The Arlington County Police Department has recorded a decrease in red light violations, and therefore ticket revenue, since fiscal year 2012.
The county currently has four working cameras, at N. Lynn Street and Lee Highway, Ft. Myer Drive at Lee Highway, N. Glebe Road at Fairfax Drive and Washington Blvd at Lee Highway. Each violation carries a fine of $50.
ACPD reports the red light cameras have brought in the following revenue for the last four fiscal years:
- FY 2014 — $236,792 (as of July 30)
- FY 2013 — $322,682
- FY 2012 — $444,427
- FY 2011 — $327,292
The police departments points to safety education campaigns as contributing to the drop in red light violations.
“We believe it’s a combination of people understanding and knowing locations of the cameras, along with being better and more aware drivers as the result of educational campaigns put on by our officers regarding traffic safety,” said police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. “Safety is our biggest concern.”
Although they’ve been delayed for more than a year, seven new red light cameras are still in the works for Arlington. They will go in at five intersections shown to have high rates of red light running: two cameras at Columbia Pike and Glebe Road, two at Jefferson Davis Highway and S. 23rd Street, one at Columbia Pike and George Mason Drive, one at Lee Highway and George Mason Drive, and one at Washington Blvd and Glebe Road.
ACPD says the delay has been, in part, due to a Virginia Department of Transportation approval process. The county recently re-submitted information VDOT requires for the approval and hopes to hear back soon. However, VDOT spokeswoman Joan Morris told ARLnow.com the agency submitted its comments to ACPD July 1, and it is “not opposing any of the proposed sites since the signals are maintained and operated by the County.”
Once construction begins at the camera sites, ACPD plans to begin another educational campaign. The department typically offers a one month grace period when drivers will merely get a warning for running red lights at the intersections with newly installed cameras. Violations after the grace period will result in tickets.
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The Arlington County Board will consider advertising a public hearing on the issue at its meeting this Saturday. The proposal follows about six months of work from Arlington Public Schools Security Coordinator Kevin Reardon to develop a plan to install the cameras on 10-20 percent of APS buses with no additional expense to the county.
Virginia passed a law in 2011 that allows municipalities to install cameras on school buses and issue drivers tickets for $250 if they are recorded passing a bus when its stop arm is out. Last fall, Falls Church installed cameras on eight of its 12 school buses, Reardon said. Fairfax County is considering installing the cameras and they are also in use in Montgomery County, Md., where 300 tickets were issued in three months earlier this year.
If the County Board approves the request to advertise, it likely won’t be able to approve the cameras until September, since there is no meeting in August. If it’s approved, APS is expected to seek an outside vendor to install, maintain and operate the cameras. The vendor would receive a substantial percentage of the revenue from the citations as payment, Reardon said.
“In Falls Church, in their first year, the vendor got between 60 and 70 percent of the fine,” Reardon told ARLnow.com today. Another chunk of the revenue will pay the police, who will review the footage and issue the citations.
“I’m sure someone will look at this and say, ‘It’s just the school system trying to make a lot of money,’ and that is not the case. By the time you pay the police and vendor, most of the revenue is gone.”
Reardon said he proposed to earmark the remaining revenue to pay for school safety expenses. The cameras would reduce police expenses, he said, because police will occasionally follow school buses on their routes to ensure drivers aren’t going around the stop-arms.
Falls Church has averaged about one ticket per bus each day, Reardon said, but the citation rate fell essentially every month. Once a motorist is ticketed, a repeat offense is far less likely. He also suggested a 30-day grace period once the cameras are installed — there’s no estimate for when that will happen until the full item goes before the County Board — which would send citations to drivers but not charge them with a fine.
Despite some people’s reluctance to put traffic cameras on the road, Reardon said in his research, reactions to the cameras have been generally positive.
“Most places are very happy with it,” he said. “If you’re passing a school bus on Lee Highway and a child pops out, the child will be hurt severely. Previous to this, the only way we could enforce it is to have the school bus driver jot down the tag and go to court, or the police department is used to follow school buses. Now we’re automating that part of school safety, and we’re going to free the police up to do something else.”
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The seven cameras initially were scheduled to be installed in April. At that time, ARLnow.com inquired about the cameras and learned that there would be a 60 day delay. Now, we’re told the new cameras should be operational by the fall.
“We’ve come across a couple of different hurdles and it’s definitely extending our timelines. The plans the county was supposed to have didn’t come through and a private company had to come in. Some information that was needed was not on the plans provided, so they had to go to survey to get the information,” said Red Light Camera Administrator Officer Caroline Allen with the Arlington County Police Department. “Unfortunately, it’s not as smooth as we hoped it would be to get these cameras out.”
