Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

Round Rock vote to terminate Redflex contract

Jerry Stratton, October 7, 2015

I’m on the mailing list for Texas Campaign for Liberty, and just learned that the Round Rock City Council is considering “a resolution authorizing the City Manager to execute a letter terminating the contract with Redflex Traffic Systems, Inc.”, on this coming Thursday (tomorrow, that is, October 8, 2015, at 7 PM at 221 East Main Street). This is the letter I’ve written.

Dear Mayor McGraw:

There are better alternatives to red light problems than red light cameras. Wherever they are tried, red light cameras tend to increase corruption, and, eventually, the temptation to reduce safety is too great to resist. Red light cameras tempt the camera company and local officials to reduce yellow times to dangerously low durations so as to increase revenue—currently millions for RedFlex, according to KXAN’s news reports. And the very nature of the revenue-sharing method that red light programs use is a temptation to bribery and other forms of corruption. Wherever they are tried, it seems, eventually somebody falls.

I used to live in San Diego; it is a fine city with fine public officials. But when they brought in red light cameras they lowered yellow times so low in places such as Mission Boulevard that people driving the speed limit would be unable to stop before the light turned red!

RedFlex, the company we currently use, is notorious for both increasing the dangers of intersections by reducing yellow times, and for corrupting local officials. They have been found guilty in Chicago for “one of the biggest bribery scandals in the city’s notorious history”, and according to the Chicago Tribune one of the witnesses said bribery is standard practice for the company across several states. Given that independent investigations, as reported on KVUE, show little if any improvement due to the red light cameras, it would be best to sever ties with this company.

There are several technical solutions that should be tried before risking red light camera corruption:

  1. Increase the yellow-light time. Studies everywhere show that increasing the yellow-light time according to engineering recommendations will have long-lasting safety benefits. This one change often reduces the revenue from red light cameras so low that they’re not worth having!
  2. Add an all-red clearance interval. When AAA Michigan worked with Detroit to reduce intersection crashes, leaving an all-red clearance interval for a second was a major factor in reducing intersection crashes and intersection injuries by 50%.
  3. Improve the intersections themselves. We have some pretty dangerous intersections here in Round Rock, with highway feeders crossing local roads next to trains, such as at I–35 and McNeil, or the conglomeration of highway feeders, local roads, poorly-accessible parking lots at I–35 and Old Settlers Blvd. Punishing people for red light running doesn’t change that the intersections themselves are very driver-unfriendly and pedestrian-unfriendly. Bringing traffic engineers in to advise on high-injury intersections will bring far better safety improvements than red light cameras, which only punish drivers rather than making intersections easier to navigate.

Almost invariably, when intersections are properly designed and signals properly installed, red light running drops to such inconsequential levels that the cameras become pointless wastes of money.

Red light cameras are one of those ideas that sound good until you take a closer look at what they actually do and the effects they have on communities. I urge you to terminate our contract with RedFlex Thursday before they affect Round Rock as they have other cities.

In response to Texas 2015: News from Texas in 2015.

October 14, 2015: Red Light Cameras and rock-throwing children

On Thursday night, the Round Rock City Council voted unanimously to give Mayor McGraw the authority to cancel the red light program. It sounds like he’s going to do it. Before the roll call, McGraw said something very, very smart. The purpose of the red light cameras when they started was to reduce deliberate red light runners, not punish people who accidentally missed the light by a fraction of a second because of circumstances that everybody meets once in a while.

But, a lot of people were not paying their red light camera fines. And the Mayor realized that very likely, the people paying their fines are not the people we meant to target. The people we meant to target were the people who are now also not paying their fines.

It is always very easy, when faced with deadly lawbreakers, to focus on the easy catches, the people who aren’t being deadly to begin with. After last week’s shooting, for example, the left wants to punish law-abiding gun owners. Well, that’s no surprise, they always want to punish law-abiding gun owners. They don’t like putting more criminals in jail, or even, sometimes, calling criminals criminals. Those are hard choices. It’s a lot easier to target non-criminals; they are once again literally discussing banning all guns.

However, they recognize that the choice they want us to make is completely unreasonable—take away everyone’s firearms. So they can’t contrast that choice with the reasonable options, such as allowing qualified teachers and administrators—those who pass the stringent concealed carry background check and tests—to carry if they choose. And protecting our children with the same resources we use to protect our politicians, such as the police officers who show up at city council meetings. No, they have to make up something that sounds as unreasonable as disarming all non-criminals for what criminals do. Here’s a typical meme:

A kid on the playground throws a rock at another kid on the playground. The teacher gives rocks to all of the kids since, after all, only a good kid with a rock can stop a bad kid with a rock.

This is typical leftist thinking: if you aren’t in favor of complete surrender, you want total war. This has been a tactic—or intellectual failing—of the extreme left since at least the writing of Advise & Consent, which I reviewed yesterday.

What’s noticeably missing is any sense that they care about keeping the one kid from throwing rocks: no detention, no suspension, and despite the crazy zero tolerance at schools nowadays no punishment for that one kid. The more realistic meme, given what the left wants, is:

  1. <- Former mayor faints
  2. Texas Proposition 3 ->