Spruce Grove photo radar under review amid complaints from supporters and detractors

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Spruce Grove photo radar under review amid complaints from supporters and detractors
WATCH ABOVE: Photo radar is a hotly contested topic and its implementation in the Capital Region has not been without controversy. Now, the Spruce Grove is responding to complaints about its program. Julia Wong reports. – Nov 15, 2016

The City of Spruce Grove will be reviewing its photo radar system following complaints from the community – from both sides of the debate.

The motion for the review was passed Monday night. It will be done by the city, RCMP, enforcement services and the finance department.

READ MORE: Huge spike in photo radar tickets for 6-10km/h over speed limit

The review will examine where photo radar equipment is currently set up and how enforcement is done. It will also look at the financial implications of the program and conduct a safety analysis.

Mayor Stuart Houston said the number of tickets handed out has fallen within the last year – previously, about five tickets were handed out every hour in the city; now that number has fallen to 2.6 an hour.

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“We’ve affected driver behaviour. People within the region know when they enter our city they have to be cautious,” he said.

“Our city council wants to look at how we deliver the service. We want to maintain safety within the community. There’s no question we need to look at that.”

READ MORE: Photo radar: cash cow or safety initiative?

Houston said there had been a number of complaints about the system, which was set up more than five years ago. Enforcement is conducted by cameras at intersections and clandestine enforcement vehicles.

A photo radar truck sits on the side of Highway 16A in Spruce Grove. Julia Wong/Global News

“We get criticized by people that are getting ticketed by photo radar,” he said. “They’re saying it’s all about the cash. We have members of our community that are asking me to do more within the community.”

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READ MORE: Morinville changes photo radar policy seen by mayor as ‘cash cow’

Houston is in favour of the program, as is St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse.

“I believe it’s an effective tool. It generates cash and I won’t hide from that but equally, it reinforces the importance of being penalized for breaking the law,” he said.

“St. Albert is not reviewing as far as we’re concerned. It’s the right process.”

Karim El-Basyouny, an assistant professor in transportation engineering at the University of Alberta, said photo radar is effective.

“There is overwhelming evidence in the literature, as well as from studies done here in Edmonton and Alberta, that showed that photo radar is an extremely effective tool in improving compliances to speed limits and also reducing crash frequency and severity,” he said.

“The results from our analysis of the crash and speed violation data prove that behaviour is changing. Otherwise, how are the number of violations and crashes dropping? The only possible rationale is that drivers are changing their behaviour.”

READ MORE: Edmonton councillor speaks out about controversial photo radar spot

But some drivers still say they’re on the fence about the program.

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“It’s appropriate in places.,” Brent Hennig said. “Other places, it’s just a cash grab.”

“Like most people in Alberta, they’ll speed, look for where there’s photo radar, then they’ll slow down. Then they’ll speed up again,” Liam Buck said. “Really, it makes no difference in terms of slowing people down.”

RELATED: Disguised ‘utility box’ photo radar returns to Edmonton

Darren Skjerven wants the review to take into account the cost of tickets.

“It’s expensive – $100 to $300,” he said. “Make it affordable, make it fair.”

Sheila Hough said the distribution of photo radar cameras and enforcement vehicles needs to be examined as well.

“I think it’s alright to have some,” she said. “But on every corner, it’s pretty much.”

However, drivers like Angie Byrne understand the lesson that comes with a photo radar ticket.

“If you’re speeding, you’re speeding. You take your ticket and you pay it,” she said.

The report by Spruce Grove city staff is expected next spring.

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