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Cameras for running red lights in PA?

Original post made by Pro-Big Brother, Duveneck/St. Francis, on Nov 24, 2009

Too many people are running red lights when the signal is CLEARLY already read. Not just turning from yellow to red. I live between Embarcadero Rd. and Oregon Expressway, two roads which are heavily used by commuters. I see people running red lights so often that I wonder if the city would consider installing cameras to stop them. San Mateo has them in Menlo Park and off the Dumbarton Bridge. They work well, as I received a ticket due to a camera (and I thought the light was yellow). The fine was a stiff $400 or so, plus traffic school. The offenders I witness are at the intersections of Louis Rd./Embarcadero, Greer Rd./Embarcadero, St. Francis/Embarcadero, Louis Rd./Oregon Ex. Again, the light is clearly red when they are running them.

Comments (68)

Posted by Mary Carlstead
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 24, 2009 at 9:21 am

It is very dangerous to cross Embarcadero from any side street between the hours of 6:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Virtually all of these vehicles speeding and running red lights are coming off of Highway 101 or East Bayshore. State law prohibits the use of radar between 101 and Middlefield (or maybe it's Newell) , but it can be used between El Camino and that point.
The City must intervene with its legislators to get this state 'entrapment law' changed. Radar was allowed about ten years ago for the first time on Middlefield, Channing, and Alma. Something MUST be done about Embarcadero. It's a killer-road. Outbound commute traffic in the late afternoon is also horrendous, but rarely does one see a PAPD motorcycle officer of squad car. For the most part, the speeders and red-light runners are NOT PA residents.

Posted by Facts
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 24, 2009 at 9:30 am

"The City must intervene with its legislators to get this state 'entrapment law' changed."
Once again an example of the "palo alto--the world revolves around us" mentality. The laws are clear on what standards must be met before radar can be used. the fact that Palo Alto wants to maintain artificially slow speeds does not mean that laws should be re-written for them

"It's a killer-road"
Numbers, please.

"Outbound commute traffic in the late afternoon is also horrendous"
Define horrendous--more than one car? 10 cars? Long back ups? Or "horrendous" defined in the Palo sense as cars driving by my house on my street.

" For the most part, the speeders and red-light runners are NOT PA residents."
This conclusion was reached how?

Posted by no right turn on red!
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 24, 2009 at 9:49 am

The most common red light runners are people who turn right at red lights without coming to a complete stop first. This is especially dangerous to pedestrians in the nearby crosswalks. I am in favor of banning all right turns at red lights. Just wait until the light turns green, then turn safely.

Posted by Pro-Big Brother
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 24, 2009 at 10:11 am

Most drivers are not driving the speed limit of 25mph on Embarcadero Rd. but that is less of a safety concern than drivers who are clearly running red lights. My ticket with fees was $474 plus $20 for traffic school.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 24, 2009 at 10:26 am

"Just wait until the light turns green, then turn safely."

This may sound safe, but in actual fact this is when the pedestrian light turns to cross and pedestrians have right of way.

Turning right is just as potentially dangerous as turning left. We need more filter arrows which give priority to turning traffic in both directions when we know that pedestrian (and bike) traffic is stopped.

Posted by Facts
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 24, 2009 at 10:32 am

Ir is ridiculous that one of Palo Alto's main arteries has a 25 MPH speed limit and that is why you cannot use radar on that street. Can you imagine what Embarcadero would be like if the "big shot" politician who lives on that street had succeeded in getting it reduced to one lane in each direction?

Posted by no right turn on red!
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 24, 2009 at 11:03 am

Yes, turning left can also be dangerous, but most car drivers are a lot more careful when turning left than when turning right. Right-turning cars rarely come to a complete stop before turning (even when they have a red light or stop sign). Right-turners also don't check for pedestrians very carefully. I rarely see people run a red light and turn left.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 24, 2009 at 11:16 am

@Facts: "Artificiallly slow" is a subjective term, an opinion - not a fact.

Like it or not, people live on Embarcadero (I do not), there are multiple crossing points for school children, there are three schools that border Embarcadero (Paly, Castilleja & W. Hayes), a large city park, many bike riders, etc. The speed limit should be 25mph.

