News


Council reviews red-light camera issues

Police department releases accident rates

The issue of red-light cameras causes controversy wherever it goes, even during City Council meetings.

On Aug. 24 Menlo Park's City Council approved a response to the San Mateo County grand jury report released in June that chided the city for, among other things, how far away warning signs were placed at the three intersections with cameras, and how much money the city earns from those citations.

The Menlo Park police department didn't track accident rates specifically related to red lights at those intersections until The Almanac asked in July whether rates had decreased because of camera installation. The police then compiled the results for accidents two years prior to the installations, and for post-installation in 2008 through July 10, 2010.

These statistics indicate only accidents caused by either red-light running or turning right on red without stopping first, both of which the cameras are meant to minimize:

** El Camino Real/Glenwood Ave: 0 accidents before, 0 after

** El Camino Real/Menlo Ave/Ravenswood Ave: 1 accident before, 0 after

** Bayfront Expressway/Willow Rd: 6 accidents before, 5 after

Police spokesperson Nicole Acker said the department would continue tracking the data.

The grand jury report indicated the city collected, on average, $94,500 per month. This doesn't include the costs to the city of running the program; The Almanac has been trying to obtain a breakdown of those costs from the city.

During a presentation to the City Council, Cmdr. Sharon Kaufman reported that collisions along the entire stretch of El Camino Real had decreased from 133 to 109, but Councilman John Boyle suggested that there "could be a hundred reasons" for the decrease, such as the depressed economy leading to fewer cars sharing the road.

Although a man who received a red-light camera ticket in Menlo Park has now filed a class action lawsuit against the cameras, City Attorney Bill McClure said the city has not yet been served papers as a party to the suit.

Menlo Park's contract with Redflex, the Arizona-based company responsible for operating and maintaining the cameras, differs from those of other Peninsula cities such as San Carlos and San Mateo. At issue is the so-called "cost neutrality clause."

The Menlo Park contract, Mr. McClure told the council, only postpones payment to Redflex in the event that fees from monthly citations don't match the $5,000 to $6,000 per camera cost of operation.

However, the cost-neutrality clause in the San Carlos contract saved the city from paying Redflex if revenue didn't cover the cost. In other words, Redflex lost money if the number of citations fell below a certain number.

San Carlos and San Mateo recently deleted that clause from their contracts after citations were dismissed by appellate judges in San Mateo County and Orange County on grounds that this created a financial incentive to issue citations.

Comments

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Posted by W Patterson
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Aug 26, 2010 at 1:26 pm

The issue of the inappropriate red light camera should lead the City of Menlo Park to discontinue the use. It no doubt is a revenue source for the City, not necessarily an accident mitigator. The camera is unpopular with the citizens, hence the Council should act immediately to direct Law Enforcement to discontinue the use of this means of collecting revenue and misdirecting valuable time of the City Staff, Law Enforcement, Council, and other entities that waste valuable tax money. Don't be fooled by the Police Department or those who represent the citizens of Menlo Park.


Like this comment
Posted by Mom of 2
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 26, 2010 at 3:42 pm

So Menlo Park has taken in $2.7mil after expenses in the past 2.5 years???? And where does that go?


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 26, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Dismissed "on grounds that this created a financial incentive to issue citations."

I'd say the fact that payment to Redflex is delayed is a definite financial incentive to issue more tickets so that Redflex's revenue stream is not interrupted or delayed. Just the cost of funds issue is a major financial incentive.

As in other cities throughout the state the tickets should be reversed, fines and traffic school fees refunded, points and traffic school eligibility restated, and increased insurance fees refunded by the city.


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 26, 2010 at 4:11 pm

There is a local attorney in the Redwood City San Carlos area who has handled quite a few peninsula traffic light camera cases. It is my understanding (and i might be incorrect) that when he has been involved in Menlo Park cases Menlo Park has dismissed or not appeared to defend the traffic ticket.

This leads me to believe that Menlo Park is afraid of precedent being created by cases dismissed or overturned by the court. (please excuse my lack of legal vernacular)


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Posted by photoradarscam
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Aug 26, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Doesn't sound like the cameras are very effective at reducing accidents, or that they are even needed. Why is there a camera up at an intersection where there were no accidents? What problem is that trying to solve? Did they even do traffic engineering studies to see that cameras were called for? I think the true motivation is quite clear... MONEY.


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Posted by Sold A Bill Of Goods
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 26, 2010 at 4:19 pm

From the article:
"These statistics indicate only accidents caused by either red-light running or turning right on red, both of which the cameras are meant to minimize:
** El Camino Real/Glenwood Ave: 0 accidents before, 0 after
** El Camino Real/Menlo Ave/Ravenswood Ave: 1 accident before, 0 after
** Bayfront Expressway/Willow Rd: 6 accidents before, 5 after"

What a joke: These things were sold to us as protecting public safety, yet:
-- There was never a problem to begin with at 2 of the 3 locations.
-- Nothing has improved at the 3rd location.

