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Red Light Cameras: A Success Thus Far?

Original post made by Paul Morphy, Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks, on Oct 13, 2008

With all the hyperbole and angst displayed in this forum and elsewhere over the new red light camera installed at Ravenswood and El Camino, I thought I'd share my impressions, having driven through the intersection perhaps 20 times since the cameras "went live" a month or so ago. Based on admittedly anecdotal evidence I'd say the cameras are a success. I seem to see far fewer people brazenly running the red lights at this intersection -- people actually appear to be driving slower, as if anticipating the need to stop on yellow -- and I haven't witnessed any rear-end collisions.

Has anyone else seen or heard about accidents or received any photo tickets at this intersection? Has Big Brother otherwise come knocking?

Paul

Comments (49)

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Posted by Mama Mia
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 15, 2008 at 12:37 pm

I do think fewer people are brazenly running the reds since its been up, but by no means has the behavior been erradicated.

I use this intersection all the time to cross El Camino and I don't care what the nay-sayers claim about these cameras being a cash-cow or Big Brother conspiracy. Every time I see the flash from the camera when an idiot barrels through the intersection on a red, I cheer. The life that camera saves could be my own.


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Posted by Pizza Eater
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Oct 15, 2008 at 1:22 pm

That camera ain't saving your life. It's just photographing your death. But you can cheer, as you head off to meet your maker, that it was captured on film.


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Posted by Harry Nelson Pillsbury
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 15, 2008 at 1:38 pm

Pizza Eater is bitter because no one has yet died in a rear-end crash, one directly attributable to the red light cameras. The rest of us are merely thankful the cameras seem to have calmed traffic at the intersection. And "film," Pizza Eater? How quaint.

Harry


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Posted by Just Wondering
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Oct 15, 2008 at 7:24 pm

Let's spin this around the other way:
When was the last time you saw a crash at this intersection - for any reason? I've NEVER seen one and I've gone through there hundreds if not thousands of times.
And how many tickets have been issued so far (that should be public knowledge - hint, hint, Almanac reporters) and how much $$$ does that represent going to the firm that operates this Big Brother system?


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Posted by Frank Marshall
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 16, 2008 at 9:36 am

Just Wondering wrote:

"When was the last time you saw a crash at this intersection - for any reason? I've NEVER seen one and I've gone through there hundreds if not thousands of times."

I've seen two accidents at this intersection in the past three years, one of them serious, and I know there have been well more than that number. The Menlo Park Police can no doubt provide complete accident data, probably the place you should have started before intimating inanely that the possibility of accidents at this location is all but negligible.

Frank


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Posted by Careful driver
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Oct 16, 2008 at 9:54 am

There were two fatalities in two difference accidents at this intersection a few years ago. Both were pedestrians. The main problem with that intersection is the fact that people make right turns on red from the dedicated northbound El Camino turn lane onto Ravenswood. As I recall, this was the major contributing factor in both deaths.

Every time I drive east on Menlo/Ravenswood, I worry that a car is going to pop out from that right turn lane on El Camino and nail me. Right turns on red should not be allowed at that particular corner, and why they have not been prohibited I do not know.


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Posted by Mama Mia
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 16, 2008 at 4:02 pm

Thankfully, I've never been T-boned by a red-light runner, but I know plenty of people who have, including my husband. If you're lucky, you'll only lose your car.

Since we don't hang people for running red lights, the only deterrent (besides common sense and consideration for human life) is expensive traffic tickets. This delivers many more expensive traffic tickets at far less cost to taxpayers (cops are not cheap).

Many drivers will break any law they can get away with, and they'll obey the ones that cost them money. It's that simple.


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Posted by Franken Furter
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 17, 2008 at 10:15 am

I saw a man the other day at the Ravenswood and El Camino intersection. He standing on the sidewalk and knocking two wooden sticks together. "Why are you doing that?" I enquired. "I am scaring the tigers away" he replied. "There are no tigers in Menlo Park" I told him.

"See, its working" he proudly exclaimed. Just like that red light camera.


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Posted by Frank Marshall
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 17, 2008 at 11:40 am

Ah, yes, Mr. Furter, but how much must the city of Menlo Park pay this (union) employee to knock those sticks together?

Frank


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Posted by Still Waiting
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Oct 17, 2008 at 6:47 pm

Careful:
"There were two fatalities in two difference accidents at this intersection a few years ago. Both were pedestrians. The main problem with that intersection is the fact that people make right turns on red from the dedicated northbound El Camino turn lane onto Ravenswood. As I recall, this was the major contributing factor in both deaths."

Sad to hear, but guess what: Those red light cameras don't address "right turns on red" situations.

Thus, I'm still waiting to hear of the "problem" that these "Big Brother" systems are supposedly fixing.