If Embarcadero was one-lane, then the traffic would definitely run slower than it does today - that was the point.

Slow down and enjoy the day.

Posted by Facts
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 24, 2009 at 11:33 am

Crescent Park Dad

""Artificiallly slow" is a subjective term, an opinion - not a fact."

It is a fact with regard to the laws that govern the use of radar on city streets.

"If Embarcadero was one-lane, then the traffic would definitely run slower than it does today - that was the point."

A couple of years ago, Joe Kott--the PA traffic guru-tried an experiment where they turned Middlefield into 1 lane each direction. the traffic backups were horrific and the plan was abandoned. the same thing would have occurred on Embaracdero. Anyway we know that the idea to change Embarcadero to one lane each direction was a self-serving one since said politician lives on Embarcadero (that is an extension of the PA mentality--move to a street and then demand changes for your own personal good--had said politician been living near the train tracks, he/she would be lobbying to shutdown Caltrain).

If speeding is such a problem, there are ways to deal with it or maybe the PA police has more important things to do than deal with non-existent or exaggerated complaints (think about it if cars moved slower, there would be more backups and then people would be complaining about too many cars--that is what prevented the metering lights on Embarcadero and Oregon from being turned on until recently--exaggerated concerns about imaginary backups)

Posted by Joseph
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 24, 2009 at 12:00 pm

> " For the most part, the speeders and red-light runners
> are NOT PA residents."

The Palo Alto Police will tell you that possibly 2/3rds of those ticketed in Palo Alto are non-residents.

The planning department claims that there are about 100,000 jobs in Palo Alto. The train handles 1,500-3,000 (maybe) .. the rest come from elsewhere.

It's past time to start experimenting with Red Light Cameras.

Posted by Wha?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 24, 2009 at 12:44 pm

I cross Embarcadero at Newell every evening at rush hour, and every evening people run that light.

I drive 25-30 mph on Embarcadero and note that most traffic is moving faster than that, my estimate is 40 - 45 mph.

It is an issue, it is not safe, and I have few solutions to offer. I would like to see more traffic control, but what is the question, and how to pay for it is always a concern.

Posted by Resident
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 24, 2009 at 12:47 pm

Folks, we don't all live in North Palo Alto!! How about excessive speeds on Charleston and San Antonio!!

I am opposed to wasting money on cameras for red light runners while traffic courts are throwing out tickets that are challenged.

All the main arteries in Palo Alto are subject to the 85th percentile speed restriction and that is not 25 MPH. Forcing people to drive more slowly than the 85th percentile is "entrapment." Speed limits are controlled by State code.

Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 24, 2009 at 12:54 pm

Middlefield and Channing are both 25 mph and radar can be used. (Middlefield in Menlo Park is 35 mph.) Speed limits on Alma vary from 35 mph northbound merging with 25 mph at the Oregon Expessway overpass. Radar can be used on Alma. Commute speeding in the radar zone past the Embarcadero schools and through the Paly zone is much higher than 25 mph. There is solid traffic for the evening commute outbound. And if you live on the Stanford campus, you've got your own problems on Sand Hill and Foothill Expressway.

Posted by Hard Line
a resident of another community
on Nov 24, 2009 at 1:31 pm

Red light camoeras on all traffic signals and the strictest enforcement of fines up to the maximum prescribed by law will encourage safer, more responsible driving.

Posted by stop at red lights
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 24, 2009 at 1:35 pm

Are you people saying that you do not stop at red lights because you don't like the speed limits? Who do you think you are? Endangering me and my children because you are to selfish to follow the safety rules!

Posted by Pro-Big Brother
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 24, 2009 at 1:49 pm

If someone is standing, waiting to cross in a crosswalk, it is the law that drivers have to stop and one can get a ticket for not stopping. Today on University Ave., my kinder and I waited while cars drove through the crosswalk. While we walked within the crosswalk, a woman driver ignored the crosswalk and drove right through. Drivers are in too much of a hurry these days that they begin ignoring the laws. I have children and am in a hurry too, but running obviously red lights is not something I do.

Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 24, 2009 at 2:24 pm

Traffic violations do seem to be rampant in Palo Alto. The problem is that when you direct the police to start enforcing them more, they give all kinds of stupid non-dangerous drivers tickets enforcing the smallest most insignificant thing thinking they are intimidating the bad drivers.

If they would be driving around and carefully ticket things that people do that are really dangerous it might have a good impact and not piss off everyone in the city and make the police department look stupid as well as reduce respect for the law.

They need to change the lights in places on University so there is a time for pedestrians to walk I think, otherwise cars are so afraid they will get stuck that they push their way through - because honestly it is hard to tell sometimes who is going to walk across the street and who is just standing on the corner.

Posted by robit noops
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 24, 2009 at 2:26 pm

I almost got hit by a co-worker [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff] running a red light at El Camino-Embarcadero to make a left hand turn. I try to respect the speed limit on this street because people do live there, but many people treat this road as a commute street. Show some respect when driving through people's neighborhoods, and watch out for people!!!!

Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 24, 2009 at 2:35 pm

Well, there is a point above about how ridiculous it is that "one of Palo Alto's main arteries has a speed limit of only 25 mph".

Yeah ... not just one. University is clogged and a nightmare trying to get from the freeway anywhere in downtown Palo Alto.

Embarcadero is no better, but it seems to me that the accident and injury stats are not so bad ... it is more of a major nuisiance ... can someone inform or correct me on that. I have walked and ridden my bike around Embarcadero and it is not so bad ... other than the whole situation is impossible because there is just too much traffic. There are endless lights on Oregon and San Antonio and it is very slow at the rush hours.

The inability to get anywhere in Palo Alto encourages people to speed and to use residential streets and run stop signs and red lights.

Someone in the city government needs to take inititative and find some solutions to this ... which there are not really any ... because it is not going to get any better as time goes by and housing density goes up and up.

Only until housing prices go down and no one wants to live here because of the horrible realities of it will it get better ... then it will be too late and a nightmare for everyone who does live here and own here.

Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 24, 2009 at 2:36 pm

Reall not cool robit noops to blame someone by name who cannot defend themselves ... you need to get your post deleted and maybe be prevented from posting here ... what a nasty thing to do.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 24, 2009 at 2:40 pm

If we can't get University closed to traffic, how about getting it one way only with Hamilton one way in the opposite direction to keep traffic moving. I rarely try and drive on University because it is too difficult to second guess the pedestrians and drivers so at least if it was one way only it would make the traffic move rather than stop and go every 10 yards.

Posted by bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 24, 2009 at 2:47 pm

bru is a registered user.

resident ... that will be hard to have happen since Hamilton is almost completely residential homes ... but at least you are using the old noodle.

Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Nov 24, 2009 at 5:59 pm

If PA would set up cameras for bicyclists running stop signs, they could balance their budget and have a surplus!

Posted by Calming
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 24, 2009 at 6:55 pm

It is time for traffic calming measures on San Antonio-- enough catering to the whiners in college terrace. Time that embarcadero and Oregon residents share the traffic burden from San antonio

Posted by Bruce Li
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 24, 2009 at 7:44 pm

Well fellow citizens of PA if you are concerned about traffic scofflaws and red light runners then you should contact your City Council because the traffic team motorcycles and only remaining School Resource Officer are all on the budget chopping block and may not be around any longer. I recall when traffic safety was a Council priority and there were 7 motorcycle cops keeping our streets safe, now there are only 4. Not sure what's happened but the streets of PA sure seem a little less safe lately, so I think we should keep the traffic team!

Posted by Midtowner
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 24, 2009 at 8:58 pm

Pro-Big Brother

There are red light cameras in Palo Alto, in particular on Oregon Expressway. We are even warned that running a red light can cost us up too something like $380. Are you saying that the cameras are not used? Or am I just completely confused?

Running red lights is one of the most irresponsible things a driver can do. It is so utterly dangerous. Yet, it's true that for the past few years, it's become very common around here.

