Tacoma's Bay Street might get speed camera $101 fine: Tacoma Council to debate pilot Share this story Del.icio.us Digg Google Newsvine Bookmark and Share IAN DEMSKY; The News Tribune Published: 06/13/09 2:41 am | Updated: 06/13/09 8:22 am Comments (0) Bay Street might get speed camera Speeders along one of Tacoma’s problem roadways could soon be getting unwelcome letters in the mail, accompanied by a $101 ticket. A municipal code change that would allow the city to conduct a pilot speed camera project passed a Tacoma City Council subcommittee on Thursday and now will head to the full council. The effort would give the state Legislature data to make decisions about wider implementation of speed-enforcement cameras, officials said. The city had the option of selecting a single fixed camera or a roving one, but opted for the fixed camera for logistical simplicity, Tacoma police Lt. Pete Cribbin told the Public Safety, Human Services and Education Committee. If the council approves the changes, the camera would be placed this summer in an area near the Emerald Queen Casino known as the “Bay Street Curve.” The spot is difficult to enforce with motorcycle officers, Cribbin said, and sees about 125 crashes over the course of a year. By conducting traffic surveys before and after the camera is installed, the city will be able to develop an accurate picture of its effect on speeding as well as crashes. “Once people know it’s there, they’re going to slow down,” Cribbin said. In 2008, traffic crashes citywide in Tacoma were down by nearly 14 percent from the year before, largely due to the red light cameras and related enforcement efforts, he said. The camera at the Bay Street Curve would be in addition to three new cameras that will be used in a pilot project for school zone enforcement under a grant from the Washington State Transportation Commission. The city plans to have those up and running by next fall near McCarver, Downing and Stewart elementary schools. Traffic enforcement cameras are increasingly popular with local governments across the country. In South Sound, Lakewood, Fife, Auburn and Puyallup all use red light cameras and Auburn and Lakewood also have school zone cameras. Last month, the Federal Way City Council approved expansion of that city’s red light camera program and add three school zone enforcement cameras. Violations from Tacoma’s speed camera would be like those from red light cameras – they’d be like a parking ticket and come with a fine, but wouldn’t be counted against you by your insurance company. Councilman Mike Lonergan made a successful motion that the cost of a ticket be set at $101, the same as a red light camera, rather than having it tied to the price of an actual speeding ticket. “We’ve said again and again that this isn’t about revenue, this is about safety,” he said. Yet a $100 fine is large enough that it gets peoples’ attention and isn’t just shrugged off, he said. Lonergan pointed out that the red light system wasn’t losing money under the current funding structure. More than just not losing money, in 2008, the city’s eight red light cameras brought in a net revenue of about $1 million – that’s after paying for some increased court costs, but not for “soft costs” on the police side. The Police Department doesn’t have “hard costs” of dedicated officers, but members of the traffic enforcement unit do review and approve the violations, Cribbin told the council members. The committee requested the city manager’s office pull together figures showing the total revenue and total costs of the program. Cribbin said the program might need a full-time person at some point in the future. “We had 580 (violations) in the queue this morning,” he said. The officers would rather be out riding their motorcycles and writing tickets when the weather is nice, Cribbin added. “When it’s snowing it’s not a problem.” Councilman Rick Talbert recommended revisiting the fee structure and the possibility of dedicating revenue from the cameras to the program’s costs with overages possibly earmarked for other safety programs and projects. Currently the revenues go into the city’s general fund. Ian Demsky: 253-597-8872 ian.demsky@thenewstribune.com