UPDATE: Burien City Council Terminates Red Light Camera Program

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by Ralph Nichols

Burien City Council members agreed Monday night (Feb. 13) to terminate the city’s three-year-old red light camera program.

Although Jack Block Jr. said he favored renewing the contract with Redflex – but limiting the vendor to 25 percent of program revenues – the rest of the council favored ending the program.

City Finance Director Kim Krause earlier told council members that city staff was “unable to quantify the effect cameras have had on traffic patterns and behavior,” an assessment that Police Chief Scott Kimerer agreed with.

From May 1, 2009, through 2011, Burien collected $592,440 in revenue from fines paid by red light scofflaws at the three city intersections where cameras are posted. But Redflex’s costs were $611,413, for a net deficit of $18,973.

Because the contract includes a cost-neutrality clause, “the city will not pay Redflex more than the program revenues,” Krause said – meaning that while red light cameras will cost Burien nothing , neither will the city realize any revenue from their use over the three years.

Based on pre-camera data collected from Oct. 2006 to May 2009 compared with data during camera use from May 2009 through December 2011, the cameras had virtually no impact on traffic safety in Burien.

  • At 1st Ave. S. and 152nd St., 11 accidents were recorded at the intersection compared to 9 since the cameras were installed.
  • At 1st Ave. S. and 148th St., there was no change – 21 accidents before and 21 after.
  • And at 1st Ave. S. and 160th St./Ambaum, there was a slight increase – 18 accidents before and 20 accidents after.

Kimmerer told council members that when Burien started using red light cameras, they were “somewhat innovative. What we were looking for was traffic safety. That was our number one concern.”

Police officers’ time in reviewing photos and issuing citations “is a cost we never figured out,” he added.

“We’ve had the program for a number of years. We could continue it or do without it.” But, Kimerer said in response to a question by Mayor Brian Bennett, “We would not be able to replace the cameras with officers at intersections.”

Block said his concern “is that we haven’t property capitalized on our opportunities, such as cameras to catch speeders in school zones.’’

“If one injury accident is prevented by changed behavior [by drivers] the program’s been successful,” he said. “This is intended to increase traffic safety.”

Noting he’d like to see it continue, Block suggested renegotiating the contract more to Burien’s advantage and expanding to school speed zones.

But Councilman Gerald Robison called the program “a boondoggle for the red light camera company, which makes $250,000 a year from it without any real benefit to the city plus the costs to the city for cops to write the tickets.

“I’m not in favor of of continuing it,” he declared – a position the other council members said they agreed with.

City Manager Mike Martin said the contract will lapse with no further council action when it expires on May 1.

On a separate matter raised at the end of the meeting, all council members expressed support by consensus for Gov. Chris Gregoire’s proposal to downgrade marijuana from a Step One to a Step Two narcotic.

Their assent followed Councilman Bob Edgar’s request for direction on how to represent the city’s position at an upcoming Suburban Cities Association committee meeting, where the issue will be discussed.

Marijuana is classified as a Step One narcotic by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. The governor’s proposal, if approved, could ease restrictions on the possession and use of medial marijuana.

Many people see this as a step toward the eventual decriminalization of all marijuana possession and use.

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16 Responses to “UPDATE: Burien City Council Terminates Red Light Camera Program”
  1. Mike Bishoff says:

    This is unbelievably great news. Congratulations to the Burien City Council for making a smart and thoughtful decision regarding the ill-fated red light cameras. They were losing money for the city and didn’t reduce traffic accidents either! Redmond recently removed theirs too and hopefully we’re starting to see the turning point for more cities to abandon these. I would propose instead that we find a way to accommodate the creation of 1 to 2 Burien Traffic Officers that are focused on reducing traffic issues in the city of Burien. As it turns out, traffic has been, and remains, the highest crime issue in Burien. It’s time to stop speeders, red light violators and aggressive driving in neighborhoods.

    • seahurst says:

      Dream on, Mike………..

    • Bryan says:

      Sorry I dont think traffic is the highest crime in Burien. If you check the crime map for the past 30. There are 190 cases, of those 0 are traffic. Also like to refer to the 2010 Police Service Report that show traffic is in the mid range. I would also like to point out the large number of break-in’s.

      I agree there should be more police but not for traffic.

