Letter to the editor: What should city do with excess revenue from red light camera program?


City council is considering a proposal to add between two and nine red light cameras to intersections along Highway 99 and Highway 104. There will be an anticipated 12,000 tickets (for $1.5-plus million in increased gross revenue) from the five school zone cameras authorized last year. What is the rush to add up to nine red light cameras for an anticipated revenue increase of $3.7 million per year?

Given the discussion regarding equitable treatment of the lower -income and multi-ethnic Highway 99 subarea, I find it concerning that the Highway 99 community is being told that its only options for traffic safety are punitive and extractive red light cameras. So I offer the following amendments:

  1. I intend to make a motion at Tuesday’s council meeting that we amend the proposed ordinance to include: “Revenue Restrictions. All of the extra revenue generated by the addition of automated traffic safety cameras in the City of Edmonds shall be restricted within the General Fund and may only be used for the purposes of traffic safety improvements and to fund public amenities within 0.5 geographic mile of the location of each operational traffic camera.”
  2. I intend to make a motion at Tuesday’s council meeting that the term of the red light camera ordinance be sunset after five years, after which point the red light camera program will 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.


Jenna Nand
Edmonds City Council

  1. Thank you, CM Nand, for your leadership and integrity on this issue. This issue is about SAFETY, the funds should be used for the purposes of traffic safety improvements and to fund public amenities within 0.5 geographic mile of the location of each operational traffic camera.”

  2. I would not comingle red light camera revenue with General Fund revenue. It’s too tempting to use it for other unintended purposes.

    1. Right now, the revenue from the school zone camera tickets is being commingled in the General Fund. My proposed amendment would require that the traffic camera ticket to be disaggregated and restricted to certain purposes, which I believe is required under state law as it applies to Edmonds’ proposed red light camera program anyway.

  3. Jenna, I think there would be more support for these red light cameras if the revenue goes 100% to increased police presence in the Hwy 99 area.

    1. Technically, my amendment stating that revenue can only be used for traffic safety improvements, and public amenities within 0.5 miles of an intersection hosting a camera means that the red light camera revenue could be used to fund a police substation on Highway 99.

  4. Jenna, the red light cameras will have the same negative effect on the perception of the City as Lynwood’s do. I’m so disappointed that this money grab was approved by the City and glad for your common sense amendments. I would also appreciate someone shining a light on how much money the vendor gets out of this program.

    1. Thank you, Katherine, like a lot of our constituents, I am skeptical about the efficacy of this program to increase traffic safety. I’m also worried about the impact that these tickets could have on our local small business community.

      Based on the contract, it appears that the vendor receives $5000 per month per camera mounted in each intersection in Edmonds.

  5. Thanks for writing this letter to the editor. That being said, please appreciate that Red-Light Cameras are not yet legal in the City of Edmonds. Furthermore, the 2024 Council has never voted to prepare the analysis required by state law.

    The 2024 Council never even voted to initiate a Council led process related to Red-Light Cameras. Instead, I believe City Council President Vivian Olson acted alone in early 2024 to instruct the Police Chief to do more work on this.

    1. That’s why Council is considering a proposal tonight to amend the ordinance to legalize red light cameras in Edmonds. The study data that the City is relying on, which was furnished by Verra Mobility, has been in the packet multiple times.

      1. Council President Vivian Olson told me this is a separate PROGRAM. Please recall that we were all told during the February 7, 2023 Council meeting that “there is no plan to move to Red-Light Cameras at all in this program”.’

        As such, wouldn’t it follow that what Council is considering tonight is not really an Amendment to Ordinance 4292 but rather adding brand-new City Code that didn’t exist before?

        Prior to adding brand-new City Code, I hope the City Council will comply with State Law. The RCW clearly states that the appropriate local legislative authority must prepare an analysis before enacting an ordinance allowing for the initial use of automated traffic safety cameras. The words “local legislative authority” and the words “must prepare” are easy to understand and very clear.

        The RCW does not say that the Mayor and his Administration can use taxpayer resources to prepare an analysis and ask the City Council to approve the Administration’s analysis afterwards. We have three branches of Municipal Government. The state legislature adopted the state law the way it is written intentionally.

        If the 2024 City Council does vote someday to prepare an analysis, will the Edmonds City Council want Verra Mobility to provide the study data? Wouldn’t it be better to have an independent party provide the study data to Edmonds City Council?

    1. Thank you for your feedback. It’s interesting to note that Shoreline, our neighbor to the south, has zero automated safety traffic cameras in their city.

  6. This is nuts. People who speed up to go through red lights are very very dangerous and should be punished. It works in Switzerland ..one of the safest places on earth … use the money for the policing of Edmonds and the fire department. .
    Currently, it is dangerous to start immediately when the lights turn green as there are always red light runners who cannot wait an extra 3 minutes to get to their destinations.!!

    1. According to the study data provided to the council, it appeared that there have been two collisions caused by red light camera runners in the City Of Edmonds during the period studied.

    2. The revenues generated by these cameras, indicate driving behaviors don’t change. Cameras are reactive measures.

      Lynnwood and other cities have been sued for detection inaccuracies. Step up police presence in areas of concern.

  7. These are common sense amendments, Jenna. I hope the Council votes unanimously to support. If the goal is to increase safety and not just a revenue grab, then funneling the money toward less punitive safety improvements should be a given.

    1. Thank you, Katherine, that is one of my main objectives in offering these amendments, that we can use the excess revenue generated by the red light cameras to fund enough traffic safety improvements to the affected intersections and their surrounding neighborhoods. So that we eventually don’t need to have the cameras placed there and can discontinue the red light camera program in the future.

