Urban Politics #243: Transparency & Red Light Cameras


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By City Councilmember Nick Licata.

Urban Politics (UP) blends my insights and information on current public policy developments and personal experiences with the intent of helping citizens shape Seattle’s future.

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CONTENTS:

  • TRANSPARENCY IN GOVERNMENT
  • RED TRAFFIC CAMERAS

 

TRANSPARENCY IN GOVERNMENT

Transparency in government means providing as much information as possible to citizens on how City Government makes decisions. Part of the decision making process involves Councilmembers gathering information from other government officials and staff, and from citizens in general. I have been working on legislation to register lobbyists who communicate with Councilmembers and hope to have something before the Council in the first quarter of 2008.

There are many ways of registering lobbyists. Both the State and King County Governments have requirements and they differ from each other as well as from other jurisdictions’ rules. I don’t believe there is one perfect way but Seattle should at least begin the effort.

As a first step, and as one of the last policies that I initiated as Council President, I had the sign-in sheet at the Council’s receptionist desk redesigned to more clearly identify the purpose of each person’s visit to the Council. In addition, each sign-in sheet is now being placed on the City Council’s webpage as a PDF file.  Please view them here.  Click on “Council Sign in Sheets” to view them; they are posted weekly on Mondays.

I hope this one small step will assist the public in obtaining a better understanding of how our City Council works.

 

RED TRAFFIC CAMERAS

Following a successful one-year pilot, the City announced yesterday that an additional 24 red light cameras will be installed at 19 intersections during 2008, bringing the total to 30 red light cameras in use at 22 intersections citywide. Some intersections have more than one camera.

Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, the Mayor and I have been working together for the last two years to get state legislation that would allow the effective use of red light cameras in Seattle. Once it passed the City installed six cameras at four intersections in late July 2006 as a 12-month pilot project to test their effectiveness.

An evaluation report was completed in December of 2007. It found that red light running was reduced by 50% over the 12-month study period. This trend is similar to what national studies have found elsewhere. And while the frequency of all auto crashes or angle collisions has not necessarily decreased it does appear that the severity of them has been mitigated since there were fewer injury crashes and fewer people injured. Hard copies of the report are available from the Seattle Police Department. I have also asked that it be posted on the city’s website.

During the 12-month period over 16,000 citations were issued and just over $1 million collected in fines. At this time the revenue stream goes into the City’s general fund but I would like to see it earmarked for greater law enforcement to reduce pedestrian and auto crashes. I will be pursuing this policy in our next budget cycle.

The new sites for the red light traffic cameras were evaluated according to three criteria. First all intersections were among the city’s top intersections of angle crashes based on data from Seattle’s Transportation Department (SDOT). Second, candidate intersections were tested with the equipment to determine if there would be technical problems with the site. Lastly, geographic dispersion was considered. I will propose to add 24 more locations for next year. The new locations of the cameras are listed below.

We must continue the push to change the driving behavior in our city so that drivers slow down and pay attention. If it takes greater use of red light and speed cameras then we should use them. Ultimately as more people rely on buses there will be more pedestrians crossing streets exposing themselves to crashes. If we want to increase transit ridership we need to make it safe to walk to the bus stop.

New Locations to Receive Red Light Cameras:

North Seattle
Northwest Market Street and 15th Avenue Northwest
15th Avenue Northwest and Northwest 80th Street
Stone Way North and North 40th Street
Aurora Avenue North and North 85th Street
Northeast 80th Street and Fifth Avenue Northeast
Northeast 45th Street and Union Bay Place Northeast

Central Seattle
Sixth Avenue and James Street
Fifth Avenue and Spring Street
First Avenue and Marion Street
Broadway East and East Olive Way
Broadway and East Pine Street
Boren Avenue and James Street
23rd Avenue East and East John Street
Ninth Avenue and James Street

South Seattle
14th Avenue South and South Cloverdale Street
Southwest Avalon Way and 35th Avenue Southwest
35th Avenue Southwest and Southwest Thistle Street
Rainier Avenue South and South Massachusetts Street
South McClellan Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way South

Existing cameras
Denny Way and Fairview Avenue North
Rainier Avenue South and South Orcas Street
Fifth Avenue and Spring Street
Roosevelt Way Northeast and Northeast 45th Street

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