(File photo from Red Deer Advocate)

Alberta government reviewing photo radar

Photo radar either cash cow or effective speeding deterrent depending on your view

Red Deer’s photo radar is doing its job, says the city.

“It’s part of our traffic safety plan,” said city manager Craig Curtis, “and in that respect it’s proven very successful over the years.”

Photo radar was back in the news last week when Transportation Minister Brian Mason said his department has been reviewing photo radar for months to ensure municipalities are using it as a safety measure not as a cash cow.

His comments came just before Wildrose justice critic Angela Pitt called on the province to study how municipalities review photo radar and release results by Sept. 15.

She wants to see better oversight of photo radar by the province.

In the City of Red Deer, photo radar tickets generated $1.8 million in 2014 and 2015 and $2.1 million in 2016.

Curtis said photo radar is used to improve road safety and it’s working.

“The primary motive for photo radar is traffic safety,” he said. “The location we are using for photo radar are primarily those that relate to areas where we have accident issues or speeding problems.

“We believe this is a very important control device.”

Curtis said there have been many international studies that have shown photo radar boosts safety.

Money generated from photo radar does not go into general revenue but goes to the RCMP to support their crime prevention and management efforts.

Curtis said if the province is reviewing photo radar, City of Red Deer is happy to participate.

“We would certainly would be more than willing to provide our input into any provincial study of photo radar.”

In Lacombe, photo radar had a short-lived and controversial life.

Lacombe city council approved photo radar as a pilot project for 2013 but two years later dropped it and the anticipated $325,000 in revenue that came with it.

Some on council felt that the hiring of a bylaw enforcement officer made photo radar redundant.

However, there were also concerns that the private company contracted to oversee photo radar was choosing locations based on maximizing revenue rather than local safety concerns.

Mayor Steve Christie said photo radar proved controversial from the beginning in Lacombe both with council and the public.

Council opted for a one-year trial run and there was evidence drivers were slowing down in regular photo radar locations.

The trial continued for a second year but there was continued “push-back” from the community, he said.

“Some said it was a cash cow. Some said it was working. I think our staff actually did show that people were slowing down.”

Christie believes his city remains split 50/50 for and against and he’s not sure a provincial review will settle the question of whether municipalities are using photo radar the way intended.

“Doing a review I don’t think they’re going to come to a conclusive answer.”

pcowley@reddeeradvocate.com

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