Council votes to place red light cameras at two Edmonds intersections

Red light traffic safety cameras are coming to two locations in Edmonds. The Edmonds City Council voted 5-2 Tuesday to locate the cameras at intersections in two different neighborhoods: 220th Street Southwest and Highway 99, and 100th Avenue West and Edmonds Way.

The council also voted to authorize Mayor Mike Rosen to sign a contract addendum with VERRA Mobility — which has already installed the speed cameras located at five school zones in Edmonds — to install and maintain the cameras.

Proponents of the measure stressed that red light cameras would contribute to traffic safety and the decision was not about generating additional revenue for the financially strapped City of Edmonds budget.

In arguing for the cameras, Councilmember Susan Paine shared collision statistics — involving vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists — compiled by the Edmonds Police Department for the first six months of 2024, indicating a total of 243 collisions citywide so far this year.

Collision statistics for the first six months of 2024. Source: Edmonds Police Department

“Seattle is number two in the nation for pedestrian deaths,” Paine said, adding she hoped that councilmembers would “look at the data.”

Councilmembers Jenna Nand and Michelle Dotsch voted against the cameras, but not before offering other ideas for approaching the issue. Dotsch made a motion to the postpone a vote on the cameras while Edmonds participates in the Regional Safety Action Plan coordinated by the Puget Sound Regional Council. Described as a data-driven effort to reduce traffic fatalities in the region, the draft plan will be released for public comment and adoption is anticipated in early 2025. (Learn more here.)

Dotsch also urged the council to “remain really objective” in considering the traffic collision numbers, pointing to statistics shared by Police Chief Michelle Bennett earlier this year. While the 2023 data indicated 561 total collisions in Edmonds — with the majority of crashes occurring along Highway 99 — Bennett later said that there were just 18 red light-related crashes in 2023.

Nand supported Dotsch’s motion, arguing — as she did throughout the evening — her belief that the city’s true intent is to use the red light cameras for revenue generation rather than safety — stating the city was “essentially creating toll roads” that unfairly impacted those who can’t afford to pay a $130 fine. She also stressed that the proposed camera locations reinforced the disparities between those who live in the Edmonds Bowl (where no cameras were proposed) compared to other areas of Edmonds.

In addition, Nand noted that the nearby City of Shoreline purposely decided not to institute automated safety cameras in their city, because officials “don’t want to create the perception that they are spying or playing gotcha games” with community members.

Councilmembers opposed to Dotsch’s motion stated they believed traffic safety needs to be addressed now, and they didn’t want to wait a year for the Regional Safety Action Plan to be completed.

Councilmember Will Chen said traffic is only going to get more congested when light rail arrives later this summer.

Councilmember Will Chen, who lives and works near Highway 99, pointed out that area is going to experience even greater traffic when Sound Transit’s light rail stations open Aug. 30.

Dotsch’s motion to postpone the vote failed 3-4, with Nand, Dotsch and Councilmember Neil Tibbott voting in favor.

The council was presented with four different configurations of options for installing cameras — for a total of nine, four, three or two intersections. After Dotsch’s motion was rejected, Council President Vivian Olson proposed that the council choose the two-intersection option: at 100th Avenue West and Highway 104, and at 220th and Highway 99.

Nand attempted two additional amendments. The first would have required that all extra revenue generated by the cameras be restricted to the general fund, be used for traffic safety improvements and fund public amenities within 0.5 geographic mile of the location of each camera. Dotsch proposed an amendment changing the amount of restricted revenue to 50% and the geographical limit to 1 mile. Her amendment failed on a 2-5 vote (Nand and Dotsch supporting) and Nand’s original amendment failed 1-6 (Nand supporting).

Nand’s second amendment proposed that the term of the red light camera ordinance sunset after five years (the term of the VERRA contract), after which the program would be discontinued “so that we can independently analyze whether the red-light cameras modified driver behavior at the affected intersections and led to less collisions.” That amendment was also defeated.

Paine then proposed amending the original motion to add two additional intersections to the list: 224th Street Southwest and Highway 99, and 220th Street Southwest and 76th Avenue West. She said she feared that by installing cameras at only two intersections, the city wouldn’t be able to influence behavioral change among drivers.

