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The Abington Citizens Network
where Abington, PA residents can share ideas and join forces to build a better community
 

RED LIGHT CAMERAS  

 

   Effective :
           August 1. 2014- Real charges started  Oct 1, 2014  - They are up for review as to whether they should be continued in September 2015.  The issue will appear Sept 2 at the

  Intersections affected 
           Susquehanna Road and Old York Road;  
           Old York Road and Old Welsh Road;
           Fitzwatertown Road and Moreland Road  
 

We have asked to have the statistics regarding both finances  and types of crashes, fatalities etc and a comparison of this years statistics with a five or more year look back to see normal fluctuations without the cameras .  The police website has linked only one page of statistics that are very difficult to extrapolate information from . Possibly at tonights meeting (-2-15 there will be a power point - but as of this writing the information is not available for citizens to come prepared to the meeting.  The police have been asked to change that.

  Review  1 Yr -
       
  Originally it was said that in August 2015 the Commissioner would  decide if they will continue. That was not done in August which then bumped us up against the contract renewal deadline by moving it out a month .

 Central Reporting for Problems
          
Although this has been talked about  there is no clear path at the moment for
            reports from those who feel victimized by the cameras . We have asked for a place where
            problems can be publicly seen ( keeping full anonymity of the driver who is making the complaint.
           This is the most important part of the evaluation system - and if it is not transparent there will
           be little trust that the reporting of problems and complaints will be fair .   Citizens have been directed
           address their concerns to the police at
arlc@abington.org . I invite anyone to also report them here and I will
           publish anonymously any that I get
.

   Here are some of the cogent points that lead us to request the cameras be discontinued

 

 

 

 

 

- Ordinance History & the first ordinance  
   
YES YOU CAN HELP  so this should be on the website - but won't be unless some of you start
           to take the time to call and ask for :
         1) a separate page  for "Red Light Cameras" easily found on the website   - 267-536-1000

          2) All the links to the updated documents as they change 
       There is no way that the rest of us can know when our links are outdated -
           so this is very imnportant to getting good information

   If anyone has obtained the statistics from these intersections prior to the cameras and as used to decide on the placement of the cameras  - please let me know.  Both accident and ticketing stats are relevant . I did a Right To Know and have volumes of data - but this needs to be distilled into a useable form . 

  Question:  do we have enough safeguards in place for the public to really see who the violators are (ie what evel of infraction they incurred) and to know that a record will be kept for public viewing of the violations that were protested .  Are the comments of the "payee" going to be gathered with each returned payment -- which might be one of the best ways of measuring the effect this has on the drivers impacted.

   Who benefits  Gatso out of Boston  is the company that won the contract.  They will put 4 cameras at 2 intersections and 2 cameras at the other intersection at approx $4,200 per month per camera  payable to Gatso .  The  10 cameras at  $42,000 per month x 12 months is $504,000 per year to Gatso .  ( We have yet to learn what % of that is profit.)  Another way to look at it is  :  take an intersection with 4 cameras which costs $16,800 per month  . That's  $560 per day --- 5-6  tickets must be served every day to make that basic expense ---and we haven't paid Abington Police for their role yet .   These tickets will be earned regardless of whether the driver was actually driving dangerously which often can only be determined by someone on site or after a discussion. The 5-6 tickets per day are day in and day out year round. The agreement with Gatso can be seen by scrolling way down the Public Safety documents  from Sept 2013

  Who is impacted  As one resident testified, he watched at the Willow Grove intersection in 2013  dozens of citizens driving safely would have been awarded the $100 fine just for rolling past the line.  Also at the September meeting, horrendous crashes were shown of cars speeding  through intersections,  captured …yes….on the very expensive cameras which, please note, did nothing to stop them. 
      The cameras also are charged with being responsible for causing accidents when people see them and throw on the brakes and get rear-ended . 
         
Sure, insurance companies love the cameras.  They show very clearly who is at fault  at virtually no cost to the insurance companies  --- what's not to like .......  but at the expense instead of  safer drivers at those very intersections - who pay for what the insurance companies save.    . 
 

     INFO & DISCUSSION  ABOUT RED LIGHT CAMERAS  

    In Abington, some are in favor, many are opposed for many reasons .....
   A good summary of  the concerns    are noted   on http://www.Motorists.org/red-light-cameras/objections
    Also:  Please watch the intelligent assessment offered by the Tampa Police chief who is
   
"totally  against red light cameras "
     http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-62Op2ntjR4  

  PRIVACY  : This  has been a huge concern with the advent of cameras eveywhere.  Things that do good can also be used in ways that are not.  The cameras were not supposed to be the kind that "look into the car"  --- but as we all know, our phones are also not "supposed to be "   listening devices and  school cameras are not "supposed to be " monitoring students at home.  But these things have happened anyway. And it is up to us to determine where and when we figure out how to find the proper balance.  If we don't work together to do this, "they" will find the "balance" for us --- and it won't lean in our direction as regular citizens have begun to notice. 
 
ALTERNATIVES There are many alternatives to the cameras. Longer yellow lights have apparently  proven to be effective and I saw first hand the case of  a dangerous intersection where the length of the yellow light was actually the problem . If they are set too short, they can be a cause of the dangerous intersection. Even at intersections that make patrol cars difficult, the prence of police foot patrols, with a car nearby can be a good deterrent.

MONITORING
 FUNDS   Monitoring the funds is also not an easy thing - and administrative and other costs would need to be included and we have many projects now that take much more than they bring in in ways that aren't evident, making calculation impossible.    And this sets up a scenario that is less than desirable.

