News

Menlo Park red-light cameras under scrutiny

City officials analyzing accident data to decide whether to keep program

Members of the Menlo Park Transportation Commission saw red, then gasped as they watched video footage of drivers running red lights at intersections monitored by cameras. The footage was part of a presentation about the red-light camera program given during the July 10 commission meeting, held in advance of a council hearing next month that will decide whether or not to keep the cameras running.

Once the gasps faded, the commissioners took a hard look at the data. Menlo Park has four red-light cameras, mounted at Bayfront Expressway and Willow Road, and the intersections of El Camino Real with Glenwood Avenue and Ravenswood Avenue.

Statistics per intersection compiled by the police department attributable to running a red light showed zero accidents at El Camino Real and Glenwood Avenue, 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.

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

"In all honesty, it doesn't seem like there's that many collisions at these intersections in general," Commissioner Penelope Huang noted.

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David Carnahan, author of the staff presentation, pointed out that one collision equals lots of frustrated drivers backed up in a traffic jam at busy intersections and increased carbon emissions from idle cars. "Not astronomically large numbers," he said, referring to the collision rate, "but ideally each (accident) would be prevented."

Federal and state studies indicate that the cameras do tend to reduce the number of "T-bone" collisions at intersections, but may also slightly increase the number of rear-end collisions. Since, in general, rear-end collisions cause less expensive damage and injuries, according to staff, cameras therefore tend to lower the cost of accidents. The commissioners asked staff to collect data on accident types specifically for Menlo Park before presenting the analysis to the council.

If a red-light ticket is paid in full, without any decrease of penalties through appealing to the court, the driver pays $480. Menlo Park gets about $155; the rest goes to the county and state.

The program nets the city's general fund about $220,000 per year -- when all the cameras are running. Almost as an aside, staff noted that the Caltrans paving project that accidentally took out the signal synchronization along El Camino Real for months also left the cameras at the Glenwood and Ravenswood intersections non-operational from November to February, something the city left unannounced until the function was restored. In 2010, a collision temporarily shut down the Bayfront Expressway camera.

The outages didn't cost the city anything besides ticket revenue. Menlo Park's contract with Redflex, the Arizona-based company responsible for operating and maintaining the cameras, contains a "cost neutrality" clause that saves the city from paying the $5,000 to $6,000 monthly fee per camera if the revenue from the citations issued doesn't cover the cost.

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In response to a question from commissioner Maurice Shiu, staff said they did not yet know how much the red-light camera program cost Menlo Park administratively.

Other local cities, such as Belmont, Redwood City, Hayward and San Carlos, have canceled their programs. During the transportation commission meeting, staff attributed Redwood City's decision to seeing a "dramatic decrease" in accidents that indicated "driver education" had taken place, so the resources could be better used now for other police initiatives. Hayward, on the other hand, opted to shut the program down because it was losing money, according to staff.

On Aug. 20 the City Council is scheduled to consider whether to renew the Redflex contract and if it should add a camera at the intersection of Bayfront Expressway and Chilco Street.

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Menlo Park red-light cameras under scrutiny

City officials analyzing accident data to decide whether to keep program

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Wed, Jul 17, 2013, 11:38 am

Members of the Menlo Park Transportation Commission saw red, then gasped as they watched video footage of drivers running red lights at intersections monitored by cameras. The footage was part of a presentation about the red-light camera program given during the July 10 commission meeting, held in advance of a council hearing next month that will decide whether or not to keep the cameras running.

Once the gasps faded, the commissioners took a hard look at the data. Menlo Park has four red-light cameras, mounted at Bayfront Expressway and Willow Road, and the intersections of El Camino Real with Glenwood Avenue and Ravenswood Avenue.

Statistics per intersection compiled by the police department attributable to running a red light showed zero accidents at El Camino Real and Glenwood Avenue, 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.

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

"In all honesty, it doesn't seem like there's that many collisions at these intersections in general," Commissioner Penelope Huang noted.

David Carnahan, author of the staff presentation, pointed out that one collision equals lots of frustrated drivers backed up in a traffic jam at busy intersections and increased carbon emissions from idle cars. "Not astronomically large numbers," he said, referring to the collision rate, "but ideally each (accident) would be prevented."

