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Houston Joins L.A. In Removing Red Light Cameras

Red light camera in Beaverton, Oregon, from Wikipedia

Red light camera in Beaverton, Oregon, from Wikipedia

The citizens of Houston, Texas, have spoken through their elected officials, and red-light cameras within the Houston city limits are now a thing of the past. Houston’s city council voted last week to shut down the cameras, despite the threat of a $25 million lawsuit from camera system provider American Traffic Solutions (ATS).

Houston’s mayor, Annise Parker, called the $25 million in damages sought by ATS “ludicrous,” and declared it illegal for the city to operate the cameras. While they were legal, they were also profitable, raising some $44 million in revenue for Houston between 2006 and 2011.

Houston joins Los Angeles in opposing the cameras, as L.A. deactivated their red-light cameras (also from ATS) at the end of July. Payment of outstanding tickets issued by the Los Angeles red-light cameras is considered voluntary, with no penalties or repercussions for non-payment.

New York City, on the other hand, can’t get enough of the devices. In a recent press interview, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg advised reporters that there would be a red-light camera on every corner if he had his way. Given that New York City raised some $52 million in revenue from red-light cameras last year, its no surprise why the mayor is a strong proponent of systems.

Whether or not the cameras have an effect on driver behavior is the subject of some debate, with camera opponents and fans both claiming data to support their position. Nationally, 69 percent of Americans are in favor of red-light cameras, but our own impromptu surveys seem to indicate otherwise. This much is clear, regardless of your position: the cameras are as much about generating revenue for municipalities as they are about traffic safety and law enforcement.

[The New York Times]
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  1. Once a camera is in and the city is reaping big bux from the poor design of the intersection, they have a financial incentive NOT to fix the design problems. I know of no city that has used the data and video gathered by the cameras to guide a redesign of the intersection. Or even do cheap things like brighter street lighting, better pavement markings, more or larger signal heads, longer yellows. Has your city? Pick an intersection where the camera went in years ago and still issues lots of tickets, and send a public records request to the city, asking for records of the work (or studies) they have done at the intersection since the time the camera went in. Most likely you will get records showing basic maintenance, nothing else.
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