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Posted by Give me a break
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 17, 2008 at 7:55 pm

I saw a list of dangerous intersections on the Peninsula and this one doesn't even register. As I recall the most dangerous intersection in our area is the intersection of Sand Hill Road and Alpine Road.

We had a near accident on our side road the other day when someone ran a stop sign and almost crashed into another car. As I recall this resulted in a fatality in the last ten years. Do ya think we can get a redlight installed in our neighborhood with a camera.

Naaaah, not enough revenue for those greedy pigs at city hall and the company installing those cameras. No chance.


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Posted by get a grip
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Oct 18, 2008 at 12:57 pm

So how about a geography lesson "Give me a break"? Last I checked, the intersection you mention is not within the city limits of Menlo Park. Maybe you're not trying to communicate to the right "city hall."


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Posted by Give me a break
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 18, 2008 at 3:44 pm

Sorry if I offended your "Get a Grip" unless you are a greedy pig from City Hall. The list I cited was of dangerous intersections on the entire Peninsula, not Menlo Park, and as I wrote, the nearest dangerous intersection to Menlo Park was up by Sand Hill Road.

So just to clarify, for those in need of a "reading AND comprehension" lesson, there are NO dangerous intersections in Menlo Park, as defined by numerous injuries and fatalities. I haven't seen a list that uses "near misses" as a criteria, but if you have one out there, I would be glad to check it out.

Let us be clear. These red light cameras have very little to do about safety and EVERYTHING to do about generating revenue on the back of the citizens. This applies to red light cameras all over the USA, and if you want to read the studies that conclude this, feel free to pull up the previous thread on this site for Red Light Cameras in Menlo Park. Many readers listed extensive studies showing that these cameras don't save lives, they generate revenue.

Now some of you may be scratching your heads and wondering, how can it be? Its like Frankenfurter wrote above, just because someone is smacking sticks together at the intersection, and explaining it will scare tigers away, and you notice no tigers, some might not understand that there is no link or causality. Yes Virginia there are no tigers in Menlo Park and never have been. The same for this intersection we are writing about. It has never been a dangerous intersection (defined by number of injuries and deaths) and it is primarily a source of revenue for drivers that do make a right on red, without coming to a complete stop.

Yes, driving over 65 on the highway is a ticketing offense, and not making a complete stop at the light before turning red, is also a ticketing offense that the camera will register. Can you be driving safely at 66 mph? Yes. Can you safely make a right turn on red, with no traffic in the area, by making a rolling stop? Yes. Will Menlo Park fine you at this intersection for making a rolling stop and then right on red? Yes. Hence, the cameras.

Have they made this intersection safer? NO. It was never a dangerous intersection. The purpose of the camera is to generate revenue, and to hassle the Menlo Park citizen. This camera will stay in place as long as it brings in a profit. When it fails to make a profit, it will go. I give it about 12 to 24 months time before it goes away.

For you greedy pigs at city hall, shame on you for coming up with another petty means of annoying your citizens. This lowers our quality of life, and the job of city hall is to raise the quality of life of the citizens here. Greedy pigs, is too kind a description for people like that.


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Posted by Richard
a resident of another community
on Oct 19, 2008 at 7:54 pm

I disagree that it is ever safe to make a "rolling right turn on red". I agree that you can get away with it without injuring anyone once, 10 times, 50 times, but that doesn't make it safe. It just means you have been lucky, and eventually your luck will run out. If you drive the wrong way on the freeway and survive, would you conclude that it is safe to do so? No, you were just lucky. If you roll through right turns on red enough times you will get sloppy, and that will be your default behavior unless you see something that forces you to stop. Too many drivers have become sloppy in this manner, rolling through right turns and stop signs. Then eventually there is a pedestrian in the crosswalk that they don't see because they are not looking carefully or are distracted by something else, and their luck runs out and they injure or kill someone. The drivers don't understand what happened because they did what they have been doing every time, and they thought it was "safe". Their only defense is a pathetic "I didn't see him". The fact is that this is a predctable consequence of bad decisions and sloppy driving. The only question is when it will hurt someone, not if. Rolling through a red light or stop sign is never safe, because it leads to the development of bad habits that will eventually injure someone. If you fastidiously come to a complete stop behind the limit line at every red light and stop sign, even when "there is nobody around", you will have good habits that will help you to prevent crashes even in those cases when you have a last minute surprise. Unfortunately, far too few people understand this. A behavior can be considered safe if it results in no injury when everyone executes that behavior all the time. Rolling through stop signs and right turns on a red light do not qualify under that definition and that is why they are illegal.


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Posted by Give me a break
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 19, 2008 at 8:35 pm

Richard is absolutely right. It is much safer to come to a complete stop and then make a right turn. It is also much safer to drive below the speed limit, and it is absolutely much safer to hold onto the handle bars when going up and down stairs. As a matter of fact it is also safer to wear a bike helmet when going up and down stairs just in case you fall down.

