Monday, July 4, 2011

Traffic cameras not profitable for cities across Arizona

Good article in the Arizona Republic proving what we knew all along; the traffic cameras were there for revenue-generating reasons, not safety reasons. Tell that to the hundreds or thousands of people who have been injured due to someone slamming on their brakes for one of those things. Some excerpts -

Arizona drivers paid more than $20 million in fines and fees from traffic-camera tickets in 10 communities using the devices last year, but the controversial programs rarely translate into profits for the cities.

An Arizona Republic analysis found that about half of the programs cost the cities, towns and counties more to administer than they collect from speeders and red-light runners. Some cities don't regularly analyze their costs to determine whether their programs are making or losing money.

The cameras, both stationary and those operated from mobile vans, make plenty of money for the companies that operate them. Redflex Traffic Systems and Scottsdale-based American Traffic Solutions combined earned more than $7 million from 10 urban Arizona municipalities last year, a fraction of their nationwide customer base.

After paying the camera companies, giving the state its cut and paying for the staff time to process photo tickets, Mesa, Tempe, Chandler and Peoria reported losses from their programs last year.

Mesa's cameras issued 44,814 citations last year, and 50 percent were resolved, bringing in $2.49 million to the city and $1.18 million to the state. But after paying American Traffic Solutions $1.39 million and paying other costs to administer the program, Mesa reported a loss of $289,311 for the year on the program.

The individual finances of different cities' photo-enforcement programs also hinge on the price of their tickets, he said, although ticket prices don't appear to have any bearing on driver behavior.

"The price of a ticket is not what changes behavior," he said. "We have some cities with citations as low as $40. Seventy-five dollars is pretty common."

Tickets around metro Phoenix are generally much more than that. For example, a photo red-light ticket in Chandler will cost the driver $225. The base fine is $96, but the total includes the 84 percent state surcharge ($80.64) on the base fine, a $20 probation fee and a $15 court-costs fee.

Some communities, such as Tempe, collect on less than one-third of the tickets issued.

Tempe's cameras issued 28,804 citations last year, and 31 percent were resolved, bringing $959,987 to the city and $677,629 to the state through the surcharges. But after paying Redflex and tallying the cost of city staff to process the tickets, Tempe reported an estimated loss of $15,664 on the program for the year.
"If you look at the accident data, it isn't going to tell you whether photo enforcement has been an effective tool," Meyer said. "I've pored over the data, and I can't sit here and tell you it has had a beneficial or negative effect.

Surprise is one of the newest Arizona locations deploying speed cameras, launching its program last year.

The city's cameras issued 1,292 citations last year, with 81 percent getting resolved, bringing the city $44,934 in revenue. After paying Redflex, the city was left with less than $25,000 in revenue but could not provide an estimate on what it cost for court employees to handle those tickets.

No comments: