By on April 27, 2010

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (R) signed into law last week a proposal that would create an entirely new form of automated ticketing machine, an “airport business” camera. The move followed his approval last month of legislation designed specifically to revive his state’s moribund red light camera program.

Beginning in July, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority will have the authority to hire a private company to operate a photo enforcement system that would mail tickets worth a maximum of $600 each to the owners of vehicles accused of using the Dulles Access Highway while not on “airport business” (view legislation). This fourteen-mile free road is adjacent to a toll route, but is designed solely for the use of people driving to Dulles international Airport or patronizing a nearby hotel and gas station. The authority intends to raise a significant amount of money by accusing motorists of improperly using the road. The airport authority has not explained how it will know whether the road’s users have a legitimate purpose or not, but the law leaves it to ticket recipients to prove their own innocence.

“Proof of a violation of the authority regulation governing the use of the Dulles Access Highway shall be evidenced by information obtained from the photo-monitoring system or automatic vehicle identification system,” House Bill 1295 states. “A summons issued under this section, which describes a vehicle that… is alleged to have been operated in violation of the authority regulation governing usage of the Dulles Access Highway, shall be prima facie evidence that such vehicle was operated in violation of the authority regulation.”

Another law taking effect in July, House Bill 1292, was specifically designed to encourage local jurisdictions to deploy red light cameras. Under a prior law, private photo enforcement firms were not allowed to directly access confidential information in Department of Motor Vehicle databases. The latter provision raised the cost of automated ticketing to the point where the programs would not turn a profit. Although nearly a dozen cities had enacted red light camera ordinances, only Virginia Beach went to the expense of operating a program with police officers handling the DMV information instead of a private contractor.

The city of Alexandria even announced a start date for its red light camera program and had functional cameras installed, but it declined to begin issuing tickets over the DMV provision. As first reported in the Washington Times, Alexandria officials also shortened the duration of the yellow light at the intersection of South Patrick Street and Gibbon Street in anticipation of camera enforcement. According to the Texas Transportation Institute, shortening the yellow at an intersection by one second can increase the number of tickets issued by 110 percent (view study).

In March 1999, the yellow time at the intersection in question was 4.0 seconds. The four-second timing reflected an increase from a prior setting that yielded, according to city officials at the time of the change, a massive drop in the number of tickets.

“At both Patrick/Gibbon and Seminary/Nottingham other factors significantly contributed to steep drops in our rate of red light running,” Mark Canoyer with the Alexandria Police Department wrote in a 2001 email reprinted in a VDOT report. “In the case of Patrick and Gibbon the cause was a retiming of the lights immediately preceding this intersection which had a profound impact. Similarly, the retiming of the yellow phase at Seminary and Nottingham had a dramatic effect.”

Despite the documented safety benefit from the increase, the intersection now has a signal timing lowered to 3.0 seconds — the absolute minimum allowed under federal law. Engineer Robert M. Garbacz certified this timing as appropriate in Alexandria’s February 19, 2008 application to re-start its red light camera ticketing program. VDOT accepted the signal shortening without question. The Virginia General Assembly voted to allow red light cameras in 2007, despite a report from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) that found that use of automated enforcement resulted in a significant increase in injuries and accidents (view study).

A copy of Alexandria’s red light camera application is available in a 625k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Engineering Safety Analysis Template (City of Alexandria, Virginia, 2/19/2008)

[Courtesy: TheNewspaper.com]

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29 Comments on “Virginia Governor Kicks Off Massive Photo Enforcement Expansion...”


  • avatar

    Ironically, his type of thing is a natural outgrowth of conservative mantras about “smaller government” and “no new taxes”. Once you paint yourself into that corner, and realize (belatedly) that you actually have a real state to run, the temptation to to raise revenue via fines and fees is overwhelming.

    • 0 avatar

      More like cannot ever fire any worthless public union members from the bloated state apparatus.

    • 0 avatar
      MattPete

      Pete obviously doesn’t live in Virginia.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      Sounds to me it’s more like a natural outgrowth of the mantra that government needs to do everything short of holding your hand as you cross the street.

      In 2004, Virginia passed the largest tax increase its history. Taxes increased by $1.4 billion in one year. Yet, that increase apparently wasn’t enough.

      So much for the idea that this is the result of the “no new taxes” mantra.

    • 0 avatar
      BDB

      It would be really nice if people would do some research on my state before spouting off talking points. Virginia is a right to work state, unions, even where they exist, have little power or influence.

      The budget is hurting because there’s been a really nasty recession in the past year–recessions cause drops in revenues combined with increased demand for social services. Teachers have been fired, state police officers have had their pensions cut, highway rest stops have been mothballed, state schools have drastically raised their tuitions, and new road projects put on indefinite hold. Even in my city they’ve had to drastically cut back fire fighting services because of state budget crunch (reduced aid from the state government for local services). Also the budgeting process of our state makes these crises seem even worse than they are: we have a part-time legislature so our budgets last two years based on projections. This is just completely insane for a state the size of Virginia, but that could be a whole other topic in and of itself.

