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After Red Light Cameras Are Turned Off, Houston City Council Approves Big Settlement With Vendor

Thursday, February 09, 2012 - 10:00 AM

Photo by Gail Delaughter/KUHF

(Houston, TX -- Gail Delaughter, KUHF) The Houston City Council has voted to approve a  settlement with American Traffic Solutions, the company that operated the city's red light camera program.

legal battle erupted between the city and ATS after voters rejected the cameras in 2010, four years after they went into operation. The city's contract with ATS wasn't set to expire until 2014.

The cameras were shut off  after the 2010 referendum but they went back on for a short time last summer after a federal judge ruled the red light camera referendum was improperly placed on the ballot. The city council has since voted to repeal the original ordinance that allowed the cameras.

Under that settlement ATS will get close to $5 million over the next three years. Officials say about $3 million in fines is currently held in escrow, and there are $25 million in fines the city is still hoping to collect.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker says traffic violators are the ones who are paying the settlement and not taxpayers.  But if the city can't collect the money from those unpaid tickets, under the terms of the settlement that money would come out of the city's general fund.

And if the city does collect the unpaid fines, the agreement calls for ATS to share in that money.  The company's total take could be as high as $12 million if the city can collect everything it's owed.

The cost of each ticket is $75 and there's also a $25 late fee.

ATS has also agreed to drop its lawsuit against the city, and to take down all of its cameras within 60 days. About 50 cameras were in operation at the time the program was suspended.

The vote on the council to approve the settlement was 13-4.  Those against the settlement said they weren't happy that taxpayers may have to foot the bill if the city can't collect the outstanding fines.

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Comments [2]

Dagobert II

"But IF the city can’t collect the money from those unpaid tickets, under the terms of the settlement that money would come out of the city’s general fund." IF they ever raise the Titanic I think I'll buy a ticket for the cruise. LOL! Who do these idiots think ALWAYS pays for the stupidity of the politicians?

Feb. 21 2012 06:14 PM
Henry

The cameras (indirectly) block emergency vehicles - because cars stopped at a camera hesitate to get out of the way! Other side effects: Rearenders, $$$ sent to Oz, AZ or Goldman-Sachs, where it won't come back, and tourists and shoppers driven away.
Worse, a false expectation of safety, because cameras can't stop the real late runners, who cause the accidents. (If cameras worked, camera sellers wouldn't have the crash videos they supply to the media.)
Want safety, no side effects?
To cut car/pedestrian accidents, train your kids not to step out just 'cuz the walk sign came on.
To cut nuisance running (a fraction of a second late), lengthen the yellows. It's cheap to do so can be done all over town.
The dangerous real late (multiple seconds) runs won't be stopped by the mere presence of a camera, because the runner won't know (a tourist) or won't remember (a distracted or impaired "local") that there's a camera up ahead. They're not doing it on purpose! To cut these real late runs, improve the visual cues that say, "Intersection ahead." Florida's DOT found that better pavement markings (paint!) cut running by up to 74%. Make the signal lights bigger, add backboards, and put the poles on the NEAR side of the corner. Put brighter bulbs in the street lights at intersections. Put up lighted name signs for the cross streets.
Who needs cameras and their side effects?

Feb. 09 2012 01:30 PM

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