February 22nd, 2018

Alberta photo radar review slow going

By Gillian Slade on February 14, 2018.

The Alberta government's review of photo radar across the province has been delayed, and officials say an independent consultant will soon be hired to undertake the review.--NEWS FILE PHOTO


gslade@medicinehatnews.com 
@MHNGillianSlade

A province-wide review of photo radar is going to take a little longer than anticipated.

Alberta Transport is in the process of choosing an independent consultant to carry out the task.

After plans for the review were announced by Transportation Minister Brian Mason in May 2017, there was considerable feedback from Albertans, a spokesperson for the office of the minister confirmed this week.

“The department evaluated and incorporated this feedback into the preliminary work for the review, including the request for proposal terms of reference,” said John Archer, press secretary for the minister. “The additional time and diligence is to ensure the review is carried out as intended and the results address the fundamental question of whether photo radar is being used to enhance safety.”

The RFP was issued Dec. 12, 2017. A consultant is still to be appointed.

Mason had originally hoped to have the review complete by the last fall.

He said last spring that one reason for a review is to ensure photo radar targets safety and is not being used as a cash cow. The government was reacting to a growing perception that photo radar is being used not to make roads safer, but to make money.

At this stage it is not clear whether the provincial review will include specifying locations where photo radar can or cannot be used. Another aspect likely to be considered will be the threshold over the speed limit, at which a fine is issued, suggested Coun. Jim Turner.

“I guess as a city we will have a look at what they come up with when they’re done and then decide if it is something we want to institute here,” said Turner.

At one time there was criticism of photo radar being set up in several places on one road.

“They (some places in the province) had the photo radar units like a hundred feet apart or something like that,” said Turner, speculating this sort of situation may have added to concerns expressed by the public. “They were generating lots of revenue.”

City council voted unanimously in April 2016 to approved a police commission report and recommendations regarding photo radar. The biggest change was to direct the revenue from photo radar tickets into general city revenue. It meant removing and replacing that amount in the police budget.

Since then the number of complaints about photo radar has been reduced.

“I don’t hear as many complaints about it,” said Turner, noting that fewer tickets are being issued overall.

There were 40,866 fewer vehicles monitored in 2017, according to the police commission report. In 2016, there were 1,066,896 vehicles monitored and only 1,026,030 in 2017.

The number of tickets issued dropped by 6,118, from 31,085 in 2016 to 24,967 in 2017.

There was an increase in the number of locations where photo radar is used. In 2016 there were 153 spots, and last year 158.

The tickets issued for photo radar are not separated from other ticket revenue, according to information from Medicine Hat Police Service received last week.

Based on the average photo radar ticket provided by the MHPS, revenue in 2017 likely approached $3 million.

There were 24,967 tickets issued in 2017. If you multiply that number by $118 (the average ticket) the total revenue would be $2,946,106.

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