Add Colorado Springs, Colorado to the growing list of cities having second thoughts about the use of red light cameras. On Tuesday, interim Police Chief Pete Carey discussed his intention to drop the year-old program as the contract with vendor American Traffic Solutions (ATS) expires at the end of the year. The mayor, who asked the previous chief to step down, is behind the move.
“The photo red-light enforcement program did not meet our expectations,” Mayor Steve Bach said in a statement. “It is as simple as that. If a safety program can’t be shown to improve safety, it ought to be stopped.”
Thousands of tickets have been issued at four intersections in the city, primarily to those who made a rolling right-hand turn on red. These tickets failed to reduce side impact collisions at those locations, according to the city’s traffic engineering department.
“The jury’s still out whether it’s making those intersections safer,” Carey said on Tuesday. “There’s some preliminary data we’re looking at that indicates — believe it or not — at some of those intersections accidents have gone up.”
There are also financial reasons for the change. The cash-strapped municipality has been restructuring its police department to make operations more efficient, adjusting to a three percent drop in the department budget. Part of the plan involves dumping red light cameras and reassigning the officers dedicated to reviewing photo citations to more important duties.
“When that program was sold to us, it was supposed to be self-sustaining,” Councilman Jan Martin said. “It was not going to cost us anything and that it would actually pay for itself. That’s why it was so attractive.”
Carey said he “sorely needed” the two officers and sergeant who devoted their time (half of his time in the sergeant’s case) in dealing with photo red light issues. He also noted that public opinion against the use of the cameras was a significant factor in the decision. According to a Rasmussen Results poll released Sunday, less than 44 percent of the 1000 adults surveyed supported the use of intersection traffic cameras. This is the first national survey conducted by a group with no financial interest in the use of automated ticketing machines. The finding is consistent with election results that show no photo enforcement program has ever achieved the support of a majority at the ballot box.
Colorado Springs officials hope to keep running photo radar vans, although it is not clear whether ATS will allow that to happen.
“I’m not sure we’ll pull that off with the vendor allowing us to continue without making some other adjustments,” Carey said.