Tibbott spoke against Paine’s amendment, stating that red light effort should be a pilot project to gather data so the council can determine both the overall value and the true costs, “before we start adding more and more and more [intersections]. Dotsch agreed, adding that the city doesn’t have a clear picture of either the expenses or staffing the red light cameras will require. The amendment was defeated 2-5, with Paine and Councilmember Chris Eck supporting.

As it came time for the final vote, Paine asked Mayor Mike Rosen for his opinion on the red light program, and he replied that traffic safety is the top issue he hears about from constitutents. “I am very much in support of the cameras,” Rosen said, adding that he would recommend any money generated from the program be funneled into pedestrian safety.

“If you are following the law, you have nothing to worry about,” Councilmember Chris Eck said.

During final deliberations, Eck said that she was “really having a hard time understanding this level of resistance,” adding that “one person getting hit and killed is too much. I fully believe that if you are following the law, you’ve got nothing to worry about, regardless of your income level.” Measures are already in place at Edmonds Municipal Court for those who can’t afford to pay the fine, she added.

In the end, the motion for red light cameras at the two intersections was approved 5-2 (Nand and Dotsch opposed), followed by council approval of a motion authorizing the mayor to sign a contract with VERRA Mobility.

In other business, the council:

Lake Ballinger property

– Approved the purchase of property at 7317 Lake Ballinger Way, which could eventually be used for treatment of stormwater runoff from nearby State Route 104. The city received a $500,000 state grant for the purchase of the half-acre property, which under the grant terms is to be maintained as green space aimed at protecting water quality.

– Heard an annual report from City Attorney Jeff Taraday, who included a summary of the cases his firm — Lighthouse Law Group — has worked on for the city in 2023. In the top five: public works contracting, bidding and acquistion (116 hours), franchise negotiations for Snohomish County PUD (133 hours), ligitation on the Ebb Tide (170 hours), attendance at city council meetings (196 hours) and other public works franchise work (225 hours).

Taraday also shared how much the city spent for legal services with the firm in 2023, which was the first year the firm billed the city at an hourly contract rate. (The firm formerly offered a flat monthly fee for its services.) Total legal fees in 2023 amounted to $739,741, compared to $647,436 in 2022 — a 14% increase.

The average hourly rate for Lighthouse attorneys was $280/hour, which is within the range of that charged by nearby cities, Taraday said.

– The council also approved a supplemental agreement with HKA Global, Inc. for work on the city’s carbon recovery project.

Finally, during council comments, both Paine and Eck addressed the controversy generated by the city’s decision not to fly a Pride Flag at Edmonds City Hall this year — after three years of doing so.

Both councilmembers said they hoped to see the flag flying next year. “Symbolism and representation matter,” Eck said. “And in my view, it’s a positive move to go back to that.”

— By Teresa Wippel

  1. How’s success measured? Revenue or accidents? Have the data ready.

    Insurance institute for highway safety, “ Proper signal timing makes intersections safer. Adequate yellow time reduces red light running and leads to fewer crashes.”

    220th and 99 does NOT have adequate yellow time. With the hill and large backup I see people mis-judge light and get stuck in intersection. Will these drivers / voters get the shake down?

  2. Most people getting tickets are going to be those who mistakenly time the yellow light and go through the red at the last moment, not the few intentional red light runners. It does smell like a money grab. $130 is a lot for most people. That’s more than half of my weekly grocery bill.

    1. Rules of the Road state that you must stop at a yellow light unless it is not safe to do so. That does not smell like a “money grab.”

    2. That’s one of my many concerns about adding red light traffic cameras to the city of Edmonds: most of the conduct that gets ticketed is behavior that a human police officer probably would not have issued a ticket for because the threat to public safety would not be sufficient for him or her to pull a person over and ticket them for it. I don’t think that we should be relying on cameras to financially penalize our neighbors.

      1. Jenna:
        You’re using too low of a standard. By your standard there are never any traffic threats to public safety in Edmonds. I drive and extensively walk thru our city seven days a week. I constantly see flagrant violations that are very definitely threats to public safety. The most likely reason for this is that there is virtually no traffic enforcement in Edmonds.

        1. Mr. Wambolt makes a good point regarding traffic enforcement. With the addition of red light cameras is it not a good idea to increase police presence and enforcement throughout neighborhoods in all areas of the city at the same time for optimum public safety results? Is the decision just to rely on cameras alone?

