News

Menlo Park's red light camera program to end

 

The Menlo Park City Council opted Tuesday to not renew a contract with Redflex, a red light camera company, thereby ending the city's red light camera enforcement program. The city joins a growing number of jurisdictions that have decided to stop red light camera programs.

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.

In October, the council agreed to extend the contract for another six months to collect data and evaluate the effectiveness of the red light camera program. The extra time was also provided so the city could put out a request for proposals to see if other red light camera operators were interested in working with the city.

According to a staff report, an initial two-week period was provided, but other companies said that wasn't enough time to complete a request for proposals. The deadline was extended by another two weeks, but still, only Redflex submitted a proposal. Its proposal included a 25 percent decrease in monthly cost, down to $19,500 a month from the current $26,000.

Vendor concerns

Redflex was involved in a major 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.

Redflex representative Ed Tiedje, director of U.S. Client Services for the company, told the council that the bribery scandal in Chicago took place six years ago, and since then, the company replaced the people who had been involved and had met rigorous compliance requirements.

Collisions continue

According to traffic collision data cited in the report, the total number of traffic collisions has actually gone up at the intersections where the cameras are installed, with 23 collisions in 2013, when the cameras were installed, and 29 in 2018.

Menlo Park Police Chief Dave Bertini commented that these statistics don't necessarily provide the full picture of what type of collisions are increasing and which are decreasing.

The red light cameras do seem to have caused a decrease in T-bone collisions, while causing a "slight" increase in rear-end collisions, he said. T-bone collisions are far more dangerous and "have been the worst accidents I've ever seen," he said. But the breakdown in the type of collisions was not included in the report.

Motorists are more likely to be overly cautious about triggering the cameras at these intersections knowing that they risk a nearly $500 ticket, and may slam on their brakes rather than proceed through an intersection at a yellow light, more than one council member argued.

Most tickets – about 87 percent – are issued to people whose vehicles are registered outside of Menlo Park, the report stated, and the vast majority (about 95 percent) are one-time offenders. At the same time, net revenue from the red light camera program has declined in the last couple of years, earning the city only $24,000 in the 2017-18 fiscal year, compared to about $127,000 in the 2013-14 fiscal year.

Councilwoman Catherine Carlton said that she had hoped to to see a decline in tickets and collisions to indicate drivers' changing behaviors, though neither has happened – citations have consistently been given to about 0.02 percent of drivers.

"I'm sad these do not seem to have an impact on people's behavior. It makes me not in love with traffic cameras being there at all," she said.

The data also did not indicate whether the red light cameras were causing the increase in the rear-end collisions, or another factor was at play, like increased traffic, Mayor Ray Mueller pointed out.

Councilman Drew Combs also raised doubts about whether the cameras improved safety.

"There isn't any real causal correlation in those studies between increased safety and the presence of cameras," he said, adding that a nearly $500 ticket is "incredibly regressive" in some situations "where people are not quite clear what's happening...They're trying to be efficient to get across the intersection."

When Carlton asked about whether the fees were flexible, Police Commander William Dixon explained that the $480 red light ticket fee is set at the state and federal levels. The base fee is $100, but comes with an additional $380 in fees and taxes, while the city gets about $155 from every ticket, or about one-third of whatever a reduced fee may be.

Local state senator Jerry Hill has brought forward legislation multiple times to reduce the fees for right-turn-on-red traffic violations, but nothing has been passed yet, he added.

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Comments

29 people like this
Posted by Martin Engel
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Apr 10, 2019 at 12:37 pm

Thank you, God, for wising up our CIty Council, at least on this issue. These gadgets were never about traffic management. They were always about the money; i.e., they produced a revenue stream for the vendor and the city.


23 people like this
Posted by Judy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 10, 2019 at 1:59 pm

Does that mean I get a refund?

I made a very safe right turn on a red light when heading north on El Camino, turning right at Ravenswood. It was safe because the light was green for traffic making a left turn on a green light from westbound Ravenswood turning left on El Camino, which created a safe barrier for traffic turning right from El Camino to Ravenswood. That's what I did. I had stopped and looked to my left and proceeded with my very safe right turn. The camera captured it and it cost me almost $500. I was sighted for a rolling stop while making a right turn. I tried to fight it and lost. Another guy in court was fighting a speeding (90 mph) ticket on 101. That ticket was only $290. What he did was reckless but what I did was very safe.

