News

Tuesday: Council to reconsider red-light cameras

 

Following a six-month contract extension, the question of whether Menlo Park should continue its contract with Redflex, a red-light camera company involved in a bribery scandal in Chicago, will be returning to the City Council Tuesday.

At its April 9 meeting, the council is scheduled to discuss whether the city's use of cameras to enforce red light traffic violations, for which it pays about $26,000 a month, is effective and should be continued.

The city currently has red-light cameras installed at five intersections: westbound Bayfront Expressway and Willow Road; northbound El Camino Real and Ravenswood Avenue; southbound El Camino Real and Ravenswood Avenue; northbound El Camino Real and Glenwood Avenue; and westbound Bayfront Expressway and Chilco Street, according to the report.

The city began its agreement with Redflex in 2013 and has renewed its contract twice, with its most current extension scheduled to end April 30.

The City Council agreed last year to extend the contract for six months while further analysis was done on the effectiveness of the program and while a request for proposals was issued to get bids from other red-light camera vendors.

Redflex was involved in a large bribery scandal at City Hall in Chicago, according to the Chicago Tribune. The company came to Chicago in 2003 and earned $120 million through contracts to install 384 cameras, that resulted in more than $400 million in traffic fines, the Tribune reported.

In 2016, a former Chicago City Hall manager who oversaw contracts with the company was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison after receiving vacations, up to $2,000 for each camera installed, and other lavish gifts from Redflex. In 2017, Redflex agreed to a $20 million settlement with the city of Chicago, the Tribune reported.

According to city staff, a request for proposals to operate a red-light camera program returned only one bid, which was from Redflex.

If the council agrees to keep its red-light camera program and continue with Redflex, it could agree Tuesday to enter into a five-year contract not to exceed $234,000 a year, according to a staff report.

The council is scheduled to meet for its regular session beginning at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at 701 Laurel St. in the Menlo Park Civic Center.

Access the meeting agenda here or watch the meeting online here.

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Comments

17 people like this
Posted by SLA
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Apr 9, 2019 at 12:17 pm

What is the measurable benefit from this program? Does anyone know?


8 people like this
Posted by Mike G
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 9, 2019 at 12:42 pm

SLA, that is the $64,000 question!!

Have traffic collisions been reduced since the implementation?
What traffic violation revenue has been received by the city vs. cost incurred?
If these two simple questions are not in positive favor for the city then cancel the program. Plain and simple.


6 people like this
Posted by James C. Walker
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 9, 2019 at 1:22 pm

Hopefully, Menlo Park will become the 81st California community to end or ban red light camera programs leaving only 28 operative programs in a state that once had over 100. It would be particularly good to end the relationship with Redflex, the company with five guilty pleas or verdicts in federal indictments for Redflex-related cases of fraud, bribery or extortion. The winners if the program ends will be the residents and visitors of Menlo Park that will no longer be subject to the for-profit red light camera racket that targets mostly safe drivers for revenue.
James C. Walker, National Motorists Association


Like this comment
Posted by fixed deals
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Apr 9, 2019 at 1:43 pm

I'm of two thoughts regarding this:

1. this should be a DATA-driven decision; how many traffic deaths at these intersections in the 20 years prior, and how many since?

2nd thought: you don't do business with a criminal organization. And Redflix is dirty.


so..... re-write the RFP with a broader scope to bring in competitors.

All of us have sold our business/ideas/products to the eventual writer of the RFP, who then tweaks the RFP in our favor and against the strengths of the competitors.

If an entity is only getting one response? Monkey-business!

Almanac: please investigate.


6 people like this
Posted by Lets waste $ just like Portola Valley!
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 9, 2019 at 1:59 pm

EVERYONE knows what an abject failure this was in PV. Let's see how smart or how wasteful the Council is.

Popcorn time, this should be good.


4 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 9, 2019 at 2:18 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

"Have traffic collisions been reduced since the implementation?"

No way to tell since there were ZERO red light related collisions at these intersections prior to the red light camera installations.

"What traffic violation revenue has been received by the city vs. cost incurred?"

Excellent question. My suspicion is that it is a money maker for the city, otherwise why have them when they weren't needed in the first place.


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 9, 2019 at 2:21 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Lets Wast $:

I don't think PV ever has installed red light cameras as I don't think they have any lights. The camera failure you're referring to is for ALPRs. Automated License Plate Readers.


Like this comment
Posted by Jen Wolosin
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Apr 9, 2019 at 3:02 pm

Jen Wolosin is a registered user.

Just think about the corner of Ravenswood and El Camino. Last year the City
Council approved the new Guild project. One of the justifications for the
lack of parking for this project is its proximity to Caltrain. In fact,
most of our new developments coming online covered by the Downtown Specific
Plan (Stanford at 500 El Camino, Greenheart at 1300, etc) tout a "Transit
Oriented" focus. How can the City on the one hand approve projects based on
walk-ability and then make the main intersections that need to be crossed
more dangerous to walk?