      This, like the “abusive driver fees” Tim Kaine tried to put in place (a Democrat, lest anyone think I’m being partisan here) is just an extremely targeted and regressive tax increase coming out sideways. It is becoming impossible in this country to talk about tax policy like adults, instead people (on both sides) just go to their talking points scripts and repeat childish buzzwords, and this is the result.

    • 0 avatar
      MattPete

      This is the same “conservative” governor that just lured Northrop-Grumman to move here with tax breaks — the same Northrop-Grumman that gets a huge chunk (most?) of it’s budget from government contracts.

    • 0 avatar
      BDB

      Hey as long as the feds want to keep a bloated defense budget full of Cold War toys designed to fight an enemy that doesn’t even exist anymore, Virginia may as well milk it for all it’s worth…especially since the M/I complex keeps about half of this state afloat.

      Even aside from the policy debate of how much spending on the military is proper, I’d wish some people would stop pretending defense spending isn’t “really” government spending. This is an example of the kind of nonsense that keeps adult conversations about fiscal policy from happening.

      The scary thing is, if you ask the average voter, they say they want “smaller government” and “low taxes” and then in the same poll say spending on everything except foreign aid and “waste” should be increased.

    • 0 avatar
      Appanage

      It’s Virginia biennial budgeting process that’s in no small part credited with Virginia being named the best run state in the country every time over the last decade.

    • 0 avatar
      BDB

      I chalk up that award more to our great state university system and our proximity to Washington D.C. which attracts a lot of highly educated and talented people from around the country (esp. the Pentagon which attracts a lot of highly-skilled engineers and whatnot). Also no matter what party they are from, all our recent Governors have been committed to retaining our triple AAA bond rating and balancing the books without too many smoke and mirrors.

  • avatar
    rcdickey

    What is the purpose of such comments? Do you think you will change someone’s mind by belittling their opinions or beliefs? I hate the thought of traffic enforcement via cameras but their use isn’t limited to either political party. And it’s obivious it’s mearly a revenue enhancement vehicle rather than really being about safety. I’m not above irritating those opposed to my views on occasion just for the heck of it. At least do it when the subject is primarily from one party or the other. By the way, if we had a smaller government more revenue wouldn’t be needed. Tell us, do you work in a job that benefits society or are you on some type of dole, be it government or some private group such as the ACLU?

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    the absolute minimum allowed under federal law

    For more than the average person would ever need to know about yellow light lengths, look at this from the Federal Highway Administration.

    http://knowledge.fhwa.dot.gov/cops/OpsPublic.nsf/discussionDisplay?Open&id=F0977083E774B217852571CD007322B3&Group=Signals&tab=DISCUSSION

  • avatar
    chonralda

    More and more I dislike VA and if, IF, I were ever to have to relocate to DC area I would avoid VA…

    • 0 avatar
      Appanage

      The more I read comments from people who know nothing about Virginia and base their opinions on a news article, the more joy I get when they say they have no desire to move here.

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    Does anyone know if they changed the law that said the ticket needed to be served in person?

    • 0 avatar
      porschespeed

      Detroit-Iron,

      I think you missed the last 10 years. You are guilty until proven innocent, and in many places you have no right to a jury trial on a photo ticket.

      Didn’t get that ticket in the mail? Don’t worry, you’ll find out next time you get pulled over and learn you either have a bench warrant and/or a suspended license.

      Enjoy the ride, the bail, the fines, and the impound fees.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      This is specific to VA.

      http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/01/117.asp

      The one surviving legal worry actually turns out to be a practical problem, generated by the interaction of the notice provisions in the enabling statute and the Commonwealth’s other service requirements. Because the mere mailing of a ticket without personal service by a law enforcement officer does not constitute sufficient notice under the statute’s own terms, successful enforcement may require personal in-hand service if the accused fails to either pay the penalty or come to court.

  • avatar
    findude

    ” . . . ALLEGED to have been operated in violation . . . SHALL BE prima facie EVIDENCE that such vehicle was operated in violation . . .” (emphasis mine)

    Could someone who has been to law school please explain this to me? It sounds like they are saying that allegations are evidence.

    • 0 avatar
      MidLifeCelica

      I’m not a lawyer, but if allegations are evidence, then Photoshopped boarding passes are acceptable counter-evidence! C’mon, it’s just traffic court – are they really going to follow up on everyone who produces a boarding pass or maybe just a ‘parking receipt’ from the airport parkade in court?

    • 0 avatar
      PartsUnknown

      “prima facie” means roughly “factual on its face”. In other words, in this case, when the camera picks up an alleged violation, that alone is considered sufficient evidence that a violation occurred. There is no higher burden of proof.

