City looking to get bigger slice of ticket revenue

By Mike D'Amour

May 18, 2017 12:00 AM

Doug Rodwell

Fate of photo radar debated, city takes over, or it remains as is

Some believe photo radar is as effective and has the same deterrence factor as a ticket handed to drivers by a cop who pulls them over.
Others vehemently argue photo radar is nothing more than a bloated cash cow that pulls in millions of annual dollars for the province and municipalities that employ the sneaky devices.
Regardless, the City of Lloydminster will soon make a decision on whether or not to take over the program and, if it does, it will certainly realize more than the near 10 per cent of ticket revenues it garnered from the program last year.
“I think for all the angst when you look at photo radar, it is a valuable safety tool that provides some deterrence,” said Doug Rodwell, City of Lloydminster public safety general manager
“For any enforcement program, there’s always a revenue, so you struggle with how you deal with that.
I think we’ve come up with a solution that responds to residential concerns, as well as enhance the city,” he said.
“The opportunity to bring it in house is just a business decision and that’s it. It is a safety tool and that’s first and foremost where it is, and that’s why we are proposing additional policies as well as revenue policies that go along with it.”
Last year, the photo radar program generated a little more than $1.65 million for 13,116 traffic violation tickets.
The city’s cut of that pie was $151,426.07, while the contractor, Global Traffic Group Ltd., realized a $877,351.11 chunk of the revenue.
Under the plan presented to council Monday, half of the revenue from photo radar would go to a reserve fund that would support various enterprises.
“The reserve would focus on safety and educational initiatives, but if a (charity) group did come to us, council is the one that would make the determination whether or not to grant money,” said Rodwell.
The other half of the photo radar money would go into the city’s general revenue.
While the proposal is for the city to take over the program, Rodwell stressed the Mounties would still be the gatekeepers.
“The municipality would administrate (photo radar) but the RCMP are still in control of the program,” he said.
“They set up where the photo radar is, they provide that sort of direction.”
The Alberta government is currently reviewing how municipalities use photo radar, to ensure it’s being used specifically for safety and not as source that generates revenue.
Transportation Minister Brian Mason told reporters he knows many are sceptical of the safety value of photo radar.
“My concern is that there’s a strong public view that photo radar has gone beyond just enforcing safe traffic and has become, in some cases, a bit of a ‘cash cow’ for municipalities,” he told a reporter.
“From my perspective, that is a misuse if that is occurring.”
Lloydminster Mayor Gerald Aalbers said he believes the city is ready for the change.
“I think it has some huge benefits because if people realize they are paying out most of their fine and it’s leaving the city ... (they) certainly would appreciate some improvements to it at least,” he said.
“Its like digging out of your own pocket and throwing it in the air, currently today, even though it’s a fine.”
Right now, four Canadian provinces employ the use photo radar, but only Alberta allows mobile speed cameras outside school and construction zones.
The provincial guidelines maintain photo radar is only to be used in areas with a history of high collisions, speeding drivers and high pedestrian traffic.
City council will make a decision of the proposal at its June 12 meeting.
“Council’s options are to go with the plan we presented, continue with the current provider or to revisit the photo radar enforcement program,” said Rodwell, who would not predict the revenue the city could get should it go with Plan A.
“To predict a revenue target would actually make it what people are calling it,” he said.
“This is a safety initiative and it will be focused on school zones, playground zones and those areas where safety is of the paramount.”
Rodwell added he believes they’ve found a workable solution for whatever revenue comes in, one that addresses the community’s concerns.
Still, he hopes one day none of it will be necessary.
“My hope is we make photo radar obsolete and the only way to do that is not to speed.”
—With files from Jessica Dempsey

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