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Update - Mayor Richard J. Berry to Overhaul Red Light Camera Program

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Update: The red light camera program was discontinued in December 2011. This information highlights the executive and legislative processes that eventually led to the end of red light cameras operating within selected Albuquerque intersections.

Mayor Richard J. Berry announced Monday that he is going to recommend a major overhaul of the City's Red Light Camera Program to the City Council.

Under Mayor Berry's proposal, the cameras will no longer issue citations for speed, six cameras will be eliminated, enhancements will be made at intersections throughout the city, and a request for proposals seeking a third-party administrator of the program will be initiated. A contract will be sent to the City Council for approval by the end of the year.

Mayor Berry's announcement comes after he received a study conducted by the University of New Mexico's Institute for Social Research. In March, Mayor Berry commissioned the study and said he would make a decision on the future of the Red Light Camera Program once it was complete.

Findings

The study found:

  • No evidence that the speeding component improved safety.
  • Rear-end collisions accounted for an overall increase in crashes.
  • More than $2 million has been saved in property damage, medical and other costs, however, at 30 percent of the intersections costs actually increased.
  • Overall, injury crashes decreased at red light camera intersections, but rear end crashes increased.
  • The program prevented an estimated 120 injury accidents since its inception to December 2008.
  • At the beginning of the program an average of 600 citations per camera were being issued each month. Citations dropped to about 100 per month per camera in 2008.

"The study showed that the red light component made a difference in red light running," Mayor Berry said. "I believe the speed component of the program contributes to rear-end collisions. Motorists were trying to decide if they should speed up to avoid a red light citation or slam on their brakes to avoid a speeding ticket. We are bringing this program back to its original intent – to prevent red light running."

Results

According to the study, the cameras contributed to an overall reduction in crash costs at all intersections with the exception of six. As a result, the mayor announced he will eliminate cameras at the following intersections where safety did not improve or was adversely affected:

  • Academy and Wyoming
  • Central and Eubank
  • Menaul and Carlisle
  • Coors and Montano
  • Coors and Paseo del Norte
  • Jefferson and Paseo del Norte

The two cameras on Coors and the camera at Paseo del Norte and Jefferson were turned off earlier this year when the New Mexico Transportation Department ordered the removal of all automated cameras on state roads. Under Mayor Berry's proposal, there will be 14 red light cameras operating throughout the city.

"The study showed that the cameras did not benefit public safety at six of the intersections," Mayor Berry said. "There is no way we can justify keeping them at these intersections if they are not improving public safety."

Last month, Mayor Berry asked his financial team to generate a report of all of the revenues and expenditures since the program was started in October 2004. The report revealed that in fiscal year 2010, 56-percent of the revenue went to Redflex, the Arizona-based company that administers the program with only 3% going to the City after expenses. The report also revealed that as the contract is currently written, taxpayers will have to supplement more than $340,000 by July to keep the program going.

As a result, Mayor Berry announced that he was going to let the contract with Redflex expire midnight Tuesday and issue a request for new bids. Though Redflex may reapply for the contract, the RFP will open up the process to other companies and ensure that the best contract is negotiated on behalf of the citizens of Albuquerque. A new contract is expected to be sent to the City Council by the end of they year for their consideration. Mayor Berry said he will not sign a contract longer than one year plus options.

"We are going to do our best to keep the good, get rid of the bad and make sure we have a program we can afford," Mayor Berry said.

The City launched a new web site (cabq.gov/redlight) that includes all of the information from the study. The site has charts and graphs that contain citation, crash and financial data. Each month the site will be updated with a report from the program.

The study also revealed that adjustments in traffic engineering can improve traffic safety, such as increasing the length of yellow lights. Mayor Berry has asked the city's Municipal Development Director to review each intersection to determine where yellow light timing could be increased, where additional or more prominent signage around the intersections could be installed and how to enhance signalization.

"I have asked the City's Municipal Development Director to look at ways to improve these intersections with better traffic engineering, signage, adjustments to the length of yellow lights and enhanced signalization," Mayor Berry said.

Additionally, Mayor Berry has decided to keep the city's three speed vans. "Speed vans increase safety in school zones, construction zones and neighborhoods," Mayor Berry said. "They are mobile and can be moved around the City to protect our children as well as workers within construction zones."

Mayor Berry said that he has instructed his team to review the data after a year to see if the changes were improving traffic safety.

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