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COT Red Light Camera Program: Is it effective and how much does it cost?

Posted on April 18, 2013

COT Red Light Camera Program: Is it effective and how much does it cost?

The City of Tallahassee (COT) began installing red light cameras in August of 2010. Like many local governments across Florida and the US, Tallahassee turned to the cameras in the name of safety. But from the beginning, there have been those who have argued that the program violates due process and is designed to turn nuisance violations into a revenue source for government coffers.

In the City of Tallahassee, a violation – if paid timely – costs $158. The state of Florida receives $83 of the $158 and the remainder is left for the city to cover the operational costs, which includes vendor payments and expense for TPD personnel. If any revenue is left after these expenses, the revenue is deposited into the general revenue fund.

The COT has operated the program for almost three years. The table below shows the violations and the fines generated at each intersection since the beginning of the program. The total number of violations through January, 2013 was 42,914. These violations generated over $6 million in revenue.

Red Light Camera Violations & Revenues

IntersectionViolationsFines $
TOTALS429146,102,371
MONROE/TENN95001,350,900
CCNE/KILLEARN51090,726,500
OCALA/TENNESSEE83071,181,255
CCNW/TENNESSEE75411,072,330
MAGNOLIA/AP PARK67470,959,423
CCSE/AP PARK40850,580,887
CCS/MAHAN16250,231,075

Despite the $6 million in revenue generated over the last three years, the revenue deposited into the City’s general fund is much less. Based on documents requested by Tallahassee Reports, the COT netted approximately $765,000 on the $6 million in fines. The bulk of the revenue generated by the fines was transferred out of bank accounts in Tallahassee to the State of Florida and to the red light camera vendor, ACS.

In addition to the complaints about due process, there has been significant debate about the impact of red light cameras on intersection crashes. Recently, the COT indicated that crashes at red light camera intersections had decreased 22% from the year before the camera program was implemented. Tallahassee Reports requested the data that supported this claim and created the table below.

Data from Test Period

INTERESECTIONVIOLATIONSFINESBRARAVOIDED$/AC
TOTALS22418$3,187,84021116546062,371
MONROE/TENNESSEE5020$713,84426197091,780
CC/KILLEARN CENTER2565$364,743990000,000
OCALA/TENNESSEE3573$508,08165623152,424
CCNW/TENNESSEE5887$837,13118108094,177
CCSE/APAL PARK1782$253,400603624009,503
MAGNOLIA/ APAL PARK3591$510,64033294114,894

The table shows the intersection, the number of violations, and fees generated during the 12 month period that crashes decreased. In addition, Column BR shows the number of crashes that occurred 12 months before red light cameras where installed, Column AR shows the number of crashes that occurred 12 months after the red light cameras were installed.

The second to last column, titled AVOIDED, shows the number of crashes avoided due to red light cameras. This last column, titled $/AC, is the amount of revenue per avoided crash during the 12 month period.

The table shows a number of interesting facts.

– Over half of the avoided crashes came at one intersection, Capital Circle SE and Apalachee Park.

– The program had no impact on crashes at Killearn Center Blvd. and Capital Circle NE and minimal impact at Ocala and Tennessee and at Magnolia and Apalachee Parkway.

– The average cost per avoided crash was $62,371.

– The highest cost per avoided crash was $152,424 at the Ocala/Tennessee intersection where crashes decreased from 65 to 62.

– The lowest cost per avoided crash was $9,503 at the Capital Circle SE/Apalachee intersection.

– The total fines collected over this 12-month period was just over $3 million.

Tallahassee Reports inquired about why the Killearn Center intersection was chosen for a red light camera when it only had nine crashes before the cameras were installed. The COT staff indicated that the intersection was selected because TPD stated there was a high incidence of red light violations and that it is difficult for TPD to patrol that area.

The data analysis raises important policy questions. First, even if it is accepted that the red light camera program is alone responsible for the decline in crashes over the 12 month study period, is the cost of the program a net gain for the citizens of Tallahassee.

Second, given the results, is there a more cost-effective way to monitor intersections. For example, during the 12 month evaluation period, just over $3 million in fines were collected.  At a cost of $100,000 each, this revenue would pay for 30 police officers.

And finally, how long will red light cameras stay up at intersections where the program has no effect, or minimal effect, on crashes.

 

4 Responses to COT Red Light Camera Program: Is it effective and how much does it cost?

  1. John Reply

    April 18, 2013 at 8:27 am

    I also question whether or not certain factors are taken into consideration with red light cameras.

