News - September 4, 2013

Menlo renews contract for red-light cameras

City will add a fifth camera at Chilco and Bayfront Expressway.

Menlo renews contract for red-light cameras

By Sandy Brundage

Breaking away from a trend of cities canceling red-light camera programs, the Menlo Park City Council has decided to renew the town's contract and add a fifth red-light camera.

The vote on Aug. 27 was 4-1, with Catherine Carlton dissenting. The five-year contract will allow Menlo Park to keep its current four cameras — mounted at Bayfront Expressway and Willow Road, and the intersections of El Camino Real with Glenwood Avenue and Ravenswood Avenue — and add a fifth at the intersection of Bayfront Expressway and Chilco Street.

During the Aug. 20 meeting, councilwoman Kirsten Keith said that for her, it was about safety. Red-light cameras correlate to a 13 to 29 percent reduction in all types of injuries, she said.

Council members had questioned why Menlo Park should pay more than other California cities that contract with Redflex. Staff said that jurisdictions that had been clients of Redflex for a longer period of time or had less stringent installation requirements were charged less.

However, the vendor did reduce the monthly fee for existing cameras from $5,397 to $4,950. The new camera will cost $6,200 a month.

The council also voted to retain a clause that requires four out of five votes to cancel the contract without cause, until February 2015, at which point the cost of the installation should be fully amortized. It will then revert to a simple majority vote for cancellation.

Councilwoman Carlton said that she wasn't convinced the cameras were worth it. Her research showed that the cameras increased rear-end collisions, and that lengthening yellow lights by fractions of a second seemed more effective.

"These cameras are not providing safety in Menlo Park," she said.

Statistics per intersection compiled by the police department showed zero accidents at El Camino Real and Glenwood Avenue that were attributable to running a red light, one at El Camino Real and Ravenswood Avenue, and six at Bayfront Expressway and Willow Road during the two years prior to installing the cameras in 2008.

After the cameras were installed, the data show two to three accidents resulting from red-light violations at the Bayfront Expressway and Willow Road intersection, and none at the other locations.

The intersection of Chilco Street and Bayfront Expressway had one fatal collision, in 2011, and a total of 20 collisions during the past five years, although it wasn't clear how many accidents were due to red-light violations.

Mayor Peter Ohtaki had asked staff to compile statistics before the Aug. 27 meeting on how many citations were due to drivers turning right against a red light at each monitored intersection.

Police Sgt. Sharon Kaufman said her analysis showed that 9 to 21 percent of the violations resulted from right turns.

Drivers pay $480 for a red-light ticket if the court does not reduce the penalty. Menlo Park gets about $155; the rest goes to the county and state. The staff report calculates that the program nets the city's general fund about $84,000 per year if all the cameras are operational.

Menlo Park's contract with Redflex contains a "cost neutrality" clause that saves the city from paying the $5,000 to $6,000 monthly fee per camera if revenue from citations doesn't cover the cost.

Fifty-five cities in California, including Belmont, Redwood City, Hayward, Emeryville, Union City and San Carlos, have shut down their red-light camera programs for a variety of factors, such as cost and effectiveness.

Councilwoman Carlton noted that some of those cities paid $50,000 to $100,000 to cancel their red-light camera contracts. She urged the Menlo Park council to delay its vote for six months to research the program's effectiveness.

Vice Mayor Ray Mueller asked to include a privacy policy in the contract that states video footage of non-violations will be erased after 30 days, and recordings for cases that do result in a citation be deleted as soon as the legal proceedings finish. The policy also states that only Menlo Park police can access the data.


Posted by ESchortgen, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 3, 2013 at 4:39 pm

Am I reading this correctly - the annual cost for the existing cameras has been $5,397 per month for 4 cameras. That's $21,588 per MONTH or over a quarter of a million dollars per year for these cameras. And the "reduction" in red light related accidents since 2008 has been ONE less accident on El Camino and THREE fewer accidents on Bayfront. It would have been interesting to include ticket revenue from the cameras, to see if this really is "revenue neutral". Because based on the limited info here, it sounds like a very expensive solution to a not very big problem!

Posted by real culprits, a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Sep 3, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Big government at its worst, doing something really stupid. Lengthen the yellow a half second.

There, done.

Ticket bicyclists for running stop signs and lights all the time, if you need revenue. Double the fine if they are wearing more colors than a peacock.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 22, 2014 at 7:47 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Red-light cameras being stopped

Web Link

Red light cameras at Vanowen Street and Balboa Boulevard, Friday, April 22, 2011. (Michael Owen Baker/Staff Photographer)
By Steve Scauzillo, San Gabriel Valley Tribune
POSTED: 01/21/14, 5:34 PM PST |
Red-light camera facts

• Local cities with red-light cameras: Baldwin Park, Beverly Hills, Commerce, Covina, Culver City, West Hollywood, Walnut, Lynwood, Ventura, Cerritos, Oxnard, Highland, Riverside, Metro (MTA at transit line crossings), Hawthorne, Los Alamitos, Montebello, Santa Clarita,

• Cities that have removed or banned red-light cameras: Los Angeles, San Diego, San Bernardino, Pasadena, Long Beach, Glendale, El Monte, Bell Gardens, Corona, Maywood, Escondido, El Cajon, Gardena, Compton, Whittier, Fullerton, Grand Terrace, Upland, Moreno Valley, Lancaster, Murrieta, Los Angeles County (unincorporated), Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, Santa Fe Springs, Montclair, South Gate, Yucaipa, Inglewood (February 2014)

• Number of cities in the United States with cameras: 500

• A.B. 612: Would lengthen yellow light times by an additional second

Red-light cameras — controversial traffic enforcement devices that can ding an unsuspecting motorist for $500 a pop for minor infractions like illegally turning right on red — are slowly fading to black.

Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 22, 2014 at 8:53 am

rather than "fading to black" they need to be switched off. Especially in Menlo Park. They are nothing more than money makers for the city. They add zero to safety and are installed at intersections with no history of red light accidents.

Posted by Mike Keenly, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jan 22, 2014 at 4:06 pm

I'd be interested to know where Councilmember Keith got her data ("Red-light cameras correlate to a 13 to 29 percent reduction in all types of injuries").

I suspect that most Menlo Park residents know at which intersections the cameras are located. For the driver, it then becomes a question of deciding whether to slam on the brakes when the light changes to yellow (possibly initiating a rear-end collision), or speeding up to clear the intersection (creating other potential hazards). Extending the yellow could avoid these unsafe conditions.

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