I think the cameras can be affective when used correctly, especially when capturing red light runners from drivers plowing through intersections. Excessive fines for safe right turns on a red light, which should actually be a green arrow in the example I sited (there's a green arrow in similar situations at other crossings) is just a trap to collect money.

I'd also like to note that I've noticed cameras flashing at the Ravenswood crossing when traffic is at a standstill. I wonder if bogus tickets aren't being issued.


12 people like this
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Apr 10, 2019 at 2:30 pm

$500 tickets for safe, low speed rolling right turns are unjust. Those turns shouldn't be illegal to start with.


14 people like this
Posted by Matt
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Apr 10, 2019 at 3:32 pm

Citizens 1, Nanny State 0.

Should have never taken this long to remove this unfair unjust system. We already pay plenty of taxes.

PS: troubling to read some council members pretending this was about safety. It wasn't.


14 people like this
Posted by Just the Facts
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 10, 2019 at 3:42 pm

Just the Facts is a registered user.

Camera enforcement of straight through violations is about safety. Camera enforcement of right turns (California stops) is about revenue. After the cameras have been in place a short time the straight through violations drop off dramatically. After a short time 80% or more of all camera captured violations are for right turns on red. This can be effective if you have collisions caused by right turns, but I have not heard anyone say that is the case. Goodbye and good riddance to the enforcement cameras.

According to the Federal Highway Administration red light running rates can be reduced in half by simply increasing the yellow change interval. Hope the city will ask Caltrans to review yellow timing intervals on ECR.
Web Link


11 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 10, 2019 at 8:47 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

"Menlo Park's red light camera program to end"

As well it should. Long overdue. Thank you council for seeing the light. No pun intended.


12 people like this
Posted by Pedestrians to suffer
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 10, 2019 at 11:37 pm

If you see somebody cross with a cell phone camera taping his attempt to cross ECR as a pedestrian, that would be me.

Sad to see the weak and vulnerable suffer from being bullied by those who drive reckless and selfish. Crazy monkeys on their way to monkey business.

Luckily we have the technology not to be bullied by those who use their cars as weapons.
Liberal to do whatever they seem fit. With liberal being only what floats their personal agenda.

Trust me, I got the means and incentive to come after those who endanger my life. And that's gonna cost you a little bit more than $500.
So bring it on, scofflaws, try me!


10 people like this
Posted by traffic school 101
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 10, 2019 at 11:55 pm

"Unpopular opinion" should be asked to retake Drivers Ed.

When the signal turns yellow (and you are obligated to watch the signal approaching and intersection), you need to STOP.

If you are going to fast to be able to stop, you are breaking the law and are driving reckless.

The light cycle is set up to allow you to stop safely, IF you are in possession of all your senses and drive according to the law.

If you can't come to a safe stop with those premises, you should not be allowed to drive. Full stop.

I have trouble understanding how that is even debatable by a sane human being?


3 people like this
Posted by Retake the class
a resident of another community
on Apr 11, 2019 at 12:12 am

"The light cycle is set up to allow you to stop safely, IF you are in possession of all your senses and drive according to the law."

Should read:

"The light cycle is SUPPOSED to be set up to allow you to stop safely, IF you are in possession of all your senses and drive according to the law."

Many of the cities that have installed the red light cameras have decreased the duration of the yellow light in order to increase revenue. Some of them decreased the duration below which the law allows, and many of the red light tickets have been defeated in court on this basis with knowledgeable litigants. The statute specifies that the yellow light must be of a certain duration based on the speed survey. Of course, decreasing the yellow light timing directly contradicts the stated goal of "safety".

Reference Vehicle Code Section 21455.7:

(a) At an intersection at which there is an automated enforcement system in operation, the minimum yellow light change interval shall be established in accordance with the California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.
(b) For purposes of subdivision (a), the minimum yellow light change intervals relating to designated approach speeds provided in the California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices are mandatory minimum yellow light intervals.
(c) A yellow light change interval may exceed the minimum interval established pursuant to subdivision (a).


8 people like this
Posted by traffic school 101
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 11, 2019 at 12:29 am

Nice effort to go to those lengths, but your posturing is hilarious. Even claiming the engineers are wrong.

Lets just stick to the Basics, which you apparently can't refute.

