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Still no decision on future of Puyallup’s red-light cameras

Post by Sara Schilling / The News Tribune on April 25, 2012 at 12:02 am with 13 Comments »
April 25, 2012 12:44 am

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.

Leave a comment Comments → 13
  1. Stand at the corner of Korum Korners and bet on when somebody
    with what kind of car is going to blow it. It’s fun!
    I use that intersection crossing River Road on foot to go shopping.
    I have a vested interest in those high power strobes.

  2. Photoradarscam says:

    The cameras are just for revenue generation. How else can you explain why the city ignores the FHWA’s guidelines that prohibit red light ticketing during the all-red phase? How else do you explain the lack of engineernig studies for these allegedly dangerous intersections? Why are the police asking for this instead of the people who really understand traffic safety, traffic engineers?
    With light timing, I can make red light runners out of even the best and all well-intentioned drivers. Likewise, the timing can be optimized to ensure almost no one runs the light. But rather than optimize light timing, the city prefers to CASH IN on it. For shame.

  3. Hoo boy. Another petty tyrant. Just what we need. Time to toss Vermillion. While he promotes his version of an omnipotent government, more than 20 referendums in other parts of the country voted police-cameras out. Houston not only had to dump its revenue-cameras but also was ordered to pay a million dollars to the camera company for violating the contract. Florida and California courts have ruled they’re unconstitutional – CALIFORNIA for heavens sake!! Fifteen states have banned them outright. Local politicians are being ousted and losing elections based on this one issue alone. The outrage is growing against local politicians who install revenue-cameras to escape the consequences of their fiscal irresponsibility. And it’s particularly outrageous when they use their police powers to fleece the people they’re supposed to serve.

    To make matters worse, uses of revenue-cameras are being diversified. Thus far, cities have implemented revenue-cameras to fine drivers for radar detectors, eating, insufficient tire tread, excessive tinting, license tag violations, expired inspection stickers, HOV lane violations, map reading and cell phone usage. One company sells a mobile revenue-camera system that monitors the speed of 32 vehicles simultaneously, across four lanes coming and going. It’s become a very lucrative business and will never end unless we stop it at the ballot box. Educated communities are dumping their fiscally irresponsible bosses and electing responsible officials who will stop the increasing grab for money.

  4. Pro camera, anti camera is a contentious issue in Puyallup. But this matter has illustrated what is still wrong with elected officials in Puyallup.

    Vermillion was “reminded” by his principal election sponsor as to how he should vote. And he has accomodated them.

    “Management Consultant” Vermillion (Election Pamphlet speak for Unemployed and Unemployable)also has reversed previous council votes to grant raises to certain city employees who “sponsored” his election.

    How much did it cost ? About $1000. Which coincidentally equates to 30 pieces of silver in today’s market. Appropriate, very appropriate when it comes to Vermillion.

  5. Best way to get the red-light cameras out of circulation is to stop at red lights. Don’t want a ticket? Don’t break the law. I don’t get what’s so hard about it.

  6. mojjonation says:

    Using common sense on the masses is a lost cause. Why bother obeying the law when you can gripe about people and tools used to enforce it? Quite frankly, I’d like to know what company sells a camera that can determine tread depth. I think you have seen far too many action movies.

  7. These are NOT red light cameras, they are yellow light cameras, which mean proceed with caution, not “you get a ticket”. Also a red light camera has not prevented 1 accident. Stop and think, if the light changes and someone comes flying through it, the traffic waiting for it to change to green doesn’t have time to proceed ahead, the red light car would be long gone. You have no way of fighting these phony yelow light tickets either, they make it virtually impossible to contest the ticket. Voters might have to vote them out if the council doesn’t listen to the people.

  8. modyfied says:

    Case in fact- the timing can be altered to give an easy ticket, or set longer as a warning.Any city installing, opts for the speedier ones to generate(safety?)revenue.The timing is not adjusted for inclement weather, so if it snows, and you drive slower due to conditions, you get a ticket for being in the middle of the intersection, and not making it through (FACT!)I for one feel much safer avoiding these intersections. Oh, BTW, it does decrease T-bone accidents, but raises rear-end collisions. Which choice is safer?