Posted by Pro-Big Brother
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 24, 2009 at 9:03 pm

There are no red light cameras in Palo Alto. They are very obvious if you have ever seen 'em. Check the area at this end of the Dumbarton Bridge turning left onto Willow Road (that's where I got my 4 photos: face, plate, 2 photos of my car past the line). Or Menlo Park on El Camino, a few intersections have them. Dead giveaway is the flash that goes off if someone runs a red light.

Posted by stop at red lights
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 24, 2009 at 9:27 pm

Yes there are red light cameras in Palo Alto. Do not even think about running red lights here. Actually, you probably aren't thinking when you do it, so start thinking right now! You have been warned.

You will get caught sooner or later and you should be thankful if the police catch you before you kill someone. Don't call it an "accident" if you are driving carelessly.

Posted by Pro-Big Brother
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 24, 2009 at 10:09 pm

Stop at Red Lights,

Nice false threat, but there are no red light cameras in Palo Alto. If there were, you would have already heard the Palo Altans complaining. If there were, I would see cars stopped by police frequently. I have never seen anyone stopped on Oregon Expressway, which is near my house. I have seen plenty of cars driving through red lights on Oregon Expressway as I wait to cross on Greer Rd. and Louis Rd.

Posted by Pro-Big Brother
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 24, 2009 at 10:21 pm

Correction, if there are red light cameras, the ticket is sent to the driver in the mail, no patrol car necessary. Let me correct myself. If there were red light cameras, the flash on the camera would be seen when it shoots the photos of the driver. There are definitely no red light cameras in Palo Alto. As a recipient of a ticket for running a red light (I think it was yellow, but didn't have time to argue it), I can guarantee that red light cameras will put an end to drivers even trying to speed through a yellow light.

Posted by PA local
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 24, 2009 at 10:41 pm

There are many cameras on different intersections in Palo Alto, but very few of them are real (I read this long time ago that the city cannot afford the real camera in all the intersections, so they mixed them with fake ones to deter the offenders).

It is a traffic violation to making a right turn without completely stopping when the ligh is RED. You can write down the plate number, report it to police so they can mail a ticket to the driver.

Posted by papd
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 24, 2009 at 11:00 pm

The City does not deploy red light cameras as a method of generating revenue. Those white things you see at some of our intersections are actually surveillance cameras used in the event of a major accident (at a major/high risk intersection).

I've been pushing for real red light cameras for years. Write some letters to the department head and go speak at council.

Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 25, 2009 at 3:04 am

I still think that people should not just get tickets for nominally breaking the law, like not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign when there is not traffic around.

I am not saying ignore it if they run the stop sign, but if what people do is safe, a warning or letting it go is OK with me.

When people do something stupid, dangerous, blatantly illegal they should get the full doece of the law thrown at them. Running a red light is such an offense, or a stop sign. Everyone speeds, so the only thing I think people should get ticketed for is excessive speed or the moronic lane changes and reckless driving that is rampant.

If the police administration decides to up the level of tickets, all they are going to do is get more people upset because a lot of those tickets are going just be rote tickets written to fill out quotas to make it look like police are working.

If there was a greater presence on the streets the police would see how bad the situation is these days. It is like Mexico or Italy in how crazy American drivers are starting to drive. I used to enjoy driving when I was a kid and now I just hate having to be out there always driving defensively watching for someone who is not paying attention to what they are doing.

I don't care much for cameras. I got a ticket in the mail for supposedly running through the Dumbarton bridge without paying a toll. I know damn well I am expect to pay a toll on the Dumbarton bridge, and consequently every damn time I go through the bridge I stop and pay toll. I got that ticket with a photograph of my car's license plate on it, and I don't where it came from, but I know whatever it was it was not me running through the toll plaza of Dumbarton or anywhere else. This really irritated me. I never paid it, and I never back from them about it either. Every time I go through a toll booth now I have to ask for a receipt and then stuff it in my little car pocket in case someone screws up again. That is what robot cameras will get us.

We should start being a lot more draconian about giving and taking people's licenses away when they should not have one, or are abusing their driving privilege.

In the Crescent Park area I am constantly seeing college aged kids driving and running stop signs like they are not even there because they do not see anyone directly in front of them.