It is also safer to walk than to drive. I agree that you can avoid an accident in your car, one, 10 times, 50 times, but that doesn't make it safe. It just means that you have been lucky. One day you will get in an accident in your car, and this will prove that driving your car is unsafe. Driving your car leads to bad habits, that will result in you having a car accident some time in your life. Driving the speed limit is safer than driving above the speed limit and that is why it is illegal to drive faster than the posted limit anywhere. If you fastidiously drive the speed limit and obey all traffic laws, then you will reduce the chances of an accident.

Unfortunately you will still have to drive defensively, because 99% of the populace do not obey every traffic law. These people pose a threat to you. If you drive perfectly you will never have an accident. Driving perfectly includes driving defensively. People that are not perfect drivers or break traffic laws, especially those rolling stops, are not as safe drivers as those that obey all traffic laws.

For those perfect drivers, I sympathize with you and the frustration you must feel with sharing the road with the other 99% of drivers. It must keep one up at night, reliving all those times they didn't use their signal when shifting lanes or turning, and all those times they passed you on the highway driving faster than the posted speed limit. Life is so hard, and you have our sympathy.


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Posted by Still Smells Like A Scam
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 19, 2008 at 10:23 pm

The key thing to keep in mind here, is this:
Those cameras are NOT there to catch drivers either rolling through stop SIGNS or rolling through a right hand turn.
They are there for red light runners (cars either going straight or making a left hand turn that go through a red LIGHT).

From a pedestrian safety standpoint, the first two (stop signs and right hand turns) are the major concerns by far and those cameras do NOTHING to address that.

And as far as red light runners (straight or left hand turn), they are mainly a concern to other cars that may enter an intersection at the same time. Pedestrian incidents are rare in such situations. And, indeed, such red light running accidents are rare overall, compared to the ones that occur when someone rolls through a stop sign or a right hand turn.

So, we have a system that doesn't address the really dangerous (and much more common) situations - but it is one that can cha-ching up mucho denaro for the city and the outfit putting them in. The American way at work, I guess.


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Posted by wondering
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Oct 19, 2008 at 10:54 pm

Does anyone else wonder if red light cameras were installed because of the death of David Halberstam? Whether or not they're making money for the city (they're for sure making money for the company that rents them to Menlo Park), I wonder if the city faced political pressure to "do something" after the fatal accident on the Willow Expressway.

Any insiders have the scoop?


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Posted by Walter Browne
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 21, 2008 at 11:36 am

"Give me a break" outgassed:

"For you greedy pigs at city hall, shame on you for coming up with another petty means of annoying your citizens. This lowers our quality of life, and the job of city hall is to raise the quality of life of the citizens here. Greedy pigs, is too kind a description for people like that."

I see where you're taking this FUD of yours, and I fully expect an impassioned plea to "Get the U.S. out of the U.N." will soon follow, John Birch Society member that you clearly are. Where are the sneaky communists hiding in all this?! Quality of life, my arse!

It continues to amaze that law-abiding citizens would have any issue with these cameras. If you truly believe they are an invasive step down the slippery slope to a love fest with Big Brother you need to retreat further into your hole and refrain from participating in forums such as these, because your posts may one day be tracked to your computer by those scary if nebulous agents who are responsible for the cameras themselves.

Leave the cameras up for six months or a year. If they prove to cause more serious accidents than they prevent then remove them. The only people who suffer during that time are the self-important jerks who can't slow for an amber light, and the future litigants whom they crash into.

Walter


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Posted by Take 'Em Out
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 22, 2008 at 10:07 am

Walter:
"If they prove to cause more serious accidents than they prevent then remove them."

You missed the point: There have NOT been any serious red-light running accidents to begin with (with the exception of the Halberstam one way out on the Willow Expressway). Thus, these things are there to raise $$$, not reduce accidents!

I can support the camera out there on the Willow Expressway, where you can see the need for one as it is a highway-type (high speed)situation, but the other ones that have been installed on just regular city streets have NO justification for there installation.


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Posted by Walter Browne
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 22, 2008 at 1:34 pm

Take 'Em Out states:

"You missed the point: There have NOT been any serious red-light running accidents to begin with (with the exception of the Halberstam one way out on the Willow Expressway). Thus, these things are there to raise $$$, not reduce accidents!"

At least two different people in this thread claim to have witnessed serious accidents at El Camino and Ravenswood in the recent past. I personally have witnessed extraordinarily dangerous driving behavior related to red light running at that intersection, most notably by drivers of delivery vans and trucks. So, who's the final arbiter of "serious accidents" and their frequency? If someone is prepared to state categorically that El Camino and Ravenswood is a safe intersection, they better have plenty of recent data to back that up, and I haven't seen that data in this (or any other Almanac) thread. Is there a lack of data suggesting the intersection *is* dangerous? Perhaps, but this Menlo Park resident's experience suggests without question there is a danger. Your experience may differ, of course.

