Auburn decides to ditch controversial red-light cameras

AUBURN, Wash. -- Some drivers don't like the presence of red light cameras.

"It feels kind of invasive to me," said Brian Miller.

Others believe cities are photographing intersections for the wrong reason.

"I think from the beginning they did it just to get more money. And, you know, this is what happens," said Eligh Soto.

Both men admit they've been caught by red-light cameras. But they and others will no longer have to worry about cameras at intersections in the city of Auburn.

The Auburn City Council has voted 4-3 to no longer contract with a private company that operates the program.

Mayor Nancy Backus says traffic statistics show lights installed at four busy intersections have not reduced collisions since they went online in 2006.

"There hasn't been a significant decrease, in fact it's remained pretty flat, the number of accidents and injuries at the intersections that have had the photo enforcement," Backus explained.

Backus was a city councilor eight years ago and among those who supported the program, making Auburn the first municipality in the state to adopt photo enforcement at traffic lights.

"When I was on council I voted in favor of the cameras because I do believe they do a good job," she said. "I still believe that."

While statistics indicate the number of collisions has not dropped, they do show the number of violations caught on camera have dropped dramatically, in some cases by half.

Some, including the Mayor, believe that alone contributes to safer streets.

"People are paying more attention," Backus said. "It's just that reminder, ah, there's a camera here, I need to be more mindful of what's going on with the traffic lights. I better not rush through the intersection."

As far as generating revenue for the city, Backus says the city has not made money on the program except during its first year.

Auburn contracts with Redflex, one of several private firms that installs, maintains and manages red-light camera systems.

During discussions over whether to continue Auburn's photo enforcement program, some city councilors expressed concern about how the cameras, and signs at intersections that do not have cameras, may reflect poorly on the city's image.

The cameras have been inactive since June, and the city's contract with Redflex expires at the end of the year.

Auburn is one of about two-dozen cities in the state with red-light camera programs. Checking with several other municipalities, city officials in Tacoma and Federal Way report their traffic stats indicate collisions have been significantly reduced at intersections that have photo-enforcement.

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