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Red light cameras go live June 10 in Menlo Park

Original post made on Jun 6, 2008

If the early data is any indicator, Menlo Park's new red-light photo enforcement program could add a lot of money to the city's coffers once the system starts ticketing drivers on June 10.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, June 5, 2008, 6:21 PM

Comments (32)

Posted by Barbara millin
a resident of another community
on Jun 6, 2008 at 10:55 am

Are cameras at traffic lights timed to be unsafe, unfair and entrapment?

It is my understanding that where there are cameras, the orange lights are set for less time than other lights and are slightly less than is deemed safe or just at the lower end of safety for the lawful flow of traffic.

For example, if the lawful speed is 35 mph. one should have at least 3.5 seconds to come to a stop. The lights with cameras are less, thus trapping the motorist to slam on the breaks or go through the red light and be eligible for a ticket. I have timed some of the intersections in Palo Alto with cameras and found this to be true.

Is it true that companies providing the cameras get revenue from the tickets and have an interest in "entrapping" motorists in this manner?

Posted by Martin Engel
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jun 6, 2008 at 11:52 am

Web Link

Here is a website that provides links to news articles about red light cameras and what a scam they are. This is another example of the city not doing its homework and signing on for something they will come to regret. To read the articles, first open the website.

Ticket Cameras
Photo Enforcement Articles

Inside Red Light Cameras: _The Weekly Standard web site featured this five-part investigation on red-light cameras. This extensive report shows that the science behind these devices is bad and the police are using them to make money, not save lives.
Intersection Collisions Increase _Click here for an overview of media coverage reporting on the increase of accidents at red-light camera intersections.

Cameras' Biggest Supporters: _This article from the Philadelphia Daily News examines the National Campaign to Stop Red Light Running. This self-proclaimed public interest group is nothing more than a front for camera companies looking to cash in.
Arizona Freeway Speed Cameras _This article describes some of the injustices created by the speed cameras installed on an Arizona freeway.

Red-Light Cameras Increase Accidents: _This Washington Post analysis of accident data shows that accidents doubled at intersections with red-light cameras in the District of Columbia.

Red Light Citations Drop Below One Per Day: _When officials in Fairfax County, Virginia increased the yellow-light time at an intersection with a red-light camera that wasn't reducing accidents, incidents of red-light running dropped 96 percent.

The Big Picture Behind Red-Light Cameras: _Columnist Don Russell of the Philadelphia Daily News conducted this investigation on the money and politics surrounding Pennsylvania's decision to install red-light cameras. Safety isn't even an afterthought.
Rear-end crashes go up after red-light cameras go in. _This article from Car and Driver columnist Pat Bedard talks about the biggest problems with red-light cameras - they cause accidents.

Traffic Light Cameras - Bad Choice: _This investigation focuses on why ticket cameras are not a good option for Athens, Georgia. Specifically, the author looks at the former House Majority Leader Dick Army's report on red-light cameras to demonstrate they are a bad fit for her community.

Camera Enforcement - Developing the Factual Picture: _Click here for excerpts from Greg Mauz's Report of the same name. This brief look at the use of ticket cameras shows they have nothing to do with safety. Instead, camera enforcement is about power, authority, and money.

Missing The Point: _This article looks at the real causes behind red-light violations and points to real solutions. Red-light cameras cannot solve the problem.

Red-Light Cameras, The Trojan Horse: _Red-light cameras are only the beginning. They are already the justification for the spread of photo radar and together these two technologies will open the door for even more invasive automated enforcement methods.
Photo Radar Technology Called Into Question _Read the story of an NMA member who found fault with his community's photo radar devices. He prepared to fight his ticket and he won!

Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 6, 2008 at 4:09 pm

I see they went ahead and approved the cameras despite credible and decisive studies against them.


autonomous: [x]
responsible: [ ]
fiscal irresponsibility: [x]
concern for safety: [ ]

Oooohhh goody! Who can we hire with the extra money we'll get? Maybe a liason for the liason between residents and the council? A gal can't have too much help, can she? Maybe an assistant to the city manager?

Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 6, 2008 at 6:43 pm

Getting all exercised over a simple matter like stopping at a red light is beyond my understanding.

