Red-light camera presentation and public hearing on city council agenda for Nov. 14

(File photo)

During a special 6 p.m. Edmonds City Council meeting Tuesday, Nov. 14, the public will be asked to weigh in on the city’s 2024 budget proposal to install red-light cameras at six intersections. The cameras would cost $180,000 but the city has said it anticipates revenue generated from violators would exceed the cost.

Speaking to the council Oct. 10 about the police department’s request, Edmonds Police Chief Michelle Bennett said that the goal of the cameras was to reduce accidents and improve safety. The six intersections, which were deemed unsafe during a police study, include Highway 99 and 220th Street Southwest, 220th and 76th Avenue West, 220th and 9th Avenue South, 212th Street Southwest and 76th, Highway 104 and Dayton Street and Highway 104 and 100th Avenue West.

Bennett is scheduled to make another presentation Tuesday, followed by a public hearing on the matter.

The agenda also includes further discussion of both the proposed 2024-2029 Capital Facilities Plan and Capital Improvement Program and the 2024 budget.

The meeting will be in the council chambers, Public Safety Complex, 250 5th Ave. N., Edmonds. You can see the complete council special meeting agenda here.

You can also watch the meeting and comment via Zoom at https://zoom.us/j/95798484261. Or you can comment by phone: US: +1 253 215 8782 Webinar ID: 957 9848 4261

Prior to the 6 p.m. meeting, there will be two council committee meetings, viewable via Zoom. If members of the public cannot access the virtual committee meetings with their personal devices, a monitor is provided in the city council conference room at 121 5th Ave. N., Edmonds.

The committee agendas are below:

Public Safety-Planning-Human Services-Personnel, 3:30 p.m.

1. Snohomish County Jail contract extension
2. Authorizing vacation accrual for a capital projects manager candidate
3. Code Amendment for implementation of detached accessory dwelling units in accordance with HB 1337 – “Expanding housing options by easing barriers to the construction and use of accessory dwelling units.”

Parks & Public Works, 4:30 p.m.

1. Committee updates
2. Public works update third quarter 2023

  1. I don’t like the idea of the cameras as a source of revenue I don’t like the subjective nature of this kind of infraction either. Although there are deliberate red light runners most people approaching a intersection see a yellow light and have to make a judgment call to go through or stop hundreds of variables need to be processed in a instant and sometimes the light turns red before you clear the intersection even know you followed the law and did your best you get a ticket in the mail because the city is broke and looking for revenue. Something doesn’t seem quite right about that. Maybe we need a written protocol about what constitutes a infraction cause this a judgment call infraction. I would prefer speed trap cameras cause speeding is more of a choice than having to make a split second decision at a light.

  2. Chief Bennett is saying that the goal is to reduce accidents and improve safety. My assertion that the goal is to monetize intersections to raise money for a broke city because of irresponsible spending by the administration. I’m calling BS on anybody who says it’s not about mostly the money, even if it’s the police chief which I understand in this small town is not politically correct to call out.

      1. If this camera system is managed by a third party company, then you bet it is primarily a revenue generation, and in far second a safety concern.
        As an example, I’d love to see how the Lynnwood’s red lights have been performing in these topics.

  3. Yet again today, while stopping and then proceeding east through the ” four way stop ” at 5th & Main ( the fountain ) a car blew the stop sign going north on 5th and tried to beat me into the intersection. This happens countless times, often with pedestrians in crosswalks. If the city wants revenue plus safety, start with ticketing offenders. I’m not sure that a camera system would be the best fit at that location, But there needs to be some sort of policing there.

  4. As others have pointed out, there is little data to support the idea that red light cameras reduce accidents, as much as one might expect that outcome.

    I also question whether the density of the proposed cameras is appropriate. Surely one or two cameras would be a more sensible way to test whether this is a good fit for Edmonds, if we do choose to use these here?

    There’s certainly an issue with unsafe driving — I hear people racing up and down 104 constantly, and 99 is worse — but I’m not sure these cameras are the way to address the problem.

  5. I think the fear of getting ticketed at the red light camera intersections causes many to stop short at yellow lights. This results in rear end collisions. The other scenario is speeding up at the yellow hoping it doesn’t change to red making for dangerous speeding accidents.
    I am more in favor of speeder capturing radar ticketing even though I witness many red light violations. Disobeying posted speed limits is a choice and needs to be enforced.

