Tag Archives: Red light camera

Red-light camera numbers (lots of them) in Bremerton

This post on red-light cameras will have lots of figures for you to digest. There. You’ve been warned.

The Seattle Times has a story highlighting how Tim Eyman has found a cause that crosses party lines. He has helped or led efforts to see red-light cameras either eliminated or at least approved by voters in multiple communities.

Earlier in August we pointed out the (Everett) Herald story on the cash Lynnwood was making from cameras, enough that the chief warned the city would have to lay off officers if they were gone.

Some of you asked (“Asked” is a polite description of what you did.) for information about Bremerton. Here is what I have.

In 2010 Bremerton took in $685,232 in revenue for red-light cameras. The money sent to Redflex Inc, the Arizona company that runs the system, was $443,639. That gets us $241,593 for the year. In 2009 Andy Parks, former financial services director, said it cost the city about $7,500 a month in staff time to run the program. I can only assume now that the figure came from paying for the officers to look at the ticket and estimating the extra cost it takes to run each infraction through the municipal court system. That’s $90,000 a year. So if that accounts for all the city takes in, the annual net income for Bremerton in 2010 would have been $151,593.

This means approximately 5,525 tickets were successfully prosecuted in 2010.
That means the city issues an average of 15.1 tickets per day that will result in a paid citation.
That means each camera issues an average of 1.6 tickets per day that will result in a paid citation.
Citations would have to go down 22 percent for the city to hit the break even point.

That last part, though, is affected by the contract with Redflex. Each camera is supposed to generate enough tickets to earn the $4,000 per month charge. That’s 33 tickets. As of now each camera appears to be averaging about 51. Remember, that number reflects the number of tickets actually prosecuted.

The number of tickets are going down. In 2009 the number of tickets was in the neighborhood of 6,600. That’s based on the net figures I received from the city, added to the contract that was in place then, and then dividing that figure by $124, the cost of the ticket.

Another factoid worth noting. I said cameras issued an average of 51 prosecutable tickets per month. In May each camera issued about 83 tickets, which means nearly 40 percent of all tickets are not prosecuted.

Red-light cameras pay off in Lynwood, literally

Anyone who willingly gives up an income stream is, in some cases, to be admired. That’s because many people spend whatever new money they get, thereby creating a new baseline for what they need. Governments are the same, which is why it is so hard to get rid of a tax no one likes, the business and occupation tax.

The same goes for revenues generated by red-light cameras. In Lynnwood the police chief admitted that if the program, which creates $4 million a year, were eliminated he’d have to eliminate officers. (By “eliminate” in the first reference I mean “get rid off.” In the second reference I mean they would no longer be police officers, not “eliminated” in the organized crime sense.)

It’s Friday (officially a municipal day off since you all stopped spending so much money in Bremerton.), so I couldn’t get full numbers from Bremerton on the income stream here. The cameras issue $124 tickets and the city pays RedFlex $4,000 a month per camera if those tickets add up to $4,000 or more. Plus there is the cost of having an officer review each infraction and whatever it costs to hear them in municipal court. The bottom line is I don’t know what the city nets from these cameras.

Nobody is really calling for the cameras to be eliminated anyway, so essentially I’m just sayin’.

Red-light camera company exec moonlights as footware

ATS Exec W Howard
The most recent season of Madmen featured a gimmick in which two women stage a fight over canned ham. The fight thing goes fine for a while, but later the women fight for real and risk ruining the company that hired them to do it.

This, of course, leads us to the furor over red-light cameras, which has been mild here compared to what’s happening in places like Mukilteo and Lynnwood. The company contracted to provide the service there and in Seattle is American Traffic Solutions, Inc.

Just as they are here, the arguments in the comments section of the (Everett) Herald can be heated, if any argument where people yell by typing in capital letters can be labeled as “heated.” At the Herald, though, there exists a ringer.

The Herald reports:

“A poster using the screen name “W Howard” has commented 43 times on our site since June. The unifying themes in these posts are that the cameras are good, that they are making the world safer and that anyone who says otherwise — particularly Mukilteo initiative activist Tim Eyman — needs their head examined.”

Someone tipped off the Herald that W Howard might be an American Traffic Solutions employee. Sure enough, the e-mail he used to register himself was from the company and belonged to an exec. Read the blog post.

Bremerton’s cameras are run by Redflex. I checked to see if we have any users with “redflex” as their e-mail. We do, but they haven’t posted any comments. I also checked to see if any of our commenters on the red-light stories left telltale signs of being from the company. At least on the most recent one no one did.

To learn how to make the executive sock pictured on this post, go to Danielle’s Place.

Red-light cameras here to stay?

This week the Legislature debated bills that would restrict how cities employ red-light cameras. You all know, of course, that Bremerton has them and no place else in the county does.

A week ago an e-mail from initiative guy Tim Eyman made me curious about the roots of an effort in Longview, so I e-mailed him asking to chat. Eyman got red-light cameras overturned in Mukilteo, where he lives, and has begun helping other communities either get them overturned or make it so voters would have to approve their installation. He was also at the legislative committee meeting Wednesday.

Eyman is among many who believe the cameras are not about the safety they are said to be when they are proposed. That’s how cities get them in, he said. Afterward they just collect the cash and pay for things with it. “It’s an entire government program based on a lie,” he said.

In Bremerton it helped fund some new police officers. According to a study done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, they also helped reduce vehicle fatalities in major cities that had them. From the organization’s press release:

“Red light cameras saved 159 lives in 2004-08 in 14 of the biggest US cities, a new analysis by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows. Had cameras been operating during that period in all large cities, a total of 815 deaths would have been prevented.”

The chief question I had for Eyman was whether someone contacted him in Longview, or if he contacted them. He couldn’t remember. It seems to go both ways, so it doesn’t really matter, except that there is no one I know of in Bremerton who is leading any kind of effort to get rid of the ones here.

And if I were to lay bets on what will happen in Olympia, I think the odds are against anything coming down that would restrict cities too much, especially those that already have the cameras in place. The most recent evidence is that the cameras do save lives, and the revenue stream is already flowing in. At a time when governments are scrambling for income I think it would take a pretty compelling case for legislators to take a revenue stream away from local governments.

Eyman told the legislators that it may come to a state initiative if they don’t act, the one thing that might persuade them to enforce some limits not in place now. If it comes to an initiative, it’s a pretty good guess he’d feel confident about its chances. He said (I haven’t double-checked, but it sounds plausible.) that in 15 cases in which voters had an opportunity to vote against cameras, they did every time. In our own online poll asking whether voters should decide to install cameras, two-thirds of you said “Yes.”