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Menlo Park: Red-light camera debate continued to Aug. 27

Council asks for more data, better terms

Faced with a clock ticking past midnight and a still-lengthy agenda, the Menlo Park City Council opted on Tuesday to continue the discussion of whether to cancel or expand the city's red-light camera program to its next meeting, on Aug. 27.

The council did take public comments, however, given that several people had waited hours to speak on the topic. The council also gave staff some homework.

The proposed contract would renew an agreement with Redflex to operate the cameras for five years for $1.7 million and add a fifth camera to Menlo Park.

The city now 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. Another would be added at the intersection of Bayfront Expressway and Chilco Street.

Sgt. Sharon Kaufman of the Menlo Park Police Department showed four video clips of near-collisions at the monitored intersections. One public speaker, Roger Jones, said her presentation proved only that the cameras don't prevent infractions -- they just film them.

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Councilwoman Cat Carlton noted that the cost of the proposed contract was more expensive than she'd seen in other California cities.

"We're not getting a great deal there," she said. The contract would also require a 4/5 vote by the council to cancel it, something she suggested the city re-think. Typically a simple majority vote suffices.

Some public speakers argued for lengthening the yellow light by fractions of a second at the intersections as a more effective, less expensive alternative.

Sgt. Kaufman suggested that longer yellow lights would throw off signal synchronization and encourage drivers to try to beat the red light at following intersections.

An analysis released to the media on Aug. 19 by Safer Streets L.A., a grassroots coalition advocating for "scientifically sound and sensible transportation and traffic laws," suggested that Menlo Park's cameras were installed at intersections that did not have a significant number of collisions to start with.

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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 shows 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. The staff report did not differentiate what proportion of those accidents were attributable to red-light running.

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, according to the staff report.

Mayor Peter Ohtaki asked staff to compile statistics before the Aug. 27 meeting showing which violations were due to turning right on red at each monitored intersection.

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.

A growing list of local cities, 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.

Vice Mayor Ray Mueller asked how long the cameras, which run 24 hours a day, store data. A Redflex representative said 30 days, although the city has the option to purchase longer retention times; it stores the data on encrypted servers at its Arizona headquarters. The company said its agreement specifies that only the Menlo Park Police Department may access the videos.

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Menlo Park: Red-light camera debate continued to Aug. 27

Council asks for more data, better terms

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Wed, Aug 21, 2013, 10:49 am

Faced with a clock ticking past midnight and a still-lengthy agenda, the Menlo Park City Council opted on Tuesday to continue the discussion of whether to cancel or expand the city's red-light camera program to its next meeting, on Aug. 27.

The council did take public comments, however, given that several people had waited hours to speak on the topic. The council also gave staff some homework.

The proposed contract would renew an agreement with Redflex to operate the cameras for five years for $1.7 million and add a fifth camera to Menlo Park.

The city now 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. Another would be added at the intersection of Bayfront Expressway and Chilco Street.

Sgt. Sharon Kaufman of the Menlo Park Police Department showed four video clips of near-collisions at the monitored intersections. One public speaker, Roger Jones, said her presentation proved only that the cameras don't prevent infractions -- they just film them.

Councilwoman Cat Carlton noted that the cost of the proposed contract was more expensive than she'd seen in other California cities.

"We're not getting a great deal there," she said. The contract would also require a 4/5 vote by the council to cancel it, something she suggested the city re-think. Typically a simple majority vote suffices.

Some public speakers argued for lengthening the yellow light by fractions of a second at the intersections as a more effective, less expensive alternative.

Sgt. Kaufman suggested that longer yellow lights would throw off signal synchronization and encourage drivers to try to beat the red light at following intersections.

An analysis released to the media on Aug. 19 by Safer Streets L.A., a grassroots coalition advocating for "scientifically sound and sensible transportation and traffic laws," suggested that Menlo Park's cameras were installed at intersections that did not have a significant number of collisions to start with.

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 shows 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. The staff report did not differentiate what proportion of those accidents were attributable to red-light running.

