Texas Cities Rush To Extend Camera Contracts Ahead Of The State's Red Light Camera Bans

from the turns-out-their-grandfathers-are-assholes dept

Twelve years after first broaching the subject, the Texas legislature has finally killed red light cameras. This follows years of fraud, corruption, and contractual language negating prior ban attempts. The Newspaper reports on the good news, which unfortunately comes with some bad news. The supermajority vote means the bill can't be vetoed by the governor, but some cities have managed to grandfather in their resident-screwing cameras.

The majority of red light camera programs in the Lone Star State will be shut down under legislation that cleared the Texas legislature on Friday. By a vote of 23 to 8, the state Senate approved the partial ban on automated ticketing that had sailed through the House with a vote of 109 to 34. Because it passed with supermajority support, the bill becomes law upon being signed by Governor Greg Abbott (R), who made getting rid of cameras part of his campaign platform.

Most, but not all, of 37 cities running red light cameras would lose the ability to approve $75 photo citations issued by private, for-profit companies. Cities that have clauses that allow for early termination of their photo ticketing contract in the event of adverse state legislation must pull the plug immediately. Cities that struck the escape clause in anticipation of the legislature's move can continue using the cameras until the contract expires -- many of the deals have been extended for twenty years or more.

Arlington is one the cities that has decided to screw its residents porn-style, going at them from multiple angles. When the bill passed, city legislators unanimously voted to extend its contract with American Traffic Solutions from five years to twenty years. This move will give residents less protection from traffic cams' perverse incentives than residents living elsewhere in the state. It also means they'll be paying more tax dollars for this dubious privilege, as there will be no reason for ATS to maintain competitive pricing for the next couple of decades. Nor will it feel any pressure to improve its tech, which has performed poorly enough to result in millions of dollars of refunds.

The good news is these cities will have to deal with the state Attorney General if they want to continue utilizing traffic enforcement measures the state has banned. Tickets from red light cameras in the cities that opted for extended revenue generation rather than compliance with the law are going to have a hard time collecting on unpaid tickets. The law prohibits the DMV from blocking vehicle registrations and license renewals for unpaid tickets. The problem is drivers may not be aware of the ban and will continue to pay fines when they're not legally required to.

Cities that have opted for further resident-screwing will face increased activism efforts that will fill the gaps in the Attorney General's enforcement.

Jurisdictions that attempt to defy the legislature will have to take on state attorney general Ken Paxton, who is tasked by the bill with enforcing the shutdown. Byron Schirmbeck, state coordinator for Texas Campaign for Liberty, says his group will also hold cities to account.

"Fortunately the remaining camera sanctuary cities will no longer be able to block registrations for unpaid tickets making them completely optional," Schirmbeck told TheNewspaper. "The cities that do have to shut down their programs are also not allowed to pursue outstanding tickets and all existing registration holds will be removed. We will consider petition efforts and an increased trash your ticket campaign to go after those that choose to operate camera programs after the ban."

While it's always tough to watch a revenue stream dry up, the fact is traffic cameras do little more than generate unearned revenue. They don't make drivers safer or encourage better driving. But that was never the goal. Revenue generation was the endgame. Fortunately for most Texans, the state has realized this money is no longer worth pursuing.

Filed Under: red light cameras, texas


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  • identicon
    anonymous, 29 May 2019 @ 4:43pm

    I beg to disagree

    I sincerely believe that red light cameras were developed as purely a 'make them pay attention' measure; however, I don't think there's anything, short of no longer being alloewed to drive, that would help. Then, of course, the governments realized that the could make money with little effort, and its gone downhill from there.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 May 2019 @ 6:42pm

      Re: I beg to disagree

      The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Byron Schirmbeck, 30 May 2019 @ 7:17am

      Re: I beg to disagree

      No, they were always developed, marketed, sold and installed as a revenue program disguised as a safety program even though they had every indication they did nothing or made it worse. I have seen enough documents in ten years of working on this to definitively say that.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 May 2019 @ 4:45pm

    Banning a nexus of 'soft corruption' sounds suspeciously sane to me. It is not April first right?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 May 2019 @ 5:04pm

    The headline is a bit off

    A few sentences down in the story: "He succeeded in blocking cities from rushing to extend their contracts with an amendment only accepting the terms of contracts in force on May 7." It's only the cities that made truly insane 30 year deals with no way to get out that can keep the cams. Ft. Worth and Denton have already announced they will comply.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    negativenate, 29 May 2019 @ 5:58pm

    Welcome to the Wild Wild Future...

