LOS ANGELES, Calif.–The City Council voted unanimously today to pull the plug on its automated photo red light program, which issues tickets as high as $480 to drivers snapped running red lights.
After more than an hour of debate, all 13 council members present agreed to stop issuing tickets generated by the cameras, as of midnight Sunday.
The council did not decide when its contract with American Traffic Solutions, which manages the tickets generated by the cameras, would finally be terminated.
The point of the 11-year-old program has been to make streets safer, Council President Eric Garcetti said.
“We have mixed data at best on whether this does … So today it is time for us to shut it down,” he said.
Also at issue was the fact that the Los Angeles County Superior Court has declined to enforce the tickets, and no state law exists to require county courts to do so. Because of the lack of enforcement, the program has cost the city more money to manage the cameras than revenue generated from traffic tickets.
The council also urged the city Department of Transportation to look at increasing the length of yellow lights or adding time when all lights at an intersection are red.
“In the long term I think we’ll find it a mistake to get rid of this program,” Councilman Bernard Parks said, despite voting to end it. “I think it’s one of those issues that there is no dollar you can place on the saving of a life.”
There have been no fatalities at any of the 32 intersections in the city where the cameras are installed, according to police.
Parks had hoped to see the courts change their position on suspending car registrations for drivers who neglected to pay. He was also holding out hope that a state Senate bill would require county courts to enforce the tickets, but that bill has been suspended.
Councilmen Paul Krekorian and Paul Koretz argued that ATS should be responsible for paying for the dismantling of the cameras and any other final costs. Assistant City Attorney Terry Martin-Brown said she interpreted the contract to mean that the city would have to pay some residual costs for processing tickets and court appearances on tickets issued through Sunday.
According to the Chief Legislative Analyst’s Office, the city might be bound by union contracts to remove the cameras at a cost to the city, as opposed to ATS removing the cameras at no cost to the city.
Councilman Mitchell Englander disputed the fact that there are no consequences to not paying the tickets. He said unpaid red light tickets do remain in the court record and will show up during a background check by a potential employer.
By Richie Duchon | City News Service