Tag Archives: red light cameras

‘Interesting’ doesn’t begin to say enough

“Interesting” is such an, oh, interesting adjective. It usually says not a damn thing about the subject being addressed.

Such as the editorial in today’s Amarillo Globe-News that talks about an “interesting” tweet from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott regarding his apparent skepticism about the effectiveness of red-light cameras in cities throughout the state.

The editorial is attached to this link. Take a look.

I can’t tell if the Globe-News no longer favors the red-light cameras, which I suppose makes the editorial “interesting.”

I’ll fill in a blank or two.

The red-light cameras are doing what they’re supposed to do in Amarillo. They are deterring idiotic motorists from disobeying the red lights’ instructions to stop, do not proceed until the lights turn green.

As for cities’ “raking” in big money, I need to remind y’all that the Legislature instituted some strict provisions in allowing cities to install the cameras. Any revenue derived must first pay the vendors for the cameras and then be earmarked specifically for traffic-safety improvements. Amarillo recently coughed up some dough to do precisely that.

Gov. Abbott thinks there’s “no evidence” that the cameras are making our streets safer. That’s not what I have heard from Amarillo city officials. He ought to talk to them directly.

The governor might get some “interesting” details.

City boosts traffic improvements … with camera money?

The Amarillo City Council has voted 5-0 to spend more than $200,000 with money earmarked for traffic safety improvements.

The Amarillo Globe-News story doesn’t mention it specifically, but this is the kind of expense that state law requires of cities that deploy red-light cameras at troublesome intersections.

As the Globe-News reports: Officials said the purchase, which extends to four separate vendors, will fund new equipment and replace outdated equipment and other signal materials.

Read the story here.

This is why I continue to support the principle of cities using this technology to help deter lawbreakers from running through red lights. Amarillo has used these devices for several yeas, raising considerable amounts of money from fines collected by violators.

The bitching has been tiresome … and wrongheaded. Red-light camera foes keep insisting that the city is using this technology as a money-maker to fund this or that project. Wrong! State law says cities must dedicate that revenue to traffic safety improvements. Nothing else! It’s dedicated revenue.

To its credit, the City Council hasn’t backed down in the face of a vocal minority of residents who continue to yammer about the cameras. They cite such idiocy as the cameras intruding on motorists’ privacy. Interesting, yes?

Consider that motorists who drive their vehicles on public streets therefore surrender their “privacy” when they break the law and put other motorists and pedestrians in jeopardy.

The city is spending some money on needed improvements to its traffic signalization and other elements of its traffic management plan. If it comes from the revenue collected by red-light camera enforcement, so much for the better.

Toll roads: They’re everywhere, I tell ya!

One of the adjustments to moving from the Texas Panhandle to the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex involves my motor vehicles.

And I don’t mean the traffic.

I’m talkin’ about toll roads. They’re all over the place.

We live just a stone’s throw from the Sam Rayburn Tollway. We’ve got the North Dallas Tollway. There’s the President George Bush Turnpike about eight miles or so south of us. I know I’m missing a bunch of them. But you get the drift.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t object to the toll roads. They’re necessary for paying for the wear and tear we motorists inflict on our highways.

What’s especially non-objectionable is the way the North Texas Tollway Authority assesses these tolls. The NTTA deploys cameras along the highways. You pass under them, the cameras snap a picture of your license plate and then the NTTA sends you a bill. I just paid a bill for $8.08, which was the fee we paid for driving along the Rayburn toll road en route to a furniture store in The Colony, and then back to our new digs in Fairview. Not bad.

Moreover, it beats the dickens out of the way some states assess tolls. Take Oklahoma, for instance. Not many years ago, about four years or so, my wife and I found ourselves on a toll road north of Oklahoma City. We had to fumble around for the correct change as we motored along the highway and approached a toll booth.

Ridiculous, I’m tellin’ ya!

The NTTA does it right. I appreciate the absence of the need to be carrying cash with me as I try to get from place to place. I’ve still got to learn my way around without the hassle of fumbling for cash.

Come to think of it, the technology the NTTA uses to assess toll fees reminds me of the red-light cameras that cities such as, say, Amarillo use to nab traffic violators who just cannot obey traffic signals’ instructions to stop when the light turns red.

