A recent Mesa City Council subcommittee vote could be a harbinger on the fate of the city’s red-light traffic program, which city data indicates has led to a decrease in accidents since its inception.

The red-light cameras, which fall under the auspices of the Mesa Police Department’s photo safety program, were installed in 2006 and are currently deployed in 24 intersections across the city. Of the 24 cameras, 15 take photos of people who speed through intersections during green lights, and the photo safety program also incorporates five fix-speed cameras at Rhodes, Fremont and Brimhall junior highs and Mesa and Skyline high schools and two mobile van units.

At a public safety committee meeting on May 30, vice mayor Alex Finter and councilmember Chris Glover voted to recommend the council not approve the renewal of the contract with camera-operator American Traffic Solutions when it ends in February 2014. The third member of the committee, Dennis Kavanaugh, voted to recommend renewing the contract when it ends.

In an email correspondence, Glover, who said his preference would remain the same if the item is brought to the full council for a vote, preferred to hire additional officers in lieu of renewing the contract, as he said “their presence is more beneficial to the City.”

“I do not believe that a camera can provide the same sort of discretion and common-sense approach that a law enforcement officer can. I think the human element is something that can’t be ignored,” he said.

According to a March article in Time magazine, the number of contracts with red-light camera companies has grown from 155 in 2005 to 689 in 2012, but, as the article notes, the cameras have drawn complaints for unfair practices and potentially increasing the number of accidents in those intersections. A report released by the state of New Jersey in 2012 reported on by the Star Ledger indicated the number of accidents, particularly rear-end, increased at 12 intersections that had the lights installed for at least a year, as did the expenses related to those crashes.

But statistics acquired from the police department and the city between 2007 and 2011 — the last year Mesa has data from the Arizona Department of Transportation — show safety at the intersections with red-light cameras has improved during the program’s existence. According to the MPD, the number of crashes decreased from 538 in 2008 to 297 in 2011, and a majority of the photo-safety violations, approximately 56 percent, were committed by non-Mesa motorists.

Mesa traffic program coordinator Joseph Bonacci added in an email the average speed at the five school zones monitored has dropped by between seven and 10 miles an hour. The latter, he said, has made those school zones safer for students and parents who pick up and drop off their children every school day.

“Why would anyone have a problem with a tool that decreases speeds and crashes?” he asked.

Bonacci’s figures encompass all types of accidents, but do not delineate the rear-end collisions that tend to increase as drivers slam on the brakes to avoid going through a red light. According to numbers provided by the city, however, the number of rear-end collisions at the red-light camera intersections has decreased since the city implemented the program.

In the three years prior to the lights’ installation, covering 2003, 2004 and 2005, the city averaged 171 rear-end collisions at the red-light camera intersections; in the last three years, 2010, 2011 and 2012, the average has dropped by 33 percent to 114 per year.

Not that the red-light cameras are the sole reason for the decreases, as Kavanaugh noted the city has taken additional steps (addition of new turn lanes and the widening of those intersections) as part of a “holistic” approach to traffic issues.

“The cameras are just one part of it,” he said. “We’ve been pretty fortunate in taking the approach we’ve had to these intersections.”

An accusation launched against the program is intent, as critics in Mesa and other cities and states say the purpose of red-light cameras has more to do to earn a profit and less on promoting public safety. A 2012 study conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation indicated the money earned through the red-light cameras slightly outpaces the expense associated with any increase in crashes that are derived from the cameras’ implementation.

While Bonacci said the red-light cameras make enough to support themselves and do not cost the city money in upkeep costs — he said those fees are covered by American Traffic Solutions — Kavanaugh said the program didn’t break even until a couple of years ago.

“We were accused of making it a money maker and we never did,” he said.

The program has also changed its scope since the council renewed the contract with ATS in 2012, as the locations of some of the red-light intersection cameras have moved to school zones and the number of vans has dropped from five to two. The vans are deployed to school zones and to neighborhoods where they are requested.

If the issue does go back to the council for a vote, Kavanaugh said he envisions people venting their anger at the vans he said are unpopular among the public while supporting the other facets of the program.

“There’s pretty good support on the council overall in the use of cameras, especially in school zones,” he said.

Contact writer: (480) 898-5647 or emungenast@evtrib.com

 

(19) comments

AZGamer

"AZLamer: You're a kook."

Call me any juvenile names you want; the fact is that you, by your own admission, deliberately, habitually violate the law. You do so for no better reason that you want to.

That makes you an "illegal".

ViewProfile

AZLamer: You're a kook.

AZGamer

"The part of illegal that I don't understand is 11 million people sneaking into this country and living here illegally "

Pure hypocrisy

"Arrest illegals like them, but not illegals like me."

And an illegal is what you are; you think the law doesn't apply to you, and you can break it whenever you feel like it,

You're every bit as bad as the aliens you despise; worse, because your illegal activity is dangerous.