Walter


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Posted by Oh Happy Day
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 22, 2008 at 4:15 pm

"I saw a list of dangerous intersections on the Peninsula and this one doesn't even register. As I recall the most dangerous intersection in our area is the intersection of Sand Hill Road and Alpine Road."

A list of dangerous intersections (defined by number of fatalities over the past 5 years) was published by the SF Chronicle about 6 months ago. Nothing in Menlo Park. Near misses don't count except with handgrenades and horse shoes. Look up the link yourself.

I think a high number of fatal accidents is a pretty good reason to relook traffic control at an intersection. The cameras at Ravenswood and El Camino are there strictly for revenue.

My experience suggests there is nothing dangerous about this intersection, and the lack of discussion in this Forum about this intersection prior to the installation of cameras would tend to support that.




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Posted by Walter Browne
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 22, 2008 at 4:54 pm

"Oh Happy Day" first states:

-- "A list of dangerous intersections (defined by number of fatalities over the past 5 years) was published by the SF Chronicle about 6 months ago. Nothing in Menlo Park. Near misses don't count except with handgrenades and horse shoes. Look up the link yourself."

So inclusion in this list is the agreed-upon metric for classifying an intersection as dangerous? That is, if El Camino and Ravenswood doesn't suffer the number of fatalities as that found at Market and Choose-Your-Cross-Street in downtown San Francisco then the former holds no claim to dangerous? Has a more questionable notion been expressed in these forums this year?

And then:

-- "My experience suggests there is nothing dangerous about this intersection, and the lack of discussion in this Forum about this intersection prior to the installation of cameras would tend to support that."

Your experience differs greatly from mine and from that of at least two other people in this very thread. Why don't you let us know what your definition of dangerous is, how many accidents or fatalities per year are required before an intersection makes your grade? As a frequent driver, pedestrian, and cyclist at this intersection and as a parent with small children who will someday cross El Camino and Ravenswood on their way to Hillview School, I believe you couldn't be more wrong.

Walter


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Posted by Oh Happy Day
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 22, 2008 at 8:59 pm

"I believe you couldn't be more wrong."

Opinions are like . . . - everyone has one, and everyone thinks everybody elses stinks. : )

Doing a little rudimentary homework here. Menlo Park has averaged about 2 traffic fatalities a year in the last decade.

Web Link

And they haven't taken place downtown, but rather on Bay Shore Highway and other high speed avenues. There all types of wonderful calculators and maps on the internet that show us where dangerous intersections are on the Peninsula, how many accidents took place there, where bicyclists get hit most often etc.

Ravenswood and El Camino don't make those dangerous intersection lists. Most of the dangerous intersections in our area are at train crossings and highspeed venues like Highway 101. Once again, we don't have to take anybodys word for it, we can just look it up.

Could you enlighten us with some facts on why you define this intersection as dangerous?


"as a parent with small children "

You've got small children at your age? I guess those boys can swim. :)





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Posted by Walter Browne
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 22, 2008 at 9:58 pm

Happy Day states:

"Doing a little rudimentary homework here. Menlo Park has averaged about 2 traffic fatalities a year in the last decade."

I like the way you round 2.6 down to 2, and how the last two years for which your linked page has data show 5 and 3 fatalities. But, again, you seem to obsess about fatalities, as if they're the chief metric for measuring intersection danger. My observation that the El Camino and Ravenswood intersection is dangerous would seem to be backed up by the Menlo Park Police Department. From their Red Light Photo Enforcement page found at Web Link there is the snippet below. If you disagree with the MPPD's assessment that El Camino-Ravenswood is a "high-risk intersection" then, by all means, enlighten us, but please don't deflect with the tired premise that the MPPD is on the take or is otherwise conspiring to subvert your civil rights.

Walter

----------
In recent data collected, red light running has contributed to 20% of major injury collisions and 17% of fatality collisions in Menlo Park. The Office of Traffic Safety collision rankings show Menlo Park to be ranked 11 out of 97 cities for speed related injury collisions within our population group.

The following four high-risk intersections were selected for Menlo Park's Red Light Photo Enforcement Program:

* Bayfront Expressway at Willow Road
* El Camino Real and Ravenswood Avenue
* El Camino Real and Valparaiso Avenue
* Sand Hill Road At SLAC

Drivers who fail to stop for red lights cause 260,000 collisions per year in the United States. As a result, nearly a thousand people per year are killed, thousands more injured, and hundreds of billions of dollars are lost due to property damage and lost work productivity (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety). The estimated cost in California alone is more than twenty billion dollars. Surveys reveal that two out of three drivers witness other drivers run red lights on a daily basis.