And ... by the way, in at least some states they allow people to make right turns on red or without stopping at stop lights, and it is a very nice innovation I thought ... but then again any driving style or laws work if your drivers are competent and paying attention with good judgement. Why do we have to let the jerks in America hold the whole country back in everything?

Posted by Cbob
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 25, 2009 at 9:08 am

I had the exact same experience with you regarding the DUMBarton Bridge. I received two letters in the mail, two months apart, alleging two separate "FastTrack toll violation." This basically would mean I used the FastTrack lane without actually having the transponder. The photo they included was blurry, although the license plate number appeared to match the one on my car. Fortunately, the dates and times were included on the letters. I was in San Diego on both of the dates this was supposed to have occured, as was my car! Furthermore, I had not driven on the Dumbarton Bridge in at least three years. While the car in the photo was the same make, model and color as my car, it was a later model year. I sent them a photograph of the back of my car, clearly showing that my license plate number belonged to a different car. Apparently the photo was so blurry, they guessed on the license plate and sent it to the wrong person...twice. Either that, or some criminal cloned my license plate. At any rate, I never heard back from them!

Posted by Pro-Big Brother
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 25, 2009 at 9:53 am

Anon & Cbob,

The camera at our end of the Dumbarton Bridge/Willow Road must be superior to the toll camera because my photos are quite clear. It's actually amazing how the camera could get the four pictures: license plate, my face, my car from the side and back. I'll never run that yellow again - yes, the camera did do its job! So don't assume all traffic cameras are poor quality as the one at the Dumbarton toll booth.

Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 25, 2009 at 10:58 am

Re: Arterial congestion

Instead of closing University to traffic, why not make it one way heading eastbound starting at High Street? This would solve the problem of the single lane of traffic being blocked when someone is parking. Instead of Hamilton (as the poster suggested above), Lytton could be one-way westbound to handle the westbound traffic. The traffic signals could be synchronized so that traffic going 20 mph on University and Lytton could hit a wave of green lights.

Posted by No Closure
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 25, 2009 at 12:03 pm

University Avenue will never be closed off in either direction because it is the main entrance into Stanford University, and Stanford University has a lot of clout in this City.

Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 25, 2009 at 12:48 pm

When I was at Stanford, I would've been in favor of University being one-way downtown if it meant improved traffic. Having to go over to Lytton for a few blocks (then back to University at High Street) seems like a small price to pay for improved traffic. Many people already use Lytton to High Street to University to get to Stanford, and High Street is already one-way for that block.

Posted by stop at red lights
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 25, 2009 at 1:09 pm

Are you folks really advocating running red lights on University Ave. because you don't like the traffic there? How selfish is that???

Posted by Hard Line
a resident of another community
on Nov 25, 2009 at 2:38 pm

Make an example of each and every red light runner. Red red running cameras at all traffic signals, rigorously enforced. Fine violators to the max and publish their full names as a form of public shaming. This would be similar to putting people in the public stocks in old New England. These actions will dramatically reduce the incidence and attendant danger of red light running.

Posted by stop at red lights
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 25, 2009 at 2:57 pm

Confiscate their drivers licenses and their cars. Running red lights is just as dangerous as drunk driving; maybe worse.

Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 26, 2009 at 4:46 am

Does anyone know the answer to these questions....

If camera's are installed on Embarcadero Ave. at various intersections (Middlefield, Luis Road, Greer, etc.) would they pay for themselves via revenues from fines?


If they were installed and during the first six months the fines totalled (just for an example) $100,000...but 24 months later it was found that the previous six months fines totalled "only" $5,000...would this be evidence of deterrent success? If so could one reasonably infer that X number of red light runnings had been decreased? Is there a general established formula in Traffic Management to the effect of "for every X number of red light running a fatality occurs"?

Yes running red lights on Embarcadero seems to have become an established habit for too many.

