February 21, 2019 3:44 pm
Updated: July 23, 2019 1:59 pm

Alberta photo radar overhaul coming after review finds it’s a cash cow

WATCH ABOVE: Alberta's transportation minister says a newly released report tells him some municipalities are using photo radar as a cash cow. As a result, cities will have to follow new photo radar rules centered on traffic safety. Fletcher Kent reports.


The Alberta government said it is making changes to how photo radar is used across the province after releasing a review that found it is being used as a cash cow.

On Thursday morning, Transportation Minister Brian Mason said photo radar has been used as a revenue generation tool more than it should be, and as a result, changes are being implemented.

“I’m not going to say we’re going to shoot the cash cow, but we’re going to put it down humanely,” Mason said.

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“It is not being optimized to improve safety outcomes on our highways and our roads.”

READ MORE: Alberta will review photo radar amid concerns it has become a cash cow

Starting in June, photo radar will be banned immediately beside spots where the speed limit changes on highways.

Also in June, photo radar on high-speed, multi-lane highways won’t be allowed unless there is documented proof of safety concerns.

Municipalities, who take in the lion’s share of photo radar revenue, will also have to present a clear plan to use photo radar, backed up by collision data to prove it’s being used at high risk locations.

“Those jurisdictions — whether they be a municipality or police force — that deploy photo radar must be held accountable to ensure the first two principles are followed,” Mason said.

LISTEN: Transportation Minister Brian Mason joins Rob Breakenridge to discuss the changes to photo radar in Alberta

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Mason said Edmonton motorists likely will not see a major change in how photo radar is used in the Alberta capital, but that could happen next year.

“It’s not a complete final report that allows us to make a final conclusion or a final set of policies,” Mason said. “So there’s more work that needs to be done.”

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said he believes the city is already compliant with the stricter guidelines. He said the city is transparent about where photo-radar revenue goes.

“It’s important not to generalize about all municipalities. I can’t speak to what other municipalities do but in Edmonton, all of the money that comes in goes into a dedicated reserve,” Iveson said.

“We are also transparent about where that money goes and all of the money gets reinvested in traffic safety.”

“Edmonton is looked at as one of the leaders in traffic safety in the country, so I think the auto-speed enforcement is part of that,” added police chief Dale McFee.

There are 27 municipalities using photo radar, and the report says they generate about $220 million a year in revenue while reducing collisions by about 1.4 per cent.

The review found Calgary spent 2.7 million hours on photo radar and generated $38 million, while Edmonton spent 3.7 million hours at photo radar locations and generated $50.1 million.

The minister said photo radar can been an effective tool to improve traffic safety if used correctly.

“Some would say photo radar should be outright banned. I don’t think the data we do have, the limited data that we do have and the information, supports that conclusion,” he said.

“It does indicate there is a significant, although relatively small, improvement in traffic safety as a result of photo radar.”

In May 2017, the NDP government said it would review photo radar in Alberta after concerns the program was a “cash cow.”

READ MORE: Committee looks to put more Edmonton photo radar money into crosswalks

The City of Edmonton has said automated enforcement is “proven to reduce speeding and change driver behaviour, thereby reducing collisions and the resulting injuries and fatalities.”

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

In 2018, 378,619 photo and laser radar tickets were issued in Edmonton. That’s a decrease from 458,508 in 2017, 522,780 in 2016 and 498,227 in 2015.

WATCH BELOW (Jan. 10, 2019): A sitting MLA is speaking out in favour of ending photo radar in Alberta. Fletcher Kent reports.

Last month, Alberta’s Freedom Conservative Party, led by Derek Fildebrandt, called for an end of non-red light photo radar across the province.

Fildebrandt slammed the Alberta NDP for the use of the program, which he called “a cash-cow scam-of-a-tax on drivers.” He pointed to a report compiled by his party that he said highlighted the “serious abuse of photo radar in municipalities across Alberta.”

READ MORE: Alberta’s Freedom Conservative Party calls for end of photo radar

In response, the office of the Minister of Transportation sent a statement to Global News.

“Since the beginning of the review, it’s been our goal to make sure that photo radar is used to ensure the safety of Alberta’s roads, not as a revenue tool,” the statement read.

“We’ve been continuing to consider how best to operationalize the results of our study, and will have more to say on the actions we’re taking later this month. We will also be releasing the report alongside these actions.

“Our government will continue to support safe roads, while also ensuring that the rules are administered fairly.”

Municipalities with 5,000 residents or more can run photo radar through their local police or RCMP. Some municipalities in Alberta have abolished the practice.

Most of the money from a photo radar ticket goes to the municipality. The province receives 16.67 per cent of the fines and 15 per cent goes to victim services.

— With files from The Canadian Press 

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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