Data shows flaws in Edmonton photo radar program, says council candidate

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Council candidate says data shows flaws in Edmonton photo radar program
WATCH ABOVE: A council candidate is calling for a freeze on photo radar in Edmonton after says data on the program leads her to believe it's just a cash cow and not about improving safety. Vinesh Pratap reports – Sep 26, 2017

A woman running for city council says she’s uncovered data that shows Edmonton’s photo radar program doesn’t focus on areas with the most frequent collisions and effectively serves merely as a cash cow to line city coffers.

“City officials need to explain why they’ve been treating photo radar as a way to tax motorists instead of a way to keep them safe,” Tricia Velthuizen said in a statement on Tuesday.

The in Ward 4 candidate is calling for at least a temporary suspension of the program after she filed a FOIP (Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act) request to look into where photo radar cameras are located. She said the data shows “that of the 25 photo radar locations most used by the city, a majority had no relation to the top locations where collisions (including both intersection and mid-block) most frequently occur.

“I asked for the top 50 locations that photo radar is deployed – so that’s looking at frequency – and I asked for, in essence, the top 100 locations for collisions in the city, both intesection and mid-block… and then I compared the two,” Velthuizen told Global News.

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“These documents prove what most Edmontonians have suspected for years: the photo radar program is more about entrapment than enforcement,” she said.

“Let’s can it for now. Let’s review it. Let’s come up with a strategy that’s actually effective.”

According to Velthuizen, five of the top six photo radar locations in 2016 and 2017 “had no relation whatsoever to collision data spanning four years.”

A map showing the top five photo radar deployments, mid-block collisions and intersection collisions in Edmonton in 2016. Tonia Huynh/ Global News

READ MORE: Where will photo radar be this week? Edmonton now has a list

Velthuizen is running to represent constituents in Edmonton’s northeast suburbs in Ward 4 and suggested the photo radar program punishes suburban Edmontonians more because they need to rely on their vehicles. She also said it’s an issue being brought up to her by many voters in her ward.

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READ MORE: Driver receives 2 photo radar tickets 10 seconds apart in Edmonton

Gerry Shimko, the executive director of traffic safety for the City of Edmonton, said the province has strict guidelines for where and when the city can deploy photo radar cameras. He added that when the city gets a request to deploy photo radar because of speeding complaints, there is a process to follow before doing so.

“We will do a speed survey to actually determine whether or not there is speeding issues there,” Shimko said. “For us, it’s about making sure…that the evaluation proves that what we’re doing is saving lives, reducing injuries and collisions.”

Shimko also suggested photo radar has had a positive impact on driver behaviour in Edmonton overt the past five years.

“We’re having a lower number of violations, but also the speed is going down.”

READ MORE: Edmonton photo radar revenue down by $3M; drivers speeding less

Watch below: On Sept. 12, 2017, Kim Smith filed this report about revenue from photo radar enforcement being down in Edmonton.

Click to play video: 'Edmonton’s photo radar revenue down $3M'
Edmonton’s photo radar revenue down $3M

Don Iveson, who is running again for mayor, told Global News he rejects the assertion photo radar is simply a cash cow for the city.

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“All the money, the biggest chunk of it, goes to police to do manned enforcement,” he said on Tuesday. “The next biggest chunk goes into traffic safety education and physical modifications to roadways to help people slow down, and so that’s where the money’s going today.

“It’s not coming to the city, it’s not coming to the bottom line. We don’t treat it as an unrestricted revenue source. It goes into a dedicated reserve and I think as people come to understand that, they recognize that they’d rather have enforcement that helps slow people down than uncurbed speeding again in our city.”

Velthuizen said she obtained the photo radar data after filing a FOIP request with the City of Edmonton last June.

Ward 4 is expected to be a hotly contested riding in the Oct. 16 election after long-time councillor Ed Gibbons announced he would not be seeking re-election after serving five term. Velthuizen is one of 12 candidates running to represent constituents in Ward 4.

-With files from Vinesh Pratap

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