Posted by charlie
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 26, 2009 at 6:32 am

The speed limit on Embarcadero is absolutely unrelated to the chronic red light running there. It takes place when traffic is heavy, when traffic is light and usually the red light runners do it while driving at a much faster speed then the limit. Red light running is a matter of attitude and personality and has absolutely nothing to do with speed limits. The other morning I was waiting for the green light at Embarcadero and Louis. The light turned green and I started crossing along with a few school kids and as usual, a car runs the red light and passes inches from the pedestrians crossing Embarcadero. The amazing things is that I witness such things every day and not just at that intersection.

Posted by andrea
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 26, 2009 at 6:45 am

In Israel there are cameras for reg light running everywhere. A driver caught red light running will pay a very heavy fine, will lose his/her driving privileges for a long time, depending on his/her priors and when the suspension is over will have to pass a driving test in order to regain driving privileges. It goes without saying that his/her insurance premiums will soar through the roof. Israel is notorious for its road carnage, but every expert says that without the cameras the annual toll would be much higher. The cameras literally save hundreds of lives each year and this is one instance where we could learn something from the Israelis.

Posted by stop at red lights
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 26, 2009 at 9:07 am

I agree that people run red lights because the penalties are not high enough. People in Palo Alto can afford a few hundred dollars in fines and the selfish ones do not think about the consequences of their actions (like killing innocent people). We should enforce the law to save lives.

Posted by Pro-Big Brother
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 26, 2009 at 10:41 am

Stop at red lights,

My ticket in San Mateo plus traffic school costed a total of $494 plus several hours of online traffic school. Sure, we Palo Altans live in million plus dollar houses, but doesn't mean we all want to throw away that money and time on a red-light ticket. A driver won't likely continue to repeat the offense without consequences even if they have money to blow. Plus, many of the offenders do not live in Palo Alto.

We need to convince City Council to look into red-light cameras. The Embarcadero Rd./Louis Rd. is where I witness the most offenses. Guessing it's the commuters who view it as "safer" one to run because it's not a four-way intersection.

Posted by driver
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 26, 2009 at 11:25 am

I think there has been an increase in red light running over the past 30 yrs in Palo Alto.
In my experience, when you go down Oregon during busy periods you may very well observe a red light runner and sometimes it is breathtaking. There are a lot of near misses.
That said, my spouse was missed by a pinch in downtown San Jose when a super speeder ran a red.
It's not just Palo Alto.

Posted by jacksonmarly
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 26, 2009 at 9:40 pm

One item rarely mentioned and is a large reason people are running this red lights in the first place: the stop lights are not sensored. Why ? Money I am guessing. But for all the accidents and rushed red light fines experienced by people who cannot tolerate long waits (sometimes at empty intersections) They should be sensored. I grew up in Salem Oregon. Back in "89 they had all main roads stop lights with sensors (and this was twenty years ago and not the birthplace of the computer...!!!)Here in Palo Alto, They are timed and often inconsistently. People would not be in such a a hurry to get race thru intersections with yellow or almost red lights if they knew the wait would be shorter or non existent. Just a thought.

Posted by Toady
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 27, 2009 at 4:01 am

You all actually *want* red light cameras?

People here in PA aren't as smart as I thought. Goes to show that knee-jerk liberals and fascism are two sides of the same coin.

Posted by Just wondering
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 27, 2009 at 8:26 am

"My ticket in San Mateo plus traffic school cost a total of $494 plus several hours of online traffic school." Why didn't you protest it in Traffic Court, you my have gotten off? There is so much doubt as to the legitimacy of those cameras, who knows, the Judge may have let you off.

Posted by snooze
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 27, 2009 at 11:39 am

What's the big kill someone or be killed?
I've always been aware of stop signs and right hand turns since my kids were
school children walking and or biking to school. A car is
is big and heavy, it is a duty to be responsible when you
turn that key in the ignition. Is getting where you need to
go 5 minute or so earlier worth a human life?

Posted by Jon
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Nov 27, 2009 at 12:23 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

I understand your concern for safety but you have forgotten that the photo cams are complete scams full of corruption that are simply money making mechanisms for local cash-strapped governments. The companies that install it get commission every time someone gets caught. Not that it's bad people would be caught, but it's bad when they reduce the yellow-light times deliberately, and there aren't signs of photo enforcement until the traffic light.