      2. Jenna, thank you for your advocacy to insist on equity and fairness. You’re honesty, integrity, and persistence I suspect serve you well at your day job.

  3. I think the insurance industry is going to have the biggest impact on our driving! Your rates are going to increase to a unbearable amount if you don’t allow them to install a tracking device. It monitors your Speed, Breaking, Acceleration, Cornering, Distance, if your a rough driver
    Ouch it’s gonna cost ya, if your a rules follower then of course your rates will be much better. Many commercial transportation companies have had these devices active for years. I personally have found speed bumps work even better where they make sense as they create a reduced speed and they don’t cost near as much, they also don’t tie up our court system with non stop appeals.

  4. VERRA Mobility is headquartered in Mesa, AZ. It’s a NASDAQ traded company. How can one find out how much money they charge to install and maintain those cameras? And more importantly, what percentage of the collected revenue do they receive from our red light cameras? Thanks Teresa for an informative article.

    1. VERRA Mobility is charging the City of Edmonds $5000 per camera per month. Presently, we’re paying $30,000 a month to VERRA for the school zone cameras and will be adding another $10,000 a month to their coffers for the red light cameras that were added to the automated traffic safety camera program last night.

      Legally, VERRA Mobility is no longer allowed to receive revenue from the tickets generated in Washington State, but I believe that that used to be part of their business model.

      1. Thank you Ms. Nand. If math is correct that will be a $480,000 bill per year to the City of Edmonds for existing school zone and two new cameras from VERRA.

  5. Monetizing a couple of intersections isn’t going make a substantial impact on hundreds of vehicle collisions citywide. Ironically accurate traffic safety analysis is being ignored. Sanctimonious council members trying to sell this money grab as a “safety measure” works well for those who are easily fooled. Of course, that’s why they were probably elected in the first place.

    1. That’s just surmising on your part as to why people were elected – a generalization. Just because you believe it, doesn’t make it so Brian. “Probably”?

  6. Lynnwood data suggests red light cameras do decrease accidents. I believe the Lynnwood municipal court judge went from part time to full time in large part due to the number of contested tickets our cameras generate. Revenue from red light cameras in Lynnwood helps support the police department. There is administrative overhead I wish the fines would help to cover in our general fund.

  7. Here’s a thought. Let’s teach people to be better and more respectful drivers. That begins with Driver’s Education in High School. When I took Driver’s Ed in 10th Grade, it was a full semester of classroom and on the road education. Our instructor was tough on us. For example, if one of us didn’t stop at a Stop sign, he’d slam on his brake, and ask the student driver, “Are you blind? or How stupid are you?” He never had a problem with telling any of us the way it was. I know I am a better driver for having Mr. Dunn teach me the rules of the road. If it’s not taught in the schools today, it should be. It’s a critical life skill.

    1. There hasn’t been Drivers Ed in our schools for at least a decade and it’s expensive to go to a Driving School. Our South Snohomish court is mostly people fighting collection agencies hired by our cities to collect those driving infractions, and also those of use who are unsuccessful in trying to fight red light camera tickets because the yoyo in front of you making that left turn decides to do so at a snail’s pace, leaving you hanging out there to get the camera flash. Finally, an out of state company receiving $5k a month per camera makes me sick.

  8. Both our council and police have stated that this is all about public safety, and is most certainly not supposed to be a revenue-generator. I have my doubts. Notwithstanding the fact that politicians and cops never lie, how about the net proceeds from these cameras get donated to the Seniors Center and/or to the local food bank? That way, the money goes to people who actually need it, and not to the politicians and cops who have gone on record stating that they never wanted it in the first place.

    Call it a win-win …

  9. I would guess our traffic engineers have more complete data on the combined issue of time and distance than what is below. They could help us all understand the notion what to do at a yellow light to safely stop before entering the cross walk.
    Here is how far a car travels at in a second at various speeds.
    35mph=61 feet
    30mph=44 feet
    25mph=37 feet
    20mph=29 feet

    An internet search show stopping distance at different speeds. Distance accounts for reaction and stopping time.
    30mph=120 feet or about 6 car lengths
    20mph=40 feet or about 2 car lengths
    This is probably a panic type stop so is a regular controlled stop 50 or 100% further? 100% further would get the car behind a bit more warning to stop as well.

    We could do the numbers of yellow light time and all that but the city likely has standard data on light timing, safe stopping distances to give us all some insight on how best to not only stop but making a safe stop. Yellow lite times could be set accordingly.