      • atkmh says:

        Bryan, your comments about traffic violations surprised me so I went on line and checked out crime maps versus court reports for the month of December. Washington State Courts reports 107 traffic infractions and misdemeanors while the crime map shows 0 as well for the same time period. While traffic may well not be the priority, the info in crime maps does not appear to include traffic. Interesting.

  2. Jason says:

    Wow, sounds like if Gregoire suggests you all jump off a bridge you would express consensus for that as well. Is there any agenda item you don’t agree with Gregoire? By siding with her for everything makes you as a council look pretty thin.

    • Coverofnight says:

      Great comment, Jason! Regarding these issues:

      Isn’t it nice to know that the council listens to its residents? I (and many others) have made objections and wanted these cameras out of here since the day they were first installed. Now we’re out around $ 19,000 for their “great experiment”?!! And I can’t believe that one conehead still wants the cameras (we need to get that Einstein off the council). That parking enforcement guy needs to be the next to go – how much is he being paid versus the revenue from parking tickets? Bet there’s a deficit for that one, too. Besides, we need to welcome parking downtown, to encourage people to spend the day and patronize our local businesses. We’re small town and friendly – let’s keep it that way. We can do just fine without “big brother” constantly watching us.

      I’m against the decriminalization of marijuana or any other illegal drug. Drugs have played a major role in the decline of this country. Look at all the families destroyed by drug use – and this council simply rolls over on the issue and accepts what our extremely liberal governor wants. I can’t believe nobody objected.

      I turn off the national political news and come on the blog only to find more of the same liberal, socialist agenda and wasting of taxpayer money at the local level. This council has no backbone. Jason, you were spot on with your comment.

      • elizabeth2 says:

        Just to clarify a minor point – The City of Burien is not “out” $19,000. See the above article that

        “Because the contract includes a cost-neutrality clause, “the city will not pay Redflex more than the program revenues,” Krause said – meaning that while red light cameras will cost Burien nothing , neither will the city realize any revenue from their use over the three years”

        • Coverofnight says:

          You’re right elizabeth – that was the wrong way to look at it. I should have instead pointed out the almost $ 600,000 in monies that citizens paid, or rather, wasted with these cameras that could have been pumped back into local businesses and community events!

          • Burien ex-pat says:

            I’ve long known that coverofnight is not all that intelligent, but then again watching to much FOX News can dummy down even Donald Trump.

  3. IF the city feels they have a red light violation rate issue, simply adding 1.0 seconds to the yellow intervals will reduce the violation rate by MORE than a ticket camera program – without the need to punish safe drivers with high fines. See the science on our website. James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, http://www.motorists.org, Ann Arbor, MI

  4. Danthedog says:

    B-town drivers are the best. Run those red light now

  5. Burien ex-pat says:

    Liberal – socialist agenda? Wow,

    The cameras are another greedy conservative plot to siphon money from the average driver. The installation at 1st and 160th violated Washington State law the whole time and nobody made issue of it? Every red light ticket I got cost the city more than the ticket because I fought and won every one. Hire a traffic cop with white gloves and a whistle if you want real results.

    Drugs don’t cause nearly the problem that poverty does! Rich, fat, old, white, conservative red necks are the ones who made everything fun illegal. Yet they continue to enjoy their fancy cigars, prescriptions, and liquor, while they use $300 an hour lawyers to get them out of breaking the law. Now America spends more than a $100,000 A YEAR to lock up some stoner or meth head instead of retrying them to be productive in society. I’m all for testing the bus driver’s pee, but the amount of money and death to stop drugs and prostitution has been a futile sink hole in our economy for a century now.

    All that money could provide treatment, interdiction, testing, education, retraining, for every unemployed American and immigrant for that matter. We should be taxing the heck out of everything from pot to fast food.

    It is absurd to think any sustained effort to stop humans from experimenting with chemicals and sex will ever reprogram what drives us at the core. I always love it when ultra conservatives get caught with their hands in the red light cookie jar. Just like pro-life and stop the illegal immigrants, it will not stick because it goes against our inalienable human rights.

    • areyouserious says:

      Greed knows no age, color or gender. Rest assured that in other countries, young, slim and fat (enter color/race) are doing the exact same thing.

  6. VERY TIRED says:

    Those cameras were a nuisance, and a very big-brother method of extracting MORE MONEY from the citizens of Burien. Glad to hear that someone had some common sense in the City Council to get rid of the damned things.

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