Point is, these systems are meant to penalize people for being human, and go far beyond punishing those who blatantly run the red lights.

Posted by Jon
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Nov 27, 2009 at 12:32 pm

To add on, if you can convince me that we can set up a fair cam system that:

A) Will issue warnings not fines for first time offenders
B) Will still give a fair amount of yellow-light time, not the 1-2 second stunts that cities like San Mateo pull.
C) Won't create a corrupt system of kickbacks. (by this I mean the money would go towards first covering the costs of their hardware and installations, then going to city sponsored public-safety initiatives)

then perhaps it would be a feasable plan.

Posted by Stop on Red
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 27, 2009 at 2:11 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

People should not run red lights. If the camera is set to a reduced yellow light time, drivers will quit running yellow lights. Still stops them from running red lights.

Posted by The $ Question
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 27, 2009 at 4:06 pm

On the issue of whether they pay for themselves or not, it is interesting to note that the companies who install the cameras do so free of charge to the city! Sounds good? Well the rub is that they make their money back by sharing in the revenues. So one of the criticisms is that they make the yellow lights very short to increase revenues. Once this happens, people begin to stop short on yellow lights, thereby increasing rear-end collisions.

Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 28, 2009 at 12:41 am

I was just driving back from hiking in RWC hills today. Whipple and Veterans intersection and a camera light went off. I didn't see a red light runner and wondered (paranoid me) if maybe the front of my car was a tiny bit into the crosswalk and generated the flash (if I get a ticket "I'll be back" with an Austrian accent).

On the face of it the cameras sound like a good idea. Photograph the offenders and fine them. Put a stop to the running of red lights.

But the accusations of shortening yellow light times, less red light running now generating more rear end smashings, the financial give-away to the installers......reminds me of privatization of prisons a bit.

I hope whoever is advocating or deciding this on a more ordinate level looks into these issues.

Do the cameras flash only if the car enters the intersection AFTER the light is red? Or do they flash if the light turns and the car is still in the intersection?

Is it possible to just pay for the camera installations, cut a check and say "thank you" and "goodbye until it's repair time" and not have their fingers in the cookie jar indefinately? Is there any valid reason why someone would shorten the yellow light time?

Posted by gerald
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 28, 2009 at 6:11 am

Red light running, just like street racing, should be reclassified as an extremely serious felony, which is exactly what it is. Any fatality resulting from red light running should be eligible for special circumstances considerations, just like fatalities during a bank robbery. Then we might not need any cameras.

Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 28, 2009 at 8:19 am

Caltrans sets state rules on the minimum yellow times allowed, based on the size of the intersection and the speed limit. There have been a couple of cases where yellow times were shortened below the allowed limits when cameras were put in place. Once Caltrans investigated and contacted the cities the yellow times were lengthened again to meet the standards. These incidents have been blown out of all proportion and it is now claimed that yellow times are shortened every time a camera is installed.

As far as safety studies of red light cameras, there are several and you need to look carefully at who conducted the studies to see what their motivation was. The studies are also somewhat contradictory which allows people to "cherry-pick" the ones they want while ignoring the ones they don't like. My general conclusion is that rear-end crashes increased in some cases, but "T-bone" or broadside crashes decreased, and those are the most dangerous ones.

Posted by stop at red lights
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 28, 2009 at 2:06 pm

The problems with private companies maintaining the stop lights can be fixed by either:
1. have city employees maintain the lights or
2. have city employees independently monitor the performance of the lights
3. base the payments to company based on the factors other than fines (i.e. based on malfunctions or lack thereof)

State law mandates minimum yellow light times and the city can write hefty penalties into their contract for violating performance standards.

Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 28, 2009 at 9:04 pm

Thanks Donald.

Makes sense and fits predictable patterns. I would be interested in the specifics of who/what/when/where/how/why shortened the yellow light times and how that got exposed and reversed.

I guess you'll never rear end a car in front of you--if it runs a red light and kills a bunch of people.

Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 28, 2009 at 9:41 pm

In Chatanooga, TN a judge refunded fines for running red lights when someone complained and the judge timed the light.

