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Suspicious of need for red light cameras

Original post made by Renee Batti, associate editor of The Almanac, on Jan 10, 2007

The following letter was published in the Almanac's Jan. 10 print edition:

I want to echo the sentiments of Claude Leglise, (Letters Dec. 13) who was quite eloquent on the subject of adding red light surveillance cameras in Menlo Park. When are we, as a population, going to protest the legalized spying on us and our privacy?
This grows more prevalent every day. Are red light violations a big concern in Menlo Park, or is the business of raising revenues really the bigger concern? I never run a red light, but what will be defined as a "red light?" We all have had the experience of heading into the intersection when the light is yellow, and later turns red.
It's my understanding that some of these camera companies have actually shortened the length of a yellow light to increase their revenues, since they are paid on the basis of fines levied. In such instances, they are actually creating the crime to line their coffers.
When are we going to look to local government to serve and protect us, not spend time thinking of ways to drive revenues on our backs?
Ray Sun
Santa Cruz Avenue, Menlo Park

Comments (10)

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Posted by Watchful motorist
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jan 11, 2007 at 10:17 am

I only hope there's adequate oversight of this questionable project to prevent any shenanigans like shortening yellow-light cycles. Over the last few years, my confidence in our civic leaders and city officials has been thoroughly shaken, and the installation of cameras at intersections when there doesn't appear to be a real light-running problem in this town makes me very nervous.

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Posted by lemerd15
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jan 13, 2007 at 11:10 am

From the over 2000 cameras installed in the country there was only one single instance where the yellow time was shortened for camera profits. That was extremely stupid and an anomaly that can never happen again. The City Traffic Departments control signal timing, not the companies; and if ever there where an accident at an intersection where the Traffic dept had too short a yellow time, they would be sued till the cows come home. As a matter of fact I am aware of the common practice of INCREASING the yellow time at intersection that get cameras so the city will have less complaints and overrule any contestation of the tickets.

It makes me laugh when people cry about the profit associated with Photo Enforcement. It is an argument without logic, only emotion. This is America and businesses work for profit. Do you realize that parking is enforced and processed by private companies for "profit"? That Tolls are collected and processed by private companies for "profits"? That hospitals are run by private companies for "profit"? That Doctors treat and “care” for you for "profit"?

If people or companies work, perform, extend resources, and take risks to get work done, public or otherwise, they should be expected to earn profit. To believe otherwise is naive. And yes cities will always have programs that benefit yet cost the public, like parking and cops giving tickets - deal with it.

The "profits" argument so many of the detractors choose to use is simply a convenient cover for their real objection, which is they still want the ability to run Red Lights without getting punished. I say to hell with that! Just because they want to get around faster does not give them the right to endanger me and my family. Notice there are no arguments made that it is ok to run red lights. How come you don’t hear the naysayers make that argument? Because running red lights is dangerous - PERIOD - it's just that some people feel their convenience is more important then other's safety.

To all the cry-baby detractors complaining about red light cameras, the solution is very simple, it really is quite easy: SIMPLY STOP GOING THROUGH RED LIGHTS - THERE WILL NO LONGER BE ANY PROFITS IN THE ENFORCEMENT PROGRAMS - THE CITY'S WILL BE HAPPY AND THE CORPORATIONS WILL PACK THEIR BAGS AND GO HOME

Stop crying and stop going through red lights.

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Posted by Watchful motorist
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jan 13, 2007 at 2:57 pm


Perhaps you could calm down long enough to cite the study that says that over 2,000 cameras have been installed countrywide, and that there has been only one instance of yellow light-cycle shortening. I, for one, would be interested in finding a reliable, independent study on red light cameras. And I'd also like to see the city's statistics on red-light violations and accidents caused at intersections because of such violations.

Meanwhile, thanks for your advice, but I must inform you that it really wasn't necessary. Recent city decisions may have made me a little queasy, but they have yet to make me cry. And, FYI, I don't run red lights.

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Posted by Revealer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 13, 2007 at 3:25 pm

Lemerd15 = A frustrated Winkler-follower.

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Posted by new guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 14, 2007 at 8:32 am

Amazing, really.

Running red light = bad = endangering of your family.

Everyone gets it. That is why the argument works EVERY TIME!!! Can we be smart enough to see through it this time...

As for profits: I disagree, the town is not a profit center (in the business of making money) the town is a cost center, as most service industries are! (service the most people for the least cost = break even) I know this concept might be a little hard to understand, but it is a standard accounting term so you can look it up if you want. copy (cost center vs profit center), post in a search bar, then click search.

