City Official Addresses Red Light Camera Concerns

Print This Post  Email This Post

by Scott Schaefer

On March 1st, the City of Burien activated three “Red Light Cameras” on First Avenue South at SW 148th, SW 152nd and SW 160th, intersections that the city says have a higher incidence of red light violations and accidents.

The cameras, manufactured by a company called RedFlex:

  • Will record photos and videos of cars running red lights and/or not stopping fully on a red light right turn.
  • Each violation will result in the same $101 fine no matter which offense.
  • Each violator’s photo and video are also apparently first reviewed by the manufacturer, RedFlex, prior to being seen by a local police officer.
  • And each payment is controlled by RedFlex via their own website (, or by mail, before monies are paid to the Contractor (in this case, the City of Burien).

The City of Burien is expecting annual revenues from these cameras to be around $200,000 in 2009 to around $250,000 in 2010.

Since posting information about these new cameras, we’ve received numerous comments and emails; we also did our own research and discovered some controversy regarding the manufacturer, RedFlex.

Here are some recent news stories about RedFlex:

And here’s a taste of some of the previous comments we got:

If these are supposed to improve safety, I wonder if they did any research outside of what the vendor told them? Most good independent research shows that these cameras INCREASE accdident! Just read

And doesn’t it concern anyone that they created a contract that increases payout based on number of citations? Does it concern anyone that this company (Redflex) has been found guilty of falsifying court documents, among other things?

“The City pays Redflex a flat monthly amount. The fixed fee ranges from $4,870 to $6,870 per month depending on the number of violations.”

… what definition of “flat monthly amount” and “fixed fee” are they using, exactly?

How to make sure the cameras don’t end up being just about money:

Make the fine for rolling right turns, or left turns, much lower than for a straight thru violation. $20 is enuf to drive home the point about these relatively much-less-dangerous turning offenses. If, instead, the fine for turning is the same (substantial) amount as for a straight thru violation, then it’s about money.

Have a grace period, that is, no ticket unless you’re more than 1/2 sec. late. If no grace, it’s about money.

Set the yellow lights for left turns at 4.0 sec. If they’re left at 3.0, like in California, that triples the # of violations & it’s about money.

The contract with the vendor running the cameras must be changed to a genuine flat-rate. If the vendor is paid so-much-a-ticket, or a % of the fine revenue, or more money is there’s more tickets (as in the present contract), it’s about money.

Set a solid cap on the max. fine, including all surcharges. Otherwise, as soon as the govt. needs more money, it will rise to $400+, like in California, & it’s about money.

It may be too late to change the contract. It’s been signed. Although there may be an escape clause the city can use. But it is not too late to reduce the amount of the fines for turns, or institute a grace period, or lengthen the yellow on lefts.

these cameras tape 24/7 every car that passes, and can pull up exactly where you were and when by simply putting your plate # into their computer. Why?

Yes they will move the yellow time down to the lowest allowed by law. The speed cameras will come a short distance after the speed sign to decrease, not even giving you time to slow down,The company has already proved they will forge documents to get the results they want. Kiss your freedoms to privacy good bye folks they will have so many cameras you can’t count them.

From Arizona, invaded by and taken over bye redflex, triple A declares the state of Arizona a speed trap because of redflex. Come to sunny Arizona, I can assure you that it will cost you a whole lot more than you planned while driving here.

We then forwarded these on to Steve Botkin, Public Information Officer for the city, who helped us out by getting the following replies from Tabitha Miller, Finance Director:

Q: The City appears to have created a contract with RedFlex that increases payout based on the number of citations given. Yet in your previous email you said it was a “flat fee based on the number of violations” – isn’t this in reality a commission structure? Where, if Burien sends out more tickets, the city pays more to RedFlex? How is that a “flat fee”?
A: The contract with Redflex obligates the City to pay a fixed fee of $4,850 per month for each Designated Intersection Approach. However, there is a “Cost Neutrality” clause, where the City is not required to pay more than the actual cash received from violations.

The confusion here may be related to a second optional “Mobile Speed Unit” that the City has not implemented and there is no current plan to implement, where the fee structure is in part based on the volume of potential violations.

(If you are interested, we can send you a copy of the executed contract.)

Q: Is the fine for “rolling right turns” the same as for running a red light?
A: Yes – $101.

Q: What is the exact time duration of the yellow lights at these intersections?
A: The City contracts with King County for maintenance of our traffic signals. The exact duration/timing of the amber light depends on the intersection, speed and the direction of travel. For these intersections the interval ranges from 4.0 to 4.3 seconds.

Q: Is there any kind of “grace period” for yellow lights? Or do the cameras take the pic the second it turns red?
A: The cameras take both video and still pictures. An officer will review the video to determine if a violation has occurred. As a standard, if a vehicle enters the intersection when the light is red a violation has occurred.

Q: Is there a maximum cap to the cost of a red light ticket?
A: The base monetary penalty set by Burien Municipal Code is $101. BMC 10.05.070.

Q: Is there an escape clause for the city to get out of the contract with RedFlex?
A: The City has a standard contract term which provides for termination of the contract upon thirty days written notice. The City’s contract with Redflex includes the same standard language.

So, with all that said, we wonder what everyone thinks of these cameras, as well as the city’s contract with RedFlex?

Have you seen the cameras flash yet (meaning they took a photo)?

Do you have an opinion?

Please Comment below…


Print This Post  Email This Post

Share Your Opinion

By participating in our online comment system, you are agreeing to abide by the terms of our comment policy.

...and oh, if you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!