Citing the need to wait for an entire years worth of data before expanding the red light camera program in St. Petersburg, City Council voted 5-3 to delay installing additional red light cameras.
City staff was recommending adding cameras to existing and new intersections as early as November.
Council member Jeff Danner, who was upset about learning of the new cameras from the public and not city admin, said he did not want to shutdown the program but rather wanted to have more concrete data before expansion.
"The fact that the program is already expanding offends me," Danner said.
He said the city should go through an entire school, winter, tourist, and etc season before committing to more cameras.
"I want to support this. I think it is something that can benefit this community," Danner said of red light cameras. In that meeting we said we want to see a year’s worth of data (before expanding). I don’t want to kill this program, ... (but) I don’t want the cameras expanded until we see a years worth of data."
The data the city does have is for eight months, which shows that the red light cameras in St. Peter are doing their job.
Joe Kubicki, director of the city's transportation and parking management department, said the cameras are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing.
According to Kubicki, at the intersections where the red light cameras are installed there has been a significant drop in crashes.
- Red light running related crashes are down 34.6 percent
- Red light running crash severity down 17.5 percent
- Red light running rear-end crashes are down 43.6 percent
"Over eight months, the information is very positive," Kubicki said.
During the eight months, Kubicki said there has been no red light running fatalities at the intersections.
An outspoken critic of the St. Pete red light camera system, Matt Florell said yellow light times at intersections are inconsistent and that the red light cameras give faulty data to police — such as a car taking a right turn at 96 mph.
In a report by Florell given to council members, he said longer yellow light times would reduce red light running.
"City staff is going to tell you that their yellow light timing "meets state requirements", and they are correct: the state requirements for yellow signal timing are very flexible. However, the data from these red light camera citations shows that with longer yellow times there is a drastic reduction in red light violations, as evidenced by the data at 38th Ave. N. and 66th St. N. Longer yellow signals lead to less red light violations, which makes the intersections safer."
Kubicki and staff from St. Pete Police said a highly skilled employee reviews all citations before anyone is sent a ticket.
According to city documents, the yellow light times are consistent with state and national standards.
"All signalized intersections were reviewed by staff prior to the start of the program and all locations with traffic safety cameras were inspected by the Florida DOT prior to a permit being issued to ensure all meet or exceeded the state required interval. Clearance intervals meet or exceed all state and national requirements and have not been adjusted at any location."
Mayor Bill Foster said he stands behind the red light cameras in St. Petersburg.
"This is an intersection public safety program. It is about public safety," he said. "We have professional experts that you pay for to assess this. This is not a hobby. This is their job.
"I wish we didn’t have to do this. I hate red light cameras, (but) this is the only way that we can modify people’s behavior because they do stupid things some times. This is the way that we can modify people’s negligent behavior," Foster added.