Web Link

It is beyond any city to install, maintain and operate these systems themselves. In California there are laws that regulate the kind of contract that can be issued for running the cameras. For example, a company cannot be paid on a per-ticket basis. San Diego had a lawsuit against them in 2001 over how the contract was arranged, and the rules are now pretty clear (if you are a lawyer).

Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 28, 2009 at 9:53 pm

Costa Mesa, California also had a lot of tickets dismissed because some defendants claimed the yellow was too short. Caltrans came in, did speed studies, and changed the timing on bunch of lights, but neither they nor the city ever came right out and said that the yellows were too short. Of course there are many "motorist rights" web sites that claim that every intersection with a camera has illegally short yellow times and people are urged to fight every ticket. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 29, 2009 at 1:03 pm

SteveU is a registered user.

In case anyone cares.
Those White Cameras on near traffic lights can and are being used to control the light cycle (replacing the older buried treadles and loops) because their field of sensitivity can be addjusted to include approaching traffic.
Some of these may be also connected as "Traffic Cams"
Web Link
You can see stop action traffic flow at many intersections (multiple views).

PAPD just needs to write tickets.

Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 30, 2009 at 7:27 am

Some of the white cameras are used to control the light cycle (on El Camino, on Middlefield at Meadow, on Charleston at several intersections) but those on Oregon Expressway are just used to look at traffic loads. None of these cameras can be used to ticket red-light runners. They don't have the resolution or the proper angles to read license plates, and most can't see when the lights turn. TV shows that "enhance" these photos to reveal small details are bogus. Watch the cameras yourself from the web link above and see how poor the images are. It takes a dedicated camera to get the information needed for a ticket.

Posted by Rajiv
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 30, 2009 at 10:56 pm

Oh God no - please no traffic enforcement cameras! I just came back from Washington DC where there were cameras in intersections and on the roads. Combined with all the security, it felt like a police state. Big Brother wasconstantly watching over your shoulder. A number of my friends and relatives had received tickets. The whole thing made me feel paranoid wherever I was. It took away from the ability to enjoy a drive in a historical area.

If people are running reds, then have a policeman there at random times to push enforcement. They are better able to differentiate when someone runs it vs. something unintentional. At least there can be a discussion.

Having those cameras do not improve safety as much as increase traffic revenue. It would be one thing to have these devices with realistic yellow light and speed limit tolerances, but the potential for abuse is incredible.

Stop Big Brother from invading your life. No to traffic cameras!

Posted by A Noun EA Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 1, 2009 at 9:52 am

"A number of my friends and relatives had received tickets."


So did they not run red lights and more than deserve them?

"The whole thing made me feel paranoid wherever I was. It took away from the ability to enjoy a drive in a historical area."

The whole accident, where I got sideswiped by a red-light runner, made myself and my family members feel very dead. And it took away from our ability to live out anymore of our lives.

I get it that there have been instances where the yellow lights may have been tweaked. This seems like an easy thing to forbid and monitor.

If the lights designed to catch red light runners only go off when prompted this should allay any privacy concerns.

I'm usually on the side of protecting privacy. But in this case a clear and present danger clearly warrants the cameras.

Why have a policeman there at random times when a camera can be there all the time?....24/7/365 and Leap Day as well.

I suppose we could go back in time to an era when only stop signs existed and intersection lights were being proposed. The same type of objections.

Posted by zachyadam
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 1, 2009 at 10:14 pm

zachyadam is a registered user.

Heh, cameras are cheaper than policemen.

Posted by jb
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Dec 9, 2009 at 3:11 pm

It's a generational thing.

If you're under 45 YELLOW means "go fast." Older and YELLOW means "prepare to stop." Lots of anxious little girls have beeped me to hell and back for stopping as the yellow goes red.

Older people have more time than the young. Speed limits are UPPER LIMITS. To the young a speed limit is a starting point.

It doesn't strike me as rational to put the world at risk because you are at a place where you don't want to be. Maybe these drivers don't see themselves as citizens in the world where they find themselves. If that's your predicament, just relax and drive home. Listen to some music. Breathe deeply and exhale slowly. Meditate on peace for the people on the same road as you are.

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