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The Hayward City Council is considering the removal of 10 red-light cameras at eight city intersections at tonight’s meeting. A police staff report complied for the City Council indicates traffic accidents have not been curbed by the red-light camera program and operation costs outpace revenue. The report advises phasing out a contract with Redflex Traffic Systems after the company entered into an agreement with the city in November 2007.
The five-year contract for the cameras at eight intersections expires starting at the end of 2013. The staff report recommends a gradual phase-out throughout the next two years that is not expected to incur costs to the city. Hayward City Councilman Marvin Peixoto said he was surprised to learn that the cameras do not appear to be effective.
“The whole purpose was not to generate revenue,” he said, “but to improve safety at those intersections.” Data culled by police staff found that operating the cameras costs the city nearly $1 million per year, with fine revenue bringing in as much or less. Overall the program has cost the city nearly $52,000 over the past five years, according to the report. Additionally, police said about 100 to 120 hours of staff work is required to run the program each year.
Monitoring the effectiveness of the program in terms of traffic safety, the report finds that all but three of the intersections in the system recorded increases in rear-end collisions after the cameras’ installation. The highest increase in these type of traffic accidents after the installation of the cameras was at the B and Second streets intersection, which saw a 75 percent increase.
However, broadsiding accidents — which involves a car with a green light striking another car running a red light — did drop by 57 percent at Industrial Boulevard and Huntwood Avenue, and at three other intersections. At the four other intersections these types of accidents increased or saw no change. Since implementing the cameras, there have been 62,987 citations to red-light runners, including right-on-red violators. Peixoto said he has received countless emails from constituents upset about getting tickets for making a right-hand turn that was caught on camera.
Police noted many of the violations caught on camera are rejected for discrepancies such as grainy imaging or no evidence that the law was broken. Police have found that a pilot program has proven more effective than installing red-light cameras at violation-prone intersections. Starting in October 2011, an in-person police officer was monitoring the top five intersections where all types of traffic incidents occur.
Within the first year of the pilot program, accidents dropped 35 percent, according to the report, and continued to drop off. Police have identified this approach as an alternative to a camera program. “I’m for whatever is going to be more effective,” Peixoto said. He speculated that having a patrol car near an intersection would be a helpful move, reflecting on his own driving behavior.
The report noted 34 California cities have dropped out of red-light camera programs in the past few years including eight in the Bay Area: Berkeley, Burlingame, Cupertino, Emeryville, Fairfield, San Jose, San Carlos and Union City. Peixoto, who said he plans to listen closely to testimonies and public comment at tonight’s meeting before deciding the fate of the program, said he has yet to hear from anyone in support of red-light cameras.
Based on constituent correspondence, “almost all the emails are opposed” to the cameras, he said. Many residents make the same complaint about the steep cost of the violation at nearly $500. Tonight’s meeting begins at 7 p.m. and will be held at council chambers at City Hall at 777 B St. in Hayward.
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