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Council likely to consider red-light cameras

BY EMILY HOERNER | FEBRUARY 07, 2011 7:10 AM

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Iowa City intersections may soon be equipped with a new gadget: red-light cameras.

City Manager Tom Markus sent Iowa City city councilors an article from Cityscape magazine, which reported red-light cameras cut down on crashes caused by drivers running red lights.

But Markus said he didn’t intend for the councilors or the public to view the article as a recommendation to install red-light cameras.

“I haven’t studied [the cameras] enough to recommend anything yet,” he said.

Rather, he said, the article could simply spark conversation among councilors.

While the article Markus sent showed positive results from a study on automated traffic enforcement conducted by the Center for Transportation and Research at Iowa State University, not all city councilors are completely sold on the idea.

“I’m not one who is that fond of camera surveillance,” said Councilor Regenia Bailey. “But I haven’t heard all the pros and cons.”

She said the council will most likely discuss the prospect of having red-light cameras in the future, but nothing has been put on an agenda yet.

Councilor Mike Wright said he would support red-light cameras, and fellow council member Terry Dickens said he could see a need for the cameras if there is a specific intersection with an unusual number of accidents.

“I’m not interested in it for a moneymaking type of thing,” Dickens said. “I would only want to use it for safety-type reasons.”

Red-light cameras are being used just 30 miles away in Cedar Rapids, where city councilors implemented eight cameras in March 2010.

Cedar Rapids Councilor Pat Shey said the city has received substantial revenue from the red-light cameras, but, he said, the number of citations is predicted to go down as residents learn to obey the law.

When a driver runs a red-light at a problem intersection in Cedar Rapids, the cameras photograph the car’s license plate. Officials then mail the violator a civil citation.

Despite the cameras’ apparent effectiveness, Shey said, he hears many complaints about the relatively new technology.

“The only people who don’t complain are the people who obey traffic laws,” he said. “It has to be completely red [for a picture to be taken], which is blatantly running a red light.”

Davenport uses red-light cameras and speeding cameras.

Davenport Councilor Nathan Brown said the city once had five of the most dangerous intersections in Iowa, but since the surveillance was installed in 2004, none of the those intersections make the list.

“We’ve chosen to use it as a safety measure,” he said. “Really focus on where your trouble areas are and go after those.”

In Davenport and Cedar Rapids, the cameras are privately owned, but the city receives two-thirds of the ticket revenue.

Bailey said although she believes Iowa City has a problem with people running red lights, she would first like to see numbers regarding the effectiveness of such measures. She said she’d also like to talk to councilors in cities that use them.

“At this point, I haven’t heard a compelling reason for it,” she said. “None of our staff has really weighed in.”


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