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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.

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.

Related Coverage

S. Ripley February 11, 2013 at 03:02 PM
I reject the “ban red light cameras” position. If properly implemented, they are a valuable tool to change poor driving behavior and improve safety. That said, the issues with yellow light timing and how these systems are funded merit legitimate scrutiny. So let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater, just yet. On a personal note, I drive 15k miles/year and frequent many of the areas monitored by RLC—never a ticket. Am I just lucky? Also- I would much rather have police officers pursuing more serious crimes than dealing with traffic offences.
Jerry Kendall February 11, 2013 at 03:59 PM
Thank you Mr. Florell. My question is why is this a surprise to our Mayor and the Council? Virtually every city to install these cash grabbers have also experienced the shortening of the yellow lights. The private company that contracts with the city is only interested in revenue. They routinely shorten the yellows to help achieve that goal. Many cities have since removed the cameras for just the reasons that have come to light in St. Pete: increased accident rates, lower revenue than expected and the embarassmnet of getting caught with the shortened yellows. Take these "new taxation" grabbers out.
Ryan Desmond February 11, 2013 at 04:30 PM
Having lived in St. Pete, and now living in Orlando, I can tell you with certainly I think the yellow lights in St. Pete are far too short. If you get a red light camera notice of violation in the mail, here is what you should know: http://longwelllawyers.com/2013/02/red-light-cameras-what-you-need-to-know
Torrey Craig February 11, 2013 at 04:48 PM
Patriot - You may hate these lousy cameras but I gotta ask why? Why do you hate them? Could it be you got you got caught with your pants around ankles as you ran a red light? That you hate to be told your actions where outside of the limits? Or you hate paying for your violation of the law? Why do you hate the cameras - Patriot?
James C. Walker February 11, 2013 at 10:51 PM
The problem, S. Ripley, is that if the cameras are set up to just cite the dangerous drivers who risk causing angle and t-bone crashes, they won't issue enough citations to even come close to paying the $4,000 to $5,000 per month per camera costs. The cameras require citing mostly safe drivers for non-dangerous technical fouls or they cannot even pay their own costs. And cities will not use the expensive cameras if they cost the city thousands of dollars out of pocket per month. James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

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