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Fremont red light cameras

Below is a letter Fremont resident and red light camera critic Roger Jones wrote to the City Council. He argues that if Fremont would only lengthen yellow light times, as Newark as done, it would improve safety and reduce the number of red light tickets given to drivers.

Dear Fremont Council Member,

On June 1, 2010, I addressed the City Council concerning the proposal for a new contract with Redflex Traffic Systems, the Red Light Camera vendor for Fremont.  In my oral presentation as well as my written presentation, I mentioned the success of Loma Linda, Calif. in reducing red light running by extending their yellow light times by one second over the mandated minimum times.

There is now even more evidence that extending yellow light times is the best way to reduce red light running.  That evidence comes from recently released data from our neighbor, Newark.

A report chronicling a 12-month period from Nov. 1, 2009 to Oct. 31, 2010 shows how remarkably few instances of red light running occur in Newark of the straight through type.  Newark employs an additional 7/10′s of a second of yellow light time over the mandated minimums; Fremont employs only 1/10 of a second.

Extending yellow light times has the greatest impact on left turn and straight through types of red light running.  Violations from right turners occur throughout the red phase and are much less affected by extending yellow light times.

Below is a comparison of straight through violations Fremont vs. Newark.

Camera Location     Straight Thru      Avg. Daily

Violations      Vehicle Volume

Fremont (2010)

Auto Mall & Fremont Blvd 521* 44,000

Auto Mall & Grimmer 556 44,000

Mowry & Blacow 858 46,920

Decoto & Fremont Blvd 323 36,030

Decoto & Paseo Padre 1,214 29,360

Mowry & Fremont Blvd. 1,413 40,515

Mowry & Farwell Dr. 2,672 46,920

Stevenson & Blacow 1,075* 45,360

Mission Blvd & Mohave 1,410*

Mission Blvd & Warm Springs 1,020

Total 11,062

* straight through violations have been extrapolated by subtracting right turns violations from total violations.

Mission & Mohave may include an unknown number of left turn violations.

Newark

Mowry Ave & Cedar Blvd (1) 217 27,910

Cedar Blvd & Mowry Ave. (2) 26 18,000

Newark Blvd & Jarvis (1) 99 22,155

Newark Blvd & Jarvis (2) 30 22,155

Cherry & Mowry Ave. 189 25,335

Total 561

Certain estimates of violations are used in the comparison above.  Some straight through violations are estimated when the lane serves straight through along with right turn motions.  For these few approaches, the straight through portion of violations are estimated to be the same as the neighboring straight through only lane.

Average Daily Vehicle traffic numbers are taken from that segment of roadway surveyed during the most recent Traffic and Engineering Study performed for both Fremont and Newark.  The segment of roadways surveyed are usually ½ mile to 2 mile segments and the numbers do not actually reflect the actual total vehicles crossing through the intersection in any of the 4 directions.  The numbers are used merely to give a general idea of traffic volumes.  Mission Blvd is a Cal Trans managed roadway and Average Daily Traffic volumes have not been obtained.

It is understood that many other factors govern the number of straight through violations such as whether traffic consists of  long distance commuters or local drivers.  Time of day and economic factors also can affect traffic volumes and violations.  I believe these and other possible contributing factors cannot nearly be as important as just the sheer volumes of traffic.

The 5 camera monitored approaches in Newark capture an average of 112 violations per camera per year.  The 10 camera monitored approaches in Fremont capture 1,106 violations per camera per year.  Even if one projects the Newark averages against the higher volumes of traffic on Fremont roadways, the result still show a 6:1 ratio between these intersections in straight through violations.

Clearly the significance of extending yellow light times is shown.  Fremont cameras spot over 11,000 straight through violations while Newark’s cameras spot a mere 561 violations.  Fremont: 1,100 violations per camera per year; Newark 115 violations per camera per year.  Increase Newark’s averages to equate to Fremont’s higher traffic volumes and still there is a huge disparity; somewhere around 10,000 violations per year.

In Fremont, the total activations for 2010 compared to 2009 did, in fact, show a 4% reduction (a total of 18,903 in 2010).  If extending our yellow light times can achieve anywhere near the results shown in Newark, then red light running can be cut in half virtually immediately and violations of the straight through type can be cut by 90%.

