Sunday, March 28, 2021

Critiquing Photo Enforcement on Red Lights and Speed

Photo speed enforcement installation
on Commercial at Madrona (2020)

The City's got a weird rhythm going on the photo speed enforcement. Last summer they announced tickets would be issued in July, but apparently that went on hiatus, and they are starting up again.

Starting April 1, the City of Salem aims to reduce crashes and protect pedestrians with new traffic enforcement cameras at three high-traffic intersections/

I guess last summer's run was "testing."

Now, with the start again, some are trying to say we should remove the cameras. One person appeals to an ODOT report from a decade ago, "Red Light Running Camera Assessment: Final Report (2011)".

They cite the recommendation by ODOT to remove the cameras. 

Which, of course. You may recall the OR-22/Mission Street study completed in 2018. ODOT's primary interest is not urban safety, but is capacity and speed on OR-22. So it is not surprising they recommended against the cameras. This is of a piece with the SRC, also for OR-22. On these urban segments of OR-22, ODOT is likely to have a different perspective from the City.

But in the report itself, the evidence is much more ambiguous with real trade-offs, far from "clear and convincing."

Fewer angle, more rear end crashes

From the study:

The estimated average monthly crash costs increased from $16,296 before the cameras were installed to $27,738 after the cameras were installed. There was a higher percentage of injury crashes (including turn and angle) prior to the cameras being installed, but, despite the post-installation period containing primarily rear end crashes, the overall increase in crash rate led to an overall greater cost after installation....The average monthly reduction [in violations distinct from crashes] from March 2008 for the period from April 2008 through December 2009 was 23%.

There appears to be a trade-off: Even though there was a slight increase in crash rate, more importantly there was a decrease in crash severity. More fender-benders, fewer people hurt. Also fewer violations, which improves comfort for other road users, both those in cars and outside of cars on foot or on bike.

Rarely do we talk about how speeding, crashes, and violations affect other road users, especially those not in cars. What about people in the crosswalks and bike lanes? Criticism of camera enforcement that focuses on driver inconvenience misses the beneficial effect for other road users. It's not all about drivers.

And why should we engineer roads to accommodate bad behavior by drivers? "The car behind me started honking" and we should reward that?

Even the Police said "eye-opening" (2020)

The study also was on red light running and did not address speed. And speed enforcement is likely the most important part of the camera installation, not the red light enforcement.

From the Commercial Vista Corridor study
Speeding is a huge problem
(red comments added)

We know from the Commercial-Vista Corridor Study that speeding is endemic here. And even when speeders don't cause crashes, they degrade the street experience for everyone, and make it less likely someone will want to walk or bike there.

More recently, on 17th and 45th Streets, we saw how speeding was a problem.

Because there is so much speeding, drivers will not self-report 10mph over as speeding, and they do not notice others going 10mph more. So anecdotal data from personal experience is not very reliable. But the aggregated data from speed studies is clear: Lots of people speed. In fact, we have ratified speeding in our doctrines for 85th and 50th percentile speed, and our legal environment that requires speeding in excess of 10mph before issuing a ticket.

We tolerate too much speeding, and this needs to change. Camera enforcement will help.

Previously on camera enforcement and some of the start-stop:

And elsewhere on speeding, cameras, and BikePortland:

March 17th, 2021

At Willamette Week:

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I hope that the City of Salem's report for photo red light and speed cameras will be better than the report filed by the City in 2019. The report should have been filed by March 1, but have not been filed.