Federal and state studies indicate that the cameras do tend to reduce the number of "T-bone" collisions at intersections, but may also slightly increase the number of rear-end collisions. Since, in general, rear-end collisions cause less expensive damage and injuries, according to staff, cameras therefore tend to lower the cost of accidents. The commissioners asked staff to collect data on accident types specifically for Menlo Park before presenting the analysis to the council.

If a red-light ticket is paid in full, without any decrease of penalties through appealing to the court, the driver pays $480. Menlo Park gets about $155; the rest goes to the county and state.

The program nets the city's general fund about $220,000 per year -- when all the cameras are running. Almost as an aside, staff noted that the Caltrans paving project that accidentally took out the signal synchronization along El Camino Real for months also left the cameras at the Glenwood and Ravenswood intersections non-operational from November to February, something the city left unannounced until the function was restored. In 2010, a collision temporarily shut down the Bayfront Expressway camera.

The outages didn't cost the city anything besides ticket revenue. Menlo Park's contract with Redflex, the Arizona-based company responsible for operating and maintaining the cameras, contains a "cost neutrality" clause that saves the city from paying the $5,000 to $6,000 monthly fee per camera if the revenue from the citations issued doesn't cover the cost.

In response to a question from commissioner Maurice Shiu, staff said they did not yet know how much the red-light camera program cost Menlo Park administratively.

Other local cities, such as Belmont, Redwood City, Hayward and San Carlos, have canceled their programs. During the transportation commission meeting, staff attributed Redwood City's decision to seeing a "dramatic decrease" in accidents that indicated "driver education" had taken place, so the resources could be better used now for other police initiatives. Hayward, on the other hand, opted to shut the program down because it was losing money, according to staff.

On Aug. 20 the City Council is scheduled to consider whether to renew the Redflex contract and if it should add a camera at the intersection of Bayfront Expressway and Chilco Street.

Comments

Jim
another community
on Jul 18, 2013 at 8:48 am
Jim, another community
on Jul 18, 2013 at 8:48 am
Like this comment

At the tail end of the story above, it's mentioned that they will be considering putting in a new camera at Bayfront/Chilco.

Emails between the City and Redflex (obtained via a Public Records Act request) revealed that a 24 hour test showed that rolling right turns were 97% or more of the violations there.

In the emails the sergeant who runs the camera program acknowledged that most of the violations were for right turns, but she didn't seem to be concerned about the fairness of that. Rather, she worried whether the high rate of violations would be "sustainable." The Redflex sales rep - who formerly was a lieutenant with the Fremont police and ran the camera program there - was quick to reply:

"I can say that most intersections that have right turns enforced continue to produce consistent numbers."

The money will be rolling in to MP City Hall!

YOUR money.


Menlo Voter
Menlo Park: other
on Jul 18, 2013 at 9:01 am
Menlo Voter, Menlo Park: other
on Jul 18, 2013 at 9:01 am
2 people like this

There were ZERO accidents of the intersection of El Camino and Glenwood prior to the installation of the red light cameras there. So just exactly why would they put cameras at what is, by all accounts, a safe intersection? Can you say REVENUE?

These cameras have never been about safety. They're all about generating revenue. Problem is they are illegal. Anyone that gets a ticket from one of these cameras is highly encouraged to do a little on line research. You will find that you can go to court and get your ticket tossed because the contract the city has with Redflex is not worded properly and is there for illegal thus invalidating any tickets issued.

The city should pull these cameras not add them. They aren't preventing accidents.


Menlo Local
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 18, 2013 at 11:03 am
Menlo Local, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 18, 2013 at 11:03 am
Like this comment

I'm gasping, that these commissioners were gasping.
The rampant lawbreaking not only at traffic lights is evident every time one ventures out in a motor vehicle.
I say more camera enforcement, for excessive speed,un-signaled lane changes,cell phone usage while driving, unsafe passing.