    I'm a little confused but why is it bad that people get tickets, automated or not, for blatantly violating public safety laws that are really difficult to enforce and are already supremely 'lax (see motor vehicle caused pedestrian and bicyling deaths across the state)
    Personally I'm ok with outsourcing these enforcement mechanisms as cars are largely subsidized by tax dollars that are not related to usage taxes...somewhere in the 60% range, and that's modest projections. The local governments need this revenue to operate and to allow motor vehicles to have infrastructure that's sustainable and if some capitalist driven company is smart enough to assist it shouldn't be frowned upon.
    Literally...welcome to the future of capitalism. If you want it to work, as ugly and scary seeming they are, these mechanisms are necessary....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      AJ, 29 May 2019 @ 6:16pm

      Re: Welcome to the Wild Wild Future...

      I don't disagree with you in principle, however once you inject the human factor into driving, and remove it from enforcing the law, things get really fucked up.

      If these devices were used to enforce the law and not as a revenue generating apparatus, I would be totally on board. But like most things in government hands, it unfortunately becomes ruled by corruption. The shortening of yellow lights, the non-human issuing of tickets based on "you may not have been driving but it's your car logic....", and the horrible over use and heavy handedness (red light tickets, speed camera tickets...etc, at every profitable location) all take the humanity and "intent" out of the law and turn it into a vending machine. I seriously doubt that this is what our founding fathers had in mind... just my opinion.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 May 2019 @ 6:48pm

      Re: Welcome to the Wild Wild Future...

      The reasons against red light cams are many, one of the top issues is that the yellow light timing is reduced, beyond government recommendations, for the sole purpose of generating income. This results in additional income and in addition it creates more accidents, usually rear end collisions.

      Get real.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Paul Brinker, 29 May 2019 @ 6:48pm

      Re: Welcome to the Wild Wild Future...

      Think of the other side of this problem, If you could catch all speeders with technology, and fine them in real time, what would be the end result?

      I would assume it would be something like red light cameras. States would quickly try to get cash out of everyone for every instance of speeding, after a while changing laws to deal with people speeding for a long amount of time, or for people speeding 1 to 3 MPH over the limit. Is this even remotely fair? Not really, it removes all context.

      The same can be said for red light cameras.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 30 May 2019 @ 6:21am

        Re: Re: Welcome to the Wild Wild Future...

        "people speeding 1 to 3 MPH over the limit"

        Automobile speedometer accuracy is notoriously bad. Vehicle manufacturers may claim a plus or minus 5%, so handing out tickets for anything under 10% usually gets tossed in court - rightfully so.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Dallas Man, 29 May 2019 @ 7:09pm

      Re: Welcome to the Wild Wild Future...

      It’s purely a money making machine for the city and the company monitoring these lights. The one on Buckner and Garland road has a 3 second left turn during rush hour in the morning. I know because I use it daily. I’ve complained to the city without any changes. With drivers who choose to text and use their cell phones at each and every light, this makes it nearly impossible not to get a ticket nearly once a month.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 30 May 2019 @ 6:24am

        Re: Re: Welcome to the Wild Wild Future...

        I would change the route taken to work and inform the employer of the additional travel time required to get there due to the traffic light problem and that potential customers would also find it annoying.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Haywood (profile), 29 May 2019 @ 9:50pm

      Re: Welcome to the Wild Wild Future...