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, according to the staff report.

Mayor Peter Ohtaki asked staff to compile statistics before the Aug. 27 meeting showing which violations were due to turning right on red at each monitored intersection.

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.

A growing list of local cities, 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.

Vice Mayor Ray Mueller asked how long the cameras, which run 24 hours a day, store data. A Redflex representative said 30 days, although the city has the option to purchase longer retention times; it stores the data on encrypted servers at its Arizona headquarters. The company said its agreement specifies that only the Menlo Park Police Department may access the videos.

Comments

Steve
another community
on Aug 21, 2013 at 11:41 am
Steve, another community
on Aug 21, 2013 at 11:41 am
Like this comment

As I mentioned in another post.

Note "cost" neutral contracts ARE PER TICKET FEE!

Web Link

Quote: Under severe budgetary pressures, local jurisdictions often sign contracts with vendors that were presented with a slick marketing campaign. Such deals often contain extremely unfavorable terms. The public is hurt by per-ticket payment systems -- often disguised with "cost neutral" contract language -- that ensure that the system is designed to maximize revenue, not safety. Such provisions provide a monetary incentive to increase the number of tickets issued. That leads to other provisions prohibiting cities from lengthening yellow light duration to improve safety and requiring right on red ticketing and ticket approval quotas.


AMBERS DO REDUCE RLV, THE RLC VENDOR KNOW THIS TOO!

As for the 'safety" claims, realize that other towns have been busted playing games to hide unfavorable data. Web Link

www.motorists.org
www.banthecams.org
Camerafraud on Facebook


James C. Walker
another community
on Aug 21, 2013 at 1:03 pm
James C. Walker, another community
on Aug 21, 2013 at 1:03 pm
Like this comment

Any suggestion that using safer longer yellows throws off the synchronization at other lights or causes drivers to run other lights is flatly false. This does NOT occur. This is the desperate attempt to keep the predatory red light camera ticket revenue coming.

The staff report is full of inaccuracies and falsehoods in an attempt to trick public opinion into supporting the predatory money-grab cameras. The analysis by Safer Streets LA is the accurate analysis. As one clear example, Menlo Park placed some cameras where there was little or no history of red light running crashes. If there are no red light running crashes, it is impossible for a ticket camera to improve on that perfect record.

Red light cameras are predatory money-grab devices, not safety devices. Residents need to demand the program be ended.

James C. Walker, Life Member-National Motorists Association


whatever
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 21, 2013 at 2:05 pm
whatever, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 21, 2013 at 2:05 pm
Like this comment

The vendor requires a 4/5 to cancel the contract while they only need a 3/5 to win the contact. Keep this up and here will be no more public city government, only corporate control of government. Remember Robocop?


d3po
Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Aug 21, 2013 at 3:37 pm
d3po, Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Aug 21, 2013 at 3:37 pm
Like this comment

Why Bayfront Expressway and Chilco Street? It should be Bayfront Expressway and University. On many mornings, I could see 5-6 cars from the East Bay running the red light when they turn left from Bayfront to University.


Put the Brakes on Redflex
Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Aug 21, 2013 at 3:39 pm
Put the Brakes on Redflex, Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Aug 21, 2013 at 3:39 pm
Like this comment

Red Light cameras are about making $$$ for REDFLEX. Think illegal speed traps. They do nothing to improve upon safety and can actually increase accidents (rear end collisions). City Staff who support their use and installation are not doing so for public safety. It's about the money, and most of it goes to REDFLEX not the City anyway. Get rid of this contract and the money flowing from REDFLEX lobbyists NOW. Our City leaders need to have more integrity than to be dealing with REDFLEX Corp.


Henry
another community
on Aug 21, 2013 at 10:37 pm
Henry, another community
on Aug 21, 2013 at 10:37 pm
Like this comment

Sgt. Kaufman recommended that MP pay Reddflex 50% more than what 20 other California cities are paying! Is she [portion removed] just hoping Redflex will hire her after she retires from the MPPD (like they did Lt. Mark Riggs from the Fremont PD)? They could overpay by $800,000.00!