WHO IS DECIDING ?
 We understand  ( per the Sept 2012  meeting)   that Abington will be sent the information on the violators and Abington officers  will then have the option to ticket or not to ticket.  If we pay a company to determine who the violators are, then ALL should be ticketed unless there is an easy process for ALL to appeal. Again, we set up a situation for unequal treatment and no oversight .  

   CLEAR STATISTICS  are already a problem in Abington. Just watch the changing numbers on the Baederwood Intersection as the Wawa makes application to go in .  A whole host of different numbers were assigned to the crashes there  ( 52 per Pendot/ 39 per Abington/ 47 per the applicant's lawyer) Oversight is difficult - tools for oversight are being denied.  

COST OF THE CAMERAS - in ine article  the cost of the cameras was noted at 31,000 per month . In   this article it suggests in the city that might work, but the suburbs might not be quite the same. Phila cameras generated 13.7 million of which a little more than half went to Penn Dot - Each camera has to generate more than 300 violations per month to cover its costs, according an AAA MidAtlantic report . 19 intersections with cameras throughout Philadelphia issued 141,000 violations ----garnering $13.7 million from drivers ets last year, according to the Philadelphia Parking Authority. The legislation that  would allow  about a dozen municipalities in the Philadelphia suburbs to use red light cameras. was passed last June and any excess $ would go to Penn Dot  to fund traffic safety initiatives statewide.

SCAMS Some scammers have figured out how to "mail you a citation"  - and you send your money before they skip town for their next scam location .

 THEY CAN CAUSE ACCIDENTS  In New Jersey - they are presenting statistics that contend more accidents occurred from the use of the red light cameras .  A writer, on behalf of AAA , noted that in New Jersey the cameras had been suspended in  21 of the 25 municipalities & class action suits by motorists had been filed contending  they were illegally fined  because the amber light not calibrated correctly. The same thing is happening in other and  AAA concluded that although there may be benefits there is also the potential for abuse - and AAA does not blindly accept the success of the cameras.
This article also notes the cost of Phila cameras as over $31,000 per intersection permonth per  a Pennsylvania Transportation Advisory Committee report . So they's need to write around 10 tickets a day  to support just that cost.

     TRANSPARENCY LACKING   One of the most disconcerting things about the cameras may be that there was ( is there still ? )  legislation that prevents proper oversight .  In one  article, it was stated that data on the number of  citations issued has not been available because  "The law says we're not allowed to discuss anything related to the red-light cameras" ---  According to a provision in the Pennsylvania statute, photographs, written records, reports, names, addresses and violation statistics regarding the use of cameras at intersections "shall not be deemed a public record." --even for  politicians who request it.  How is it that they can put in a law and then allow for no proper oversight? I can understand the personal information - but the violation statistics should be there for people to see the initial

   MORE.... Per Nbc News 2-19-13,    Red light cameras are allowed in 24 states,  banned in 9.   About  530 communities nationwide have taken the cameras up citing that crashes were cut by 24%.  But the questions being asked are whether the lights are set correctly  so crashes could be cut just by having ample time to get through the intersection rather than by charging people fines and leaving open the possibility that  if lights are set poorly, even more $ can be garnered.  We currently have intersections  where traffic or light adjustments alone would amend the accident rate, yet we are not , apparently taking those measures (ie:  Susquehanna and Highland -short yellow .  Baeder - amend the pattern, putting hilltop and noble in a separate light sequence ). 
  One camera in Arlington Virginia took in 2 1/2 million dollars in just four years.  Drivers in Washington DC have received $18 million in tickets in one year alone-- so the cameras have been a cash cow for the local municipalities, a burden to drivers who sometimes may be  just a tad over the white lineor waived through by construction workers or forced into  an intersection by emergency vehicles. Some in these scenarios  have found themselves unable to protest in any reasonable way. And private companies who shared revenue were found not to be calibrating the lights properly or paying off public officials.
http://www.today.com/video/today/50854664#50854664

AVOIDING THEM IS A POSSIBILITY FOR THE TECH SAAVY....so here's a final interesting tidbit ............... "Trapster"  is an app that warns  of red-light cameras and known enforcement points.  With nearly 20.5 million drivers having turned to this app -- the info is coming straight from ticketed drivers who are ready to warn other drivers...... So tickets for some - avoided by others.

 - CHRONOLOGY

Early 2014 Activation expected with 60 day warning period

circa 9-13  Camera contract was awarded

4/10/13     Previously, the board chose to withdraw the ordinance that had been proposed in order to change the intersections  . Originally proposed : were Susquehanna Rd & Old York , and Fitzwatertown & Moreland. A third intersection, Susquehanna & Highland  has been dropped out of the proposal  and Welsh and Moreland has been put in .
    On Thursday, 4/10/13 at 8PM the Board will meet to Vote on the ordinance
. The meeting will take place at the  Township Building.  
Township residents are urged to come to the meeting for the public hearing on Ordinance 2049, which may allow for the installation of red light cameras at the following three intersections: 1) Old York and Susquehanna Roads; 2) Old York and Old Welsh Roads; and 3) Fitzwatertown and Moreland Roads.

 



 
                           ____________________

   This site is a forum for information sharing and idea sharing.  Please feel free to send your  view  and please be sure to  tell us about any information you believe to be incorrect - write  lel@abingtoncitizens.com

 

 

BROKEN LINKS ALERT  

Abington Township recently completely revamped their website at the end of 2015 . All links directed to the old site were broken. We will be reinstating links as we find them and if the data is still available.  
Please  let us know if you find a broken link . Send us the name of the link and the page it is on , and if we can reinstate it, we will.

 


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