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Veil Guy 2007-09-12 20:13

Ticket Cameras In Lubbock: A Texas-Sized Mess
Ticket Cameras In Lubbock: A Texas-Sized Mess

The road to photo enforcement in Lubbock, Texas has been a bumpy one. It all started in late 2006 when city officials put together a plan to have a ticket camera program operational sometime with in the next year.

While the list of things to do included drafting an ordinance and setting up fines, it did not include exploring engineering solutions which is recommended by the Federal Highway Administration before implementing a camera program. In fact, the city’s traffic engineering department specifically stated that they would not look into engineering improvements.

It was clear from the beginning that money was the motivating factor in the installation of ticket cameras in Lubbock. The city report even highlighted the fact that it hoped to gain over two million dollars in profit from the program for the first year.

Yellow Light Times Shortened

After signing a contract with American Traffic System (ATS), the city thought they were ready to start collecting revenue from citizens, but their greed forced a delay.

The length of time that a light remains yellow is a key factor in the number of red-light violations that will occur at an intersection. Studies have shown that increased the yellow light time by as little as 1.5 seconds, can reduce violations by over 90 percent. This didn’t seem to matter to the city of Lubbock unfortunately.

A local television station, KCBD, did some research and discovered that the city had shortened the yellow light duration at eight of the twelve intersections where cameras were to be installed in hopes of increasing the number of ticket camera violations

Federal regulations require the yellow light time to be no less than 3.0 seconds, but at one intersection the yellow light duration was clocked at 2.9 seconds, which meant that it was an illegal configuration.

A city traffic engineer admitted that the yellow light times should have been longer and due the bad press that came rolling in as a result, the city council voted to delay the installation of the cameras.

Hiring Freeze

The delay in the ticket camera installation had a predictable effect on the city’s budget. The city determined that correctly-timed traffic lights would not generate the expected amount of revenue.

So, one week after the camera delay was announced, the city implemented a freeze on all new hiring for government departments.

Safety Is Not Profitable

Despite the timing issues, the city decided to go ahead with the cameras. The city initially planned to install cameras at the fourteen locations with highest number of accidents.

However, in a report given to the city by ATS, the camera manufacturer, it was determined that the “most dangerous” intersections in Lubbock would not be profitable enough to sustain a ticket camera program.
Instead of scrapping the program, the city asked the company to look at safer intersections to see if it could find intersections that would be more profitable.

An Unhappy Ending

On June 1st, 2007 the city turned on the red-light cameras and began issuing warnings to drivers who triggered a violation. Two weeks later, the cameras began issuing real citations.

Shortly after the program went into effect, Texas Governor Rick Perry signed several bills into law that restricted the use of red-light cameras in the state. One such restriction stated that cities would be required to send half the revenue collected from the ticket cameras to the state.

Faced with these new restrictions, the city council decided to have a vote in late June to decide whether or not to continue with the ticket camera program.

The city council voted 5-2 to keep the cameras, but Lubbock’s history suggests the story probably isn’t over yet.

By Aaron Quinn, Communications Director, NMA

©2007 NMA Foundation, All rights reserved.

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