Red light cameras are coming down in Los Angeles, California after midnight on Sunday. The city council yesterday voted unanimously to drop the program primarily over the county court system’s refusal to enforce unpaid tickets, depriving the city of millions in expected revenue. The council instructed the city attorney to work with American Traffic Solutions (ATS) to decide the cheapest way to remove the systems and process all tickets issued through the end of the month.
“We need to be clear about what we are doing here today with this particular vote,” Councilman Dennis P. Zine said. “I don’t want to give the wrong perception to the public that this program may continue in the future. As I noted, photo red light will be gone in four days. Cameras need to come down immediately to not create a smokescreen to affect the hope that we may turn them back on.”
Last month, the police commission recommended against renewing the automated ticketing contract. Council members split evenly on the issue, and the council’s camera supporters had needed at least a majority to overturn the commission’s decision.
“We need to be honest and transparent with this,” Zine said. “This program did not work as anticipated.”
Motorists who receive a $476 ticket in the mail from ATS within the next few days do not need to pay it. Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officials testifying before the council confirmed that failure to respond to a citation has no affect on credit or driving records. The item will go to the county collections department which will only send a threatening letter and then a follow up letter.
“That’s about the extent of it,” LAPD Lieutenant Ron Katona said.
More vigorous opposition to the program came from council members inspired by Safer Streets LA Executive Director Jay Beeber and Dr. Rhodes Rigsby, mayor of the city of Loma Linda, who argued that engineering improvements were more effective than cameras.
“My main objection to this whole thing is that I believe the same safety can be achieved by signal timing changes,” Councilman Paul Koretz said. “I believe DOT has been pretty resistant to this concept. In budget committee, we found that DOT was not planning on immediately implementing the measure that the council had passed twelve to nothing to change the signal timing on all the signalized intersections [with cameras], plus the additional ones that were identified as more dangerous…. DOT claims it complies with the MUTCD, but the times in the manual are minimums.”
Los Angeles adds about 0.3 seconds to the bare minimum yellow timing, but Loma Linda saw a 92 percent reduction in violations upon adding a full second to the yellow. The pricey photo tickets have been extremely unpopular throughout Los Angeles. Last month, the Northridge East Neighborhood Council voted unanimously to tell the city council to drop photo enforcement. The Sherman Oaks and Valley Alliance neighborhood groups also formally opposed ticketing.
“No longer will motorists in the nation’s second largest city be tagged with $450 photo tickets for driving maneuvers like rolling right turns that have essentially no bearing on traffic safety statistics,” National Motorists Association spokesman Gary Biller said.