    About a year ago, there was a story about someone who received a ticket due to the turn lane switching to red sooner than the through lanes…

    The issue I question is whether or not there is consideration as to placement of the traffic signals – at the front of the intersection, or at the far end of the intersection.

    Being tall, if I am close to the white line (within 1 – 3 cars from the line), I cannot see the traffic signal if the light is at the front of the instersection. Is there a timing issue that can come into play? Is there a standard for state-wide application?

    Just questions, and most likely mainly for DOT, but questions about the program nonetheless.

  2. Paul Henry Reply

    April 18, 2013 at 8:47 am

    One thing to keep in mind- how were the crashes classified? Did each intersection use the same criteria? Were “intersection” crashes used or were crashes from up to 200′ away (or further) used?

    Another thing is that the automated for-profit cameras are only designed to enforce one law- red light violations (RLV). They are not meant to enforce failure to yield or careless driving (both of which are far more prevalent than RLV), so the true measure of device effectiveness is to consider how many RLV crashes took place for equal periods of time before and after the use of automated for-profit enforcement.

    When I did so using DOT crash data, I found there were 9 prior and 7 after. If looked at as a percentage, that’s a 22% reduction!!! However, if looked at as a number, it is only 2, which is well within the normal fluctuation for this type of crash. This scenario is why you rarely see actual numbers used when dealing with automated for-profit enforcement- such as the state’s annual undocumented survey, which failed to include RLV crashes at all, and omitted data from 20 to 30% of the agencies required by law to submit data.

    Turning law enforcement into a for-profit scheme is a bad idea, and it breeds corruption.

  3. James C. Walker Reply

    April 18, 2013 at 11:49 am

    Besides the questionable value of the program for safety compared to its enormous cost, another factor is overlooked.

    The program removed over $6.1 million dollars from the local Tallahassee economy and shipped 87.5% of that to the state government and the camera vendor. This $5.3 million dollars could not circulate in local stores, malls, restaurants, service businesses, entertainment businesses, churches, charities, etc. This large amount of money stripped out the local economy does serious harm to the residents and businesses in the area. All for a questionable change in safety.

    If Tallahassee simply added one second to the yellow intervals on the lights, it would almost certainly reduce straight through violations by MORE than the cameras have achieved — without the massive economic damage to the area.

    James C. Walker, Life Member-National Motorists Association

  4. Stephen Donaldson Reply

    April 18, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    Few problems with the RLC “claim”.

    ONE: NO MENTION OF HOW MANY CRASHES WERE CASUED BY RUNNING A RED LIGHT

    This is common for the RLC side to no want to bring this up. IN One town in TX, if one were to just use angle crashes, it would look like the RLC “work”, but when the RLV crashes were pulled, RLV CRASHES WENT UP! http://www.banthecams.org/Blogs/the-angle-scam-how-cities-use-angle-crashes-instead-of-rlr-crashes-to-manipulate-the-truth.html

    (Note a RLC can only “stop” a RLV crash. Frankly I don’t really buy this claim based on videos of RLV crashes at RLC site that the RLC FAILED TO STOP! http://www.banthecams.org/Red-Light-Camera-News/videos-that-show-rlc-will-not-work-they-didnt-stop-these-crashes-where-they-were-installed.html

    Two: No mention on the “violations” if raw data was used before RLC being compared to NON Raw data (tickets they sent in the mail, or “citeable” violations).

    IT JUST CAME OUT IN MURRIETA, CA that the RLC RIGGED a claim “increase” in rlr when the RLC were ordered shut off. The RLC vendor used “citeable” violations in the RLC period, compared to RAW data in the after period before the RLC vendor threw out “violations” that were not “citable”.

    Souce: http://www.banthecams.org/Red-Light-Camera-News/american-traffic-solutions-ats-more-lies-more-deception.html (original: http://saferstreetsla.org/646/american-traffic-solutions-ats-lies-deception/)

    http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/40/4078.asp

    This is just one game RLC vendors play to HIDE the fact that RLC are NOT about safety.

    RLC ARE A FRAUD!

    Heck it even seems ole Wandal might be working for a RLC vendor Front group now! ATS/NCSR. http://www.banthecams.org/Taking-on-the-Government/does-waldall-work-for-ats-front-group-ncsr-nyt-says-she-is-ncsr-qpresidentq.html

    (documents showing that ATS is behind NCSR: http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/35/3585.asp pdf indicating ATS executives part of NCSR. http://www.thenewspaper.com/rlc/docs/2011/ncsrmo.pdf
    FIGHT THE RLC FRAUD!

    Ban the CAMS!

    http://www.motorists.org
    http://www.banthecams.org
    camerafruad on Facebook.

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