      The laws were written with the assumption of a good deal of inefficiency in enforcement. A cop should have to spot you, pull you over, get out of his cruiser, and write you a ticket. This sort of automation as others have mentioned is a safety hazard. I see people turning cars inside out stopping for the photo enforced intersections. The also seem to chose locations where congestion is frequent, and it is nearly being a good citizen to the folks behind you, to slip one more car through per light. I have received one of those tickets, and I deserved it from a "letter of the law" stand point, but from the spirit of the law; no one was put in danger, and it was illegal by milliseconds.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 30 May 2019 @ 6:28am

        Re: Re: Welcome to the Wild Wild Future...

        I'm not so sure you "deserved it".
        Many authorities hand the keys over to the private company who then reduces yellow light timing beyond that recommended by the Federal Highway Administration.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Byron Schirmbeck, 30 May 2019 @ 7:29am

      Re: Welcome to the Wild Wild Future...

      Using the cameras to enforce this is bad for a few reasons. Not the least of which is they don't do what they advertise. They don't reduce accidents and often increase them, they don't hold the lawbreaker responsible since they ticket innocent people everyday who have broken no laws, they penalize owners of the vehicle for infractions that no one would consider red light running and don't actually cause accidents statistically speaking. The vast majority of T bone accidents are caused by things cameras can't prevent such as intoxication, weather, distraction, police chases etc. So how does the camera stop the most common causes of red light running accidents? Simple, they don't.

      Then add in the profit motive, the companies and cities only get paid if people break the law. They actually budget for people running red lights. Well what if the systems actually worked and people stopped running red lights? Not one single city plans for reductions in red light running revenue in their budget. TXDOT data shows the number of tickets often increase year over year.

      Then let's talk about the camera companies who are corrupt by nature. They slipped the authorization into law in the dark of night with a payoff to a corrupt legislator, they sue to stop citizens from having elections when they rise up and petition to have a vote, they literally have CEOs that have served time in federal prison for bribery, another one was just sentanced to 7 years for that in Texas. You cannot seperate the cameras from the corruption. Not possible.

      Then there are the NUMEROUS constitutional issues like due process, equal protection under the law seperation of powers etc. So damaging our entire justice system for the sake of raking in millions of dollars damages us all.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 31 May 2019 @ 7:36am

      Re: Welcome to the Wild Wild Future...

      If they were really concerned about safety, they would just increase the duration of the yellow lights. That's been shown to greatly reduce accidents due to running reds.

      The local governments need this revenue to operate

      The government relies on its citizens regularly breaking the laws so it can fine them for it? If true, that needs to change pronto because that sets up some really messed up incentives.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    I. Ronnie Meter, 29 May 2019 @ 7:55pm

    Texas Cities rush to extend Yellow Lights

    to prevent nose-to-tail collisions, and allow long vehicles to fully clear roadways.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 May 2019 @ 6:29am

      Re: Texas Cities rush to extend Yellow Lights

      Is that an Onion article?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Bobvious, 31 May 2019 @ 6:19am

        Re: Re: Texas Cities rush to extend Yellow Lights

        Is that an Onion article?

        Well, if it is, it'll be a multi-layer investigation, with detail that'll make your eyes water. They'll slice through the BS and run rings around the opposition with a stinging rebuke that they spring on their targets.

        The article's authors are "Brown", and "White", who mostly rely on leaks, because they don't have thyme to cultivate their sauces. Apparently a fertile imagination also helps.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 29 May 2019 @ 8:12pm

    My big gripe...

    My big gripe is a private company making money on a per instance format. Why should any fine I pay for a traffic infraction be doubled to pay a private corporation?
    Next stop, private police forces in our cities. That works out well, right?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 May 2019 @ 6:27am

    the question obviously is what are the Arlington city legislators getting in return for making this ridiculous extension period? i cant believe it has been done for nothing! and with the threat of the AG going after them, how is there any advantage in it at all? surely it'll cost the city a lot of tax payers dollars in court?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Byron Schirmbeck, 30 May 2019 @ 7:20am

    Arlington Texas does not have a red light camera program. The voters voted them out a few years ago.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 31 May 2019 @ 7:39am

      Re:

      Arlington Texas does not have a red light camera program. The voters voted them out a few years ago.

