Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Photo Red Means Cash For A Good Cause

Councilman Jon Snyder posted an entry on his blog yesterday concerning photo red traffic enforcement.

This is why Photo Red matters: Recorded evidence is crucial to Spokane’s traffic safety, helping us move forward with design plans and create more efficiency in the enforcement of traffic regulations. Plus, these safety benefits come without having to dedicate extra police resources to enhance traffic enforcement. The ultimate goal is to obey traffic signals and signs and avoid the crashes, injuries, and death caused by red light running.

He includes two video clips of accidents in which bicycles are involved. In the first clip, the driver stops at the red light and proceeds forward to turn right, striking the cyclist entering the crosswalk. Quite likely this driver didn't look right before going forward. I've seen this often as a pedestrian and done it a few times myself as a driver. It's one reason I make sure the driver looks before I step forward into the crosswalk.

In the second clip, you see the car proceeding towards the intersection at what appears to be a high rate of speed and skidding across the intersection until it strikes a vehicle. Then a cyclist emerges from out of view. It's not clear the role of the cyclist other than maybe a near miss.

Mr Snyder continues:

Spokane is one of the only cities in the country where the revenue from photo red is allocated to traffic calming measures in your neighborhoods. Neighborhood councils interested in the money will be able to submit proposals for specific traffic projects. In 2009, the estimated photo red revenue was $103,000. Traffic calming projects will need to be forwarded by the neighborhoods to the city by June of each year for evaluation.

This document outlines the process for which staff and neighborhoods will prioritize the various project proposals. The Office of Neighborhood Services will be working with the neighborhoods to educate them about this process.

Recorded evidence can also be obtained by installing video cameras at intersections to monitor traffic. Recorded evidence is used to show what happened and show fault. You can do what without photo red, but then you'd have to pay for it.

According to the Spokane Police Department, this is the purpose of photo red.

This is a safety program. Automated safety systems have been shown to reduce red-light violations and intersection crashes. Numerous studies throughout the U.S. and worldwide, as well as the experience of many other cities, indicate significant decreases in red-light running violations and collisions after cameras were installed. Often times, a spillover effect results from automated enforcement: other intersections not monitored by automated enforcement also see a decrease in violations and accidents because of the presence of enforcement in other areas of the community.

After more than a year, there has been no decrease in accidents or red light violations. But there is cash. How many neighborhood traffic calming projects can be had for $103,000? I have no idea. At today's costs I suspect it won't go far. But the money is for a good cause and the income appears to be steady, even more so with four more intersections coming on line.

If we're not going to improve traffic safety at these intersections, which is the primary goal of this program, we might as well get something out of it.


Anonymous said...

At least photo red has one benefit: The people who choose to run red lights now have to pay for the privilege to do so!

Sherry said...

Our town has gone roundabout-traffic-circle crazy the last few years. Navigating them takes some getting used to, but crashes in those intersections are pretty slow speed. Many locals' "favorite" is a two-lane-two-stage-figure-eight arrangement that the local paper had a contest to name. Our favorite nominee was the "Double Helix of Death."