Red Light Camera Plans Advancing in Lower Merion

Other municipalities with the cameras have experienced mixed effects on accident frequency.

Lower Merion’s police superintendent on Wednesday described a potential red light camera system that would largely pay for itself, part of the reason several Board of Commissioners members favored the idea.

Superintendent Michael McGrath told commissioners a new bill passed by the state legislature this year allows municipalities of 20,000 people or more to install cameras at certain intersections for the purpose of policing red-light runners.

A contractor would operate the cameras, the township would process the tickets, and the revenue from the tickets is meant to cover the cost of the program, with some left over to send to the state for redistribution through transportation grants.

The prospect was attractive to several commissioners.

“If there is minimal to no capital cost to the township,” said Commissioner Scott Zelov, “then it seems to me we should continue to learn more about this.”

Commissioner Cheryl Gelber said several of her constituents have contacted her to support going ahead with the program.

McGrath said cameras would be allowed only for enforcement of intersection infractions, not for any other type of surveillance.

“It’s an intrusion … but I think it’s a narrow one,” Commissioner Brian Gordon said, “and for a good cause.”

Since Philadelphia installed red-light cameras, the superintendent said, it has reported a 25 percent decrease at those intersections in “deadly right-angle crashes”, or “T-bone” accidents. However, the change also brought a 15 percent increase in rear-end crashes at those intersections, presumably from cars being struck from behind after stopping in time for red lights.

The standard fine is $100, though the township would have discretion to change the amount, McGrath said. An offense would carry no points on the driver’s license.

Likely 12 to 15 intersections would have cameras installed if the program went forward. Intersections are selected, with PennDOT’s approval, according to the rate of accidents there, not the volume of traffic, the superintendent said.

Commissioner George Manos asked McGrath, “What comes next here?” The superintendent replied that he would direct the traffic safety unit to get further information from potential vendors.

Do you like the idea of red light cameras in Lower Merion? Tell us in the comments.

