Photo Radar for Crosswalk Safety

On October 31, 2018, I made a motion at Community and Public Services Committee to direct that 10% of photo radar revenue be directed to crosswalk improvements. Let me tell you why.

Our transportation systems are evolving. More people each day are using alternative forms of transportation. What used to be a system that included commuting cars, delivery trucks and transit buses now includes bicyclists, pedestrians, powered bikes, Segways, skateboards, and now electric scooters. It’s become more complicated.

I believe this evolution reflects changes in priorities. People want their time back. They don’t want to be stuck in congestion. People want to mix exercise into their daily commute. And many want to minimize their impact on the environment while they move around.

With these emerging priorities there has been more conflict between the different modes of mobility fighting for space on our roadways. That increased conflict drives a need for an increased emphasis on safety.

Part of the City’s focus on safety has resulted in more “automated enforcement”. Things like speed feedback signs, speed reduction zones, red light cameras, speed-on-green cameras, and photo radar.

I am not a supporter of photo radar. I don’t like “gotcha” enforcement.

Photo radar does not provide the feedback that corrects behaviour in the moment. A ticket that arrives in the mail a few weeks later doesn’t do much to change a potentially dangerous situation “in the moment.”

And when the conversation turns to how much money photo radar generates, some people become cynical. Some believe photo radar isn’t about safety, that it’s about money. That the speed limits are set artificially low and, thus, they don’t need to be obeyed.

The City doesn’t help those beliefs, when it enforces technical infractions that don’t present a safety concern – like when we use photo radar on freeway overpasses.

I certainly don’t support breaking the law. Our speed limits are established based on data that tell us what the safe rate of travel is on our streets. They are not suggestions. They are laws.

And I understand that we don’t have the resources to have police officers do all traffic enforcement. Nor do we want to increase property taxes to hire more officers for traffic enforcement. That’s expensive, and a mis-match of resources.

So we might be stuck with photo radar for a while.

I firmly believe that we need to concentrate on those places where the various modes of transportation conflict, and that is at crossings.

Administration has identified over 770 crossings that require new warning lights, improvements or upgrades to what is already present.  At our current rate of improvement, spending $2M per year, it will take us until 2048 to complete this work. And by then, there will be hundreds more to install.

That’s not good enough. We need to improve these crossings faster.

Photo radar generates between $45M and $50M per year. Directing 10% of that – roughly $4.5M per year - will allow us to more than triple the speed at which we improve crossings. With this investment, I believe we can clear the backlog in about 5 years.

That is why I made the motion at Community and Public Services Committee to direct that 10% of photo radar revenue be directed to crosswalk installation. And I will make this motion again during our budget deliberations.

This may not be the perfect solution. There is still much work to do on how we use photo radar enforcement. This does not necessarily address driver cynicism.

But at least some of the money generated will go to making our streets safer for everyone.

- Tim