  6. If the goal is to reduce accidents at these intersections, produce the data that warrants the installation of these red light cameras. It seems like this is another tactic to try and offset poor financial management.

  7. I don’t believe “safety” has much to do with camera’s, it’s all about perceived “income” as far as powers that be think. Which per data provided at one point, Redmond (?) I forget, are thinking of discontinuing because of costs to provider, court costs, and some other COSTS, an overall headache AND increased accidents.
    I think 5th & main confusing to some people, with SO many round-a-bouts these days, including the one at main & 5 corners , the fountain just looks like another one and doesn’t require a stop. Even though stop signs . Between the cars & the people all moving it’s VERY easy to MISS the stop signs. Hard enough for residents well aware it’s 4 way, not so much with tourists or strangers and maybe lost or trying to find an address. It’s pretty and I like it, but very messy to maneuver most of the time.

    1. Jean,

      I believe that you’re thinking of this article
      https://www.redmond-reporter.com/news/city-council-plans-to-end-contract-with-traffic-camera-vendor/

      Which states:
      “The city has collected $791,452 through Sept. 14 from the program, but has to pay King County 80 percent — or $627,156 — for its contracted court costs. Then another $108,000 went to the camera vendor, leaving $56,296 for the city to use for traffic safety improvements.”

  8. In a sane world that fountain “object de art” would be gone in a New York second and an overhead stop light would be installed in it’s place making it clear to all that it is a four way stop. There would also be phased pedestrian signals just like major high traffic intersections such as Hwy. 104 and 100th. Ave. But, we are Edmonds, where it’s almost always “form over function” and an “Edmonds Kind of Day.” I just don’t see how speed and stop camera traps are going to fly in our tourist oriented city, but it will be sort of fun to watch I suspect. If we get a little more revenue loot in the process; all the better.

  9. Why is the ADU discussion coming to the Council before it goes through the Planning Board? I don’t see Planning Board involved with this presentation. Why not? Is this being railroaded through before it is properly vetted? Our whole process of governance seems completely upside down now.

    1. Jim, did you happen to read the council agenda item breakdown on the topic? In part, it says…

      “Staff will introduce the code amendment project. No action is required by the Committee but staff
      requests feedback on the project. For next steps, the topic will be introduced to the Planning Board in late November 2023, with a public hearing to follow. The intent is to have full Council work on the amendment in early 2024. ”

      This was pretty normal when I was in the PB (under both administrations). Committee sees it first, poses some questions/comments, which are then forwarded to the PB when presented.

      1. Yes, Alicia, I did read the agenda topic. And thank you for pointing out the “normalcy” of the process.

        What bothers me is that it seems to be an uneven process here. Why didn’t we see a robust presentation and updates to the committee about the Comprehensive Plan? Seems to me that would have more importance than the ADU topic. In fact, I would suggest that the Comprehensive Plan be developed before the ADU discussion. ADU’s should be a fall-out of our Comprehensive Plan, not the other way around.

        1. It will be interesting to see if they can streamline this and create a decent process, in light of now having a razor thin Planning Department staff. As much as there are people that don’t want to see “excessive hiring” from the city, you can only get so much done with minimal staffing.

  10. Dear council members who read My Edmonds News (we know you do!): Please consider the many thoughts shared above. They are mostly cogent and accurate. Red light cameras (and speed cameras) are in concept, an unlikable (and by definition, inhuman) method to engage in law enforcement, and their effectiveness is dubious at best. There are many citizens of our fair city that sincerely do not want to go down that path. Please consider fully funding our Edmonds Police and ask the Chief to assign officers to enforce the law in areas of concern. An officer dealing directly with a citizen is always the best way to issue and deal with infractions. Thank you!

  11. Jim, for some years now, neither the law ( the red light issue for example) nor what’s right matters, how far can it be pushed or let’s do it, and deal with issues or law suits later, maybe no one will notice. the $ rules, right or wrong. The increased utilities (with different billing practices) Annually, the increased RE Taxes , the “maybe” income from LIGHT CAMERAS , and who knows what else is sitting in the pot not in the open. That’s what desperation does when you can’t operate within your means. But doesn’t seem to stop the let’s “buy” part. “upside down”. yes! And odds are it still won’t be enough, none of it.

