ST. PETERSBURG — The clock is ticking on the city’s red-light camera program.
After an two-hour emotional debate, the city council voted 6-2 to wind down the controversial red-light camera program once fines no longer cover the cost of the program or by Sept. 30, whichever is sooner.
The move was largely an endorsement of Mayor Rick Kriseman’s proposal announced Wednesday, which acknowledged that the number of citations has dropped to a level where the program may begin to cost the city money. Only 1,043 citations were issued in January, more than 2,000 less than the monthly average during the program’s first year. Kriseman said the drop in tickets is evidence that the program worked. He said he does not rule out bringing them back if red-light running begins to increase.
“We’ve seen a change in behaviors and that’s a good thing,” Kriseman said. “After these cameras have been removed, we will continue to monitor those intersections.”
The decision to scrap the program comes after a series of problems, most centered on how long stop lights were on yellow. Last year, state transportation officials instructed communities to lengthen yellow times to give motorists more time to stop at many intersections. St. Petersburg officials were forced to admit that yellow light times at three intersections policed by cameras were too short.
“I’m not comfortable with the way this program has been implemented or managed,” council member Amy Foster said.
Council members who back cameras argued that they save lives and the city should keep them even it costs money.
“I would be willing to pay extra for the cameras to be there for public safety,” said council member Jim Kennedy, who initially suggested the city use the cameras. “It’s not about income, it’s about public safety.”
The city legal staff will begin figuring out how to unwind the city’s contract with American Traffic Solutions, which supplies and operates the cameras.