Mayor Cathy Heron says photo radar isn’t a cash cow, but the numbers suggest otherwise.
The province’s long-awaited review of photo radar in 27 municipalities found St. Albert had the fourth-highest revenue, bringing in almost $4.3 million in 2016. And although that amount has declined in subsequent years, it still goes into general revenue for the city.
In its 2019 budget, city council expects fines levied against speeders will garner roughly $1.6 million, which is still a tidy sum. Yes, part of that money eventually goes toward roadways. And yes, some of that money comes from non-St. Albertans whose speedy driving subsidizes residents. But it is disingenuous to deny the city relies on that revenue coming through for budget time.
“I’m not going to say we’re going to shoot the cash cow, but we’re going to put it down humanely,” said Transportation Minister Brian Mason when he unveiled new provincial guidelines for automated traffic enforcement last week.
Those rules will be centred on improving traffic safety, while curbing municipalities’ use of photo radar as a revenue generator. Municipalities will have to justify any enforcement locations they set up or risk provincial wrath.
The review, launched in May 2017, found that while photo radar does make a small contribution to traffic safety in the province, it is not being optimized. The data shows automated enforcement cuts collisions by about 1.4 per cent.
Mason wants to make sure cities are using photo radar for the right reasons – and that it’s having the impact it is supposed to.
The city says it has three mobile photo speed enforcement units set up at various locations, including high collision sites and multi-lane roads, throughout St. Albert each week. There are also 169 RCMP-approved photo enforcement sites in the city.
You might say, if you don’t want a speeding ticket, don’t speed. But St. Albert’s photo radar problem is enhanced by artificially low speed limits along some of the city’s main thoroughfares. Why McKenney, Sir Winston Churchill and Poirier avenues are 50 kilometres per hour is beyond comprehension when we have Giroux and Boudreau roads at 60 – and when photo enforcement shows up in zones with inexplicably low speed limits, they are almost guaranteed to make money.
You’d be hard-pressed to convince drivers in North Ridge, for example, that a speed trap often set up near Sturgeon Heights School is not a cash cow. Many drivers who turn off Giroux onto Hogan Road after travelling at 60 clicks suddenly find themselves in a 50 km/h zone, with photo radar enforcement breathing down their neck. Many lead-footed drivers who fail to react quickly have found themselves on the receiving end of a ticket.
Photo radar is one of St. Albert’s plethora of transportation problems, and its impact is exacerbated by poorly planned roads (and some poorly planned neighbourhoods), questionable speed limits, the inexplicable lack of right-hand turning lanes all over the city (no right-hand turning lane into the Botanica condos off of Boudreau takes the cake) and the city’s seemingly endless wave of red lights.
If St. Albert really wants to tackle road safety, it should tackle the obvious planning problems.