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Red Light Cameras - Photo Enforcement Discussion of red light cameras/speed-on-green cameras photo enforcement and related technology.

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  #1 (permalink)   IP: 192.168.0.1
Old 2007-07-06
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Default Implications of Automated Traffic Safety Devices

In connection with my blog posting concerning the new red light cameras that are appearing in the City of Philadelphia, I have contacted a writer of the Philadelphia Daily News—who covered the this story about a month ago—but did not go into too much detail or ask the tough questions.

I discussed my questions at length and hopefully started a ball rolling which will serve to get us some answers.

I'll keep you guys posted on my progress as I continue to recruit help.

Veil Guy


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  #2 (permalink)   IP: 68.2.133.82
Old 2007-07-10
Red Light Ray
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I read your blog regarding red light cameras, Veil Guy. I'm surprised Philly took so long to implement them. I was at the Int'l Assn. of Chiefs of Police conference which, coincidentally, was in Philly in 2003. And on a city street outside the convention center they had an ATS demo system installed. Looked just like your photos.

You asked whether any city has tried engineering solutions to red light running. Good question, being that rampant red light running is always caused by a) roads that are out of capacity, b) yellow lights timed too short or usually, both.

I did an analysis in 2004 of Mesa, Arizona's RLC system and found that by putting RLCs at problem intersections, all they did was increase accidents. Mostly rear-end collisions, the rate increased by an average of 30% at every RLC intersection. (Many of the intersections weren't "problems" with lots of accidents, they were just high-volume.)

To their credit, the city transportation engineers finally lengthened the yellow by one second at an intersection with the most left-turn accidents. Presto. The problem disappeared. Accidents dropped 78% overnight. And stayed there.

They did likewise at the second most troublesome intersection, also a double-left-turn situation, with similar results.

Then they got sued by Lockheed-Martin (now Affiliated Computer Systems), the RLC vendor, because with no more violations, fines (income) dropped to nothing and failed to meet the minimum stiuplated in the contract. So they moved the cameras to a more lucrative location. But the accidents didn't recur.

My mother recently sent me a news clip from Ft. collins, CO where they live, another ATS account but with only one RLC. Last time I was up there I timed the yellow at that intersection. It was 1.5 seconds too short, based on my calculations. So now they've added a second camera. Revenue goes up and the city-engineered problem remains. Smart thinking.
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  #3 (permalink)   IP: 192.168.0.1
Old 2007-07-10
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RLR,

Do you know what the timings were before and after; if timing was a second too short...What do you think of the timing here? At least it appears consistent between each intersection. Whether or not it is sufficient is another issue, though. And agressive driving still appears with regular frequency on the Boulevard, IMO.

The paper, the PDN indicated they did not have the resources to conduct such a follow-on story. I have since contacted an editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer. Perhaps they can conduct a more detailed follow-up story.

A reader of my blog, who lives in Queens, has indicated that he his observing the same kind of dynamic being created at such systems where he lives. I understand that NYC has a ton of these devices.

If Philadelphia is the test-case for the rest of the state of Pennsylvania, then the time is now to get involved and try to make a positive difference.

In Arizona and Colorado, have the citizens of those states/municipalities voiced objections? Or has this stuff been implemented "under the radar" of public scrutiny?

Do you know any details behind the attempted [and later abandoned] RLC implementation in San Diego, California? Did a city/township in Virginia recently go through a similar experience? Does RLC implementation usually segue into speed on green enforcement?

Veil Guy


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  #4 (permalink)   IP: 68.2.133.82
Old 2007-07-11
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I've lived in Colorado and watched how the introduction of automated enforcement is orchestrated. It's the same everywhere.

Once the city has decided to implement automated enforcement, here's the process:

Step 1: The automated enforcement vendors make presentations before the city council. Selling points include a) No cost to city; the violators pay for the program, b) No out-of-pocket costs to the city; the equipment, vehicles (for photo radar), personnel, ticket-processing and issuing of citations are all part of a turnkey package by the vendor. Since all capital items are leased, there are no upfront costs to the city.

Step 2: Plant stories in the local news that speeding and red light-running are growing problems. Cite bogus statistics that support this notion. Don't worry about any reporters asking hard questions such as "Show me the last four years of accident stats and engineering reports that support your contention that we've got a problem." Never happens.

Step 3: Conduct rigged public opinion survey (often paid for by the RLC vendor) that shows similar public sentiment. Feed this to the local media.

Step 4: Once an implementation date is set, make mass mailing to residents extolling the virtues of automated enforcement, answering any FAQ and preparing them for the inevitable.

Step 5: After one week, invite media to RLC or photo radar locations and let them watch the system in action. Reinforce the notion that the violators are plentiful and also are the ones paying for the system, not the taxpayers. (Yeah, that's a contradiction, but what the hell, nobody says local government has to be truthful.)

Step 6: A few months into the program, issue a press release that says accidents and deaths have taken a dramatic plunge since the program began. Even if true, which is never the case, the numbers are meaningless.

It takes a minimum of three years of prior data and three years of post data to make a meaningful before/after comparison. And a comparison should be expressed in fatalities/injuries per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, not in the total number of fatalities and injuries. No other yardstick compares apples to apples. But don't worry; the media won't notice.
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  #5 (permalink)   IP: 66.105.144.9
Old 2007-07-18
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RLR,

Obviously there a lot of facets to this. Would you kindly elaborate on your post and clear up any mis-perceptions I may have about any particular implementations either in Virginia or California or elsewhere.

You've got my undivided attention.

Veil Guy
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