Cities and counties aren't just using short yellow lights to rack up millions of dollars in extra red light camera tickets in Florida; some are also using stricter-than-intended enforcement to issue rolling right tickets to safe drivers. While this summer's tweaks to red light camera (RLC) legislation were promoted as protection against overzealous ticket-writers, the language that affects right turns-on-red doesn't do very much. It says the officers that review RLC violations cannot issue a ticket if the driver came to a complete stop, regardless of where the driver stops in relation to the stop bar. But drivers who stopped a few feet over the stop bar weren't typically getting tickets anyway, because the Mark Wandall Act, which standardized the use of RLC across Florida in 2010, specifies officers should not ticket drivers who make rolling right turns in a "careful and prudent" manner.
It was recently announced that Washington DC trumped Chicago in sheer volume of photo enforcement. As reported by Photoenforced.com: "They now have by far the most speed cameras, stop sign cameras and red light cameras per capital." While this is certainly good news when it comes to keeping the roads and motorists of the city safer, there are also much wider implications. Currently, Washington along with some other major US cities, are beginning to shift focus on their approaches to crime where cameras are concerned - real time monitoring in particular becoming a goal of Washington law enforcement. As a result, it’s likely that we’ll begin to see cameras used in a far more broader role when it comes to crime prevention and criminal enforcement, but there could be other implications.
Cameras and Crime
While we may often assume that road and traffic cameras are essentially in place to capture and deter traffic related crimes, modern police are becoming much more reliant on cameras as a general tool for combating crime. Washington police in particular, are increasingly focusing their efforts around captured surveillance footage. In fact, according to rt.com "Law enforcement is looking to get real time access in order to put the entire city on constant watch." This is of course, a divisive issue. The police department are aware of how valuable a resource cameras are, and this is perhaps even more relevant in Washington given the huge amount of cameras that are in place in the city. Having greater access, especially real time monitoring, could see a huge increase in crime prevention. As stated in the Washington Post, cameras are already a fundamental tool in combating crime for local police forces: "Investigators retrieved video from the Metropolitan Police Department’s 123 closed-circuit television cameras and the District’s network of red light and Department of Transportation cameras 931 times in fiscal 2012 - an increase of 15 percent over the previous year, according to police department data.". While some opponents to an increased level of surveillance argue that real time monitoring and additional use of cameras is a breach of civil rights, the numbers do clearly show that police are finding cameras increasingly crucial in investigations.
Prevention and Statistics
One of the problems facing both sides of this debate however, is the actual data on camera effectiveness. While Washington Police, for example, may have increased their use of cameras, what evidence is there that they are an effective tool? As explained by Syracuse.com: "The biggest problem may be the systems are too new: experts say the lasting impact of cameras may not be known until several years worth of data can be analyzed. Generally, the studies that have been conducted have found that premeditated crimes do tend to decline, but crimes of passion are not effected as much." Cameras may certainly help police after the event, but are unlikely to be an effective deterrent for a desperate addict. This is one potential problem, but on the other hand being able to monitor in real time could allow police to take the action they need. That said, drug enforcement in particular is itself seeing a shift in focus, as stated by the Washington Post: "Four decades after the federal government declared war on narcotics, the prevailing tough-on-drugs mentality is giving way to a more nuanced view, one that empathizes treatment and health nearly as much as courtrooms and law enforcement, according to addiction specialists and other experts."
One of the major questions that remains is just how effective will increased use of cameras be? While in Washington there has been a huge surge in the amount of cameras, there are certainly ways for motorists to be aware of where cameras are and whether they are working already. Conversely, there are also devices that streamline the camera and toll process available at many retailers. Ultimately, evidence does suggest that cameras, whether traffic related or otherwise, are having a profound affect on crime and criminal enforcement. How Washington proceeds could be an indicator of things to come for the rest of the US.
In a push to make toll lanes permanent fixtures on two of Los Angeles County's most congested freeways the 110 and 10, local transportation officials approved a $1 monthly fee Thursday that will apply to all drivers with electronic tolling accounts, even carpoolers and infrequent users. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority's 8-3 vote signals a shift in the agency's approach to drivers who use the 25 miles of experimental toll lanes that link the South Bay and El Monte with downtown Los Angeles. Previously, the agency rewarded drivers who used the lanes more than four times a month by waiving their monthly fees. Each driver's $12 in annual fees will be assessed in addition to per-mile tolls, which start at 25 cents and can go up to $1.40, depending on how crowded the toll lanes are at the time. More than 253,000 Angelenos have opened tolling accounts.
Metro owes the project's contractor $3 a month in maintenance fees for every tolling device put into service. "There are people who just want to go to the airport once or twice a month," Molina said. "But for every transponder out there, whether it's used one time or 55 times, that cost is still $3." That totals about $9.1 million a year in fees.Metro staff said that by charging every driver $1 a month, the agency would make about $700,000 more a year toward maintenance fees. Metro collected more than $23 million in tolls over 14 months, the report said, and will reinvest the money in pedestrian, transit and vanpool improvements in the areas surrounding the freeways.
Here is the Email I received
As a valued ExpressLanes customer, we would like to make you aware of an upcoming change to the Terms and Conditions of your account. Effective June 1, 2014, ALL Metro ExpressLanes accounts will be charged a $1 monthly account maintenance fee. There will no longer be an option to have the monthly account maintenance fee waived with four one-way trips per month nor will there be a waiver for LA County residents. This monthly fee will continue to be waived for Equity Plan customers ONLY. Here is a copy of the letter.
So it is a complete lie that we would be able to continue using the 10/110 left lane as a carpool lane free of charge. Before it was "well it's just a $40 deposit for the transponder", now it's "just $1 per month", what's it going to be next year or the year after when you decide you need more money to keep the program going? I don't think you understand what "completely free of charge" means.
In addition, what exactly does the "monthly maintenance fee" cover? I might be able to understand if you need to print paper statements and pay someone to mail them, but you already charge for that. What company provides your database services that you need to pay per additional account? It sounds like you are being ripped off, wasting our taxpayer money, or are not making enough money from the program and therefore penny pinching to appear to be worth the investment.
By charging a minimum monthly fee to be able to use the HOT lanes at all, people that would consider paying occasional for their travels to LA will likely not bother at all as it is too complicated and requires a commitment they don't need on a regular basis, or will take surrounding freeways to avoid taking the 10/110. So yes, you might be clearing up traffic on the 10/110 by shifting traffic to surrounding freeways, but is that really the goal of the program?
In addition to be clear, your lawyer logic behind getting around AB2405 is that the $1 fee is not explicitly a toll fee, even though it is required to ride toll free? See Legislature Assembly Bill
Are you planning on dealing with the fact that the 110S to 105 connector completely stops traffic in the HOV lane on the 105 every single day to a complete standstill? Or is that outside of the scope of your funding therefore you don't care? Do you plan on using the funds to create a HOT lane connector from the 110N to the 105? Or the 110 to the 91? What corridor improvements do you plan on using the funds for?