Fremont, as do all camera towns, believes that photo enforcement achieves better intersection safety.  That is the goal, is it not?  Photo enforcement in Fremont using the current yellow light time standards is not reducing the numbers of violations.  Sometimes a 5%- 15% reduction is achieved at certain approaches but likewise, sometimes violations go up by similar numbers elsewhere.  Overall the numbers are virtually unchanged as we enter the eleventh year of camera enforcement.  Any past reductions in rates of violations are no longer being achieved.  The numbers of violations have plateaued.

Traffic accident data showing accidents directly related to red light running is elusive and hard to analyze.  Common sense should tell us one thing, however:  If straight through violations can be cut nearly in half that the numbers of accidents resulting from straight through violations should also decrease in a similar fashion.

Intersections safety is the goal; improving safety is a continuing goal.  The City Council, as policy makers, must decide that extending yellow light times is a strategy which cannot be ignored.  Realize that this strategy can not only be used at our 10 camera locations but at our other 190  signalized intersections for no additional cost.  Safety improvements should be immense.  Of course, the economic ramifications need to be addressed but once you make the commitment toward better safety, the other economic concerns can be addressed through better placements of cameras and modifications to terms of the existing contract.

Sincerely,

Roger Jones

34609 Allegheny Ct.

Fremont, CA 94555

510-797-6121

rlouisj@aol.com

Jan 31, 2011

attachments:

Fremont Right Turn on Red Report 2010 derived from 4 quarterly reports produced by Fremont Police Dept. (RLC Fremont RTOR 2010.xls)

10 year compilation of camera activations and citations printed derived from Redflex reports and provided by Fremont Police Dept (RLC Fremont Citations Rev 8 x 11.xls.)

cc:  Mr. Craig Steckler, Police

Lieut. Tom Mikkelsen, Police

Ms. Geneva Bosques, Police

Mr. Jim Pierson, Transportation Engineering

Mr. David Huynh, Traffic Engineering

Mr. Allen Chen, Traffic Engineering

Mr. Fred Diaz, City Manager

Matt Artz

  • Californiaguy

    Roger Jones, Thank you for the excellent data. It clearly shows a very good reason to extend the yellow caution light.
    The data is solid.
    I wonder if our mayor and our city council will respond to this data and make a change.
    I doubt if the council will make a change. There is one thing missing from the report. How much money is it generating for the city of Fremont. It is about MONEY, not safety

  • Martin

    The best way to reduce red light running is to not try and beat the yellow light before it times out. If the yellow was extended to 30 seconds people would still run red lights, the yellow means to slow down and be prepared to stop, not hit the gas to beat the light. People have this “me first and I’m more important mentality” “or I’m in a hurry and can’t be late attitude”. I’d bet it would stop if the fine was $2,000.00 or more, and maybe loss of license for driving like an idiot. All we need to do is slow down and do the right thing instead of trying so hard to beat the light.

  • Sam

    To Californiaguy:
    Your data is excellent. Well thought out and presented. It’s too bad the City Council and City Manager will never read it. Sigh.

  • Watchdog

    Martin, The data Fremont vs. Newark shows that straight through red light running is only 10% to 20% the frequency once yellow lights are extended by 6/10′s of a second. Yellow light running (which you may be referring to) may increase. That is precisely why it is safer to extend yellow light times.

  • John T

    This is a true example of a soft Tyranny. My solution to the Big Ben Camera Lights is to avoid Hayward and Fremont entirely. I will not drop a dime in either city at any businesses ever until they drop this nonsense. I am just one voice. However, if we all just not patronage local business then the city will not be able to collect taxes. Does it hurt the local business? Sure, but they were the one that voted these fools on the City Council who created this infringement on my civil liberties.

