published Saturday, June 26th, 2010

Red light fallout


by Chris Carroll

Red Bank officials credit a decline in traffic camera fines to sending the community a strong message about safe driving, but several economic indicators point to a different conclusion.

Mayor Joe Glasscock said last week that "it tickles me to death we're not getting more revenue" from the city's efforts to electronically enforce speed limit and red light laws. Decreased camera revenue supports the argument that Red Bank has done its "educational job" with photo enforcement, he said.

  • photo
    Staff Photo by Allison Kwesell/Chattanooga Times Free Press - Traffic flows past a traffic camera at the intersection of Dayton Boulevard and Signal Mountain Road in Red Bank.

But in the four years since the city's three traffic camera sets were installed, Red Bank's daily vehicle counts have declined and sales tax collections have fluctuated, records show. Those trends have commissioners wondering if fewer tickets mean more people avoiding Red Bank.

"If it was such a great deal, why don't Signal Mountain, East Ridge and Collegedale have them?" asked Vice Mayor Monty Millard. "They want people to shop in their businesses and feel comfortable coming into their town."

LESS CARS, LESS MONEY

At four different intersections spread across Dayton Boulevard, the city's most traveled road, state records show a 14 percent overall decrease in average daily traffic since 2004.

The vehicle counts reflect a decrease of several thousand vehicles each day.

One business owner in Red Bank said his cash register has shown the impact of fewer cars.

Red Bank Wine and Spirits Manager Brian MacPhee said the store's location was chosen for the corner of Morrison Springs Road and Dayton Boulevard because it's the city's busiest. But it's also the site of a red light camera.

"We had business grow every year except last year," Mr. MacPhee said. "We had people tell us they wouldn't come back because of the cameras."

Local sales tax dollars have fluctuated. Before 2005, sales tax revenue increased in Red Bank each year, hovering around $1 million. Since cameras began snapping photos, collections haven't hit that mark.

CAMERAS IN THE FUTURE?

The Red Bank Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 in January to extend Red Bank's contract with American Traffic Solutions, which operates the city's traffic cameras, for 12 years.

Mr. Millard cast the lone opposing vote.

A termination clause allows commissioners to revisit the issue every three years, so Red Bank officials can first consider removing the cameras in 2013.

Commissioners who voted to extend the contract are divided on how traffic cameras impact Red Bank's overall economic health.

PHOTO ENFORCEMENT FINES

2009 actual total -- $579,175

2010 predicted -- $443,000, 22 percent decrease from 2009

2011 predicted -- $375,000, 15 percent decrease from 2010



RADAR SIGNS

Chattanooga's first speed radar signs were activated Friday at two locations -- northbound on Dallas Road near Mississippi Avenue and southbound on Fernway Road near Hixson Pike. The signs indicate to drivers their travel speeds and flash if drivers are exceeding the speed limit.

"I'm not saying they don't hurt some businesses, but 98 percent of the people I talk to are 100 percent behind the cameras," Commissioner Ruth Jeno said. "It makes them feel safer."

She said she didn't know if she would vote for another extension.

Commissioner Floy Pierce said she would reconsider her "yes" vote if she could go back in time.

"I feel like if it's going to hurt our city and our citizens in a way that would keep revenues out, my strong feeling is that it needs to be revisited," she said.

Commissioner Greg Jones said the cameras probably affect revenue, but he wasn't sure how much.

"We need to focus hard on getting our revenues back up, but I stand by my vote," he said. "If my family is safer at those intersections, I think that's still a positive thing."

If the cameras eventually are abolished, it is unclear what would happen to the four workers the city employs to run the city's photo enforcement program, which also includes a speed van.

Mr. Glasscock, Mr. Jones and Mrs. Pierce are running for re-election in November.

Click here to vote in our daily poll: Do you avoid shopping in areas with traffic cameras?

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Beamis said...

I have definitely made the decision to avoid Red Bank whenever I can because of the street cameras and the little white Chevy van that tries to trap you into traffic fines. I feel uncomfortable traveling in Red Bank because of this blatant government sanctioned shake-down. Their are businesses in located there that I no longer patronize because the city government has made traveling to them such a hassle.

June 26, 2010 at 5:05 a.m.
EaTn said...

Reminds me of the kid who found a booty of coins and was eagerly stuffing them in his pocket, but forgot about the hole in the pocket.

June 26, 2010 at 5:42 a.m.
sharpshooter07 said...

I avoid Red Bank and the sections of Chattanooga with camera's. Of course business will sometimes take you to these areas but I never never go to them unless I have no choice. I like that Mexican restaurant in Red Bank but declined to patronage it because of the camera's. I wound if the Krystal's decline on Dayton Blvd. was due to the decrease in traffic because of the camera's?

When traveling about the city, I am always considering routes that by-pass these entrapment's.

The sad thing about Red Bank is that a mental pattern is now in place, people have avoided the city for so long, they now have no reason to go there. Once a habit is set, it is next to impossible to reverse it. The city will not recover from this fatal mistake for a generation.