  12. If we get these camera lights, I suggest they give a long yellow before turning red. Years back I got a ticket at 220th and 99. Red light cameras were here then. I was not speeding, just traveling with the lane of traffic. People get angry and did then too if you are going slower than the speed limit and so they tailgate and honk and pass. I Reached the intersection, and it turned yellow quickly I had cars on my tail and quickly thought rear ended or take a chance on the yellow? I chose the chance on the yellow to a car accident. It wouldn’t have been my fault as it is the driver behind that is the fault party almost 99% always..So I entered on yellow and before I could get to the L lane on 99 it turned red really fast. I paid the ticket. I am not really suggesting which way to go with this, but this did happen to me. so, an increased time on yellow would help maybe? with the accidents? If there is video as there was with my ticket, it was shown to me on the computer not in person! as I did question it when it happened to me. I say no day in court either and no breaks for anyone. Ticket first offense.

  13. Towards the end of February 2023, Edmonds City Council adopted new City Code allowing School Zone Speed Cameras to be installed in Edmonds. We are still waiting for those to be implemented. Why?

    At that time, City Council was told that the legislation was done in PHASES in tandem with advice from the legal team to ensure it met RCW 46.63.170.

    RCW 46.63.170 is the same State Law that applies to Red-Light Cameras. One would think that any adoption of new City Code allowing Red-Light Cameras to be installed in Edmonds would also be done in PHASES consistent with RCW 46.63.170.

    During the February 7th, 2023 City Council Meeting, Councilmember Susan Paine asked Assistant Police Chief Rod Sniffen the following:

    “Is there any intention to have Edmonds move to Red-Light Cameras?”

    Answer: “No, there is no plan to move to Red-Light Cameras at all in this program”.

    Councilmember Susan Paine’s response: “Okay, how about right turn cameras?”

    Answer: “None”.

    On October 2, 2023, Mayor Mike Nelson surprised all of us by proposing $180,000 for red-light cameras at six Edmonds intersections. What happened to the PHASES? Is it really this hard to do things right and act consistently?

    What changed between February and October? I can’t imagine that safety statistics within the six Edmonds intersections changed during those 8 months. So, what changed?

    1. Ken policy changes as the wind blows, norms are thrown aside in favor of actions of emergency. If one doesn’t work try another. The splintered environment leads to poor governance. In part because everyone has a special cause that needs immediate attention and of course that means government must spend money whether it has any tangible effect, so what we have now is government trying to please everyone so they can get reelected nothing new there Problem is now we have activist running the administrative part of government which should be good stewards of our taxes. Managers not visionaries.

  14. Since the purpose of the cameras is all about safety according to its proponents,instead of putting the net monies from the cameras into the general fund, put the money in a capital improvement fund for traffic safety projects, which must be approved by the City Council. This proposal would call the bluff it’s all about traffic safety and not about covering inept city administration.

  15. Thanks Jim and Brian,

    On February 7, 2023, there was no intention to move to Red-Light Cameras or right turn cameras.

    What initiated Red-Light Camera consideration sometime after February 7th but before the Mayor’s surprise announcement on October 2nd? When did the police department started looking at this behind the scenes without City Council ever voting that the police department do so?

    Imagine living is a city where City Officials answered these questions in a transparent fashion. Imagine living in a city where a Councilmember asked City Staff what changed since February 7th rather than a citizen finding what Council was told on February 7th while reviewing 9-month-old Council meeting Minutes.

    Two things we do know are:
    1. There were no legislative PHASES prior to the Mayor’s surprise announcement on October 2nd.
    2. Edmonds City Council has never prepared an analysis of the locations where Red-Light Cameras are proposed to be located. RCW 46.63.171 requires this.

    Decision Package #7 states that the city has a contract in place with Verra Mobility that allows for additions to the contract to add red light cameras, as soon as those additions are approved by council.

    Why would that contract allow for Red Light Camera additions when Council was told earlier this year that there is no plan to move to Red-Light Cameras at all in this program?

  16. I wanted to mention one last thing: I understand in many locations the duration of yellow lights is shortened to increase revenue from these cameras after they are installed — this also has the effect of causing more accidents.

    If that should happen here in Edmonds, we will notice.

    1. I doubt very much that Edmonds would or could shorten the yellow time in order to generate more ticket revenue. Traffic engineers have professional standards that define minimum yellow time based on the speed of traffic and other factors. Evidence of too-short yellow time would lead to tickets getting voided in court~ and egg on the mayor’s face. Not going to happen.

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