METRO announces new downtown jaywalking revenue stream

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KHOU-11’s Doug Miller reports that as of June 13, extra METRO police manpower will be deployed downtown to ticket jaywalkers:

Metro Chief Tom Lambert

Downtown jaywalkers should be on the lookout in the month of June, because Metro police are planning a concerted effort to warn and ticket violators of pedestrian, bicycle and motor vehicle laws in the downtown area.

The object is to ensure that the public complies with the transportation laws to assure their safety and the safety of others who share the downtown roadways and sidewalks.

Officers with the Metro Police Department have produced brochures that will be given to pedestrians as they walk in the downtown area and are working jointly with HPD on this initiative.

“The focus is on public safety and we at Metro want to ensure we do everything we can to inform the public about how to do just that,” says Captain Milton O’Gilvie of the Metro Police Department.

Many people who now live, work, and visit downtown are crossing in mid-block or against the traffic signal to get across streets; bicyclists are riding on the sidewalks or against traffic; and motorists are speeding and running red lights.

The emphasis placed on the downtown mobility initiative will begin on June 13 and continue until June 30.

KTRH-740 news has reported that the METRO police department all but concedes there isn’t a problem downtown at the moment, but lots of people! (Translation: $uckers who can give the city $$$$)

Mayor Bill White

Leaving aside the question of why this is a METRO police department issue at all — although it IS a very good question — one can almost see Mayor White and the METRO folks smiling at the thought of a new downtown jaywalking revenue stream that can help finance the light rail’s unyielding appetite for dollars. Oh, I guess I just answered my very good question.

Let’s not forget that this is the same METRO police department that cannot prevent crime at its Park-and-Ride lots because it refuses to deploy manpower to do so. Yet it has the extra manpower and resources to deploy downtown to issue citations to citizens just trying to enjoy the huge investment taxpayers have made in their downtown in recent years? And to print brochures instructing citizens how to cross the street?!

Unbelievable. Absurd. Feel free to add your own adjectives in the comments.

Thanks again, Mayor White and METRO officials, for subjugating the real public safety needs in our city to your need to boost revenues. One can certainly understand why these obnoxious programs are announced on Fridays.

UPDATE: KUHF-88.7’s Jack Williams reports on the new Downtown Jaywalking Revenue Stream program:

Downtown jaywalkers beware… The Houston Police Department and Metro will begin a crackdown on pedestrian law violators starting later this month. Officials say the three-week operation is about safety, not revenue.

More than a dozen officers assigned to HPD’s Special Operations Division will begin monitoring busy downtown intersections starting June 13th, looking for not only pedestrian violations, but also bicycle and motor vehicle violations. Police captain Mary Lentschke says pedestrians can affect downtown traffic flow.

In a recent survey, police observed more than 7,000 downtown walkers and found about 25 percent of them were breaking various pedestrian ordinances. Most of the violations occured during afternoon rush hour.

Police says they’ll hand out tickets if they have to, with fines of up to $200, but increased revenue isn’t the goal.

One law of politics is that when public officials say it’s not about the money, it’s almost always about the money.

UPDATE 2: KTRK-13’s coverage of the “public safety initiative” reads like a police press release — or worse, like police spinning after Doug Miller’s story for KHOU. If that’s what appeared on the air, KTRK’s viewers missed about half the story.

UPDATE (06-04-2005): The Chronicle runs a lengthy story on the city’s new Downtown Jaywalking Revenue Stream Program. Unsurprisingly, this latest bit of genius comes from none other than Chief Hurtt:

The idea for the initiative began with Chief Harold Hurtt, said HPD spokesman Alvin Wright.

“The chief noticed a lot of folks jaywalking downtown,” and asked for a study of the problem, Wright said.

Now that Chief Hurtt would seem to have that pressing problem of renegade downtown pedestrians under control, if he and Mayor White could turn their attention to REAL problems like HPD’s manpower shortage, the growing menace of MS-13 gang activities, graffiti, and 911 response times, that would be much appreciated.

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