What's also coming out is that although these were advertised as catching "red light runners," they're actually set up to catch "California Right Turners" - don't come to a complete, full stop, get a $400+ ticket.

City council should be ashamed of itself - but they'll probably just try to add more of these ka-chingers around town to balance the city budget!


Like this comment
Posted by Sandy Brundage
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 26, 2010 at 5:50 pm

To clarify, the grand jury report estimated revenue of $94,500 per month does not include the costs to the city of running the program.


Like this comment
Posted by Jim Rosing
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 26, 2010 at 11:06 pm

I got a ticket at El Camino Real/Menlo Ave/Ravenswood Ave 6/09 from the camera. I decided to take a trial by declaration to contest the ticket as it seemed the duration of the yellow light was much shorter than usual. I did some research on what governs the duration of a yellow light. There is a complex algorithm that is used to give a range of yellow light duration based on street speed limit, width of intersection, etc. I attempted to argue the range based on this algorithm was too short. I lost. It turns out, the governance regarding the duration of yellow light is shady. Bottom line: Shorter the yellow light = more tickets = more revenue. I argued this is actually LESS safe for the community as you have to slam on the brakes to prevent entering the intersection during a red light. I lost again after a second trial by declaration. Glad someone filed a class action suit. Happy to help in any way. Business should not be at the expense of safety.


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Posted by Henry
a resident of another community
on Aug 26, 2010 at 11:53 pm

Part of the budget haggling going on right now in Sacramento is the governor's proposal to put up 500 cameras to issue speeding tickets by mail. The fines would help balance the budget. If this scares you, phone the governor's office at 916 445-2841.

Beware Snitch Tickets, fake/phishing red light camera tickets sent out by the police to fool the registered owner into id'ing the actual driver of the car. (Local cities issuing Snitch Tickets are Elk Grove, Emeryville, Hayward, Marysville, Millbrae, Modesto, Newark, Redding, Rocklin, San Leandro, San Mateo, South San Francisco, Stockton, and Union City.) Snitch Tickets have not been filed with the court, so they don't say "Notice to Appear," don't have the court's address on them, and usually say, on the back (in small letters), "Do not contact the court about this notice." Since they have not been filed with the court, they have zero legal weight. You can ignore a Snitch Ticket. If in doubt, Google the term.


Like this comment
Posted by Sally
a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 27, 2010 at 9:47 am

Sally is a registered user.

you know, at the heart of this issue for me is that the cameras help to free up our first responders. i think they do help to change driving behavior over time and if the contract clause means there's no loss to the city, i find this program to be even more valuable


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Posted by news
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 27, 2010 at 10:02 am

"The Institute of Transport Engineers (ITE), the group that studies and develops intersection standards, looked at a vast number of studies trying to determine the effects of red light cameras found in almost every case that rear-end crashes increase."
"A key item noted by those who are against red light cameras, though, is the matter of yellow lights. Studies by the ITE have shown that if you slightly increase and standardize the run-time of the yellow light, and leave a slight delay in the cross traffic's transition to green, accidents will be reduced. Still, cities are routinely hauled into court for having made yellow light times ridiculously short -- as if, you know, they're trying to catch people running red lights."


Like this comment
Posted by Not in MP
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 27, 2010 at 10:17 am

Sally,

I would agree with you but on most days in Menlo Park, you can witness one or two motorcycle police writing tickets on El Camino between Menlo/Ravenswood and Valparaiso/Glenwood. It would be interesting to find out how many of these tickets are written each month.


Like this comment
Posted by Alan Miller
a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 28, 2010 at 5:12 pm

I have a hard time arguing against something that makes people pay more attention to traffic safety.
If folks weren't speeding in the first place, they would be able to stop for yellow lights without rear-ending the cars in front of them.
Also, if more than zero percent of my starts out of green lights are delayed by people still coming through red lights into the intersection, there is something seriously wrong with the way the public is responding to yellow and red lights.
That said, I agree sign distances and yellow light timing should be corrected if they are out of tune. But don't use that as an excuse to plow through red lights.


Like this comment
Posted by Mr.Late Yellow
a resident of another community
on Sep 14, 2010 at 1:37 am

So does anybody know how 'recent' these changes were made?, as I'm attempting to fight mine.

San Carlos and San Mateo recently deleted that clause from their contracts after citations were dismissed by appellate judges in San Mateo County and Orange County on grounds that this created a financial incentive to issue citations.

Thanks


Like this comment
Posted by Mr.Late Yellow
a resident of another community
on Sep 14, 2010 at 1:41 am

Also, did you know...

In a recent case between the multi-national Redflex and another camera ticketing company, the CEO of Redflex openly admitted to lying to the FCC, stating they led the FCC to believe the cameras were certified, when in fact they were not. This lying went on for over eight years!!