Abide by the law, and you'll keep YOUR money


Brandt Hardin
Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jul 18, 2013 at 12:08 pm
Brandt Hardin, Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jul 18, 2013 at 12:08 pm
Like this comment

Traffic cameras are just another form of Policing for Profit as Capitalism distorts our Justice System. These companies are bottom-feeders and take a 40% cut of the tickets while creating MORE dangerous intersections by fixing the lengths of yellow lights to entrap drivers. You can read about how private companies and crooked politicians have turned our Police forces on their ear in every attempt to squeeze money out of the general public at Web Link


M voter and license plate readers
Menlo Park: other
on Jul 18, 2013 at 1:23 pm
M voter and license plate readers, Menlo Park: other
on Jul 18, 2013 at 1:23 pm
Like this comment

MV - if you're good w license plate readers, why not cameras?


Menlo Voter
Menlo Park: other
on Jul 18, 2013 at 3:44 pm
Menlo Voter, Menlo Park: other
on Jul 18, 2013 at 3:44 pm
Like this comment

M voter:

or should I say Godwin, you need to work on your reading comprehension. I never said I "like" scanners. I said we have no expectation of privacy while in public.


Norman
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 18, 2013 at 6:06 pm
Norman, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 18, 2013 at 6:06 pm
Like this comment

They don't know what it costs adminstratively? Is it free? Do they have a guess? This reminds me of the Santa Cruz Ave 'traffic calming' fiasco. It was all done and the adminstrators didn't know how many parking places were eaten up. Nor did they know how much the bike lanes had been narrowed. Is this the effort they put into spending our money? Who are these people?


M voter and license plate readers
Menlo Park: other
on Jul 19, 2013 at 7:36 am
M voter and license plate readers, Menlo Park: other
on Jul 19, 2013 at 7:36 am
Like this comment

Yes, I'm the same, the "M voter and license plate readers" moniker was to attract your attention amid your hypocrisy. It worked.

So: no expectation of privacy? Scanners and cameras are essentially the same thing. Try and slice that fine and explain the difference. There isn't one.


M voter and license plate readers
Menlo Park: other
on Jul 19, 2013 at 8:54 am
M voter and license plate readers, Menlo Park: other
on Jul 19, 2013 at 8:54 am
1 person likes this

I get it: hypocrisy. No need to add anything - agree to disagree about the 4th amendment: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons ... and effects, against unreasonable searches ... shall not be violated..."


Menlo Voter
Menlo Park: other
on Jul 19, 2013 at 12:56 pm
Menlo Voter, Menlo Park: other
on Jul 19, 2013 at 12:56 pm
Like this comment

If you don't understand that my position isn't hypocritical you are either trolling or you need to work on your knowledge of the law. There's no fourth amendment violation in either red light cameras or license scanners. I don't object to red light cameras on fourth amendment grounds. There's no hypocrisy there.


WhoRUpeople
another community
on Jul 19, 2013 at 1:56 pm
WhoRUpeople, another community
on Jul 19, 2013 at 1:56 pm
Like this comment

Menlo Voter, obviously M voter, etc. is relying on his/her knowledge of the the 4th amendment from 4th grade civics


Menlo Voter
Menlo Park: other
on Jul 19, 2013 at 7:55 pm
Menlo Voter, Menlo Park: other
on Jul 19, 2013 at 7:55 pm
Like this comment

WhoRU:

I think you're right.


Roger
another community
on Jul 22, 2013 at 8:09 am
Roger, another community
on Jul 22, 2013 at 8:09 am
Like this comment

In the 7 years prior to Menlo Park's cameras (2001-2007) there were 18 fatal collisions, none of which were due to classic red light running. There were 2 accidents attributed to this type of infraction, however. One was a young driver turning left from the thru lane of Bayfront Expressway onto Willow Rd. The driver turned left from the thru lane which had a green light. The left turn lanes had a red light. The accident killed author David Halberstam. The second accident (2001) occurred at Ravenswood and El Camino and the driver apparently was having a seizure. A pedestrian was killed. Accidents occur when a driver enters an intersection very late - more than 2 seconds and more likely closer to 5 seconds or more late. Over 90% of tickets go to drivers entering a fraction of a second late or making a slow rolling right on red.