  8. While philosophically I am against red light cameras as a general fund revenue generating tool, IF as Jenna suggests those funds are allocated to improving overall safety in the neighborhoods they are located (and primarily general safety and enforcement versus traffic enforcement because frankly, that is where the majority of the issues are), I could get behind this. This should include general policing, cleaning and maintenance of the public right of way which often includes trash, garbage, shopping carts, etc., graffiti cleanup, and improvements to traffic management (take 238th/99 as a great example of a lack of pocket turn lane where there are numerous near misses each day). Interesting conversation and thought process. While I don’t always agree with CM Nand on issues, I do always appreciate that her intentions and thought process have her (our) neighborhood in mind. Would be great to get some traffic management on 76th Ave. W. in Lake Ballinger and on 84th Ave. W. as well, as has been requested and advocated for by residents via the traffic calming project, since we are on the topic! Maybe some of these funds could bolster that project since it ran out of money last year for requests which passed the study and have been left hanging for the last 12 months.

    1. It’s going to be interesting to see how some of our supposedly valued tourist visitors take to getting a red light ticket in the mail. I suspect Edmonds will soon start getting some really unpleasant and unwanted type publicity. Personally, I wish our elected officials were seriously talking about how to save money, instead of how to get more of it to spend – probably unwisely. We have a very expensive police force and fire service which are essential City functions and a City Council and City Staff promoting public spending for private development when we are essentially broke and spending way more than we take in. Something has to give. I say just declare bankruptcy and start over. I won’t vote for any city spending levees for anything and these tax requests are coming at us like a coal freight train blocking the ferry crossing.

    2. Thank you, Tom, I’m glad that we can agree that the excess revenue generated by these cameras, if the proposal is approved by Council, should be dedicated to improving traffic safety and public amenities in the neighborhoods targeted by this program. as I noted above, a “public amenity” could include a police substation for the Highway 99 subarea. Hopefully, the addition of a police substation and other public amenities to Highway 99 would improve general safety for the Corridor.

  9. I fully support the red light camera initiative and also the amendments offered by Jenna Nand. Everyday I see many motorists on Hwy 99 ignoring the RIGHT LANE MUST TURN RIGHT Signs and breeze through when others are obeying the law! It is high time that these violators are clicked by the cameras and fined appropriately. It is long overdue and fines collected put to good use as suggested by Jenna!

  10. I am not a fan of red light cameras as I believe there is no imperical evidence that they improve traffic safety so, they are just a revenue mechanism. That being said, restricitng funds generated through red light cameras to a specific sub area in the City is a bad idea. Do the potential violators who would pay fines only live in the Highway 99 sub-area? I think not. What is the definition of a “public amenity”? NO legal definition given. Shall we also restrict sales tax revenues from resteraunts to the bowl area? Favoring one neighborhood over another for use of general fund revenue only promotes competition between neighborhoods. General revenue funds should be spent where the need is greatest for all citizens of Edmonds.

    1. The law states that it shouldn’t be general fund revenue. A good workaround is to add a red-light camera to the one right in front of the ferry terminal. with a big sign saying, “Welcome to Edmonds.” Problem solved.

    2. Mark, as I’m sure you’re aware, the automated traffic camera program is governed by state law. The relevant state statute actually imposes its own geographic restriction for the use of revenue from traffic cameras. My amendment is based on the geographic restriction in Rep. Donoghy’s bill.

      Also, I don’t think that “public amenity” is as quite as mysterious at term as you make it out to be. Public facilities, open space, landscaping elements all are generally considered “public amenities” funded by City revenue.


      “Subsection 2(13)(b) : 1) census tracts where low income households live; and 2) areas that experience rates of injury crashes that are above the city average. The portion of the revenue that is required to be spent in these area “must be directed to investments that provide direct and meaningful traffic safety benefits.””

  11. Given the magnitude of Edmonds’ financial crisis, the size of the hole we are dug into, it’s wrong to think of any City revenue as somehow “excess.” To the extent allowed by law, that money should be deposited into the General Fund to help pay for essential City services, help fill the financial hole, even if it’s just a tiny bit.

    Current conversation is now focusing on Edmonds’ voters facing two related tax increases in coming months~ whether or not to join the Regional Fire Authority and impose a $19 million per year tax increase on property owners, and/or a “levy lid lift” to allow the City to increase its property tax collections beyond the usual limit.

    Voters need to see some “fiscal responsibility” by City elected officials before they will vote Yes on either or both of these tax increases.

  12. I agree with Roger. “ Excess revenue is just another lie. When you are essentially broke there is no such thing as “excess revenue “ and this idea has been floated to raise money; not promote safety. If some safety comes of it, great, but please start operating with a little honesty and transparency and quit insulting your constituents’ intelligence. Directed at all Council and Mayor; not Jenna as an individual. I know she means well with this LTE.

    1. Thanks, Clint, I’ve tried to respond to you twice now, but I think my comments keep disappearing because I’m not sure if you can post a response to a response on someone else’s comment.

      1. You can also have cameras on stop signs. Put one att the “circle” on 5th and main as well as multiple other downtown locations. If they enforce the law the city will make a fortune and according to this amendment the money will have to stay in the bowl. Beware of unintended consequences. My comment probably too late in the day to make a difference tonight but long term important

  13. If citizens obey traffic signals and laws then there is no need for cameras. But that is not the case unfortunately. Every day I see cars going through the Red lights, not stopping at Stop signs, etc. I myself was hit twice during the last 15 years while stopped at a stop sign, totalling my vehicle that had 10 years of life left in them. Having police patrol at every intersection, etc. is not financially feasible with the revenue shortfalls facing every city, county and state. Cameras are the answer when we have the technology!

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