Like this comment
Posted by editor
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Sep 14, 2010 at 8:35 am

Mr. Late Yellow: Do you have a link to a story or document to verify your statement regarding the Redflex CEO?


Like this comment
Posted by David
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 24, 2010 at 9:55 pm

Are these Menlo Park traffic cameras citing vehicles traveling on El Camino Real crossing Ravenswood/Menlo, or citing vehicles traveling on Ravenswood crossing El Camino Real, or Both?


Like this comment
Posted by Azadeh, T
a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2011 at 4:41 pm

My Ravenswood/Menlo ticket was dismissed yesterday in court. I found out the timing on the two top panels that caused the citing were not correct times, but my picture appeared on the two bottom panels. Just make sure you use a magnifying glass to see the writing on the two top panels of the citation before you write them a check. I don't what to say this but maybe they use photos from an archive of some sort and use your picture to make you believe that you ran the light. I hope that's not what is going on!


Like this comment
Posted by M. A.C.
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Oct 12, 2011 at 5:19 pm

Apparently I took a right turn from El Camino onto Ravenswood without coming to a complete stop. So I got a ticket in the mail. I ended up paying around 600.00 after fees and traffic school!!!! The ticket was 480.00, traffic school administration fee was 57.00 and traffic school was around 50.00. What's worse is I'd just gotten a ticket at Pulgas Ridge by an officer who was hiding behind a bush. I was with my family on Father's Day Sunday at around 7pm, just before sunset that time of year,and we were in the off leash area when I spotted a mountain biker crossing from a trail above us. I like mountain biking and was very curious because I did not think that it was a legal mountain bike trail. I sais to my 3 kids let's go up and check that trail up there. We walked up the road a little ways past the off leash area and I hadn't noticed that I had not put my dog on the leash which was in my hand. My dog was by my side. All of a sudden the same biker comes out from behind a bush and stares at us and so I yell up to him Howz the mountain biking? Is that a legal trail? He comes down and asks me first off if i knew I was in an off leash area. I fumble and say oh oh yes and immediately put the leash on my dog. He then asks me for my drivers license which i happened to have because I did not want to leave my purse in the car. Anyway to make a long story short. He issused me a ticket at 7pm on Fathers Day Sunday in front of my family and husband in clear sight of the off leash area. The ticket was for 234.00 and was issued by the Superior Court of California, San Mateo County. It was the same form as the ticket I got for the right turn on a red light in Menlo Park. So I spent around 800.00 in July on tickets.... and I guess the world is a safer place now. My vicious 13 pound pomeranian will no??? no more...... Needless to say I don't do off leash or go to Pulgas Ridge now. Poor pup. And I look for cameras and come to complete stops. This last change is good. Cars are dangerous. But that ticket was overkill. 600.00 is quit alot!!!!!


Like this comment
Posted by It's All About The $$$
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 12, 2011 at 9:14 pm

My understanding is that, given the poor economy, many people are just ignoring the tickets because of the large fines involved.

Also, they have to have a clear photo of the driver - they can't just issue a ticket to a car, like they do for parking. They'll send you the ticket even if they don't have a clear photo and hope you'll just pay.

And for those of you who still cling to the belief that this is really about safety: Why don't they have one at Santa Cruz and El Camino (where all the pedestrians are), but have one at Glenwood (with no pedestrians - but plenty of opportunities for right turns without a complete stop). It's all about the $$$$


Like this comment
Posted by curious
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Oct 12, 2011 at 9:59 pm

I use that right turn lane from El Camino to Ravenswood a lot. When the light is red, I always come to a complete stop.

However, it's quite possible that a camera could take a picture of me making a right turn on red. How could I prove that I stopped first? No one will believe me! I've got to think this must happen a lot -- and it's not clear-cut, like crossing El Camino after the light has turned red.


Like this comment
Posted by fear not
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 14, 2011 at 7:21 am

The film of your ticket is on file at the police station. A police officer reviews it prior to sending the ticket. If you are turning legally, and the light turns red, you should not get a ticket.


Like this comment
Posted by curious
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Oct 14, 2011 at 10:02 pm

It is legal to turn right on red at that intersection. So I am wondering how M.A.C. could have been given a ticket. From what I understand, the camera only takes photos, not movies. Without a video, law enforcement would have no way of knowing whether a driver came to a complete stop before making a legal right on red.


Like this comment
Posted by It's All About The $$$
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 14, 2011 at 11:10 pm

Curious,

There is a video that is taken along with photos - you can review the video down at the courthouse, not at the police station (much less convenient, so you're less likely to view and contest it).

No police review the photos/tape - this is all done by the contractor, Redflex, an Australian firm that has its US HQ in Arizona. So if it's at all close, forget it - they'll give you a ticket. No doubt even when the camera goes off inadvertantly, they send out a ticket as well, hoping you'll pay up anyway.

It's all a beautiful scam - taxation in the name of safety!


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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