November 30, 2004
A relatively new photo radar installation in north Scottsdale has become the top source of speeding tickets — surpassing even a fleet of four vans that operates 20 hours a day, six days a week.
Speeders on Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard at 77th Street received 8,289 citations in September and October, slightly more than half of all photo radar speeding citations issued in that time, according to a Tribune review of photo radar statistics.
The photo radar on Frank Lloyd Wright is a first in the Valley: It operates mid-block, where drivers usually have their foot planted firmly on the gas pedal and are more likely to ignore the speed limit and multiple warning signs.
The numbers aren’t a surprise to those who run the city’s photo enforcement program.
The sprawling Valley makes for long drives, and the wide roads, straight streets and good weather make it too easy for drivers to gun it. The result is a culture of speeding, said Bruce Kalin, who runs the city’s photo enforcement program.
"Speeding is a big part of life here and has been for a long time, so changing that behavior for people who have been doing it so long is going to be a long process," Kalin said.
Kalin said drivers are slowly learning. The equipment snapped photos of 60 offenders an hour when the city switched it on Aug. 23. That’s dropped sharply to slightly more than five an hour.
The Frank Lloyd Wright equipment is part of an aggressive photo radar expansion that includes two new intersections and a study of using the technology on the Pima Freeway segment of Loop 202.
The city has nine permanent photo radar locations and four vans that it sets up at 450 pre-selected locations, running 6 a.m. to 2 a.m.
The city’s photo radar cameras have generated 42,587 tickets from January through October, the most recent numbers available.
That compares with 33,732 for all of 2003.
A review of the city’s photo radar statistics shows just a few spots in the city generate the vast majority of citations.
The numbers are comparable to last year’s at nearly every location, although two spots increased.
Speeding citations rose to as high as 439 a month this year at Scottsdale Road and Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard after damage inpavement sensors was repaired.
Citations were fewer than 100 a month in 2003 and none were issued between January and April this year when the sensors were damaged by construction.
The city also fixed a mistake that possibly resulted in hundreds of drivers getting away with speeding at Pima and Pinnacle Peak roads, said Paul Porell, Scottsdale’s traffic engineering director.
The city had averaged 46 speed citations a month through July, which officials thought was too low.
Officials realized the equipment was calibrated as if the speed limit were 55, but it’s actually 50. Officials reset the equipment and watched citations soar. The site had 346 speeders in August.
Statistics show drivers are far more likely to be cited for $157 speed citations than $185 red light tickets.
The city’s eight intersection locations can detect both violations.
Only at Scottsdale and Thomas roads do red light violations exceed speed infractions.
The most citations this year — 3,816 — are at Scottsdale and Cactus roads.
The numbers don’t show any significant declines in speeding where the equipment has been in place for at least two years.
Though the program’s goal is to reduce speeding, officials say the relatively flat numbers aren’t a sign of failure. Rather, it shows the demand to continue photo radar and educate the public that speeding is a major factor in collisions, Porell said.
"It would be a dereliction of our duty to the traveling public to not continue to be vigilant with our enforcement effort," Porell said. A driver who passes through one of the top spots for tickets said she slows down every time she goes through the Hayden/McCormick roads intersection because of photo radar. Randi Hill, who works at a bar at the intersection, said she suspects the technology makes streets safer.
"I see a lot of people slow down as they get into the intersection," Hill said.
But James Cunningham, who also works at that intersection, said the city should instead hire more officers because there are times when a warning is more appropriate.
Cunningham said he got a ticket for going 12 mph over the limit at Cactus and Scottsdale, early on a Sunday morning while getting coffee and doughnuts.
"I was the only one on the road," Cunningham said. "I wasn’t endangering anyone."