East Ridge had talked about Cameras. I had people tell me that if ER put them in they would stop going there.

I am for giving tickets to those who break the law, but the camera's do not take into consideration, the nuances of traffic. Ever approached a light and got hung in that can't stop, can't make it spot? Does not happen very often. But it is always a bad feeling when it happens.

June 26, 2010 at 7:20 a.m.
enufisenuf said...

Mayor Dummy of Red Bank, your ego and misguided focus has cost your town revenus that the traffic camera stupidity has not made up for.

It is a shame that your persecution of paeple you deem an enemy, ie potetial business for the TAX BASE for your town, has cost your citizens money, and not profited anyone except your ego.

Your an idiot, deflate your ego and look out for the CITIZENS YOUR SUPOSED TO REPRESENT. Your mentality is what is undermining government and society today. I, and many others avoid your town like the plauge. Wise up, your kind are not long for office in this country, Americans are pissed at your brand of idiocy.

June 26, 2010 at 8:16 a.m.
MachineWizard said...

I avoid the traffic signal cameras in Red Bank. Hence, I also avoid the businesses near them. As for the traffic van, if there is an officer in the van why not just have him stop the speeders. Then he can also see if they're impaired? This is poor policing.

June 26, 2010 at 8:52 a.m.
xyzyra said...

Ruth Jeno states: ""I'm not saying they don't hurt some businesses, but 98 percent of the people I talk to are 100 percent behind the cameras," Commissioner Ruth Jeno said. "It makes them feel safer.""


How many people did Ruthy talk to? ten? 20? It's already been proven in other states that people avoid areas where these Red Light Cameras are known to be. Even if they have to drive farther and use more gas to get around them. Chattanooga hasn't felt the impact of it yet, I don't think. But "98"% of the people I talk to now travel south of the border down to F.O. to shop in order to avoid the hassle of trying to figure out if there's a Red Light Camera hovering somewhere. Notice how Fort Oglethorpe businesses are booming? Well, Chattanooga, Red Bank, etc. they're getting your business!!

June 26, 2010 at 9:13 a.m.
mkelley said...

There are businesses in Red Bank? Wow, I thought the cameras' impact would have driven them all out by now. I avoid that place like I avoid BP stations.

June 26, 2010 at 9:23 a.m.
MasterChefLen said...

No wonder Red Bank has the nickname "Red Bankistan"

June 26, 2010 at 9:25 a.m.
BenjiLately said...

Never go where red light cameras are. I just planned a trip and checked the online U.S. red light camera map and made sure that I will be able to take other roads around every red light camera that is on my route. There is a big shopping center I wanted to visit on the way, but I will not because they have placed a camera right at the entrance. There's another one I can go to so they'll get my business instead.

You have to be just plain witless to continue to drive through these intersections and risk having to pay so much money if you get in a situation where you can't stop safely. You have to ask yourself: WHY would I do that???? It is cheaper to spend a few minutes taking another road or simply going elsewhere.

Business owners need to stand up for their rights if they are getting hurt. The longer you sit back and watch your income decline and do nothing, the worse it's going to get. You may as well just cut your losses and move now rather than wait until you can't even afford to do that.

Drivers can always go somewhere else. If they keep going through those intersections and keep getting tickets, they can blame themselves for 1. being dumb enough to repeatedly do the same thing, and 2. not going to meetings, making calls, and sending letters and emails telling the board they are not going to stand for it anymore and anyone who voted for the cameras is going to be voted OUT of office at their next election.

Sooner or later, either because of the declining revenues to business or declining sales tax (which hurts everyone) or an accident where a child in a back seat is killed in a rear end collision, or because you vote out the people who forced these cameras on you, those cameras will be gone.

But you have to take action yourself, you can't grouse in the background and leave it up to everyone else. OR you will have nobody but yourself to blame.

June 26, 2010 at 9:34 a.m.
bigriver1969 said...

I live in Redbankistan. Property values are declining, more businesses are shutting down. Thanks mayor joe nocock. Your lack of vision and imagination for this town is keeping this place a pariah community. We need some people who want this to be more than a bedroom community for the elderly.

June 26, 2010 at 1:58 p.m.
spktur said...

I haven't been in Red Bank in over three years, even refusing to let friends buy my lunch there. I will not support that type of government regulation. It is nothing but a fee grab and I still think it is not legal or there would be points given on your license. The powers that be know it's not legal and that's why they handle it as a civil case because no one will go to the expense to fight it.

June 26, 2010 at 2:19 p.m.
installerone said...

Why not just install a number of radar speed signs like see on www.driverfeedbacksigns.com and just make sure they know no tickets, 85% of speeders simply do not know they are speeding.

June 28, 2010 at 11:19 a.m.
BOOBOO99 said...

