Updated: Province freezes photo radar program, but will keep more money

If the study results show photo radar is a cash grab, government will get rid of it

The provincial government has frozen the photo radar program, saying it wants to ensure automated speeding enforcement isn’t a cash cow.

Yet in its recent budget, the United Conservatives have taken an extra 13.4 per cent of the photo radar ticket revenue from municipalities, says Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer.

“So the review and the budget position are not in alignment.

“Their budget presumes more revenue from tickets than it did previously,” said Veer, adding it would be close to one million dollars more from the city.

The province has increased the amount it keeps from each ticket to 40 per cent from 26.6 per cent, said Veer.

The goal of the government’s review is to determine whether photo radar makes Albertans safer on the roads, Transportation Minister Ric McIver said Tuesday.

“Our goal is to ensure photo radar is used for safety, not to generate backdoor tax revenue. Albertans are skeptical about the impact photo radar has on safety,” he said.

McIver said the government will act according to the results of the study, and “everything is on the table.”

“We’re going to go where the evidence leads us. If it’s for safety, we’re going to keep it. If it’s only for revenue collection, we won’t. But we don’t want to presuppose where the evidence takes us.”

Effective Sunday, municipalities and police agencies will not be able to install new or upgraded photo radar devices, or deploy existing photo radar equipment to new locations.

The freeze will be in place while the UCP government works to refine rules for photo radar site selection, operational restrictions and data collection.

The City of Red Deer does not plan to make any program changes, so the freeze will not have an impact on the municipality.

Currently, 27 Alberta municipalities take part in photo radar programs. These municipalities, Red Deer included, have been left to their own devices to collect data, and each municipality does it differently.

“We need an apples to apples comparison,” McIver said.

“This is not a criticism of the municipalities. They’ve never been asked to report consistently, so we are going to talk to them and police services and negotiate a consistent set of data … and then we’ll have data that hopefully we trust and can make decisions on.”

Ticket revenue generated through automated speeding enforcement, which includes photo radar, red light camera and intersection speed cameras (speed on green) in 2018 in Red Deer was about $2.5 million. That same number was about $1.8 in 2017 and about $2.3 million in 2016.

A review in 2018 under the previous government found that Alberta has three times as many photo radar devices per capita as B.C. and Manitoba. That review does not provide adequate data, McIver said Tuesday.



mamta.lulla@reddeeradvocate.com

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