Could a Longer Yellow Mean Less Green in City Coffers?
More importantly, could it mean more green in your wallet? As the Riverfront Times notes (emphasis added):
Motorists driving along roadways maintained by the Missouri Department of Transportation could receive fewer red-light camera tickets if preliminary reports from Arnold ring true statewide.
Beginning in February, MoDOT began changing the yellow-light signal times throughout Arnold, where all the city’s red-light cameras happen to be along state-controlled roads. In general, the change to the signals has lengthened the amount of time for yellow lights.
For example, motorists traveling southbound through the intersection of Highway 141 and Astra Way now have 1.6 seconds more yellow time — from 4 seconds to 5.6 seconds. MoDOT has also changed the length of time that all signals at an intersection appear red, generally giving intersections a bit more time to clear all cars before changing lights.
In so doing, Arnold has experienced an unintended consequence — the number of red-light runners has plummeted since MoDOT made the changes.
In January, the city issued 691 red-light camera citations, according to information obtained from a city council member. By March, the number of citations had dropped to 263. Last month, the vendor that operates Arnold’s red-light cameras — American Traffic Solutions — confirms that it issued just 198 citations. That’s a drop of 72 percent from the number of citations issued in January.
The Show-Me Institute has a long history of opposing red light cameras, particularly given the cameras’ questionable effectiveness in preventing accidents yet prodigious aptitude for raising money for cities. Lately, though, Missouri’s red light camera industry has been traversing rocky judicial and legislative roads. Earlier this month, policy analyst David Stokes astutely reviewed one court ruling in Saint Louis that could very well cripple the use of red light camera systems in the city. His analysis:
It will probably take an act of the legislature to declare unequivocally that red light camera programs are invalid as a matter of state law, but the red light camera issue may, for all practical purposes, be resolved by adjusting the signals where the cameras sit. The roads in Missouri may be getting a great deal safer, just by adding a little more time to yellow lights — a simple, nearly costless solution to an important issue of public safety.
Cities must be elated. After all, “safety” was the driving purpose behind their use of these cameras anyway, right?