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Posted by Oh Happy Day
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 22, 2008 at 11:36 pm

Walter was unaware that I have in my possession, a memo sent out from the police department to our city council, that explains everything. Although this memo was meant for council members eyes only, Walter's deep internet research (official city hall webpage) on this issue and keen analysis of the facts, force me to release this for public consumption.

Dear Menlo Park Council Members,

Some of you have written to me and indicated you are a bit nervous about authorizing the installation of red light cameras in downtown Menlo Park, to help generate revenue for our cash-strapped city. I know it is an election year, but I want to assure you, that we will be able to justify this action and I wanted to provide you with these talking points. They are also available on our website.

In recent data collected (as of yesterday) on the Ravenswood-El Camino intersection, red light running has contributed to 0% of major injury collisions and 0% of fatality collisions in Menlo Park. However, since we have Highway 101 and the Highway 84 running through our city we will be able to cite numerous high speed accidents (from the past decade) on the highways to justify the installation of red light cameras in our town.

Make sure you mention that the Office of Traffic Safety collision rankings show Menlo Park to be ranked 11 out of 97 cities for speed related injury collisions within our population group. Although most of these cities we measured ourselves against did not have two major highways running through them, like Menlo Park (all of our cited accidents took place on the highways), we will be able to use these statistics to justify setting up red light cameras in downtown Menlo Park, since many of our citizens are gullible enough to accept our percentages and statistics without question.

Since each camera costs $6350 to install and Menlo Park gets $155 for each ticket, we only need to ticket 41 cars to pay for each camera. The profits we will make from these four cameras will contribute to keeping the city budget in the black.

If you need any further statistics or percentages to support our use of red light cameras, please do not hesitate to let us know. We prefer to use percentages, vague time periods (such as "recently"), and not cite specific locations of the accidents to maintain the illusion that traffic in downtown Menlo Park resembles Deathrace 2000 conditions.

Please refer to the intersections where we have installed red light cameras as "high risk intersections" in all future correspondence and public web pages. We have discovered the hard way that our city has a high number of senior citizens, that have some internet skills, but fortunately suffer from senior moments when it comes to hard data, percentages and detecting double talk. Lucky for us.

Here's to a bountiful surplus for the city budget,

All the best,

Original Signed

Heh!


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Posted by Walter Browne
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 23, 2008 at 10:00 am

Happy Day's flaccid attempt at humor betrays yet another conspiracy-minded obsessive who believes the local police and city government are *necessarily* in collusion with the single-minded purpose of fleecing law-breaking citizens of their hard-earned coin in order to fatten city coffers and channel secret funds to communist sympathizers in Uzbekistan. You're in good company in this forum, HD (I'd like to give a Palin-style shout-out to all the John Birchers and Libertarians out there, the Real Americans), but let's get back to the point of this thread.

Your view that El Camino-Ravenswood is not a dangerous intersection differs from that of the Menlo Park Police Department. If you honestly believe that department is engaged in unethical or possibly illegal behavior come right out and say so -- don't hide behind sophomoric attempts at humor (and an anonymous user name). If you have specific data that contradicts the MPPD assessment that El Camino-Ravenswood is dangerous I'd like to see it (and not seeing the intersection in the "Bay Area's Most Dangerous" list is proof of nothing in terms of the question asked here).

Walter


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Posted by Take 'Em Out!
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 23, 2008 at 10:20 am

Walter:

Oh Happy Day was "spot on" as far as I'm concerned. That MPPD piece you cite is nothing more than spin - using % in place of actual numbers (because the actual numbers are so low), putting us in an apples-vs-oranges comparison with cities with no high-speed roads so that we rank high on the list and then citing national and state statistics (i.e., huge numbers) in an effort to scare us to death! Let me tell you, John McCain is jealous of the ampount of spin incorporated into into that piece!

Now, I'm not objecting to the use of the cameras IN APPROPRIATE SITUATIONS, but, other than Bayfront Expressway at Willow Road, they are NOT appropriate situations, particularly the two on El Camino, which are no more than mere money makers for both the city and the camera installers, no ifs, ands, or buts about it!




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Posted by Walter Browne
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 23, 2008 at 10:36 am

Take 'Em Out!, you seem to have made a comprehensive study of the MPPD material that justifies installation of the red light cameras. Can you share that study with us? Happy Day will be sharing his/her in-depth analysis with us, as well, and it would be nice to cross-check the two studies for correlation and the like.