I've come close to running a light once in a while in the past, but that was because I was driving irresponsibly. I've admitted it to myself and I've changed my habits. It wasn't that difficult.

Now I no longer speed up when the light is yellow. I look behind me, I take my foot off the gas and tap the brakes and come to a gradual stop. I've never had anyone hit me from behind. It's very simple, really. And I could have been doing it all along. I just didn't see the wisdom of it. Now I do.

I could not care less about cameras watching my driving at an intersection, particularly when there are drivers out there who seem to see it as some sort of statement of America freedom to successfuly run a red light or squeak through at the tail end of a yellow.

Haven't you all got more important matters to get worked up about? Drive safely and be done with it. We'll all feel better about sharing the road with you if you do.

Posted by Barbara millin
a resident of another community
on Jun 6, 2008 at 6:57 pm

Dear Joe,

Don't judge us who are concerned so hastily. We want to save you and others grief.

The point about lights with cameras is that the orange lights are timed for less time than other lights and do not give enough time for all traffic to stop safely. That would exxplain why there are more accidents at such intersections.
See the website below to see these articles:

Web Link

Red-Light Cameras Increase Accidents
This Washington Post analysis of accident data shows that accidents doubled at intersections with red-light cameras in the District of Columbia.Intersection Collisions Increase

An overview of media coverage reporting on the increase of accidents at red-light camera intersections.

And many more.

Posted by Speak Truth to Power
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 9, 2008 at 6:58 pm

I'm guessing that there will be a lot more comments on this thread after June 10th. Wait 'till they shorten the yellow light. Remember, regardless of their protestations, the agenda is to generate revenue. Wait till the rear-enders multiply when we all panic-stop at lights.

Posted by Richard
a resident of Hillview Middle School
on Jun 9, 2008 at 8:04 pm

If you have ever had to cross El Camino on Valparaiso going West before 7AM, you will agree that the light is green for only 5 seconds, regardless of traffic. I thin that the magnetic strip is broken or the light is just set to turn quickly before 7:15. At most, only two cars can get across.
I would sincerely hope that the traffic "Gods" can set the light so that it lasts for at least 20 seconds, regardless of cars. As a bicyclist and a motorist, I have often found myself either running the light or stuck in the middle of the intersection.

Posted by susan
a resident of another community
on Jun 17, 2008 at 7:57 pm

I've also heard that this program requires shortened yellow lights that trap motorists into either slamming on their brakes in order to stop before entering the intersection, or running the light and receiving a hefty fine. For me this could be a potential reason for avoiding shopping in downtown Menlo. Sorry TJ's and Su Hong, I'll make it up to you at your other locations.

Posted by A
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 10, 2008 at 11:55 pm

So how are the cameras working out . . .

Seems like good idea ONLY if they are installed at intersections with high injury accident rates. This has to be done scientifically to be actually considered a safety thing. And of course no reduction of yellow light interval as someone claimed above (I don't know the answer)

Posted by Richard
a resident of another community
on Jul 11, 2008 at 9:43 pm

Those who claim that yellow intervals are decreased when red light cameras are in place are misinformed. The length of yellow light intervals is regulated by the state in these cases. California Vehicle Code Section 21455.7 says
(Web Link

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 Traffic Manual of the Department of Transportation.

(b) For purposes of subdivision (a), the minimum yellow light change intervals relating to designated approach speeds provided in the Traffic Manual of the Department of Transportation are mandatory minimum yellow light intervals.

(c) A yellow light change interval may exceed the minimum interval established pursuant to subdivision (a).

Posted by commuter
a resident of another community
on Sep 29, 2008 at 4:05 pm

I am quite stressed out by this intersection now: this morning I went through and the light quickly turned yellow; there was another car behind me - very close behind me so I had the dilemma: risk rear ender or proceed through with this car tailgating me? The lights did blink and so the car behind me will likely get a ticket. Only time will tell whether i get a ticket as well... How soon would it be mailed? This is not a safe arrangement and I'll try to avoid this intersection completely.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 2, 2008 at 9:37 pm

I hate these things. Every day I drive down El Camino to work, and I'm constantly blinded by the flashing of the camera light! Is Menlo Park going to reimburse me if I rear end someone because I can't see?

