UPDATED: Goodbye Red-Light Cameras - Albuquerque Journal

UPDATED: Goodbye Red-Light Cameras

Red-light cameras like this one at Coors Bypass and Ellison will soon go dark. The City Council has voted to terminate the city’s contract with Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. within about 60 days. (DEAN HANSON/JOURNAL)

Albuquerque’s red-light cameras will snap their last photos over the next two months.

City councilors narrowly agreed late Monday to repeal the ordinance authorizing the program and call for its termination within about 60 days.

The council’s action comes after the program was defeated at the polls in last month’s municipal election, when 53 percent of voters cast ballots against it.

City Councilor Dan Lewis led the push to put the cameras on the ballot and sponsored Monday’s measure to terminate them. He said he believes the program is more about revenue than public safety and that voters were informed by years of debate.

“We’ve talked this issue to death,” he said. “This may very well be the last word on this program.”

The camera program, operated by Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., photographs red-light runners at 14 intersections and mails citations to the vehicles’ owners. It started about seven years ago.

The camera program generated about $9.9 million in profit for the city between its inception and the end of the last fiscal year. But that profit comes from the cameras’ early years, before changes were made to make the program revenue-neutral, meaning the city didn’t make any money from it or subsidize it.

Councilors voted 5-4 in favor of ending the program, with support from Don Harris, Michael Cook, Ken Sanchez, Rey Garduño and Lewis. Voting “no” were Trudy Jones, Brad Winter, Isaac Benton and Debbie O’Malley.

Winter said he wasn’t a fan of the cameras but wanted to support the will of voters in his district, who narrowly supported the program.    Benton wasn’t persuaded that the public really wants the cameras gone. He noted the low turnout.

“I’m not convinced the majority of the citizens want this, regardless of this vote,” Benton said.    The election results were advisory, not legally binding, attorneys said.

The program started at two intersections in October 2004, and since then, mayors and city councilors have repeatedly supported it, even as it underwent significant changes.

Mayor Richard Berry was an early skeptic of the program, then came to support it. The city made changes, he said, to reflect the results of a University of New Mexico study on the cameras’ effectiveness.

Berry said his staff would review the city’s contract with Redflex to ensure the program is halted in compliance with the contract’s termination clause.

“I’ve been clear from Day One that I would listen to voters” on this issue, Berry said in an interview.

The camera system has been scaled back from 20 to 14 intersections, and it no longer issues citations to speeders, just red-light runners — changes supported by the UNM study, he said. It’s also “revenue neutral,” meaning it doesn’t rack up huge surpluses like it did in the early years, the city says.

The UNM study, released last fall, said Albuquerque’s red-light cameras improved public safety by reducing the number of crashes with injuries. But it also said the cameras boosted the number of rear-end collisions. Those collisions are less serious, however, so the net effect is an increase in public safety, the study said.

Harris said it was simply best to listen to voters.    “The public has weighed in, and I think we should respect that,” he said.

“I think once these cameras go dark, we’re going to see more accidents,” O’Malley said.


8:53am 11/7/11 — ABQ City Council To Vote on Ending Red-Light Cameras

By The Associated Press

Red light cameras could soon be a thing of the past if the Albuquerque City Council votes to end the program. The council may decide its fate Monday.

In October, Albuquerque voters said they didn’t want them. City councilor Dan Lewis claims the red light cams don’t work.

Others say in a tough economy the cameras are nothing more than a money grab.

Councilor Debbie O’Malley tells KOB-TV getting rid of red light cams will make intersections unsafe for all and will result in getting rid of speed vans at schools.

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