We need to bring back the speed cameras, and lock up illegals like you.

ViewProfile

AZLamer: The part of illegal that I don't understand is 11 million people sneaking into this country and living here illegally with the prospect of someday being granted amnesty through some sort of "comprehensive immigration" law. And get out of the fast lane, slowpoke.

AZGamer

"ViewProfile": "Yeah, because safely motoring 10 over the limit is SO much worse than entering the country illegally and stealing identities."

Besides being dangerous, speeding is illegal. What part of illegal don't you understand?

Hayburner3

There's a website that has the stats on the Mesa red light cams going back to the beginning. And below the table of stats it lists a number of questions raised by an examination of those stats. The website is highwayrobbery daht net and the stats are on the Mesa page.

ViewProfile

Quote: "illegal is illegal" only seems to apply to the other guy

Yeah, because safely motoring 10 over the limit is SO much worse than entering the country illegally and stealing identities.

AZGamer

"ViewProfile" doesn't have a problem with profiling of Hispanics, as long as his own illegal activity isn't stopped.

It's funny; "illegal is illegal" only seems to apply to the other guy.

Thugnificent

what a camera lacks is judgement. i hope when you have a medical emergency, make a legal right/left hand turn on a red, or a programming error occurs, you get a ticket in the mail.

downtownresident

Thugnificent and dreg,
You are both ignorant of the facts.
And, LEON's right. Cameras don't get sick, don't strike, don't talk on the free cell phone, don't shoot you, don't ask to be paid for putting on their clothes, and generally create SAFER traffic patterns.

Leon Ceniceros

WHAT ARE OUR MESA CITY COUNCILMAN AFRAID OF ???

BEING PHOTOGRAPHED SPEEDING THROUGH A SCHOOL ZONE......RUNNING A RED LIGHT ENDANGERING MESA CITIZENS ????

ARE MESA CITY COUNCILMAN AND THE MAYOR PANDERING FOR THE "POLICE VOTE"...BY MENTIONING THAT MORE MESA PD OFFICERS COULD BE HIRED IF THESE TRAFFIC CAMERAS ARE BLOCKED ???

DO THESE CITY COUNCILMAN AND THE GOOD MAYOR MAKE JUST .........."LIP SERVICE".,...WHEN THEY TALK GRANDLY AT CITY COUNCIL MEETINGS ABOUT ..."PROTECTING MESA CITIZENS" ???

THESE RED LIGHT CAMERAS DON'T REQUIRE A PENSION....DON'T REQUIRE A "CAVIAR RETIREMENT PLAN"....DON'T REQUIRE A DARN DIME FROM THE MESA TAX-PAYER WHO IS STRUGGLING IN THIS "POST-RECESSION" ECONOMY TO MAKE ENDS MEET.

I THINK THE PROBLEM FOR OUR CITY COUNCILMEMBERS AND THE GOOD MAYOR IS SEEING A "WIN-WIN", MONEY GENERATING PROGRAM THAT DOESN'T REQUIRE MESA's BUDGET TAKING ANOTHER HIT OR REQUIRE ANOTHER $100 MILLION DOLLAR BOND OBLIGATION.

THE PROBLEM THAT OUR CITY COUNCILMEMBERS AND THE GOOD MAYOR HAVE IS THAT THIS "RED-LIGHT PROGRAM".....GENERATES MONEY FOR THE MESA TREASURY.

dregstudios

Traffic cameras are just another form of Policing for Profit as Capitalism distorts our Justice System. These companies are bottom-feeders and take a 40% cut of the tickets while creating MORE dangerous intersections by fixing the lengths of yellow lights to entrap drivers. You can read about how private companies and crooked politicians have turned our Police forces on their ear in every attempt to squeeze money out of the general public at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-privatized-police-state.html

Thugnificent

go suck on a crank downtownresident, the cameras are a money grab, plain and simple.

VofReason

If Mesa was truly worried about safety, they wouldn’t allow fireworks to be sold on every corner in this hot and dry climate. Oh I know, they have the cute little signs that tell you that you can only purchase, but not light off- but who are they kidding. Maybe these are similar and just Revenue streams.

ViewProfile

And yeah, I speed, but I haven't had an accident in 30 years of driving.

ViewProfile

< that *is* employed

ViewProfile


Or, the people who don't like the cameras don't like private companies enforcing laws and profiting from how many people they cite, or the lack of due process that employed by these automated revenue stations.

downtownresident

The only people who want to see the cameras go are law breakers and speeders.
KEEP THE CAMERAS and get rid of Glover. He's not smart enough to be on the council anyway. We all know how, and why, he got elected. It had nothing to do with his qualifications.
More to do with religion than experience.

ViewProfile

Down With The Cameras!

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