business practices," The staff decided to go through the process of drafting a new red light camera agreement with American Traffic Solutions (ATS) to keep the lucrative program going. When it came time to ratify the deal on Tuesday, however, the council surprised the staff by deciding 4 to 3 to reverse course and pull the plug on the cameras for good.

A number of objections were raised during Tuesday's council meeting, including the possibility of unintended consequences from issuing 81 percent to out-of-town drivers in the home of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

"We had a bunch of emails from people when they saw this on the agenda," councilman Rick Forschler explained. "We rely on people coming from somewhere else to SeaTac for our economic development. If we annoy them to the point that they don't want to come here and they go somewhere else to stay in hotels, it's potentially impacting our economic development."

Other members of the council were disturbed by the lack of rigorous record keeping that would allow an accurate evaluation of the cameras' value. Police Chief Lisa K. Mulligan responded by explaining that American Traffic Solutions (ATS) had offered to generate data and reports to support continued use of the photo ticketing program.

"They have staff that they can send up and sit there and look through every one of our reports and formats and actually call out those that might have been impacted by the traffic signal," she said. "So, yes, we have that ability if we choose to move forward [on the contract]."

Councilman Erin Sitterly was disturbed by that offer.

"There's some evidence that some data is being manipulated toward a pre-determined and desired outcome," she explained. "That disturbs me. When we talk about ATS come in to help us parse the data, it makes me wonder -- we have a company that's trying to stay in business, after all."

Councilman Peter Kwon spent forty hours personally reviewing the best available data on the program's performance and was disturbed by what he found.

"Over the last seven years it actually shows collisions have increased at the intersections where the cameras are located," city councilman Peter Kwon said. "I don't mean they've increased because traffic has increased. Collisions in relation to total traffic flow have increased -- the collision rate has increased, which goes against what red light cameras are supposed to do."

A recent poll of SeaTac residents cited by the council found 65 percent opposed the use of automated ticketing machines. The city councils in Auburn and Burien have voted to take cameras down. Residents in Bellingham, Longview, Monroe and Mukilteo have voted by as much as 71 percent to outlaw the use of automated ticketing machines. SeaTac's contract with Redflex expires on December 31.

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