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Sep 2011
L.A. council rejects reviving red-light-camera program

L.A.'s red light cameras were shuttered for good on Tuesday, as the City Council rejected a proposal to bring them back at four intersections for monitoring new safety measures.

"Enough is enough," said Councilman Bill Rosendahl. "We have debated this over and over again and it's time to finally end this. The courts won't enforce it and it's a nuisance on drivers."

The 10-3 vote, with council members Bernard Parks, Jan Perry and Ed Reyes voting to keep the program, will bring to an end all aspects of the red light photo program.

The City Council voted in July to end the program after learning that the Los Angeles Superior Court would not enforce the tickets. The contract ended and the cameras at 32 intersections around the city ceased to operate on July 31.

To address public safety concerns, the council asked the Department of Transportation to look at lengthening yellow lights at intersections, although city officials have previously said some intersections have already had that done.

But Councilman Bernard Parks sought to have the city negotiate with American Traffic Systems, which owns the cameras, to keep them on a little longer - without issuing tickets - to study other approaches, including whether extending the yellow lights would reduce accidents.

Parks said keeping the cameras on at four intersections for two months would cost about $15,000.

"As long as we have the lights up, we should take advantage of them," Parks said.

"The real issue here is for us to look to see what works and to get the crash data we need to see if the program works."

However, DOT officials said a two-month review would not be helpful.

"I believe that looking at four intersections ... over a very short period of time, because of monetary restrictions, would have probably very limited use and probably would not help us evaluate traffic safety impacts of extending the signal timing," said Pauline Chan, a senior engineer for DOT.

Other members of the City Council urged a clean break with the red light camera program.

"It doesn't make any sense, it costs us money and we should just end it," said Councilman Paul Koretz.

Councilman Richard Alarcón said he was concerned that extending the life of the cameras would only confuse the public.

"There is not a day that goes by that I'm (not) asked by someone: 'Are you still doing that program?"' Alarcón said.

"The public knows the tickets can't be enforced. All they will do is smile for the cameras. I'm concerned it will just create more confusion."

The council's decision Tuesday may mark the end of the city's 10-year experiment with red light camera enforcement. The program ended up costing the city millions of dollars because as many as 45 percent of tickets were going unpaid, an audit found.

Also, the courts have refused to enforce the tickets - which cost drivers more than $400 - because drivers did not sign the tickets agreeing to appear in court.

This created confusion over advice given to those with tickets on whether they should pay the fines. Some city officials said people could essentially ignore the citations. Police officials have warned, though, that the tickets remain in court records and will come up again if people get future traffic violations.

Councilman Dennis Zine, a former traffic officer, insisted the cameras be taken down as soon as possible to avoid further confusion for motorists.

"The life support of this particular program needs to come to an end," Zine said.

"When are those 32 cameras going to be taken down?" he asked. "It's been over a month. Nothing has taken place. We need to have complete closure."

Officials said the city will need to write a new contract with American Traffic Systems spelling out who is responsible for the camera removal and when equipment will come down.



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