Jul 30, 2014

Red Light Camera Expansion in St. Petersburg Halted

St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster stopped the expansion of red light cameras after a resident shared possible problems with the timing of yellow lights.

Red Light Camera Expansion in St. Petersburg Halted

Mayor Bill Foster has put the red light camera expansion project in St. Petersburg "on hold."

The move follows a discussion prompted by resident Matt Florell, who said he believes yellow lights at intersections in the city are too short.

During Thursday's council meeting, Foster said he wanted to look at current intersections and data before approving more cameras. Foster's statement left councilors confused about the project, because just two months ago, they said they believed the city started moving forward with adding nine cameras.

Joe Kubicki, director of transportation and parking management for the City of St. Petersburg, said they completed the permitting process and were waiting for the mayor's approval before installing the cameras.

The discussion about whether or not the city was expanding the program followed Florell's questions and concerns about the timing of yellow lights.

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Florell shared a prepared statement that singled out a driver who was issued a citation on 66th Street and Tyrone Boulevard a few months ago. Florell pointed out that the citation shows he ran the light one tenth of a second after it turned red.

"The light turned red 4.2 seconds after it turned yellow, and Mr. Lopez's tires were only inches from the stop line," he said. "So why is this a problem? Well, according to the city that light is supposed to be yellow for 4.3 seconds, and if it was, Mr. Lopez never would have run that light, and he wouldn't have received a red light camera citation," he added.

Florell stated this was not an isolated incident. "This has happened at over half of the red light camera approaches in the city, and it happened 1,645 times in the first 13 months of the program."

Council Member Charlie Gerdes thanked Florell's efforts and added that he would bring forward a new business item to increase yellow light times.

"His time and his effort have raised questions. We need to not be defensive about it. I support red light cameras, I always have and still do," Gerdes said.

It was during this discussion that Council Member Leslie Curran asked Mayor Foster, "Are we expanding the program or is it on hold?"

"I put it on hold," Foster said.

"There's a lot of discussion about red light cameras, as demonstrated here today. I looked at the data and I saw that contrary to any other report they are working," Foster said.

"So, if it is in fact working, I don't know that more is going to make it work any better. This is not about revenue, this is about giving people the mindset that they need to pay attention while they drive and anticipate stopping."

The city has issued 36,185 citations to drivers running red lights, during the first year using the red light cameras. This has resulted in $707,226 in net revenues for the city, after costs to the vendor and the state were paid.

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