Capital City Sets End to Red-Light Camera Program Later This Summer
By LaDarius Calhoun
Drivers became fed up with $158 red-light camera fines around the state. Attorney Ian Nesbeth has defended the violations for the last five years and described the red-light tickets as a “headache.” Now Tallahassee is officially opting out of the program.
When city commissioners voted on the red-light camera (RLC) program in 2009, they never once voted on when the program would come to an end.
The city has seen a tremendous decrease in the number of violations, and the RLC program isn’t seeing the same amount of money come in as it once did.
City officials confirmed that the program is coming to an end on Aug. 17 when the contract with the vendor Xerox expires.
Michelle Bono, assistant to the city manager, said the city is discontinuing the program for a number of reasons, including the steep decline in violations and the corresponding drop in revenue.
Violations declined by 90 percent, maybe even more at some of the seven intersections where the cameras are located.
To put things into better perspective, $83 of every $158 ticket goes to the state of Florida. The other $75 goes toward the cost of the cameras. If violations and revenue continue to decline, many cities will do just as Tallahassee and take the cameras down or continue to pay for the RLC program out-of-pocket.
“The bottom line is that the red-light camera program has been unsuccessful in reducing red-light running to the point where it is no longer viable,” Bono said.
There hasn’t been much dissent of the discontinuation of the program, which was mentioned on page 4 of City Manager Anita Favors Thompson’s June 16 budget report to city commissioners.
At the end of 2013, red-light cameras in Tallahassee had generated $6.3 million. Only about $3 million went to the state of Florida, $2.8 million was required by the RLC vendor, leaving the city with a little less than $500,000.
Thompson wrote in the budget report, “The budget does not include revenue or expense for the red-light camera program.”
“The contract expires in August of 2015 and is not being renewed,” she added.
One city commissioner didn’t agree with how the decision to discontinue the RLC program succeeded without input from commissioners.
“I was once again dismayed to read something in the Tallahassee Democrat that we had not taken a policy position on,” Scott Maddox wrote in an email to Thompson. “It may very well be good policy to discontinue red-light cameras, but that is a policy decision to be made by the elected commission in my opinion.”
On the bright side of things, Tallahassee drivers won’t have the pricey automated red-light cameras to complain about after August.