Palm Springs stopped processing tickets Monday for red-light violations captured on camera at three major intersections along Congress Avenue, ending nearly three years of camera enforcement.
Faced with hiring a magistrate to hear appeals of tickets for red-light violations, as now required by state law, the village council decided last week not to renew its three-year contract with red-light camera provider American Traffic Solutions.
The contract ends Aug. 11, but because a new state law designed to make it easier for drivers to challenge the $158 red-light camera tickets took effect Monday, the village stopped processing intersection camera violations after midnight Monday, ending electronic traffic signal enforcement in the 3.7-square-mile village. The village had been among the first in Palm Beach County to monitor intersections with cameras.
Other local governments, including Juno Beach, Boynton Beach and Palm Beach County, elected to establish systems for appeals to comply with the new state law by Monday’s deadline instead of ending their red-light camera programs.
Palm Springs Police Chief Thomas Ceccarelli said officers in cars are watching the same intersections to maintain pressure on drivers to obey traffic signals along Congress Avenue at Lake Worth Road, 10th Avenue North and Forest Hill Boulevard.
“This doesn’t mean it’s OK to run a red light,” Ceccarelli said. “We’re going to step up the monitoring of those intersections. I want to keep people safe.”
The ATS cameras reduced red-light violations along Congress, a police study said.
A six-month comparison showed a 45 percent drop in officer-approved traffic signal violations. But the number of collisions increased in some locations after the cameras were installed in summer 2010.
The village didn’t make money with red light cameras, Village Manager Karl Umberger said.
“We’ve paid expenses for the most part,” Umberger said. “We really didn’t go in for it to make money. We wanted to make safer intersections.”
Village Chief Financial Officer Rebecca Morse cited several problems in dealing with ATS in a recent memo to Umberger.
The Arizona-based traffic camera company did not provide reports allowing the village to check violation numbers against the revenue sent to the village, the memo said. Drivers complained that they were unable to reach the company’s help line. And the village had to set up its own system for tracking under payments, over payments, duplicate payments, bounced payments and late payments.
Continuing the red-light camera program under the new state law, which allows a 60-day window for appeals, would have cost the village more staff time and the expense of a special magistrate to hear appeals, Umberger said.
“We think they were good,” Umberger said of the red-light cameras. “But we’re at the point now that it’s time to move on.”
Data comparing the first six months of the 2012 budget year with the first six months of the 2013 budget year showed that red-light violations captured by cameras dropped significantly in Palm Springs. Cameras did not signficantly reduce crashes at those intersections and in some cases increased rear-end collisions.
Red light violation data for four locations with cameras in Palm Springs:
- Westbound Forest Hill Boulevard at Congress Avenue: 18 percent decrease.
- Westbound 10th Avenue North and Congress Avenue: 40 percent decrease.
- Northbound Congress Avenue at 10th Avenue North: 17 percent decrease.
- Eastbound Lake Worth road at Congress Avenue: 29 percent decrease.
Source: Palm Springs Police Department