The fate of Puyallup’s red-light cameras isn’t settled, but at least one City Council member who had doubts about the program now says he’s been won over.
“I wanted to study (the program) to find out wherein lies the myths, fact and fiction,” Councilman Steve Vermillion said during a council study session Tuesday night.
Vermillion’s own research into photo enforcement and information provided by the Puyallup Police Department eased his concerns, and “I’m a supporter now,” he said.
Some other council members also said during and after the session that they support the program. Councilman John Palmer said it’s focused on safety and is fair to drivers.
“I walk away being convinced this is a well-run program,” he said.
The future of the city’s red-light camera program, which dates to 2008, has been uncertain since some council members last month balked at extending the city’s expiring contract with its camera vendor another five years. The council instead approved a 30-day extension and asked for a study session to talk more in depth about photo enforcement.
No decision was made Tuesday night. The contract is expected to come back to the council soon for action, although no date was specified during the study session.
The vote, whichever way it goes, likely will be close. Not everyone on the seven-member council supports the cameras.
Deputy Mayor John Knutsen said they’re unpopular with the public, and the public should have an advocate speaking for them in opposition.
“I’m willing to be that,” he said during the study session.
After the meeting, Councilman Tom Swanson said he’s “not a fan” of red-light cameras and would like to see the city look at other options for traffic safety first.
The city has cameras at six intersections, covering 13 approaches. That includes cameras at the intersection of Ninth Street Southwest and 39th Avenue Southwest, which have been turned off for a couple years because of construction but are set to be reactivated.
Puyallup isn’t the only South Sound city with red-light cameras; they’re also in Tacoma, Lakewood, Fife, Auburn and Lacey. In general, supporters say they change driver behavior and make intersections safer, while opponents criticize them as ineffective and merely cash cows for municipalities.
Puyallup’s cameras last year brought in about $485,000 in net revenue, after the city paid about $560,000 to vendor American Traffic Solutions and accounted for staff costs, according to city data.
Puyallup police officials told the council Tuesday that the cameras make the streets safer in the city of 37,000 residents. Over the 3 ½ years of the program, there’s been a 43 percent reduction in red-light violations, meaning fewer people are running red lights, they said.