Red light cameras are here; are speed cameras next?

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Matt Stiles has a story in the Chronicle about the red light cameras that started operating today, and Chris Baker is talking about it on his show (KTRH-740).

The city’s spin is that it’s all about safety…oh, and helping out an understaffed HPD.

Regular readers will know that my spin is that this is all about revenue. It seems as if at least once a week we see a story in the media about someone running a red light and killing someone. Please explain how a red light camera will stop that. If someone doesn’t care what color the traffic signal is, how is the threat of a picture and a $75 civil fine going to deter him or her?

In Matt Stiles’ story, HPD’s Martha Montalvo says:

“This is about increasing safety, making people more alert and using the technology that is out there,” said Executive Assistant Police Chief Martha Montalvo, who is helping oversee the vendor-selection process.

Since the city and HPD didn’t lengthen yellow light times — which has proven to reduce red light running much more than cameras — we know this is NOT about safety. It’s about revenue. If it really was about safety, Mayor White would have followed through on his promise to two councilmembers to check out yellow light times.

And Montalvo is the HPD person who adamantly refused even to consider the idea of lengthening yellow light times last February. She said, “I don’t see the logic of lengthening the yellow light.” That’s scary. Either she hasn’t researched the issue and is woefully uninformed (and the issue is very clear and easy to understand), or she’s refusing to consider any alternatives. Or…well, never mind.

Chris Baker wonders if speed cameras are next. Well, last February we learned that camera manufacturers were lobbying city council. Councilman Michael Berry assured Chris back then that speed cameras were not being considered. I don’t find Berry’s assurances comforting, since Council tends to roll over whenever Mayor White gets a new bee in his bonnet. If red light cameras are successful at generating revenue, you can bet speed cameras will be next.

PREVIOUSLY: Do red light cameras reduce accidents or generate revenue? (bH), WaPo discovers that red light cameras increase accidents in D.C. (bH), Real proof that longer yellow-light times reduce red-light running (bH)

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Anne Linehan is a co-founder of blogHOUSTON.