michael October 04, 2012 at 10:33 AM
Wow, it will amaze me if it actually happens. Just yesterday I watched two cars blow thru the stop light on Montgomery and Anderson. Now if they would install cameras on school buses to catch the morons who fly past them everyday. And I do mean everyday. Come down to Mongomery Ave and watch the idiots on thier cell phones or just not caring.
Bob Guzzardi October 04, 2012 at 10:41 AM
Good idea. The only objection would be that it was not cost effective but that does not seem to be the case. I don't see "intrusive" issues at all. Cameras are no more intrusive and maybe less so than a police officer surveilling an intersection and stopping me. It seems to be this releases police officers to do higher level police work.
vincent October 04, 2012 at 11:53 AM
$100 fine and no points...hmmmm. Does the offender get to view or even challenge the video?
Brian A. October 04, 2012 at 12:51 PM
I don't mind the idea, especially since people drive like such idiots on Lancaster and Montgomery. However, we need to make sure that they don't shorten the yellow lights when they install the cameras, to boost profits. This is exactly what they did in Chicago, and it negates any safety benefits of having the cameras in the first place.
Amy October 04, 2012 at 01:14 PM
If you look at cities where they've been installed, they've caused tremendous problems. Is anyone taking into account the increased legal costs of dealing with all of the challenges that ticketed drivers will raise? It won't be a no-cost program if significant ancillary costs are incurred. The program failed in Los Angeles, where they turned the cameras off. Installing these cameras is a really bad idea.
Tom October 04, 2012 at 01:43 PM
Big Brother is watching your every move
Robert Gasparro - Senior News and Resources October 04, 2012 at 03:06 PM
I have these observations about "Red Light Cameras." I drive, and I am a pedestrian,in both Philadelphia and Lower Merion. I've defended "red light camera" cases for relatives who were improperly ticked in Philadelphia. First, the number of drivers who intentionally run red lights in Lower Merion is about 10% of those who do it in Philadelphia. Most people here really do try to stop. There are accidents every week at the intersection near my office, but not because people run the light, more because drivers rush, and turn before it's clear to do so. Second, there will be a dramatic increase in rear end accidents as people jam on their brakes at the intersection. In Philadelphia only 15% are reported; most are not. Nor is there any legal requirement to call police to report a fender bender.The system in Philadelphia is a mess. Many people are improperly ticketed, but since the fine is only $100., they just pay it. I've only represented relatives (spouse,kids) just to see how the system works. The fine was dismissed, but after many hours of effort. As a corollary, what the municipality makes in fines the local merchants will lose in revenue.because people will avoid the shopping center near a camera. Also, people will begin travelling down side streets to avoid the areas with cameras. Finally, it will not deter the worse drivers. The Andoid store has several apps that warn of the cameras and Tom Tom GPS units also have warnings. People who want to run the lights get the app.
kurt gutzler October 04, 2012 at 04:25 PM
not necessary in Lower Merion, but hey, that never stops the township from spending senselessly.
Judith Levy October 04, 2012 at 05:05 PM
I have a few questions/concerns. Many intersections in LM are in desperate need of left turn arrows for all 4 directions - i.e. Ardmore Ave and Lancaster Ave. What happens to a driver who starts through an intersection, well ahead of the light turning even yellow, but is unable to continue before the light turns red. Jaywalkers are a major cause for this. Are drivers aware that emergency vehicles have the ability to go through intersections, changing the traffic signals to red in all directions of that intersection before arriving there? Now, should we have a discussion about the speeding on Montgomery Ave. throughout the Township?
Mildred Roberts October 04, 2012 at 06:23 PM
That's right. If you're in the middle of the intersection, waiting to turn, you're screwed.
A. Friend October 04, 2012 at 07:21 PM
As a number of people have observed, driving is not a precise science -- nuanced judgments are often required, for example, whether to stop suddenly and risk causing a rear-end collision or whether to continue through the intersection while it's still green/yellow, or whether to make the left turn or hold off until safer at the risk of letting the light turn red. Because of all these nuanced judgments that are required, it's not necessarily a wise idea to allow robots to judge whether a driver should be liable. There are too many subtleties to rely on a black-line camera that is blind to all these extenuating circumstances. (And it's not a good solution to tell people to try to prove their case in court. First, that takes a lot of time. Second, it's hard to recreate the atmosphere in court.)
kithg October 04, 2012 at 07:49 PM
So if I read this article correctly, the township would be paying for the system and taking enough money from the tickets to cover the cost of the system, but the additional funds over and above the system cost would go to the state for transportation grants? That seems to be what it says. I see no benefit for the township in that. There's the hassle of running the system, but the profits go to the state. And in a township with as many lawyers as we have in L.M. you can bet that nearly every ticket will be a hassle. Plus, if people start getting tickets in Bala, Ardmore, Bryn Mawr, and Haverford, they just won't come here. Say goodbye to shoppers along Lancaster. You can always go to the mall at KoP or City Line Ave., where you won't have to worry about tickets or paying for parking. It doesn't sound like a good way to help revitalize our retail corridor to me.
Bob Guzzardi October 04, 2012 at 09:52 PM
The more objections and comments I read, it seems that my initial reaction might be off base. The comments are exceptionally substantive and useful to me and, I hope, to Commissioners and staff.
Eric Campbell (Editor) October 05, 2012 at 03:02 AM
From Jeffrey Dorfman: "There are two sides to every coin. One is that it really does help stop "some" of the red light runners. Second, if a car stops at a yellow light whether to avoid going through a red light or for some other reason, ie: pedestrian in intersection, and gets hit in the rear, that driver should be charged with at least tailgating and/or driving to fast for conditions. Look around you. Everywhere most vehicles are tailgating. That is a bigger problem than sometimes, running a red light. Now there is the other side that shows a car being forced to stop or slow down at a yellow light partially into the intersection and gets snapped by the camera. It really isn't cost effective to take off from work and try to explain to a judge who wasn't there how that situation came about. I know a number of my co-workers who were trapped on Roosevelt Blvd. in that scenario and was fined $100. There is almost no way to defend yourself from that. Neither side can prove what happened other than the camera caught a car in the intersection when the light was red. And yes, sometimes, it really is safer to continue through the intersection on the yellow light (and it is legal too) than have a forced accident. The law currently states you may legally transverse through an intersection on a yellow signal. If the light turns red while the car is still in the intersection, the driver is still operating the car legally. Don't go into an intersection if it's red already. Bad move."
Adrian Seltzer October 05, 2012 at 06:44 AM
Expensive without enough positive results. Do we need another bureaucracy? How about spending that money on timing the lights, than people wouldn't be racing to make them. All the stop and go wastes time and gas. Oh and if the car is registered to you, you get the ticket, even if you weren't driving.
michael October 05, 2012 at 09:50 AM
We need the red light cameras. Spend a little time on Montgomery or Lancaster Aves. I dare you. The light will start to change and these idiots have plenty of time to stop, but they are so self involved that they just blow thru it. I have seen it right in front of the municipal building - I have already gotten the walk sign and had some ahole fly up to the light and stop on the crosswalk - and guess what - they where on thier phone! There is very little concern for pedestrians in this town. One day someone walking will be killed by some idiot in a hurry,
Adrian Seltzer October 05, 2012 at 01:39 PM
I didn't know we didn't have a police dept in LM. Don't they do traffic? Spend the money on another officer. The people driving badly should get the ticket, not the person who owns the car.
Linux Guy April 23, 2013 at 09:22 PM
Please note that with proper engineering, there is no need for red-light cameras. If you set an 85th percentile free-flowing speed limit, extend the yellow duration, have a decent-length all-red interval, and use sensors to keep an all-red, the problems go away. Also, note that the National Motorists Association has a ticket challenge. If a municipality works with the NMA and the problems fail to cease, the municipality will be awarded $10,000 for improvements. Why is none of this being mentioned or investigated? It seems like for some reason it was decided these cameras would go in no matter what. Why?


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