Reluctantly, Mayor Bill Foster told City Council Thursday that nine new red light cameras would be placed in St. Petersburg.
Foster's statement came after St. Pete resident Matt Florell questioned the Mayor and Council during the open forum about yellow light times and the pending addition of new cameras.
"Just yesterday I found out that the city is planning on adding 10 more red light cameras, even though crashes have gone up at the camera intersections we have now, and red light running crashes have gone up as well," Florell said. "What is going on in this city? Safety is not improving, the equipment is faulty, yellow light times are inconsistent, too short and changed randomly. It really is horrible how bad all of this looks, and nobody is doing anything about it."
Members of City Council became visibly upset because they said they had no knowledge the new cameras are going to be put up.
"Are you going to inform us now or after we read it in the papers," Council Chair Leslie Curran said to Foster. "I thought we were waiting for a year that nothing would be done, then we would review and asess the program."
Foster said the city is in the process of permitting plans to add cameras in November to intersections that already have cameras, but not in all directions.
Council member Jeff Danner said he knows adding additional cameras was part of the original agreement, but only after council received a safety report of the effectiveness of the first cameras placed around St. Petersburg.
"We’ve learned form the pubic that more cameras are going up," Danner said. "That’s the issue, learning this on the fly. We get the heat for putting the cameras up. We (did) it because it was a safety issue. Now we are doing more without the safety data."
He said if the cameras are not making St. Petersburg roads safer, then maybe the city should scrap the red light camera program.
For Curran, the information omission is part of a larger problem of a communication gap between the city administration and council.
Council voted 7-1 to hear a presentaiton about red light cameras at the Oct. 18 city council meeting.
"Hopefully we’ll hear from the public if anything changes in the meantime," Curran said.
Gray Areas with Yellow Lights
While Florell's comments about the additional red light cameras set off a firestorm between council and the Mayor, Florell went to council to speak about the inconsistent times of yellow lights at intersections with red light cameras.
Below are his remarks:
The next disturbing thing I found was about yellow signal times. These
red light camera citations all document the yellow signal time, and by
logging all of these and comparing them I was able to make this chart.
The line is the intersection speed limit, and the bars are the yellow
signal time. Here is 4th and 22nd, where we have a speed limit of 35
and a yellow time of 4.1 seconds. You go up the road 2 miles to 54th
and 4th where you have a speed limit of 45, and the yellow time only
goes up one tenth of a second to 4.2 seconds, then take a look at this
slower intersection 38th and 66th, which is 40mph, but it has 5
seconds of yellow time. If safety is your primary concern, this yellow
signal time chart tells a different story.
Foster said Florell's numbers are disputable and that will be shown during the Oct. 18 report.