Red-light cameras to disappear from Burien

After May 1, red-light cameras will be gone from three Burien intersections.

Burien lawmakers decided Feb. 13 not to renew the contract with Redflex Traffic Systems after May 1. The company has been providing the cameras to Burien since 2009.

The cameras are located along First Avenue S. at 148th St., 152nd St, and 160th St. The cameras are designed to catch drivers going through the intersections or making a right turn without stopping when the traffic lights are red.

Finance director Kim Krause said the program is designed so the city does not pay Redflex more than revenues received from tickets. She noted that payment is not sent to Redflex until the revenues are received.

However, the city spent about $55,000 in district court costs for the photo enforcement program in 2009 and 2010. She said Burien is expected to incur another $30,000 in costs for 2011. Krause added the added cost for Burien police to review and issue the tickets is unknown.

She provided a summary of revenues and costs billed the city by Redflex for the past three years.
In 2009, the program generated $187,273 in revenues while the contract cost was $145,813 generating a net of $41460.

In 2010, the program netted $611 with revenues of $233,411 and costs of $232,800.

Last year, costs billed by Redflex were actually $61,044 more than the city took in from the program. The 2011 revenues were $171,756 while Redflex costs were $232,800.

For the three-year period, there was an $18,973 deficit between Reflex’s costs and revenues generated.

On Jan. 23, Councilman Gerald Robison asked staff for a comparison of accidents at the intersections before the cameras were installed and afterwards.

Comparisons between Oct. 2006-May 2009 and May 2009-Dec. 2011 show that the accident rates for the three intersections along First Avenue remained about the same even after the cameras were installed.

At 148th, there were 21 accidents during both time frames. At 152nd, there were 11 accidents pre-camera and 9 accidents post-camera. At. 160th St., there were 18 pre-camera accidents and 20 post-camera accidents.

Police Chief Scott Kimerer said the main goal of the red-light program was traffic safety, not generating traffic violation revenues.

He added that the three intersections have never had a lot of accidents but he feels the cameras modified drivers’ behaviors.

Councilman Robison suggested people modified their routes to avoid the intersections.

Robison said the red-light cameras have not shown a benefit and have been used as a tax on drivers who got careless at the three intersections.
“They are primarily a boondoggle for the camera company,” Robison declared.

Councilman Jack Block disagreed.

Block said the city has not fully capitalized on the program, He proposed putting the contract out to bid again. He said a new contract should involve technological enhancements and a different cost structure.

Cameras could also be placed in school zones to catch speeders, Block added.

However, other council members reached a consensus that they wanted to terminate the red light camera program.

Red-light cameras will continue in SeaTac.