Why remove red-light cams and invite traffic woe?

While running an errand in Amarillo, I happened to zip past an intersection where the city has deployed its red-light cameras, the devices used to nab those who disobey the stop lights that command motorists to stop.

It then occurred to me: The city is considering removing the camera from this intersection, at Coulter and Elmhurst streets. And it begs the question: Why would the city take down an enforcement tool that it has declared has worked well, that has fulfilled its mission?

I don’t know what if anything the city has decided. The City Council announced it intends to install more of the devices at other troublesome intersections around the city. The council also might remove some of the cameras, citing areas where there no longer are problems with motorists running through red lights.

Hmm. Why do you suppose that has happened? Oh, might it be the presence of the cameras that have deterred vehicular misbehavior?

It makes me wonder, thus, why the city would want to take down devices that have done their jobs.

I will not accept the canard that keeps popping up from the soreheads around Amarillo who oppose the cameras. They contend the devices are intended to “make money” for the city.

What utter crap! The Texas Legislature imposed strict provisions when it allowed cities to deploy the cameras. One of them requires cities to earmark revenue earned specifically for traffic improvement. So, to suggest — or imply — that the revenue is collected to fatten the budgets of municipal departments or give the city some funds to throw around smacks of demagoguery.

As for the city’s intent to remove the cameras, I hereby encourage Amarillo’s powers that be to rethink that notion. If the device its doing its job at Coulter and Elmhurst, the city would be foolish to invite motorists to return to their red-light-running ways — and put other motorists and pedestrians in potentially dire peril.

Yes, on more red-light cameras!

You go, Amarillo City Council. Go for it! Install more red-light cameras in the ongoing effort to deter motorists from endangering other motorists and pedestrians.

The council is considering whether to install more cameras that traffic engineers have determine to be hazardous. They are places where motorists choose to disobey stop lights. They either run through them while they’re en route, or … they take off from a dead stop and just blaze on through.

Given that police cannot witness every traffic violation as it occurs, the city decided to deploy technology to assist the police department in its effort to make our streets safer for motorists and pedestrians.

I know that the critics of this program are going to gripe about potential expansion of the red-light camera initiative. Some soreheads keep bitching that its sole intent is generate revenue for the city.

To them I would like to speak once again about what state law mandates regarding these cameras. Please read these next few words slowly, let them sink in:

The revenue is dedicated to traffic improvements.

State legislators have been somewhat reluctant over the years to give cities the authority to install these cameras. Once they did, they sought to ensure that any revenue they generate is set aside specifically to improve traffic infrastructure.

Here’s a bit of cheer: The city is considering removal of lights at some locations, such as at Coulter and Elmhurst. According to the Amarillo Globe-News, accidents at that intersection have decreased significantly.

As City Manager Jared Miller told the Globe-News: “When we first put in Elmhurst as a location, the accidents there warranted installing a traffic safety camera,” … Miller said. “Now, it is not worth it. It has accomplished its objective. This is a good example of a location that has had the desired effect. The purpose is not to generate revenue, but improve safety at intersections in the city.”

What in the world of safe driving and driver awareness is wrong with that?

Memo to council candidates: hands off red-light cams

I am going to make a request of the individuals running for Amarillo mayor and the four City Council seats.

It is this: Do not mess with the city’s red-light cameras, presuming the Texas Legislature allows you to make that call.

I looked through mayoral candidate Ginger Nelson’s detailed platform statement this afternoon after the thought occurred to me that I’ve heard nothing from the candidates about what they intend to do with the cameras. I pored through Nelson’s platform and didn’t see a single mention of the cameras.

Does that mean she intends to leave ’em alone? Or does she want to pull the plug on them without warning us in advance? I doubt it’s the latter, so I’ll just proceed with my request of her and the others who are running for mayor and council member.

The cameras have been in operation for nearly a decade now, thanks to some foresight shown by a previous city commission/council, led by then-Mayor Debra McCartt. The police department had expressed concern about motorists running red lights, in some cases ignoring them completely while zooming through them from a dead stop when there was no other traffic.