This is about safety. The red light cameras should stay.


5 people like this
Posted by fixed deals
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Apr 9, 2019 at 3:15 pm

"This is about safety. The red light cameras should stay."

If it's about safety, offer data that proves it's safer WITH the cameras.

How many traffic or pedestrian deaths in the years before the cameras at this intersection versus the years after installation?


Also: do you feel that MP should stick with these crooks, or find a different provider?


Like this comment
Posted by Jen Wolosin
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Apr 9, 2019 at 4:00 pm

Jen Wolosin is a registered user.

For data, you can check out the article referenced by Adina Levin in her email to Council (Web Link). It's not intersection-specific...luckily we don't have pre/post death stats at one intersection in MP. Waiting for death is my list favorite way to determine enforcement needs.

As for whether or not Redflex is the correct vendor, that's not my point. There are other vendors.


Like this comment
Posted by fixed deals
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Apr 9, 2019 at 4:07 pm

"There are other vendors."

No, in this case. See the article.


"It's not intersection-specific"

Nice. Installed with no compelling reasons other than revenue generation, zero substantiation as to effectiveness, but *OMIGAWD* we have to continue using crooks because: **PERCEIVED SAFETY**!!!!

Yikes.

What about the anecdotal evidence that folks freak out around cameras and it changes their driving behavior, sometimes making them more likely to slam on the brakes instead of safely and smoothly exiting the intersection?

Want to be the driver behind them? Near them?



Like this comment
Posted by sjtaffee
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 9, 2019 at 7:53 pm

sjtaffee is a registered user.

I think the City should not renew the contract with that vendor. They're bad actors.

That said, In addition to the revenue figures cited by the press, there area some other things about the program that might help fill in more of the blanks. I got this informaiton from Chief Bertini.

95% of tickets issued are for drivers who live outside of Menlo Park. So these are people travleing to points in the city or one their way through MP somewhere else.

Before a citation is issued, the video footage is review by a traffic officer, so human judgment is involved and not all "violations" as recorded by the red light system result in a citation being issued. The officer uses the same judgment standards that would be applied by a traffic officer sitting in a squad car.

Regards,

Steve Taffee


2 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 9, 2019 at 8:25 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Jen:

sorry, but there was ZERO reason to install these cameras and you can produce ZERO evidence that they are effective, nor ZERO evidence that they were needed in the first place. Produce the evidence if you can. Otherwise, you are supporting a money making, "feel good" policy by the city. These cameras do nothing for safety and in actuality it can be argued they do the opposite by increasing rear end collisions by people slamming on their brakes to avoid blowing the light with a fast yellow timing. But we don't know that because the city hasn't studied it now, nor did they before they installed the cameras. Do we? Facts. They're really important. The city has none.


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo voter
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 9, 2019 at 8:37 pm

Menlo Voter are you sure the bayfront cameras were installed with zero evidence. I thing there were a number of accidents at these intersections that resulted in fatalities


2 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 10, 2019 at 7:25 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

There were no fatal accidents on Bayfront involving red lights prior to installation of the camera there. There has been one that I'm aware of since then. So, I guess that camera really works, huh?


2 people like this
Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 10, 2019 at 8:50 am

"sorry, but there was ZERO reason to install these cameras"

Not quite true. The motivator here is Money. Redflex makes a lot of money off these cameras, so much that I believe they actually guarantee the city a minimum amount of revenue. It is such a revenue stream that several years ago, to my recollection, there was a proposal to make the yellow light at Ravenswood and El Camino longer (resulting in less redlight violations) and it was shot down.


6 people like this
Posted by Motivation
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 10, 2019 at 10:27 am

If Redflex is guaranteeing minimum revenue, then Menlo Park itself has the wrong incentives set up. When money is the main consideration, the vendor is going to optimize its equipment to go after technical violations that break the letter of the law, not the spirit of the law.

If public safety is key, then Adina, Jen, and other residents should ask for a red light camera contract with revenue tied to safety efficacy. This means that after the red light camera is installed, accident severity and rate must decrease. Only if it decreases does the vendor get paid a bonus. The vendor still receives a flat rate for installation and maintenance, but zero ticket revenue.

Now, the vendor's motivation aligns with the public's. And if the vendors do not believe that their own equipment improves safety, they won't bother bidding.

Vendors that really believe their equipment significantly cuts the accident rate, they will underbid the installation and maintenance contract because they will be paid much more on the back end from safety improvements.

How well red light cameras improve safety have a mixed record, mostly because the real motivation of both vendors and city governments, as opposed to the citizens, has been increasing revenue. Public safety is given lip service to provide cover for the real motivation. If the only way to get paid is through real public safety, the vendors will adjust their equipment and research toward that goal.


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