(Florida) Debate continues over effectiveness of RLCs


Interesting to see the difference between St. Petersburg and Tampa's experiences with RLCs:

"As state legislators debate the future of Florida's red light cameras, the neighboring cities of St. Pete and Tampa examine the role of traffic infraction detractors in promoting safer streets in their own jurisdictions.

The City of St. Pete shut down its RLC program in 2014, following what Evan Mary, Director of Transportation and Parking Management, says was a successful effort to encourage more mindful motorist behavior.

"It was always intended to have a short lifespan. The number of tickets went way down because people were running fewer red lights," Mory says of St. Pete's 2011-2014 RLC program.

The experiment indicated that St. Pete motorists who were on the lookout for red light cameras experienced a spillover effect, resulting in more cautious driving both at intersections with traffic infraction detractors and those without.

Today, Mory adds, "we continue to track overall crashes at the [former] camera intersections and we have not seen a spike in crashes since the cameras were removed."

The City of Tampa, on the other hand, renewed its contract with ATS in 2014, and today includes 55 RLCs at 21 intersections. Although RLC opponents accuse local governments of bloating their coffers with RLC violation fines, city officials argue that the citations are an invaluable asset in funding traffic and pedestrian safety improvements at high-impact locations.

"The question [in 2014] was this: 'We're giving people tickets, but are we doing anything to really make the streets safer?' The City Council agreed to pursue the contract if some of the money would go back into transportation and improving the road system," says Jean Duncan, Director of Transportation and Stormwater Services for the City of Tampa. "We've since done several projects to put money back into key corridors with high accident rates.''

Duncan cites a number of projects along a high-crash corridor -- Hillsborough Avenue, between 40th Street and Nebraska Avenue near Middleton High School. Students Shenika Davis (15), Norma Velasquez-Cabrera (15) and Alexis Miranda (17) were fatally struck by motor vehicles in three separate incidents between 2011-2015. "There was a lot of focus on that particular roadway and an understanding that we need to do more to make it safer," Duncan says.

RLC fines allotted to the City of Tampa were used along Hillsborough Avenue to create pedestrian markings, change signal timings to better accommodate slower-moving foot traffic, bring pedestrian heads to ADA standards, install flashing yellow signal heads to improve traffic management, and provide upgrades to cabinet controllers, which Duncan says enables the City to manage signals more proactively and to determine and respond to maintenance issues more promptly.

"The improvements on Hillsborough Avenue cost $250,000, all of which came from red light camera citations. … It's been a very small sliver of our budget, but we've been able to do some important projects with it that add to pedestrian safety. We wouldn't have had that funding if we hadn't received it from the red light fund," Duncan says."