The cameras were installed to photograph the license plates of the offending vehicle, with the citation sent to the vehicle owner’s residence.

I get all the griping from offending owners who would say that someone else was driving their vehicle. Of course, they have recourse; they can take their complaint to the Municipal Court and argue their case before the judge.

The Legislature allowed cities to deploy the cameras a few sessions ago, but placed some restrictions on how to spend the money collected. The city must dedicate the revenue to traffic improvement methods. There can be spending of that revenue on city manager frills, or new drapes for the traffic engineer’s office.

This technology has its foes. Some of them are in Legislature. They have threatened to rescind the cities’ authority to deploy the devices, which I find ironic, given some legislators’ insistence that they — not mayors, city council members or senior city administrators — understand the local concerns better than those on the ground in the affected cities.

If the 2017 Legislature does the right thing and allows cities to make that determination for themselves, then my hopes is that Amarillo decides to keep the cameras on the job.

They are doing what they are supposed to do. They are deterring motorists from breaking … the … law.

Hoping our City Council remains a proactive group

Amarillo is getting ready for another significant municipal election that is guaranteed to produce a body with a majority comprising newcomers to city government.

Three out of five incumbents aren’t seeking new terms. Will there be more “change” coming our way? Perhaps.

What shouldn’t happen is that we get a council that returns to a static bunch that is unwilling to become a proactive agent for change.

I’ll flash back for just a moment.

I arrived here in January 1995 to become editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News. My primary interest upon arrival was to size up the then-City Commission. What I observed — and this is a subjective view — was a passive group of five individuals. I didn’t witness a lot of bold policy initiatives initially.

Sure, the city decided to sell its public hospital and held a referendum in 1996; the measure passed and Northwest Texas Hospital was sold to a private health care provider.

But by and large, the commission didn’t take a lot of initiative relating to economic development.

The city’s governing personality seemed to change with the election in 2005 of its first female mayor, Debra McCartt. It was during McCartt’s tenure as mayor that the city enacted a controversial plan to monitor traffic; it deployed red-light cameras at key intersections around the city.

The plan wasn’t entirely popular. Many residents bitched about it. My own view was that the plan was a needed effort to assist law enforcement authorities in their attempt to deter motorists from running red lights. The cameras are efficient and they do not blink.

McCartt left office in 2011 and turned the mayor’s gavel over to Paul Harpole, who’ll be mayor until after the May 6 election. Under the current mayor’s watch, the city has embarked on a massive downtown redevelopment program. I applaud that effort as well and it’s already paying dividends for the city.

What’s going to happen when we elect the next City Council this spring? My hope is that the next council — with its new mayor — retains its activist profile.

I’ve long been a believer in good government. My conservative friends perhaps mistake me for a big government liberal who believes government can solve all our problems. Not true. I believe that government at the local level can do many good things and can act as a catalyst for others to follow suit.

I further believe we have witnessed that synergy occurring with the reshaping, remaking and revival of our downtown business district.

Whoever we elect in May needs to keep the momentum moving forward. We damn sure cannot turn back now.

In just a little more than two decades, I’ve been able to witness what I perceive to be a fundamental change in city government’s approach to problem-solving.

It’s working.

Lesson learned from camera

redlightcamera

I once told Ellen Robertson Green that she was my “favorite Amarillo city commissioner.”

Heck, I even wrote it in a column for the newspaper.

Why the statement of respect? It was her blunt retort to those who came before the City Commission to bitch about the deployment of those pesky red-light cameras at intersections around the city.

She told them, in effect, to stop griping and simply obey the law and “don’t run through the red lights.”

Ba-da-boom, ba-da-bing!

Well, I learned that lesson myself — the hard way.

I got careless. I wasn’t paying attention. I apparently zipped through a red light without being aware of it. The camera caught me red-handed.

I’ve made a personal vow to be more attentive on the road. Indeed, I should thank the city more forcefully now for deploying the technology.

Therefore, I shall to do so right now. Right here.

Thank you for humbling me and for giving me even more reason to pay attention to what the heck I’m doing while I’m driving through Amarillo.

OK. I’m done commenting on this now.

Lesson learned.