NEW PORT RICHEY — One City Council member has been hit by a red-light running driver. Another has been ticketed by red-light cameras — twice.
All five city councilmen had one thing in common last Tuesday, voting yes to continue using the five red-light cameras it has had in operation on U.S. 19 the last four years .
“As probably the only member sitting up here who has personally been hit by a red-light runner, I’m all in favor of these cameras,” Mayor Rob Marlowe said during the city’s second regular meeting of the month May 21. “I just wish there had been a camera at the intersection I got hit at because it would have caught the person that hit me and just kept on going.”
At issue last week was the city continuing its Intersection Safety Program with American Traffic Solutions for another three years.
“A year ago we entered into a third amendment on our contract; it was a one-year contract at the time,” City Manager Debbie Manns said. “The reason that we only felt comfortable with a one-year was based on the fact that it was a very well-discussed topic in the state legislature. In its most recent session it wasn’t even introduced as a topic.”
New Port Richey and Arizona-based ATS, which does business as Verra Mobility, have been partners in the red-light camera business since 2010. The city originally had 10 cameras pointed at various intersections along the U.S. 19-Gulf Coast Highway corridor, but that number was reduced to five in 2015.
The amended contract reduces the city’s month per-camera payment to ATS from $4,250 to $4,000, a savings of about $45,000 over the three-year life of the deal. The reduction in payment comes as the city will no longer request ATS contributes $3,000 per year to the city’s Traffic Safety Awareness Campaign.
The city’s five cameras are at: Main Street, watching westbound traffic turning north onto U.S. 19; north and southbound on Gulf Drive; northbound on Floramar Terrace; and at northbound on Trouble Creek Road.
According to information included with last week’s agenda, the city continues reporting “a high number” of motorists who fail to properly stop at U.S. 19 intersections. In the last three years at intersections where the five cameras are installed, the number of Notices of Violations issued were 16,581 in 2016, 13,239 in 2017 and 16,239 in 2018.
“I can tell you, we haven’t had a fatality, we haven’t had a rear-end accident and the rate of recidivism is less than 4 percent on ticket violators,” Manns said. “Sometimes people will get a second ticket at the same intersection but it’s very rare. In fact, less than 1 percent will actually get a ticket at the same location a third time.”
Councilman Matt Murphy said he has experience getting busted by the cameras, but that doesn’t mean he’s against them.
“I’ve gotten a ticket once, I got a ticket twice, and never again,” he said. “I make sure I stop now and there’s not even any hesitation.”
Helping reaffirm the support of a pair of councilmen is a sense that the people who are the most outspoken in their dislike of red-light cameras are those who have been ticketed.
“I get asked a lot about why we have those cameras,” said Councilman Chopper Davis. “I’ve never been asked by someone who didn’t actually have a ticket or have a relative that had a ticket or had a boyfriend or a girlfriend that had a ticket. So the silent majority isn’t speaking here but the silent majority is living their lives because of these cameras.”
Councilman Jeff Starkey agreed with Davis.
“My best friends complain to me about it,” Starkey said. “Family members that have gotten red lights. But I’ve never heard from someone that’s never gotten a ticket. Based on the numbers it’s working in my opinion.”
Peter Altman was leaning toward a no vote but was swayed by the discussion to make it a 5-0 decision. Altman did bring up potential issues with right-on-red violations where complete stops aren’t made and the amount of the $158 citation.
City Attorney Timothy Driscoll mentioned that state law does prohibit any right turns on red without first coming to a full stop and that the citation amount of red-light violation penalties is set by state statute. “We don’t have any control over the amount of the fine. The only thing the city can control is the amount of the court costs if someone challenges the citation.”