Tuesday, September 7, 2010

LETTER: Red Light & Speed Cameras Planned for Redmond, By Susan Wilkins


City Council will decide whether to authorize cameras at 7:00 PM meeting on Tuesday, September 7

The Redmond City Council’s Public Safety Committee has been discussing the use of traffic cameras to, in their words: “modify dangerous behavior, reduce preventable collisions at signalized intersections and prevent car-pedestrian accidents in school zones.” As a parent of school age children who has been trying to identify and improve safety and reduce school-generated traffic on Education Hill for the past year, I am offended and bewildered by this lame attempt to provide improved safety through the use of traffic cameras. They plan to pass an ordinance at Tuesday evening’s City Council Meeting that authorizes the use of Traffic Speed Cameras in school zones and the use of Red Light Cameras at intersections. 

During December 2009, a company called American Traffic Solutions (ATS) conducted traffic surveys on a number of intersections and school zones in Redmond. They suggested that a speed zone camera be installed at Redmond Junior High to catch drivers exceeding the 20 mph speed limit while driving up 166th Avenue NE as they approached RJH from the south. There are severe traffic safety problems at RJH, but speeding in the northbound lane on 166th is the least of them. In the initial pilot program, a traffic speed camera will not be installed at RJH, but it is planned for a year from now. This is not a solution for the RJH traffic mess – it will just generate traffic tickets.  Read More!

Redmond plans to install traffic speed cameras starting in January 201l at the crosswalk on NE 116th Street just west of Einstein Elementary. They will be activated when the crossing guards turn on the yellow blinking school zone lights before and after school. My children attended Einstein Elementary from 2002 – 2008 and I can tell you that the Einstein Crosswalk is the most dangerous in the city. Why? Because the speed limit on NE 116th Street is 35 mph and it’s a major east-west arterial and the elevation drops rapidly. Cars (and often very big trucks) approaching from the west have trouble seeing the crosswalk because of the lack of contrast of the buildings and fields and often because the morning sunlight illuminates the road but not the pedestrians and crossing guards. Also, the crosswalk is only 100 feet beyond the 20 mph School Zone sign and drivers unfamiliar with the area don’t even realize the crosswalk is there as they drive into it. (When the crosswalk was first installed in 2004or 2005, I drove right through it without realizing it was there although I had been driving along NE 116th Street for years.) The Einstein teaching assistants who were assigned to crosswalk duty often talked about how afraid they were of being hit – and of occasionally having to jump out of the way of cars and even being brushed by them. They attached blinkers to traffic cones to help drivers see them when they were at the crosswalk. Installing traffic cameras that only work 20 minutes before school and 20 minutes after school ignores the problem that the NE 116th Street crosswalk is invisible to drivers and extremely dangerous all day, every day. What is really needed is an overhead traffic light that turns RED when activated by pedestrians or crossing guards and can be seen by drivers from both directions. A traffic light would definitely improve the safety of the North Redmond neighborhood. In the meantime, the city should install some signs that alert eastbound drivers heading down the hill that Einstein Elementary is along NE 116th Street and that a crosswalk is ahead but difficult to see. Installing a traffic camera that snaps a picture and sends a ticket a week or two after the driver has sped through the crosswalk is an inferior solution.

Redmond and ATS are also proposing traffic cameras at the following intersections:

-Redmond Way & 148th Avenue NE
-NE 40th Street & 156th Avenue NE
-Avondale Road and Union Hill Road
A summary of the proposed Traffic Camera Ordinance #2542 and the traffic study done by ATS can be found on www.redmond.gov in the City Council’s current agenda for the 9/7/2010 meeting in file AM10185.pdf. The traffic data tells us that very few drivers run straight through red lights but that many drivers roll right on red without stopping. What it doesn’t tell us is how many collisions and what kinds of accidents have occurred. We can’t say how many accidents would be avoided (if any) by adding traffic cameras or if other safety enhancements such as adding “No Turn On Red” signs might provide the same or added safety.