Back to (red light cameras):

When they are installed by a company who's sole purpose is making money, you have to understand that people will be suspicious. I guess its the profit motive, but deep down, I think it because WE ALL FEEL that law enforcement (police) should be doing the job of "keep my family safe."

My feelings::: (in defense of those terrible people who endanger your family)

Most people don't run red lights. (on purpose)

Everyone I know, including me has done it (at least once), and I know I did not do it on purpose, and I suppose the people I know did not do it on purpose either. IT HAPPENS, for many reasons, stuck behind a truck and the light changes, we can all name reasons you have made the mistake.

So when you run your next red light, and endanger MY family, please drive yourself to the police station and turn yourself in. Oh wait you don't like that idea, so let us invite some company to do that for us. Provide the service of ticketing you so that you don't have to turn yourself in. Your ticket will simply appear in the mail. (with half of your fee money going to some companies bottom line!)

Wow, thats progress.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Park resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jan 14, 2007 at 1:59 pm

What is so terrible about slowing down and even waiting when the light turns yellow?

Slowing down and driving with safety as the top priority may not feel natural but it is a habit that can be acquired. Go with the flow -- not the flow of aggressive drivers but the flow of the system as laid out by traffic planners, who have figured out speed limits, traffic light timing and all the rest of it.

It's simple really, and it reduces stress and helps concentration in operating a potentially dangerous machine.

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Posted by Watchful motorist
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jan 14, 2007 at 4:12 pm

Menlo Park resident, There's absolutely nothing terrible about slowing down and even waiting when the light turns yellow. Believe me, I often am distressed and disgusted by the reckless driving I see on the road every day. But reckless driving and red-light running aren't really the issues here -- at least not my issues. I want to know what NEED prompted the city to approve red light cameras (and their administrative and possible other costs to the city), and I don't think the city has really explained that. Therein lies my uneasiness, particularly after learning that other jurisdictions have had problems with the cameras.

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Posted by ElectionWatcher
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jan 14, 2007 at 7:57 pm


I don't think there ever was a need expressed by the city. I'm under the impression this firm came to us and sweet-talked it's way in. They probably knew about the budget crunch and used that angle ("it won't cost you a red cent PLUS you'll earn big $$$").

While I can see the need in cities (think Market Street in SF with loads of pedestrians), I really don't see the need in MP. I would think that when it comes to pedestrian accidents, it's the rolling right-hand turn on red that's the main problem and those cameras aren't set up for capturing that.

It would be easy enough to determine the need, though - get the police to provide the root-case accident data (hint-hint, Almanac reporters!).

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Posted by Danny
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 23, 2007 at 11:42 pm

I agree with New guy. Red light cameras are almost as bad of an idea as speed bumps.

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Posted by City Hall Scammers
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Aug 27, 2008 at 12:11 pm

Red Light Cameras Don't Work

Interesting: the solution to one problem causes another.

"The rigorous studies clearly show red-light cameras don't work," said lead author Barbara Langland-Orban, professor and chair of health policy and management at the USF College of Public Health. "Instead, they increase crashes and injuries as drivers attempt to abruptly stop at camera intersections."

Comprehensive studies from North Carolina, Virginia, and Ontario have all reported cameras are associated with increases in crashes. The study by the Virginia Transportation Research Council also found that cameras were linked to increased crash costs. The only studies that conclude cameras reduced crashes or injuries contained "major research design flaws," such as incomplete data or inadequate analyses, and were always conducted by researchers with links to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The IIHS, funded by automobile insurance companies, is the leading advocate for red-light cameras since insurance companies can profit from red-light cameras by way of higher premiums due to increased crashes and citations.

And, of course, the agenda of the government is to increase revenue due to fines:

A 2001 paper by the Office of the Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives reported that red-light cameras are "a hidden tax levied on motorists." The report came to the same conclusions that all of the other valid studies have, that red-light cameras are associated with increased crashes and that the timings at yellow lights are often set too short to increase tickets for red-light running. That's right, the state actually tampers with the yellow light settings to make them shorter, and more likely to turn red as you're driving through them.

In fact, six U.S. cities have been found guilty of shortening the yellow light cycles below what is allowed by law on intersections equipped with cameras meant to catch red-light runners. Those local governments have completely ignored the safety benefit of increasing the yellow light time and decided to install red-light cameras, shorten the yellow light duration, and collect the profits instead.

The cities in question include Union City, CA, Dallas and Lubbock, TX, Nashville and Chattanooga, TN, and Springfield, MO, according to, which collected information from reports from around the country.

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

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