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St. Petersburg won't get more red-light cameras until council gets more traffic data

ST. PETERSBURG — At the request of the City Council, Mayor Bill Foster agreed to delay the addition of more red-light cameras until council members can examine a year of traffic data.

The council made the request because city staffers had compiled only eight months of data between November and June before concluding that the cameras helped reduce crashes.

"I promise you that I don't come to work to say, 'How can I get sideways with City Council today,' " Foster told the group during a meeting Thursday.

Still, Foster stressed that the addition of nine more cameras to the already 22 in use will further reduce crashes. He promised to return to the council when staffers compiled traffic data through the end of the month.

"I hate red-light cameras," he said. "I hate to fine people. This is the only way we can modify people's behavior.

"People do stupid things when they drive."

The city installed the cameras at 10 intersections in October 2011 and started issuing tickets a month later. Through the end of June, the city has issued more than 27,000 citations.

After one year, the council had expected to get an update to determine if the cameras reduced traffic accidents.

Critics say the program is a revenue generator, not a safety measure.

The proposed expansion drew the ire of the City Council two weeks when Matt Florell, a local resident and well-schooled camera critic, informed the group that more cameras were in the works.

Several council members applauded Florell for monitoring the program and requesting data from the private operator of the cameras.

Council member Jeff Danner said the group shouldn't consider an expansion until delving into the data to see if crashes actually dropped.

"The fact that it's expanding offends me," Danner said. "The intent was to run the program for one year. Nobody surveyed this council."

Joe Kubicki, director of transportation and parking management, told the council that crashes jumped 8 percent citywide. However, he said. red-light running crashes fell 34 percent at the 10 intersections with cameras.

Council member Wengay Newton disputed much of the data because Kubicki did not detail how many tickets came from each camera or which intersection produced the most tickets.

"We can't even get the proper data," he said. "This is selective data. This is at best confusing."

Mark Puente can be reached at mpuente@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8459. Follow him at Twitter at twitter.com/markpuente.

St. Petersburg won't get more red-light cameras until council gets more traffic data 10/18/12 [Last modified: Thursday, October 18, 2012 11:30pm]
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