  10. This is going to generate some much needed city revenue, that will have the downside of alienating lots of tourist types who came here for recreation of some sort and get a ticket in the mail as a result. Not a real swift strategy move for a resort town and supposedly fun destination to make. Thanks to Jenna and Michelle for trying to bring some good sense to the table for a change. The idea that this is mainly for safety and not for revenue is absurd and virtually everyone knows it. (There was no talk of this when everyone thought the town coffers were full and there was ARPA funds to spread around). Thanks to the rest of you five and the Mayor for meeting our expectations of what you will do. VOTE NO on any future money asks by this city administration. That is the only way we will ever get responsible government here. There will soon be a fire service vote on the ballot and an ask for money to augment public safety and fix infrastructure. Watch for heavy scare tactics. Only bankruptcy will turn this runaway debt train around.

  11. Sheesh! This is quite an issue for this little town, isn’t it? I got a ticket once for a red light violation in Seattle, and I am a driver with no traffic record to speak of, obey rules and attempt to be safe while driving. I watched the video and it appeared that I had gone through the light when it was yellow, but it was hard to tell. However, in lieu of asking for a court hearing, I paid the fine. It was a hit to my budget, but I didn’t feel “targeted” or unwelcome or anything else. Figured maybe the camera was right. I generally try to stop when lights turn yellow so as to not run a red light. Do we need more police presence in Edmonds? Yes, we do, but it has been explained on multiple occasions why police presence is lower than we would all like. For some reason, I don’t object to these red light cameras, nor do I think they have nefarious purposes other than to try & avoid collisions. I must be naive and I’m sure some of you naysayers will tell me so.

  12. The idea that revenue from these cameras and fines are going to help the City general fund budget whoa’s is unrealistic. The state law authorizing these cameras restricts the use to whichbrevenue generated from fines can be used. The ESHB 2384 says, in part,
    (13)(a) Except as provided in (d) of this subsection, a county or
    a city may only use revenue generated by an automated traffic safety
    camera program as authorized under this section for:
    (i) Traffic safety activities related to construction and
    preservation projects and maintenance and operations purposes
    including, but not limited to, projects designed to implement the
    complete streets approach as defined in RCW 47.04.010, changes in
    physical infrastructure to reduce speeds through road design, and
    changes to improve safety for active transportation users, including
    improvements to access and safety for road users with mobility,
    sight, or other disabilities; and…

  13. Interesting to see how the cameras handle right on red. You can find lots of Lynnwood / Seattle reports where tickets were issued for right on red.

    What a great way for the city to build relationships with its constituents. ‘Ticket in the mail’.

    1. In about 2005 my son got his driver’s license and within weeks he turned right without a full stop at a red light in Lynnwood. We got the notice in the mail with instructions on how to view the camera footage. He absolutely deserved the ticket and I was glad he was caught so convincingly. After we viewed the footage together it was very easy to remind him of future expectations. I support red light cameras because my experience with them was fair and educational. It’s more than reasonable to reinforce traffic safety laws using technology.

      1. I’m glad you feel that way. I’m thinking about those people who work hard, make a mistake and don’t have the means to pay for such a lesson.

        1. It makes sense to me that payment plans and credits for easy access good-driver education should be available.

  14. The main thing I don’t like about this traffic enforcement by robot approach is the Orwellian aspect of “Big Brother is watching you,” vibe. Next thing you know, the climate police will be allowed to place a camera in my living room so they can fine me every time it catches me turning on my gas fireplace.

  15. If you get a ticket put in a request to the city for information about the system calibration testing etc. Many times you won’t receive all that was requested and the ticket will be dismissed. Saw this play out recently in king county court.

    1. Good points Jim. Traffic codes mandate a certain amount of yellow time depending on the speed of traffic. The faster the traffic, the more yellow time is required at each stoplight. When the cameras go in, somebody needs to verify the required amount of yellow time (or more) is being provided, before any tickets are issued.

      1. Roger obvious deliberate red light runners should definitely get a ticket. The problem is it is a judgement call each driver has to make many times a day. That would be my defense but it seems the inability to produce documentation is a much better defense. Who’d of thunk. So then I ask who is making the decision that I didn’t use my best judgment? So I guess Cameras good subjective tickets bad.

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