Posted by Guido Veloce
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 3, 2008 at 11:34 am

You're constantly blinded by flashing lights because people are constantly running reds at this intersection.

Posted by Rob
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Dec 16, 2008 at 4:46 pm

The timing of the yellow light should be lengthened at intersections with a high accident rate.

Posted by Barbara Millin
a resident of another community
on Jan 9, 2009 at 11:07 am

What is the Minimum Yellow Light Change Interval set by the California Department of Transportation?

Go To the following No. 05-01 on website:
Web Link
A 35 mph zone needs a minimum of 3.6 seconds on yellow.

If you get a ticket at one of the camera intersections, time the light and contest the ticket if it is under the minimum set by law.

Posted by Guido Veloce
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jan 9, 2009 at 4:15 pm

Now there's a feasible plan. As you are zooming through the intersection with careless disregard for human life, carry a stop-watch to make sure you get your full 3.6 seconds of yellow light time.

Mamma Mia! Just stop at a red light, for chrissakes!

Posted by Use Your Brain to Think!
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 10, 2009 at 7:15 pm

Hey, Guido Veloce:

Did you ever stop and think that when you set the yellow light below that minimum, you're actually sacrificing public safety to earn a few extra bucks for the city and red-light contractor.
I'd call that criminal - how about you?

Posted by Shawn
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 11, 2009 at 9:07 pm

Perhaps the individual who suggested that folks just stop at the light is right after all. Maybe everyone could slow down a bit as well? I cross El Camino every day on my way to 101 and have never come close to setting off the camera. If I did, I'd pay my ticket and take my lumps. In my experience, no one is ever really so innocent in these situations and perhaps we should all stop acting like there's some sort of conspiracy.

Posted by Jesus Christ, Superstar
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jan 12, 2009 at 11:41 am

Isn't it amazing, in the space of one short thread, how the ridiculous notion that amber lights might be shortened at camera-equipped intersections becomes fact after a few short posts? "Use Your Brain To Think! (Because I Can't?)" seems to have made this leap, at least.

Honestly, apart from a few Libertarians and other self-important types, of which there is no short supply on the Peninsula, does anyone think there's a conspiracy at work here? Is the government hiding UFOs in those cameras, as well?

As others have suggested, slow down a little, give the car ahead of you a little more room, brake if you see amber, and you should have nothing to worry about at these intersections. And, at worst, the slower you drive through an intersection, the slower will travel the self-important driver behind you who rear-ends you. I've watched traffic at Ravenswood and El Camino and it's scary what people will do to avoid waiting at this light. Bring on the cameras, I say!

Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on Jan 12, 2009 at 2:33 pm

JC,SS-right on!!!

Posted by Chester McFly
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jan 12, 2009 at 3:28 pm

Martin Engel,

I was with you on the HSR issue -- completely -- but to prop up the National Motorists Association, the self-appointed defender of "motorists' freedoms and rights," as anything approaching an objective source of information on the issue or traffic cameras is downright embarrassing. Sincerely,


Posted by A Fact Is A Fact
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 15, 2009 at 8:32 pm

"Isn't it amazing, in the space of one short thread, how the ridiculous notion that amber lights might be shortened at camera-equipped intersections becomes fact after a few short posts?"

The Daily Post just had a piece this week catching the city of San Mateo with its pants down - their yellow light gaps were set below standards.

Whatta say now, Jesus???

Posted by Len
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 24, 2009 at 8:01 pm

I just had one flash me when the light turned green. In other words, I had been stopped on El Camino at a red light, and it flashed right before and after the light turned green. It caught me starting up running a green light -- like the timing might be backwards. I checked, and the camera was pointed at me (not the perpendicular direction). Does anyone know whether they actually include the traffic light in the photo? Will I be able to prove the light wasn't actually red when I entered the intersection?
How long will I have to wait to know if a ticket is issued to me?

Posted by Miss Ericordia
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 25, 2009 at 1:38 pm

I know Menlo Park's done a lot of work on signal timing on El Camino to speed people through town, but maybe it's time to take another look. The wait time to get across El Camino can be interminable!