    • 0 avatar
      stharward

      In addition to PartsUnknown, “prima facie” evidence indicates “a rebuttable presumption”. That means that if the system flags you as having violated the toll, then it’s assumed that you did in fact violate the toll, and you can be convicted on that evidence alone. But you are allowed to submit evidence against the presumption, such as showing some kind of evidence that you had business at the airport. If you submit evidence, then the case is judged by the merits of the evidence, and in criminal proceedings (such as traffic violations), that typically means the evidence needs to be against you “beyond reasonable doubt”.

  • avatar
    Moparagain

    This is the same governor and attorney general that brought you the glory of “confederate history month” the lawsuit against the EPA denying global warming and of course he is suing the federal government about the recently passed health care bill. At the same time they just passed a bill that allows anyone who can fog a mirror be allowed to carry a concealed weapon anywhere including bars. Yes I live in Virginia for now but i am getting paranoid.

    • 0 avatar
      Appanage

      Thankfully he gets one term whether he corrects course or not. Probably the right fiscal policies for the time we’re in, but it’s a shame that appears to be coming at the expense of quasi stone age social policy.

    • 0 avatar
      N8iveVA

      Moparagain. I know what you mean, i’ve lived here my entire life and i’m not sure what century these two clowns, McDonnell and Cucinelli are living in.

    • 0 avatar
      BDB

      I really, really, don’t want to dislike McDonnell. He seems like a stand-up, nice guy (unlike George Allen) but he keeps doing some really stupid things in social policy. Even Allen (!) mentioned slavery in his Confederate History proclamation.

      However, I utterly despise “the Cooch”. What a loon.

    • 0 avatar
      Appanage

      The Cooch definitely appears incredibly out of touch. Hoping we don’t see McDonnell head down similar roads. It seems the guy won in part because he stayed away from the national right wing line during his campaign.

      We’ve got more than our share of smart, talented, aware people in these parts and I’d doubt the Cucinelli approach is going to capably hold court for long. What we’ve done here is part luck, part hard work, and part great people and without all three of these reflected in the state house we’ll be challenged to stay on top.

  • avatar
    stharward

    One important point that is apparently getting missed (even though it’s in TFA) is that this law is designed to catch toll evaders, not fine people for using the airport road. As it is set up now, the Dulles Access and Toll Road has two sets of lanes in either direction: free lanes that go directly to and from the airport and are clearly marked as “for airport only”, and toll lanes that have other exits for non-airport traffic in northwest Fairfax County and southeast Loudon County.

    However, it is physically possible to take the free section of the Access Road to the airport, and then take some side streets to leave the airport and evade the toll. Toll evasion happens quite frequently, and it’s a kick in the nuts for those of us who use the Toll Road regularly and honestly. Since it isn’t practical to force all incoming/outgoing vehicular traffic to use the Dulles Access Road to enter/leave the airport, the hole can’t be closed by blocking streets. It can only be enforced by fines large enough to deter toll evasion.

    There will probably be some false positives, but if you’re using the Access Road to go to the airport, you’ll have substantiating proof, and if you’re not, you’ll know that you’re clearly committing toll evasion. This isn’t a situation where you’re going to get caught accidentally, or where “everybody does it and they’re just trying to make money off it”.

    Now if they’d just start enforcing the HOV lanes on I-95, I-395, and I-66, I’d be happy.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      Just toll the access road as well. Problem solved. Things generally aren’t that hard, unless cooking up elaborate schemes for making some subsidize others aren’t part of the design objective.

      Heck, better yet; privatize both roads and make them live or die by their own ability to collect fees. Then lease operator rights out to the lowest toll bidder for 1-3 year terms including maintenance requirements. Problem really solved.

      Fat chance a self proclaimed small government governor, who favors revenue raising ticket cameras would figure that one out on his own. Cerebral atrophy is too non specific a condition to lend much hope for that.

  • avatar
    JimC

    I’m one of those people who used to live in Virginia and I moved away.

    Small government vs big government? Here is just one example of dumb (city) government spending- crossing guards for school buses. Yup, pay a crossing guard to stand in the middle of a busy street and hold up a sign to stop traffic (traffic = people on the way to their jobs) so the schoolbuses can pull out of the school parking lot and not have to wait for the traffic light. Brilllllliant.

    • 0 avatar
      Appanage

      Not quite sure how paid crossing guards are specific to Virginia or even prevalent in Virginia, and I’m not sure what any of that has to do with an article about photo ticketing Dulles Toll Road violators. Did you move away because you have something against crossing guards? If so hopefully you find a good ‘crossing guard free’ place to live.

      (And good or bad, for the record, there isn’t a county around me in VA that has crossing guards – might have been helpful when the neighbor girl got hit by a car while using a crosswalk right next to the middle school and right after school.)


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