  • Brad

    Martin,

    I’m from out of state, working in Fremont for contract just for a few months. I have driven 100′s of thousands of miles in my life all over the nation and areas’s with red light camera’s. Have had one traffic violation 10 yrs ago only then come here and hit at least twice with those cameras! I don’t drive like an idiot nor try to beat the yellow light. I have (had) an excellent driving record till coming here. For me it’s turning left on green arrow and then having traffic stop or slow down significantly in front of me….I really don’t feel I should be fined nearly 500 bucks for something like that!! these cameras are entrapment and dangerous. Hope you get a few of these grossly overinflated fines to see how it effects you!….was it worth me driving across the US for work? probably not since my income is going to pay the city police dept!

  • Jasper Stein

    Red Light Camera Ticket Thrown Out
    A technicality could cost the state a few million bucks…
    Here is the story and the comments link:

    http://autos.aol.com/article/red-light-camera-ticket-thrown-out/?ncid=webmail2

    I believe the story needs wider distribution. Also, the question of whether Newark will again re-publish a notice to the public followed by a 30-day warning period during which no actual citations may be issued is being pursued by the Channel 5 reporter. I believe this story to be extremely important because if Newark is actually continuing its normal procedures in both issuing tickets and prosecuting the tickets at trial in light of a Judicial Officer’s ruling that the city lacks authority to do so could place Newark in a position as declaring itself above the law.

  • bbox231

    So here’s a re-start on the F-mont red light camera issue.

    As to the matter of “..we meet the state-mandated minimums ..” for yellow light duration –

    This is a cop out.

    The Institute of Traffic Engineers recommends a formula for determination of proper yellow light duration. This formula varies as a function of several variables including the actual measured speed of traffic at a given intersection. This measured speed is NOT necesarilly the posted speed limit. There are other considerations which can be unique to a specific intersection such as the drivers approach sight lines – but let’s not get too complicated.

    THe point is that the state mandated MINIMUM is just that. A minimum below which no yellow light can be set. In fact, using the above recommended formula, ITE standards could easily recommend a yellow duration GREATER than the state mandated minimum. The notion that a singular minimum standard is AOK for ALL intersections seems to fly in the face of recommended practices.

    Conclusion – you argue state mandated minimums when you WANT the lowest possible yellow light duration

    As to the matter of all-red

    Argued as “..the same as…” – an extended yellow. The overlapping red mitigates the negative consequences of abbreviated yellow (!) WITHOUT compromising the revenue generating capabilities of the RLC.
    In a nutshell – if you want to generate revenue – you extend the red. If you are truly ambivalent about revenue generation – you extend the yellow.

    e.g., – it’s about the money

    As to the matter of enforcement –

    Straw man. If enforcement is critical – let’s enforce – at ALL intersections. The fact is that we dont at an overwhelming majority of intersections (or for that matter – most vehicular codes) – INSTEAD – what we do is we patrol. But – back to the original argument – if you should enforce – do it – at all intersections – but we dont – WHY? BECAUSE THE VOLUME OF TRAFFIC THROUGH THOSE INTERSECTIONS WONT SUPPORT THE COSTS OF THE RLC.

    e.g., – it’s about the money

    THere are reputable and (much more significantly) sources which are INDEPENDANT of the economics of these things – - – for each of these points.

    Let me know if you need them.

  • StayDum

    Red flex is the same co that Fremont does business with. Red Flex has been found guilty of bribery. Red Flex are being investigated because of “wild swings” in numbers of tickets generated. Read the facts or StayDum.

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/politics/clout/chi-chicago-aldermen-ask-city-hall-watchdog-to-probe-red-light-ticket-program-20140725,0,3656930.story

  • StayDum

    Chicago is demonstrating to all of those politicians (including Vinnie Bacon, Bill Harrisson, Anu Natarajan, Sue Chan and Raj Salwan) – that the “safety” argument in favor of RLC’s is pure unadulterated nonsense.
    Chicago is now learning that perhaps there’s a little bit of fiddling going on with these things for a few moments in time. During these brief instances – a whole bunch of tickets get handed out . . . . . and then things return to “normal”. During this brief period of time lots of “violations” are detected, pictures snapped, and tickets are handed out at a rate that is several multiples what is handed out at other times.
    Your council members would argue that during these times, when so many more tickets and fines are handed out – - – things got much safer. The reality is, things didn’t get any safer, but, our city and Red Flex just raked in a whole lot more of your hard-earned cash.