Safety concerns outweighed any financial issues for South San Francisco when it came to making a decision on keeping red-light cameras.
The cameras became a source of controversy when it was revealed that the contract with American Traffic Solutions was not ratified by the City Council until January, even though the traffic-monitoring equipment had been installed at two intersections in August.
That forced South City to refund thousands of dollars worth of traffic citations (the typical fine for running a red light is $446).
Last week, the City Council had a choice to make: shut down the program or continue the contract. Councilors voted 3-2 vote last week to keep the cameras. Fines for traffic violations will resume in mid-May.
Vice Mayor Kevin Mullin said he was more concerned about safe driving than the amount of the fine.
“It’s whether we are creating a safer intersection,” Mullin said. “There is overwhelming evidence I’ve seen that demonstrates there are declines in crashes and crash severity and ultimately citations.”
Cameras are located at the intersections of El Camino Real and Hickey Boulevard and El Camino Real and Westborough Boulevard.
During the meeting, police Chief Mike Messoni shared information that demonstrated most cities with red-light cameras saw a drop in crashes at the intersection by as much as 50 percent. He said it was too soon to tell if the same results would occur in South City.
Mayor Mark Addiego, however, disagreed. He said the economic situation with the loss of jobs and lower income for individuals compelled him to vote against the cameras.
“It’s a lot of money for someone,” he said. “The tickets won’t satisfy the cost of the program.”
Addiego also said he wanted to prevent more residents blaming the Police Department for the fines they are receiving.
Councilors Karyl Matsumoto and Richard Garbarino voted in favor of extending the red-light camera contract through 2014. Councilman Pedro Gonzalez voted against the extension.
Warning notices will continue to be issued to red-light violators for the next month, City Attorney Steve Mattas told the City Council. Tickets will again be issued to violators beginning May 14.
South City’s decision comes on the heels of the San Carlos City Council voting to cancel its camera contract because the violations were not generating enough funds to pay for the monthly fee. It costs roughly $32,000 a month for the cameras.