City councillors move to test photo radar in Hamilton school zones

On Monday, city councillors voted in favour of trying out mobile photo radar cameras in Hamilton school zones. Morris Gamblin / Global News

A city councillor’s motion for a one-year pilot project to test photo radar in school zones passed during Monday’s public works committee meeting.

Ward 4 Coun. Sam Merulla, who pushed for the idea of photo radar on the Lincoln Alexander Expressway (LINC) and Red Hill Valley Parkway last January, says the move is all about “the lives that this will save.”

A new regulation adopted by the province in early December opened the door for Hamilton to test out school zones as Ontario allowed the use of photo radar in municipalities for school and community safety zones, where limits are under 80 km/h.

READ MORE: Photo radar still on the wish list along LINC, Red Hill Valley Parkway

The city will rotate the two camera locations throughout the pilot project.

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The decision comes despite recommendations from a city staff report to delay until Q4 of 2020, in order to better estimate the cost to run such a program, in addition to waiting for the Ministry of Transportation (MTO)  to complete an on-going review of automated speed enforcement in Ontario.

City staff suggested the operating cost of just two mobile ASE camera systems would check in at about $2.45M.

“ASE as a net cost program which includes several unknowns that raises financial risks of levy impact and other practical concerns,” said the staff report.

To make the cameras feasible, staff say both would have to produce 25,000 tickets (violations) at $70 each combined in their lifetime to cover implementation, maintenance, education and administration.

READ MORE: Toronto unveils first of 50 automated speed enforcement signs across the city

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The study also went on to say that factoring in education campaigns, new signage, and initial warning notices to drivers would likely make it difficult to assess behaviours on the road in the short- or long-term.

“This factor alone makes it difficult to assess the number of speeding charges ASE would generate annually.”

The mobile cameras are expected to move from place to place during the one-year pilot. Drivers will be notified of each movement 90 days before the cameras are implemented.

READ MORE: Hamilton council agrees to full apology for Chedoke Creek spill, release of confidential documents

The motion still needs to be ratified by city council.

If approved, staff are expected to report back with the results of the project in early 2021.

In January of 2019, nine councillors, as part of the public works committee, made it known they were pursuiting photo radar on the Lincoln Alexander Expressway (LINC) and Red Hill Valley Parkway.

Members voted in favour of asking the province to designate the LINC and Red Hill as “Community Safety Zones” under the criteria set out in Bill 65, Ontario’s Safer School Zones Act.

The move would mean the roadways would have speed limits lowered from the current 90 km/h to 80 km/h since provincial rules restrict community safety zones to speed limits of 80 km/h or lower.

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