In the meantime, if we assume for a second that you and HD are correct in proclaiming the true purpose of these cameras, what's wrong with fattening city coffers at the expense of flagrant law-breakers? This assumes, of course, that light and camera timing have not been altered to unfairly snare the innocent or would-be innocent. Assuming these cameras are operating "fairly," what's the difference between being ticketed by a police officer and by a camera? Is the officer any more or less fallible than the camera? The cameras themselves don't have agendas or hold grudges, of course. Sincerely,

Walter


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Posted by Oh Happy Day
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 23, 2008 at 11:49 am

Ahh, the drip drip of facts is having an adverse effect on the rantings and ravings of guileless seniors that swallow city hall press releases in whole.

They are poodles and lapdogs with limited computer skills, but just enough to link to city hall's homepage, but not enough to seek the truth using a search engine. "Feed me, feed me, show me, show me" they helplessly cry.

They are linked to hard data that Menlo Park has averaged 2 fatalities a year over the past decade, despite having two major highways running through town. To aid the simple minded, the data base highlights cities showing a dangerous increase in traffic trends in purple. Even this color-coded aid escapes the dimwit who protests "your linked page has data show 5 and 3 fatalities" over the past decade. Uhhh, the data shows a decrease over the last two years, dummy. That is good,. . . good boy, not bad.

They are shown the financial breakdowns on the redlight cameras and what obscene money makers they are. "Its ok, its ok, its patriotic to pay these high traffic fines" they cry. Oink, oink, piggy, piggy.

They are directed to listing of the most dangerous intersections on the peninsula, databases of all types of automobile accidents on the peninsula which conclusively show that El Camino and Ravenswood are safe intersections. "That's no proof, you have to prove a negative" they cry. "The city hall website says so" they parrot.

They are linked to study after study concluding that red light cameras cause more accidents than they prevent and that their primary purpose is to generate revenue and lower the quality of life of their citizens. "It was written by commies, in Uzbekistan, that are against the United Nations" they cry. LOL

What do these feeble minded ones roll out. "I was almost run over on that intersection while crossing the street when the DO NOY CROSS signal was on over 5 years ago", and other anecdotal stories.

John Birchers and cheese eating surrender monkeys indeed.

Walter, you smell like those greedy pigs in city hall.

You sincerely stink.


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Posted by Walter Browne
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 23, 2008 at 12:15 pm

Not-So-Happy-Day's "drip drip of facts" must be dropping in some other thread, for all s/he's added to this discussion is hyperbole and invective aimed at Seniors (I'm in my 40s and have worked in high tech for twenty years, if that helps you focus your anger). Seriously, show me data that contradicts the MPPD assertion that El Camino-Ravenswood is dangerous and I'll pledge $100 to your local John Birch Society chapter. Failing that, your sorry attempts at humor and unwarranted attacks on seniors make the case solely for your own ignorance.

Walter


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Posted by Take 'Em Out!
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 23, 2008 at 1:34 pm

Walter:
"Seriously, show me data that contradicts the MPPD assertion that El Camino-Ravenswood is dangerous."

No, Walt, it don't work that way!
MPPD needs to back up its assertation (and that is indeed the perfect word here - "assertation") that that intersection is "dangerous", especially in comparison to other intersections.

Let's take, for example, the El Camino and Embarcadero intersection at the entrance to Stanford. Now there's no way in you-know-what that the Ravenswood intersection is anywhere near as dangerous than that one - yet no cameras are there (yes, I know, it's Palo Alto and not MP, but c'mon - if that intersection was really dangerous, you know that PA would have installed cameras there a long time ago).

Given the tone and content of your letters (focusing on Ravenswood), let's face it - you're just a NIMBY-in-reverse, Walt, you just want cameras there at YOUR personal intersection (Ravenswood). That's all.

And as far as your comment:
"what's wrong with fattening city coffers at the expense of flagrant law-breakers?"

OK- stealing from earlier commenters, then let's put up "speeding enforcement cameras" on EVERY street (especially the 25 MPH streets) and ticket everyone going above the posted speed limit (26 in a 25 zone: $300 fine).
We'd then have money coming out of you-know-where and could build a brand new gym PLUS auditorium just from the fines.
Still got your OK now, Walt?


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Posted by Menlo Park City Council
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 23, 2008 at 2:44 pm

Dear Wally,

The following proclamation is registered in the City Hall docket:

We would like to thank Walter Browne for his dedicated service in defense of City Hall policies. Walter is truly one of a kind, and will let no fact get in the way of his undying support for our bureaucracy.

A proud member of the John Birch Society, a true senior citizen in every sense of the word, we are proud that in this immigrant from Uzbekistan, we have a true blue Menlo Park patriot.

The Menlo Park Police Department and Menlo Park City Hall proudly proclaim today, 23 October 2008 WALLY DAY, in honor of one of the cities finest seniors. In addition to this proclamation, we will be sending you a special license plate frame and wallet badge to let everyone know how much we appreciate your support for our Red Light Camera policy (in case you are ever stopped by our police).

The money we earn from these cameras will soon be put to good use to increase the surveillance of other dangerous intersections to keep you safe.

Thank you Wally,

Original Signed


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Posted by Take 'Em Out!
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 23, 2008 at 3:34 pm

Darn,

Shouldn't I get something from the Council for the "speeding camera enforcement" idea (never mind that I stole it from someone else - finders keepers, after all!). That idea will rake in a LOT more money than these red-light cameras!

Just send the kickback check to S. Palin, c/o Alaska Governor's Office, Juneau, AK.

Thanks!


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Posted by Walter Browne
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 23, 2008 at 3:53 pm

Oh Crufty Day wrote:

"The following proclamation is registered in the City Hall docket...."

And we laughed until we stopped. You'll need to kick the "humor" up a goodly notch or two if you hope to deflect away from the issue here, but I suppose we've reached the end of the discussion when one party is reduced to parroting the other's jokes (John Birch, etc.).

Take 'Em Out! also proclaimed:

"No, Walt, it don't work that way! MPPD needs to back up its assertation (and that is indeed the perfect word here - "assertation") that that intersection is "dangerous", especially in comparison to other intersections."

Let's see, MPPD holds a position about the safety of an intersection, one I and the city council happen to agree with, and we support the red light camera status quo. You, on the other hand, wish to see the cameras removed, you oppose the status quo. Who, then, should present a factual case about the dangers (or lack thereof) found at this intersection? If you truly care about the issue so deeply you might consider doing some research and, if it backs up your position, present it coherently and succinctly in this forum and to the city council and police department.

Honestly, the considerable time you, others, and especially Crufty Day have wasted railing away ineffectively in this forum might have been better spent reading (and debunking) the relevant reports that led to camera installation in the first place. If you make a solid case for camera removal and actually make it happen I'll sing your praises as loud as anyone, Menlo Park's Erin Brockovich that you surely are.

Take 'Em Out added:

"OK- stealing from earlier commenters, then let's put up "speeding enforcement cameras" on EVERY street (especially the 25 MPH streets) and ticket everyone going above the posted speed limit (26 in a 25 zone: $300 fine)."

I love this idea -- how do we get the ball (or camera) rolling?

Walter


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Posted by Sharon Duvall
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 23, 2008 at 4:19 pm

I've learned alot about this issue reading from eveyone's posts.

I also consider the city's justification for installing the cameras to be debunked.

It appears there is a lone poster that probably works in city hall that fails to realize that installing the cameras changed the status quo, and should be justified.

Those calling for a return to the status quo seem to have made a solid case for me.

What is the name of the person who was responsible for the installation of these cameras? I would like to hear from him/her about this decision. We do have an election coming up.

I enjoy reading this forum and find it very informative. If others consider it a waste of time, they should not frequent it.


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Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on Oct 24, 2008 at 8:24 am

The San Jose Mercury News recently had an article on red light cameras that was more balanced than anything you will find here. The conclusion is that the jury is still out. I recommend that everyone read that article before making up their mind.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 24, 2008 at 8:43 am

I thought our community wants to promote alternatives to cars because that's better for the climate, planet, and our health. The more pedestrians and bikers we have, the more likely there will be problems when car drivers barrel through intersections. Just yesterday, 2 sailed through the intersection of El Camino and Middle headed south - after the light had turned green for those on Middle. I shudder to think what would happen when the new bike tunnel is built, and we have a lot of kids crossing there. Cars win such collisions.
If you don't want to pay a fine, slow down when the light turns yellow (like we were taught) and don't go through red lights. It's really quite simple.


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Posted by Take 'Em Out
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 24, 2008 at 11:38 am

To Walter and others:

The red-light camera systems were approved by - you guessed it - the previous City Council regime - you know, the one that was SO open and transparent, NEVER sneaky about things, and would NEVER try to have private entities take over public facilities/land/duties (such as the pool and daycare center, the proposed golf course at Bayfront Park, these cameras). That says an awful lot right there.

And Walter, the "status quo" is no such cameras - the vast majority of cities, towns, etc. in the Bay Area, California and nationally is NO CAMERAS.

Here's what I think happened:
MPPD said "you know, cameras on Bayfront Expressway and Sand Hill Road sound good, let's put them in", but then the greedy camera guys said "no can do, we need to make tons of money, we want them on high-traffic El Camino as well to pick up a ton of cheap tickets."
So that was the political compromise, fully supported by our pro-business ex-Council members.


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Posted by econ 101
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Oct 24, 2008 at 1:41 pm

My understanding is that we pay a hefty rent to the camera vendor, who also gets a cut of the ticket proceeds. If that is true, I wonder if the cameras are bringing in revenue or in fact exacerbating the deficit.

Should be public information. Anyone know?


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Posted by Oh Happy Day
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 24, 2008 at 7:40 pm

According to the June 5, 2008 Alamanac article:

The city pays a monthly per-camera fee of $6350.