I LIVED IN RED BANK IN 80S AND 90S, IT WAS A NICE LITTLE TOWN. But last Year i was looking to move back to Red Bank After 15 years of being in Cleveland. But as i was searching i talk to a few people in area and saw alot of business leaving.I ask them why has Red bank losing business and they all told me because red bank had put up red light cameras...I said ummmm. So that Stopped my search in red bank. I figure in about 5 more years red bank will be a ghost town....When they start losing more tax revenues from business that mean they have to raise property taxes to make up differences...So now I moved to nice area in Marion County, I bought a Nice little house on 10 acres of land..I have only county taxes less than 1800 a yr on my property.... This same property if i bought in chattanooga my taxes would have been city and county around 3500.00 a yr. I work in Chattanooga but all my money for taxes food gas etc.. goes to marion county businesses.Peace.

June 28, 2010 at 12:25 p.m.
VOL1972 said...

Cameras only help enforce the laws that already exist. It would be one thing if they were enforcing imaginary laws, but in reality all they're doing is enforcing the laws that we already have on the book. Cameras only punish those who speed, run red lights, and in doing such endanger everyone on the road.

June 28, 2010 at 5:25 p.m.
William18 said...

I read a few articles recently that said that driving is down about 10% due to the economy. It seems like a stretch to say it is because of red-light camera enforcement. I would like to see some data on the number of red light violations and the number of collisions. I believe that in this day and age of distracted and aggressive driving that red-light camera enforcement is a valuable pro-safety tool.

June 28, 2010 at 5:41 p.m.
cleanfreak29 said...

i guess people are realizing that just slowing down is a lot easier than making a fuss and contradicting law enforcement methods...

June 28, 2010 at 7:06 p.m.
pressedfreetime said...

I'll chime in and say I'm one of those who feel safer with them around. I really doubt it's affecting business and that's just stupid if people are avoiding because of them. Learn to obey the traffic laws and drive safer and there's no problem.

June 28, 2010 at 8:04 p.m.
cubuffalo said...

I think it would be a big mistake to get rid of these systems.

I also don't think you can compare apples to oranges.

June 28, 2010 at 8:48 p.m.
yogilives said...

The answer isn't no cameras it's MORE cameras, when drivers think they can avoid the area to avoid citations they are adjusting their behavior which is good, but not in the way needed to save lives. Only when drivers KNOW they will get caught will they finally adjust their reckless habits and slow down and stop for Red Lights - and that will save lives!

June 28, 2010 at 9:34 p.m.
noogiefree said...

seems to me that there might be other reasons for a decrease in tax revenue...maybe the economy?? Maybe people aren't driving past there because they don't have a job anymore. It is so hard to figure out why these things happen and I don't think blaming the cameras is right.

June 29, 2010 at 1:42 a.m.
plsnomobama said...

It couldn't be the economy could it. Let's keep enforcing the laws and send a message to visitors that we expect them to follow the laws.

June 29, 2010 at 2:05 a.m.
MountainJoe said...

Keep "sending your message" ... soon you will have no visitors.

You have had about 10 people (me included) on this thread tell you that they avoid areas with traffic cameras (Red Bank especially) when choosing where to do business. Many of us know dozens of other people who do the same. And if we know that many, surely there are hundreds of others we don't know who are also avoiding RB due to the cameras. I mean, you do the math. If there are double-digit people out of the relatively tiny subset of Hamilton County's population who read the TFP on-line and the even smaller number who are actually registered to leave comments here (probably less than 1% of the total population of the area) then there are probably at least 1,000 others, maybe a lot more than that. If you are a Red Bank merchant can you really afford to pass up that many customers?

So, unless we are all liars you do have a real problem. (It's not either/or; your decrease in taxes due to decreased business revenue can be - and most likely is - due to BOTH the general economic downturn and the traffic SCAMeras.)

It is very simple for many of us. We will return to do business in Red Bank when, and only when, these abominations come down. Leave them up, continue to lose my business (and that of hundreds, if not thousands, of others).

It's not that we want to speed or run red lights. But some of us will defend our constitutional right to due process of law, which these devices violate, by whatever means we can. You will eventually figure this out. It is only a matter of how many businesses in Red Bank will close before you do.

June 29, 2010 at 8:44 a.m.
countrygirl71 said...

Having the cameras actually makes me want to go to Red Bank more. I know my kids will be safer in the car with me bc people aren't driving like maniacs.

June 29, 2010 at 3:13 p.m.
tweezerphan78 said...

Astounds me that people would drive out of their way to get around red light cameras. I mean is it REALLY that hard to stop at traffic lights?

June 30, 2010 at 1:44 p.m.
countryguitar2 said...

The red light cameras are great because they make people become more aware of the road. The roads are becoming a lot safer.

June 30, 2010 at 2:17 p.m.
bugaboo2 said...

Red Light cameras are a must! They will keep the drivers more alert and reduce the amount of accidents at the intersections.

June 30, 2010 at 10:42 p.m.
iseeyou said...

it is so ridiculous to think people really won't patron an area of town because red light cameras are installed at certain intersections. why dont you use your time more wisely and help work on public projects that do good for your community rather than moan and groan about the fact that you can't follow the speed limit and stop at red lights.

July 1, 2010 at 12:14 p.m.
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