  9. Been “won” over. Oh and who “provided” that “data” the police department no doubt with help of the vendor most likely. The same people who no doubt went to ATS junkets in AZ! http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/35/3581.asp

    Quote: “The distinction between employees for a private photo enforcement firm and taxpayer-funded public servants blurred in the city of Lynnwood, Washington. Emails between city officials and American Traffic Solutions (ATS) suggest a cozy relationship developed where both sides were willing to perform the duties of the other in terms of marketing and public relations.

    Lynnwood Police Sergeant Wayne “Kawika” Davis, for example, used official government resources and time to come up with a marketing plan to sell for the privately held firm at a conference held at the Tulalip Resort Casino in June.”

    added quote: “ATS was equally generous in inviting municipal employees from across the country to attend a complimentary seminar in Arizona discussing “tips and tricks for speaking with the media” regarding red light cameras and “when to panic, when to relax” regarding efforts in the state legislature to restrict automated ticketing.”

    (you see ATS has been involved in helping “authoring” these studies (police do) on the scameras http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/37/3703.asp Quote: “Red light camera vendor American Traffic Solutions (ATS) is furious that police in Kansas City, Missouri released a report last week evaluating photo enforcement intersections without giving the company a chance to modify the data. In many cities, ATS plays a key role in authoring such studies, but in this case the Kansas City police department went its own way, arriving at conclusions consistent with other, independent research on the topic.”


  10. SandHills says:

    Over $500k to operate – with less than that actually going into public coffers?

    So everyone just stop at red lights – once it becomes unprofitable, then those cameras will have to be shut down.


  11. janetnielsen says:

    Twoody has it right. Just obey the law, and nobody gets hurt.

    In one year, violations at six intersections have netted the city nearly half a million dollars. That is appalling. Six intersections? That’s a lot of violations. Knowing that, I am in favor of cameras at many more intersections. Clearly, this is a huge problem with driver behavior.

    I am all in favor of collecting revenues from those who break the law. In the case of running red lights, my safety is at stake. Selfish me, I’d rather have the government benefit from those unwilling or unable to follow basic traffic rules, than have my life jeopardized going to the grocery store.

    Someone who fails to stop at an intersection when the light is red violates my right to proceed when the light is green. Traffic will flow much more quickly when drivers can proceed into an intersection confidently, without fear of collision.

    I have heard it said that the traffic cameras violate one’s right to privacy. Bosh! If you have emerged from your garage in your car, you are in public. A traffic camera trained on an intersection is no different from one trained on a teller’s window. Do not run the light. Do not rob the bank.

    If Deputy Mayor Knutson truly wants to represent the public, then he should consider those of us who value life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and do not believe others have the right to ignore the rules.

    mdw47 “Also a red light camera has not prevented 1 accident.” This is a wildly illogical assertion, and not susceptible to proof. The other side of the coin is a bit easier to consider. Has someone blowing a stop sign ever caused an accident? Yes.

    A 43% reduction in red light violations is a fantastic result. I hope that if the city council determines that the cameras are not the answer, they will fund a traffic officer for every intersection, 24-7.

  12. Something so overwhelming disliked by the public with only arguably improved safety should have never been in forced onto us in the first place.

  13. jcwconsult says:

    Have you ever noticed that the videos of terrible angle and t-bone crashes used to “sell” the public and city councils on using red light cameras were filmed by cameras that did NOT prevent the violations? Did you ever ask WHY this is true?
    Red light cameras were NEVER designed to prevent the dangerous types of red light violations that cause bad crashes, most of which happen for late entries on red, some two to five or more seconds into the red.
    Red light camera cash registers were designed to give thousands of tickets to safe drivers tricked into making split second violations in the first few tenths of a second of red, by deliberately and maliciously making the yellows too short for the ACTUAL traffic speeds. These drivers will almost all clear the intersections before cross traffic can arrive because most cities use a short all red sequence. So, these drivers that get the vast majority of the camera tickets present ZERO risks of causing the terrible t-bone crashes the cameras were supposed to prevent.
    It is a clear case of apples and oranges with the videos of the bad crashes being almost totally unrelated to the real purpose of the cameras which is to ticket thousands of safe drivers for the sole purpose of $$$$$$$$$$$$$.
    See the science on our website and if it makes sense to you, become a vocal opponent of the red light camera cash registers. Contact your state and local officials to say you do NOT want the cameras used at all. Insist that the traffic lights be re-engineered with the safer and longer yellows that reduce violations by MORE than ticket cameras.
    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, http://www.motorists.org, Ann Arbor, MI

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