Posted by Suzy Zhang
a resident of another community
on Apr 8, 2009 at 2:00 pm

Okay I just got a red light ticket for "running the light" turning left off of Bayfront Expressway and onto Willow Rd. I don't see HOW anyone can stop for that light. It's 50 mph speed limit and normally all the cars around you go really quickly. Once the light turns yellow, you're pretty much screwed.. because at that speed you either can stop in the middle of the intersection while slamming on your breaks or continue through the yellow. You're going at 50 and when you're pretty close to the light you think you can make it.. then it turns yellow and you still think you're fine.. you slow down to turn and then cameras start flashing around you. I remember being really confused. Especially, now that I think about it the turning lane was a lot longer than normal.. so easily, I wasn't used to it: it threw me off as it would anyone. I don't mind paying a ticket for something that I've violated.. but in this case I truly feel cheated. My bail is $436 + traffic school and administration fees )which will add on another hundred or more) WAY more than a normal bail price around $200-300 PLUS there were no signs around the light that even confirmed that bail price! I feel like they hiked it up just to get some more cash in the state of the economy. And reading this just angers me more.. 194 drivers running a red light on that specific turn within a month's period is a problem.. but it seems more odd that it is just THAT light.. maybe add a freaking sign by that intersection that notifies you to slow down would be more effective than nothing but hidden cameras to collect your money. All in all I feel this light is BS. I'm a high school student working two jobs, saving up to buy my prom dress. Instead my money went to a abnormally high bail amount at a suspiciously enforced light.

Posted by Peter
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on May 29, 2009 at 8:29 am

@ Miss Ericordia

I agree with you, it is time to take another look @ El Camino light timing. I drive from one end of Menlo Park to the other on El Camino almost every day. If they've done anything to actually improve the traffic flow down the El Camino, I would be very surprised. At just about any time of day the I get stopped at about 75% of the red lights. As an example of the problems, going North it is often the case that the light at Santa Cruz turns green while the one at Ravenswood stays red for some time.

Posted by Miss Ericordia
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on May 29, 2009 at 2:04 pm

Peter: Thanks for the amen, brother.

Posted by Elsie
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 19, 2010 at 2:12 pm

I just got my photo taken at Bayfront/Willow. I totally agree... the yellow is way too short given the speed limit. Also, do they take photos of the front and back of the car? I don't have a front plate.

Posted by SM
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 21, 2010 at 11:45 pm

I too got a ticket at Bayfront/Willow. This is such a scam, I can't believe that our elected politians are not doing anything about this. The city takes advantage of this odd intersection, where there is a high-speed lane that makes a left WIDE turn, and the yellow is set to the lowest allowable setting. Menlo park is getting very greedy. This ticket will cost me close to $600 dollars, much needed money I must say. We need to stand up to this injustice. Makes me hate the law enforcement, and have nothing but contempt for these scammers. Shame on you Menlo Park!

Posted by Henry99
a resident of another community
on Jul 17, 2010 at 1:41 am

Just to let everyone know than on July 2, 2010, CalTrans lengthened the Bayfront/Willow left turn yellow by 1/2 sec. Since the "late times" on the majority of violations there were very small, that small adjustment will have the effect of cutting tickets by half, or more. It will be interesting to see what the city does when people who got tickets before July 2 start asking for dismissals or refunds.

Posted by Ish Raemon
a resident of another community
on Dec 27, 2010 at 7:54 am

A red light ticket for "running the light" turning left off of Bayfront Expressway and onto Willow Rd.
I saw a flashing red on my left turn yesterday and I did take a left turn after stopping for a second. I saw two other cars pass before me. I was surprised to find that the camera flashed when I was in the middle of the intersection.I wonder I did not find anything flashing yellow before the camera flash? I am yet to be cited as it had happened just yesterday.I strongly belive in stead of flashing red it should be solid red on the left turn near Willow Rd.

Posted by shortyellow
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 17, 2011 at 4:17 pm

I just paid the El Camino, Ravenswood red light violation $469 with "convenience fees" online my wife got a year ago.
The first notice was a "snitch" ticket without the court's name - but last week there was a new one with "notice to appear" date and threats of $300 additional and DMV reg penalties.

Now I am reading about short yellow lights and wondering if they had that intersection under the required 3 seconds last year? How would I find that out!? Are there public records for those settings?
Anyone else contested tickets from this intersection?

The registration is in my name - will I get points on my record for this?


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