The council should see to it that some heads roll on this one.


Roger Jones
another community
on Aug 22, 2013 at 1:02 pm
Roger Jones, another community
on Aug 22, 2013 at 1:02 pm
Like this comment

I see many good comments opposed to photo enforcement. However, only one Menlo Park resident spoke at the Council meeting. Maybe some left prior to the 5-hour mark when the Redflex issue was called. People need to speak out. Much good data and information has been provided to council, but there is not much evidence that members have actually read it and absorbed it except for Carlton.


Roger Jones
another community
on Aug 22, 2013 at 1:12 pm
Roger Jones, another community
on Aug 22, 2013 at 1:12 pm
Like this comment

The staff report counters the argument that extending yellow lights will reduce red light running by using the "synchronization" argument. This is one of the 3 baloney arguments against extending the yellows. Let's say that you are traveling on El Camino and get a yellow and then stop at the red. You wait 40 - 60 -70 seconds perhaps for your green as all other cross traffic and left turners get their green. Is it believable that the synchronization schedule is so finely tuned that an extra second of yellow which might result in a red light being reduced to 39 - 59 - or 69 seconds would screw things up....or whether the red could not be maintained without change??? Now what if a pedestrian pushes the WALK button to cross El Camino. Boy, that must really foul things up! How many cycles will it take to regain that finely tuned synchro. And, then, What? Another pedestrian? As you sit in traffic on El Camino during morning commute hours, you might ponder these things. Sgt. Kauffman was careful to say that extending the yellow lights MAY affect synchronization. Where is there any data or evidence of that? I have not seen it. Is she just making stuff up?


Brandt
Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Aug 22, 2013 at 4:10 pm
Brandt, Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Aug 22, 2013 at 4:10 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


Henry
another community
on Aug 22, 2013 at 4:42 pm
Henry, another community
on Aug 22, 2013 at 4:42 pm
Like this comment

Redflex is under investigation in a $2 million (alleged) bribery scheme in Chicago and has admitted that there may be bribery in two other (so-far unnamed) cities. Why would any city want to partner with them?

Redflex is also the perfector of the Snitch Ticket,the fake tickets many department mail out to fool the registered owner into identifying the actual driver of the car. One city sends out about 10,000 of them annually.  Snitch Tickets have not been filed with the court, so they don't say "Notice to Appear," don't have the court's addr. and phone #, 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 no legal weight whatsoever. You can ignore a Snitch Ticket. If in doubt, Google the term.


Roger Jones
another community
on Aug 23, 2013 at 12:56 pm
Roger Jones, another community
on Aug 23, 2013 at 12:56 pm
Like this comment

Menlo Park area residents should read the in-depth analysis of Menlo Park collisions and its red light camera program. Here is a commentary from "thenewspaper.com" which is a journal on the politics of transportation issues.
Web Link
At the end of the article is a link to the analysis produced by Safer Streets L.A.


Policing for Profit
Menlo Park: other
on Aug 23, 2013 at 1:23 pm
Policing for Profit, Menlo Park: other
on Aug 23, 2013 at 1:23 pm
Like this comment

"Traffic cameras are just another form of Policing for Profit as Capitalism distorts our Justice System."

Seems quite hyperbolic, until one reads up on the issue.

A minor adjunct to the whole Prison/Governmental/Industrial complex. A real life proven example of "Capitalism distorts our Justice System" Web Link

Kill it in MP. Now.


Robert Cronin
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 26, 2013 at 12:28 pm
Robert Cronin, Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 26, 2013 at 12:28 pm
Like this comment

Anybody who believes that running red lights is not a problem should observe traffic at El Camino and Sand Hill. The only reason I am alive today is that I wait for the red-light runners on El Camino to get through the intersection before I start to cross. Unfortunately, if you wait until it is safe to cross, the pedestrian signal starts to blink, and you really have to hurry to get across this very wide street.


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