      "Arlington city leaders are not only defying the state House, they may also be defying the will of voters. Although the city's residents have never had the opportunity to vote on the issue of red light cameras directly, they came close in February 2003. Fifty-eight percent of voters had shot down a bond package known as Proposition 6, the first time a bond proposal for expanding street capacity had ever been rejected in the city. The most controversial aspect of the proposition was setting aside extra money for surveillance "traffic cameras" which critics at the time said would serve as a precursor to red light cameras. Nine months later, the bond measure was split into two distinct provisions and placed once again on the ballot. When asked in a separate vote to spend $400,000 for "traffic management cameras," 64 percent of voters said "no." "

      https://www.thenewspaper.com/news/27/2784.asp

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Byron Schirmbeck, 4 Jun 2019 @ 4:46am

        Re: Re:

        Yes, you posted an old article BEFORE it went on the ballot and were voted out. ARLINGTON VOTED OUT THEIR RED LIGHT CAMERAS. I put it in caps so you can get the point. I helped the people with the petition get it on the ballot. It was an overwhelming vote against the cameras and threw the then mayor out of office. Their petition case went all the way to the Texas supreme court after the camera company sued to invalidate the election.

        "Voters in Arlington, Texas took matters in their own hands Saturday and outlawed the use of red light cameras. The ballot proposition terminating the city's photo ticketing program was adopted with 60 percent of the vote. By nearly the same margin, voters also ejected pro-camera Mayor Robert Cluck in favor of Jeff Williams, a staunch opponent of automated ticketing machines."

        This article was from 2015. http://thenewspaper.com/news/46/4698.asp

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    lucidrenegade (profile), 30 May 2019 @ 8:17am

    Question is, can cities send unpaid tickets to collections even if they can't block license & registration renewals? That's the trick the assholes in Toledo, OH use.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Byron Schirmbeck, 30 May 2019 @ 8:27am

      Re:

      Yes, they always send it to collections for everyone that doesn't pay. But since they can't affect your credit trash those as well. Texas law prohibits it from going on your credit. And all three major CRAs have agreed not to accept tickets for a ding on your credit so even in Ohio it can't affect your credit. But they know that too many people think that since it is in "collections" that it is on their credit when that isn't true.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      jcwconsult (profile), 30 May 2019 @ 2:00pm

      Re:

      The three major credit reporting agencies stopped accepting unpaid ticket camera violations as valid debts because they were not debts the people voluntarily signed up to pay.
      James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 May 2019 @ 8:50am

    Just get one of these license plate frames concealed infa-red LEDs that blind cameras in a way that is invibsilble to the human eye

    These emit radiation just below what the human eye can see, but that can render your license plate invisible to cameras.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 May 2019 @ 11:58am

    What is stopping them from sending out tickets to random people they find in the DMV DB? Seems this is accepted practice in the entertainment business, why not your local municipality?

    LOL, maybe I will start my own trolling machine. who should I go after ... Hmmmm.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    jcwconsult (profile), 30 May 2019 @ 1:54pm

    Ending red light camera rackets

    It is great to see the for-profit red light camera rackets come to an end in Texas. Many thanks to Byron Schirmbeck with the Texas Campaign for Liberty, many members of the National Motorists Association, and many local people & groups who worked tirelessly to end these governmental theft rackets with the cameras. People who live in and/or shop in the few cities that maliciously extended their contracts should stop shopping in those cities until the cameras are gone. Visit each business where you have shopped and tell the owners/managers they can have your business back when the cameras are gone. Business owners have some power with city councils, ask them to use it to end the for-profit camera rackets.
    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 30 May 2019 @ 5:51pm

    What's the effective range of a paintball gun? Would it be accurate enough to reach from say, the sidewalk to a red light camera? Just curious...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 May 2019 @ 7:13pm

      Re:

      They probably have cams watching for any cam blasting.

      Reminds me of the story out of Texas about a sheriff that did not like the stop sign being shot full of holes. Hey - it's Texas, but he was going to catch the shooter by installing a cam to watch the sign.
      Guess what happened.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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