Red Light tickets are currently $378.

The City gets $150 out of that, the rest goes to Los Angeles-based Redflex Traffic Systems which installed and monitors the cameras.

If 194 red-light violators (the number caught during a 30 day window of the trial period at the Willow intersection) are ticketed each month through the system, the city would collect about $273,000 annually.

This intersection at the Bayfront Expressway and Willow is where David Halberstam was killed. The offenders are caught running left-turn red lights while turning left on to Willow Road from Bayfront Expressway.


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Posted by WOW!!!!
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 24, 2008 at 8:30 pm

And so what does Redflex pocket?
12 x $6350/month + 194 violations/month x 12 months x $228/ticket
= $607,000/year - JUST FOR THAT ONE INTERSECTION!!!!

Holy you-know-what!

Who the heck negotiated THAT deal for the city????

This makes the giveaway of the pool look like chump change!


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Posted by Investigator
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 24, 2008 at 9:57 pm

As to "Los Angeles-based Redflex Traffic Systems":

Not quite: This is a foreign firm (Australian-based) that, per its website, gets 80% of its revenue from the U.S.

Now how does that grab you? The firm making money hand-over-fist off this isn't even American!

More abour Redflex from their website:
Web Link
-- They tout themselves as being #1 in the US photo-enforcement market.
-- They're a public firm listed on the Australian Stock Exchange with a market cap of $270 million and employ 420.
-- They're doing so well that they have started giving our dividends to their shareholders.
-- A 2008 Investor Presentation touts that they enjoy "strong profit margins."
-- That same presentation also notes that "Legislative/legal issues will continue to be managed proactively using lobbyists & attorneys" (translation: they'll use lobbyists and lawyers to pave the way for installation of these things, public sentiment or objection be damned, all in the name of "safety").
-- In addition to their REDFLEXred systems (red light systems like in MP), they also offer REDFLEXspeed (both fixed and mobile speed monitoring systems) - that should make Walter Browne happy, who, based on his post above, would like to see such "speed cameras" installed as well (as for the rest of us...)

I dare say it's time to make this an "issue" with the City Council.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 25, 2008 at 9:37 am

To me, the only issues to raise with the Council are "How are the agreement and results being monitored?", "Is this the best financial deal for the city?" and "Did you get competitive bids?" (

As long as the city is catching red light runners and not losing money in a deal that was competitively bid and negotiated hard, I am satisfied that we and our children are safer and our city financially secure.


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Posted by Investigator
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 25, 2008 at 10:12 am

Parent, 3 things:
1) The problem is not red-light runners (except perhaps on Bayfront Expressway); it is people who blow through stop signs and right-turns on red and, on Sand Hill Road, the interaction between bikes and cars. These cameras do not address those situations.
2) This contract was neither competitively bid nor negotiated hard. These Redflex folks approached a very receptive city council (the last one, which generally bent over backwards to help business interests, especially developers) and that council was only too willing to go along with whatever Redflex wanted with minimal public discussion.
3) In these tough economic times, you don't care that our money is being outsourced overseas on this??? Wow!

Finally, just because someone yells "safety" does not mean you should just accept what they're selling without thinking and asking some questions.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 25, 2008 at 1:25 pm

Investigator - please read what I wrote. If there are questions a about competitive bids or getting the best possible deal for the city, I am all for that.
However, I absolutely do not accept that the problem is solely at stop signs. At least there, most people slow down even if they don't stop fully. At stop lights, vehicles are going at speeds when they fly through the intersections making them much more dangerous for other vehicles but especially those on foot or bikes (like my kids.)


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Posted by Enough
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Oct 25, 2008 at 5:33 pm

We need to stop sending our money to companies like Redflex. I say we should mount a protest and cut off their income by all stopping at red lights!


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Posted by pragmatic
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Oct 25, 2008 at 10:24 pm

Won't work -- they still get $6350/month per light. That's a nice tidy sum just from our small city.

You would spend a lot less hiring someone to sit by the intersection and photograph the red light runners.


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Posted by bean counter
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 26, 2008 at 12:58 pm

I really doubt the city could do this less expensively. There probably are a lot of functions that the vendor provides, and splits the costs across multiple cities: coordination with whoever issues tickets, completing and filing necessary documents, informing those who have earned tickets, collecting the fines, appearing (and winning) in court if someone refuses to pay, etc. All of these functions incur costs, from salaries for a variety of skilled people, office space, phones, computer support, and benefits.
Could the city get a better outsourced deal? I don't know. Was it competitively bid?


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Posted by watchdog
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 26, 2008 at 6:39 pm

Web Link

suggests that there was no competitive bidding. Interestingly enough, as I read that document, it says that payment to vendors should not be based on the number of citations issued. Yet Redflex is indeed compensated on a per-citation basis.


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