ATS is in business to provide traffic cameras and issue tickets for municipalities and to make money for themselves. Unfortunately, this is not the correct traffic solution that we need in Redmond.
Contact the City of Redmond at mayor@redmond.gov  and council@redmond.gov  by 5:00 PM Tuesday, September 7, 2010 and let the Redmond Mayor and Redmond City Council Members know what you think about adding traffic cameras to intersections and school zones (reference: Traffic Camera Ordinance #2542) or attend the Redmond City Council Meeting on September 7 at 7:00 PM at City Hall on NE 85th Street in downtown Redmond.

By Susan Wilkins
Education Hill parent and LWSD volunteer


Paganne said...

Susan, thanks again for honest and detailed reporting. I appreciate all the information and research done. I'm wondering a few things regarding the traffic on 166th: As there are three schools on 166th (Redmond Elementary, RJH and Faith Lutheran), wouldn't it serve the hill, students parents and traffic better to make the entire hill at 20 mph zone (school speed)?

At this time, the zones are 20 mph by RJH, 30 mph at 97th, returning to 20 mph mid-way down the hill (Faith Lutheran); back to 30 mph and then back to 20 mph at the bottom of the hill (Red. El). Cars speed up and down that hill hardly meeting the 20 mph school zone in time to speed up again only to slow down (barely).

And, secondly, does anyone remember WHY there is a light at the intersection of 100th and 166th? I DO! When my oldest daughter was in Jr. High (roughly 1991-93) there was a student killed at that intersection while crossing on their way to school one morning. The car was speeding by -- well before school hours -- and the student, on their way to school for a zero-period class was struck and killed.

It would be a tragedy for another accident to claim the life of a student before the city decides to do something about the traffic flow and speed on the "hill".

Anonymous said...

Traffic does not abide by the 20 mph limits now. Posting a larger 20 mph zone would not help, it would be dangerous if someone actually attempted to drive 20 mph. Please try it, you cannot do it.

Anonymous said...

That whole hill is a cash cow for the redmond cops! That's why the speed limit varies so much and why they want to generate even more ticket revenue!

Bob Yoder said...

Dear AnonyCashCow - Councilmember Cole stated during last night's council meeting that the City made no money on these tickets. He says the money goes to pay patrol and processing costs.

Susan Wilkins said...

At the Redmond City Council Meeting on September 7, 2010, prior to the passage of Ordinance #2542 which authorized the use of Red Light Cameras at various intersections and Speed Cameras at Einstein Elementary along NE 116th Street, I argued against the passage of the ordinance because adding speed cameras to Einstein Elementary failed to identify and address the real problem: that the crosswalk on NE 116th Street has extreme design and visibility problems and combined with a 35 mph speed limit, it is potentially deadly to all pedestrians, not just students crossing before and after school. I also argued that what is needed is a pedestrian activated overhead traffic light that can be seen by drivers in both directions and can be used all day, everyday. The crosswalk across NE 116th Street has been dangerous since the day it was installed. People are afraid to use it. Sooner or later, someone will get hit and killed. (The Speed & Red Light Camera Ordinance passed unanimously.)

I didn’t know that the traffic light at 166th & 100th was added AFTER someone was hit and killed. It seems like a pattern that the City repeats – they added the traffic light at 180th & Avondale Road AFTER several people and bicycles were hit crossing Avondale while in the crosswalk. They added the traffic light at 158th Avenue NE & NE 85th Street AFTER two people were killed and a third injured in the crosswalk while crossing NE 85th from City Hall in December 1997 (and the City paid $2.25 million to their families.) Does somebody have to get killed in the NE 116th Street crosswalk before they add a traffic light?

Pedestrians would not normally walk out into the street in front of cars or trucks and expect the traffic to stop for them. But paint white stripes across the road and add some bright yellow crosswalk signs, and people will not hesitate to step out into the street in front of moving cars. Crosswalks are just thick lines of paint on the pavement and are inanimate objects, but somehow they make people walk in front of cars, believing that they will be safe. We can’t blame the crosswalk for luring people into the road where they get run over, but we can blame the people who are responsible for installing the crosswalks. Putting the crosswalk on NE 116th Street where the speed limit is 35 mph and visibility is flawed, and then failing to provide a traffic light that would allow pedestrians a way to signal to drivers that they’re in the road is irresponsible of the City of Redmond’s traffic department. This crosswalk should be removed until the City is able to provide an overhead traffic light to allow pedestrians to safely cross the street.