The seven traffic cameras will monitor five intersections shown to have high rates of red light violations. There will be two at Columbia Pike and Glebe Road monitoring eastbound and westbound Columbia Pike, two at Jefferson Davis Highway and S. 23rd Street monitoring northbound and southbound Jefferson Davis Highway, one at Columbia Pike and George Mason Drive monitoring eastbound Columbia Pike, one at Lee Highway and George Mason Drive monitoring westbound Lee Highway and one at Washington Blvd and Glebe Road monitoring northbound Glebe Road.
The first two cameras to be installed — those at Jefferson Davis Highway and S. 23rd — could potentially be in by July if all goes well. The remaining five are estimated to be operational by September.
“We’re still waiting on VDOT approval, then we can go ahead with setting up construction plans,” Officer Allen said.
A study released in January examined the red light cameras installed in Arlington in 2010, and found a decrease in violations at those intersections.
“You can clearly see in the videos that people are running red lights. There are some very close calls,” said Officer Allen. “It’s making an impact just based on the reductions in violations. The number has gone down dramatically.”
Intersections are chosen based on surveys examining the rates of red light violations, the number of accidents, pedestrian safety and the safety of police officers trying to apprehend violators at the intersections.
“It’s defnitely a safety aspect,” said Officer Allen. “Those [intersections] selected are not safe for drivers, not safe for pedestrians, not safe for officers trying to enforce those intersections.”
The standard one month warning period will apply for those caught running red lights at the intersections with the new cameras. After that time, violators will be ticketed.
Once the new cameras are installed, there will be another survey to examine which intersections should potentially receive red light cameras next year.
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Photo courtesy “Westover Leftover”
The study focused on the cameras installed in 2010 at four heavily traveled Arlington intersections — southbound Fort Myer Drive at westbound Lee Highway, northbound N. Lynn Street at eastbound Lee Highway, northbound N. Glebe Road at Fairfax Drive and westbound Washington Blvd at Lee Highway. The public was informed of the camera installation and violators were given warnings for 30 days. After the grace period, violators caught on camera received a $50 citation.
Researchers at the IIHS (which is located in Arlington) taped traffic during the warning period, one month after ticketing began and again one year later. They found that one year after ticketing began there was a marked decrease in drivers running red lights. Violations occurring at least 0.5 seconds after the light turned red were 39 percent less likely, those occurring at least 1 second after were 48 percent less likely and there was an 86 percent drop in violations occurring at least 1.5 seconds after the light changed.
“This study provides fresh evidence that automated enforcement can get drivers to modify their behavior,” says Anne McCartt, senior vice president for research at IIHS and the study’s lead author. “What these numbers show is that those violations most likely to lead to a crash are reduced the most. The longer the light has been red when a violator enters an intersection, the more likely the driver is to encounter a vehicle traveling in another direction or a pedestrian.”
Traffic was also taped at four other intersections — westbound Lee Highway at Kirkwood Road, northbound N. Glebe Road at Washington Blvd, westbound Arlington Blvd at Manchester Street and eastbound Columbia Pike at S. George Mason Drive — to see if there was any spillover effect from the cameras. While there were some decreases in violations observed in areas close to cameras, they were not always deemed statistically significant.
In 2011, the first full year the four red light cameras were in operation, they brought in nearly $460,000 in revenue. That number halved in 2012, coming in at about $224,000. The camera at Southbound Fort Myer Drive and Lee Highway brought in the most revenue, with a two year total of nearly $304,000.
In April, the county plans to activate seven additional traffic cameras at five intersections shown to have high rates of violations. There will be two at Columbia Pike and Glebe Road monitoring Eastbound and Westbound Columbia Pike, two at S. 23rd Street and Jefferson Davis Highway monitoring Northbound and Southbound Jefferson Davis Highway, one at Columbia Pike and George Mason Drive monitoring Eastbound Columbia Pike, one at Lee Highway and George Mason Drive monitoring Westbound Lee Highway and one at Washington Blvd and Glebe Road monitoring Northbound Glebe Road. The standard one month warning period will apply, and violators will be ticketed after that time.
The proposed FY 2013 Arlington County Police Department budget includes funding for eight red light cameras at six intersections. An ACPD official tells ARLnow.com that the “dangerous” intersections (below) were each identified as safety concerns.
The additional cameras will cost the police department $438,102 during FY 2013, including $66,794 to hire a full-time employee to review each image captured by the camera to confirm that a violation took place. The remaining $371,308 will go to the contractor chosen to install and maintain the cameras.