Roger
another community
on Jul 22, 2013 at 8:14 am
Roger, another community
on Jul 22, 2013 at 8:14 am
Like this comment

In May Hayward police conducted a study of the first 4+ years of photo enforcement and concluded that accidents had increased at the intersections involved. Rear enders across the board. Even broadsides had increased at some intersections. By a 6-1 vote they approved an expenditure of over $100K to opt out of its contract early and save motorists over $10 million in fines which would have been extracted just during the remaining term of the contract.
Best to leave money in the pockets of consumers.
That was Hayward. Are things so different in Menlo Park?


Double D
Woodside: other
on Jul 22, 2013 at 8:28 am
Double D, Woodside: other
on Jul 22, 2013 at 8:28 am
Like this comment

"is relying on his/her knowledge of the the 4th amendment from 4th grade civics" Or just upon reading it, much the way many Americans do. Witness those that protest for the 2nd amendment.

Seems obvious: "...to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches..."

Best argument (not): don't charge folks for violating the law, so as to "leave money in the pockets of consumers."

Winner!


James C. Walker
another community
on Jul 22, 2013 at 8:39 am
James C. Walker, another community
on Jul 22, 2013 at 8:39 am
2 people like this

Several points.

1) It is common for red light cameras to increase the crash rates.

2) It is common for cameras to be installed in locations where there were very few or zero crashes related to red light running because the purpose for the cameras is money, not safety.

3) Over 50 California communities have ended their red light camera programs or passed local ordinances to never install them. Menlo Park should join this list: Anaheim, Bell Gardens, Belmont, Berkeley, Burlingame, Compton, Corona, Costa Mesa, Cupertino, East LA, El Monte, Emeryville, Fairfield, Fresno, Fullerton, Gardena, Glendale, Grand Terrace, Hayward, Indian Wells, Irvine, LA County, Lancaster, Loma Linda, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Maywood, Montclair, Moreno Valley, Murietta, Paramount, Pasadena, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, Redwood City, Rocklin, Roseville, Rowland Heights, San Bernardino, San Carlos, San Diego, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Fe Springs, Santa Maria, Santa Rosa, South Whittier, Union City, Upland, Westminster, Whittier, Yuba City, Yucaipa

4) In almost every case, straight through violations can be reduced by more than the cameras achieve by simply adding one second to the yellow intervals.

5) Federal research shows that only 0.06% of all crashes involve a right on red turn and an injury or fatality. Virtually all tickets for right on red turns are about money, not safety.

6) If you watch the videos of dangerous t-bone crashes and near misses, you realize that almost all are incidents where the driver entered the intersection after the light was red for at least two and usually more than five seconds AND the cameras did NOT prevent the violations. Cameras are about split second violations for money.

7) $325 of each $480 ticket (68%) leaves the city, doing serious damage to the local economy. Those monies should remain in the local economy to support local businesses, employees and the tax base.

8) Redflex was sufficiently corrupt to have been thrown out of Chicago for bribery - and it takes a LOT to get booted from Chicago for corruption.

9) Residents of Menlo Park need to contact all the City Council members to urge them to end the red light camera program.

James C. Walker, Life Member-National Motorists Association


Menlo Voter
Menlo Park: other
on Jul 22, 2013 at 9:59 am
Menlo Voter, Menlo Park: other
on Jul 22, 2013 at 9:59 am
Like this comment

"...to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches..."

Which the courts have repeatedly interpreted to mean NOT IN PUBLIC. It does seem obvious doesn't it? When you consider the interpretations of the constitution and not just what was originally written.


Roger
another community
on Jul 22, 2013 at 10:12 am
Roger, another community
on Jul 22, 2013 at 10:12 am
Like this comment

Double D - It really is not a question fining people who violate the law. The law has changed over time not for safety but for revenue. The minimum yellow light time is less than before in order to raise revenue. The fines were increased specifically to raise enough money to pay camera vendors. Many who were "law abiding" before are now "law breakers" just to raise revenue.


Name hidden
Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle

on Jan 16, 2017 at 12:50 am
Name hidden, Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle

on Jan 16, 2017 at 12:50 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


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