Minimum limits are the limits which are calculated according to physics.

If you don't follow the law, you are breaking it. Good luck defeating Physics!

So what's 'reasonable' in your opinion?

10 mph over (stopping 10ft after the crosswalk)?
20 mph over (ending up 100ft after the crosswalk)?

An extra big yellow beacon for your poor eyesight?
Extra french fries for actually watching where you are driving?

Just, Wow!


1 person likes this
Posted by looking on
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 11, 2019 at 11:23 am

This is an excellent decision. They should have never been put in place to begin with, and glad to see them go.

Sad to see Meuller wanting to keep them -- I always thought he was reasonable guy. Next election, he won't get my vote


16 people like this
Posted by review the record
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 11, 2019 at 11:31 am

Though the article does not reflect it, there was no motion made by any council member to keep the red light cameras.

There was a discussion amongst the council members where the pros and cons where weighed. There is nothing wrong with Councilmembers weighing the evidence. Because Mueller or any councilmember discusses evidence that would point to keeping the cameras is irrelevant.

The record is, when it came time to vote, no councilmember made a motion to keep the cameras.


Like this comment
Posted by Unpopular truth
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Apr 11, 2019 at 2:42 pm

No, it’s not people driving “recklessly”. It’s confusing signal changes that often change without notice and are orange for only a split second. THIS causes accidents. The issue would be fixed with a simple four way stop


Like this comment
Posted by Jenson
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 11, 2019 at 8:25 pm

Good, glad to see it go. Unfair, unjust and all about the money. Thank you council


2 people like this
Posted by Menlo Boomer
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Apr 12, 2019 at 4:41 pm

Since it's been hereby "proven" that technology-aided tickets don't improve safety or change behavior, I assume that means MPPD officers will stop writing any tickets at all? For that matter, why even have street lights?!

Thanks, Council- your dedication to (car-based) ~freedom~ is inspirational!


2 people like this
Posted by been there
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 12, 2019 at 9:52 pm

been there is a registered user.

Finally the money grab is ending. BTW, I have never gotten a red light camera ticket. In fact it has been decades since I was even stopped let along received a violation.
This red light camera scam doesn't make the roads safer. Just lines the pockets of the cities coffers. $12/hour workers work over a week and turn over for their paycheck to the government for an innocent slow roll through a red light.
Not fair. Not just. Good Bye. Good Riddance.


Like this comment
Posted by Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 13, 2019 at 4:44 am

Sweet! I rarely come to a complete stop while making a right hand turn on a red, generally rolling through the intersection first and hitting the brakes only if someone or something is in the way.
All clear now! Lets GO!!!


Like this comment
Posted by wcs
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Apr 15, 2019 at 5:19 pm

There was a 21 page study done prior to installing the cameras in Menlo Park.
I've posted it before...in case the link below does not work, you can find the study on their website:

saferstreetsla.org

"A Detailed Analysis of the Red Light Camera Program in Menlo Park"
by Jay Beeber, Exec Director of Safer Streets L.A.

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 16, 2019 at 8:25 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

From the report linked above:

Concluding Remarks:

No quantifiable evidence exists that the red light camera program in Menlo Park has achieved its stated goal of improving roadway safety. At the intersections currently being enforced on El Camino Real, no red light running collision problem existed prior to installation of the cameras and therefore the implementation of photo enforcement at these locations was not justified and represents excessive enforcement. At the Bayfront Expressway location, a fairly minor reduction in collisions may have occurred which was likely due entirely to an increase in the amber signal time. In addition, based on the lack of a decrease in citations between the dates when the citation rate changed due to external factors, it can reasonably be inferred that no improvement in driver behavior has been achieved at red light camera intersections. Finally, as outlined in the staff report, rear end collisions have increased resulting in a net negative impact on safety in the city.


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Apr 16, 2019 at 9:53 am

A very simple solution that would improve safety at all intersections is to introduce a delay between the red light of a particular direction and the green light for the perpendicular direction. A second or two delay would reduce the possibility of a collision.


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 16, 2019 at 3:11 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

"A very simple solution that would improve safety at all intersections is to introduce a delay between the red light of a particular direction and the green light for the perpendicular direction. A second or two delay would reduce the possibility of a collision"

There is already such a delay. It varies depending on speed limit.


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

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