The expenses are expected to be offset by the revenue generated by the cameras, estimated at $558,688 in the first year. Despite the expected profit, the police department is “very emphatic” that the red light camera program is about safety and not revenue, according to one official.
Currently, ACPD has red light cameras active at the intersections of N. Lynn Street and Lee Highway, Fort Myer Drive and Lee Highway, Washington Boulevard and Lee Highway, and N. Glebe Road and N. Fairfax Drive. Under the budget proposal, new cameras will be installed at the following intersections:
- Jefferson Davis Highway and 23rd Street S.
- Columbia Pike and S. Glebe Road
- N. Glebe Road and Washington Boulevard
- Columbia Pike and George Mason Drive
- Four Mile Run Drive and George Mason Drive
- Lee Highway and George Mason Drive
For Arlington, Fiscal Year 2013 starts on July 1. No word yet on when exactly the cameras would be installed, should the police department’s budget be approved as is.
Under Virginia law, Arlington is authorized to install red light cameras at up to 20 intersections.
While the camera hasn’t been functional in years, its housing is still keeping a constant vigil at the busy intersection. Police tell us, however, that they’re planning on taking the camera down in about a month.
Arlington currently has four working red light cameras: NB N. Lynn Street at EB Lee Highway, SB Ft. Myer Drive at WB Lee Highway, NB N. Glebe Road at Fairfax Drive and NB Washington Blvd at Lee Highway. In Virginia, the fines from red light cameras are limited to $50.
“There is no doubt that it’s all about the money,” the Washington Times says about Arlington’s new red light cameras.
In an editorial — who knew the Times still covered local issues? — the paper claims the combined “angle collision” rate at the four intersections where cameras are installed is a mere 0.15 incidents per month.
The Times also says that rear end collisions doubled last time Arlington installed red light cameras.
So, is it about the money? No, police say: it’s about safety, not profit.
But the month-long trial period suggests that Arlington will likely generate revenue from the program.
A total of 577 warnings were issued in the past month. If that rate remains constant while the system issues $50 citations, it will generate $346,200 over 12 months. Arlington pays $178,800 per year to the contractor that maintains the camera system. That leaves a surplus of $167,400. Of course, a significant percentage of that will be paid to the contractor as ticket processing fees (we’re guessing half).
Somehow, though, it seems unlikely that a sinister revenue-generating plot was hatched over a sum that would barely pay the salary and benefits for one additional beat officer.
If you run the wrong red light after midnight tonight, you’ll be getting a $50 ticket in the mail.
Arlington’s new red light cameras, which have been issuing warnings for the past month, will now be issuing fines. The infraction will be treated as a civil offense, meaning it won’t go on your driving record.
The cameras are located at the following intersections:
- Eastbound Lee Highway at North Lynn Street
- Southbound Ft. Myer Drive at westbound Lee Highway
- Westbound Lee Highway at Washington Boulevard
- Northbound North Glebe Road at Fairfax Drive
If successful, the county has indicated that it may opt to install additional cameras. Under state law, the county is permitted to install up to 20 red light cameras.
Arlington’s new red light cameras went live this morning.
The cameras, perched at four busy intersections, will issue warnings for the next 30 days as part of an “awareness period.” Then, starting in mid-to-late July, violators will start receiving $50 fines.
If the red light camera program is deemed a success by the police department and the county board, expect to see up to 16 additional cameras — the maximum allowed by Virginia law — popping up around Arlington.
After a five year hiatus, Arlington is bringing back red light cameras at four busy county intersections.
Arlington’s previous generation of red light cameras went dark in 2005 after the Virginia General Assembly banned them statewide. The cameras were reauthorized in 2007 but stayed dormant in Arlington.
Now, the county is installing a new generation of cameras with the vaguely Bono-inspired name of ‘PhotoRED.’
The cameras will monitor eastbound Lee Highway at North Lynn Street, westbound Lee Highway at Washington Boulevard, northbound North Glebe Road at Fairfax Drive, and southbound Ft. Myer Drive at westbound Lee Highway.
The PhotoRED cameras are expected to come online on Monday, June 14. They will issue warnings for the first 30 days, police said. After that, drivers who run red lights or violate Virginia’s right turn on red law will receive this notice of violation and a $50 civil fine (like a parking ticket, it will not go on the driver’s record).
The system will cost the police department $14,900 per month, although the county will keep a portion of the fines collected. (Updated at 3:55 p.m.)
The county says that red light photo enforcement can reduce crashes at monitored intersections by roughly 40 percent.
Diagram courtesy of Arlington County Police Department.