Citizen Drafts Letter Regarding Red-Light Cameras to Napa City Council

Letter from Citizen Jim to Napa City Council:


Venue:  Napa council meeting 6-17-14, red light camera item

Honorable Mayor and Councilmembers:

Please consider asking staff to address the following things in their eventual report:

a.  The percentage of tickets going to visitors to town.  Why?

Most likely, staff's report will reveal that the huge majority of the tickets are going to visitors.

A March 2013 Napa Valley Register article  http://napavalleyregister.com/news/local/tickets-from-red-light-cameras-leveling-off/article_7eda8ca2-90df-11e2-ad6b-0019bb2963f4.html  said that the figure in Napa is 76%, and in the nine cities discussed in FAQ # 22 on the website http://highwayrobbery.net/redlightcamslinksref.htm#FAQ , visitors ranged from 69% up to 98.5%. 

That's important because operating cameras in an area with high turnover will never stop the running; there's always fresh meat, sorry, new visitors, making mistakes, being distracted or lost (unless you keep them out of the City by installing a dome, like the one they have in Chester's Mill, Maine). And the red light camera business model says it has to be that way because, without a continuing flow of tickets the camera company can't have the continuous flow of revenue it needs.

If a city genuinely wants to minimize running, and accidents, it will do things to make the problematic intersection stand out, look more important. 

Put up more visible signal lights (larger diameter, with bigger backboards, with more of them placed on the "near" side of the wider intersections). 

Paint "signal ahead" on the pavement. 

Install lighted overhead street signs for the cross street (also placed on the "near" side), and larger bulbs in the streetlights at the intersection.

Has the City done any of the above at Jefferson/First where there was a 50% increase in injury accidents (per the Napa Valley Register article linked above)?

Then there is the issue of what to do about rolling right turns.  It is evident from the official Redflex Redlight Offender Statistics (Set # 2 on the Napa page at http://highwayrobbery.net/redlightcamsdocsNapaMain.html ) that many tickets are for right turns.  I submit that if the number and severity of accidents caused by rolling right turns is high and has not declined despite years of photo enforcement, the City should study its records to determine when during the red phase most of those accidents occur and then install "blank out" signs programmed to light up and prohibit right turns during the high risk periods.

b.  The average age (and min/max) of those ticketed, broken down by camera location.  Why is age of interest? 

Those intersections where the age of violators is found to be significantly higher probably need to be made more navigable for older drivers.  Sometimes it can be as simple as lengthening the yellow light.

c.  What does staff do when they cannot determine the name and address of the person shown behind the wheel? 

An article published last week discussed a recent ruling in which the court decried the "ethical miasma" created by some police departments' practice of issuing a red light camera ticket to the registered owner when it is obvious that someone else was driving the car.  http://thenewspaper.com/news/44/4426.asp

d.  No doubt staff's report will include an analysis of accident data.  With all due respect to staff, may I suggest that the statistical analysis be done by a credentialed - and independent of other City ties - professional in the field of statistics?

e.  Based upon what other cities are paying (see FAQ # 17 at the highwayrobbery.net website) the new monthly rent should be $3000 or less, per camera.  If the rent is proposed to be more than that, there needs to be a detailed description of what extras or special services the City will get for the extra money - and why those things are needed.


Sincerely, Jim 

Devon Avery June 17, 2014 at 10:22 AM
Jefferson and First, which you mention as having a 50% increase in red light tickets, would not typically be a place where visitors travel. Yet, your complaint is more visitors are ticketed than locals. These don't match up.
bluecollardoctor June 17, 2014 at 11:43 AM
The fact is that this same technology could be used instead to prevent accidents by delaying the cross traffic direction's change from red to green if someone tries to "beat" the red light. But that doesn't increase revenue.
Paul Woodward, MD June 17, 2014 at 02:17 PM
Some cities pay three times as much as others! In their initial contracts, nearly all California cities agreed to pay about $6000 per camera per month. (California law prohibits cities from paying on a per-ticket basis.) But now many of those initial contracts have expired, giving cities the opportunity to negotiate a lower rate upon renewal. Some cities have negotiated hard, and now pay significantly less than $6000, often less than half! Other cities have agreed to continue paying much more, sometimes close to $6000! Because red light camera contracts can involve multiple cameras over a term of 60 months or more, the penalty to a city for "failure to negotiate" (or failure to read the fine print) can amount to more than a million Dollars. Here are some of those cities, along with the rent they agreed to pay for each camera each month (and, in parentheses, the total they will overpay - compared to a $3000 target rent - during their current renewal period): Napa $4710 ($86,040/year overpayment), http://highwayrobbery.net/redlightcamslinksref.htm#FAQ
Paul Woodward, MD June 17, 2014 at 02:42 PM
Napa should dump the Red-Light cameras because 1. They don’t improve safety 2. They will only irritate our beloved tourist visitors and ultimately cost a lot more than the $150 revenue that goes to Napa City. 3. They create a financial hardship with the ridiculously high fine 4. They certainly don’t fit our image of a progressive and sophisticated area. Here is what other communities are doing…. http://thenewspaper.com/news/44/4426.asp “The photo-enforcement industry is in free fall in California. Once there were more than one hundred municipalities allowing private companies to issue red light camera tickets in the state, but now there are just 43 operational programs left after the city of Laguna Woods decided last week to allow the photo ticketing contract with the troubled Australian vendor Redflex Traffic Systems to expire on June 30, bringing the red light camera casualty list to 62 cities. Since 2005, the Laguna Woods program has issued an average of 2919 citations per year, worth $1.4 million. According to the city, there was no demonstrable safety benefit. "Staff studied incidents over a ten-year period of time (fiscal year 2001-02 through 2010-11) and found that the number of collisions related to signal violations at the two photo enforced intersections fluctuated slightly but did not change in any significant manner after initiation of the red light photo enforcement program," Laguna Woods City Manager Christopher Macon wrote in a memo to the city council.
Navi June 20, 2014 at 12:25 PM
It's a shame when local government uses it resources to treat it's residents and tourists as cash crops like this. Who exactly allowed these cameras to be installed to begin with? The cameras do not make me feel safe and never have. I feel like they are guns being pointed in my direction. Every time I pass one it just gives off a huge vibe of hostility and greed. They're not very friendly things even if you're a law abiding citizen who has never been issued a red light ticket. I can't imagine how many people have been financially ruined by these $400+ tickets. I think you have to pay the full amount upfront to the traffic division at the courthouse before you can even contest. If you can't pay you can't contest and I think the fine even doubles. Imagine all the people barely scraping by in this economy and getting a ticket like this? Shame, shame, shame on Napa. When I visit other cities that have these red light cameras it says a lot about the people in charge of that city and doesn't make me want to go back. I'd rather spare myself the $400+ if it came down to it. Red light ticketing programs are really the equivalent of shooting ducks in a pond. Real classy, Napa. Real classy.


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