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London, Ont., committee votes to avoid detour in photo radar implementation

A warning sign for an upcoming photo radar unit in Toronto, prior to the city's first installation of the cameras in late 2019. Kamil Karamali / Global News

After enduring a year-long pit stop imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, some city councillors in London, Ont., are looking to push the pedal to the metal when it comes to implementing automated speed enforcement (ASE) in school zones.

In 2019, city council approved a five-year contract with Redflex Traffic Systems Canada, allowing the company to provide London with ASE services through the use of photo radar units. Redflex would provide up to five units with the total cost of the program pegged at $1 million, according to city staff.

Read more: More than 15,000 tickets issued to drivers in Toronto from speeding cameras

The program hit a speed bump soon after when the Ontario government added new requirements to ASE regulations that were not considered in London’s already approved program.

Six other cities, including Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa, have already installed their photo radars and city staff were awaiting the results of a Ministry of Transportation review of those programs before going ahead with London’s photo radar units.

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The review has been stalled by the pandemic for more than a year with no start date in sight, prompting city staff to recommend deferring the installation of the photo radars until the upcoming 180-day review is complete.

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On Tuesday, councillors on the Civic Works Committee discussed the city staff recommendation and Ward 4 Coun. Jesse Helmer was quick to ask, “What’s the downside of just going ahead?”

“The most significant risk… at the current time, relates to the issuance of warning notices,” said Doug MacRae, the city’s director of roads and transportations.

MacRae told the committee that the province has recommended issuing notices in the area where a photo radar will be placed for a period of 90 days before its installation.

MacRae said this has the potential to create problems with London’s plan to the shuffle the photo radars around different school zones.

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“It’s currently a recommendation, but there’s potential for it to be changed… that requirement could apply anytime a camera is redeployed,” MacRae said.

“Our redeployment period was envisioned to be 30 days, so a 90-day warning notice period essentially would turn the business case on its head.”

Read more: Hamilton’s 2 photo radar cameras out of service due to vandalism, says city

“I’m not seeing a lot in here that keeps us from being able to move forward,” said Ward 11 Coun. Stephen Turner.

Turner highlighted that the issuance of warning notices is only a recommendation, quoting the report from city staff that states, “thus far, the issuance of warning notices by participating municipalities has been quite limited and less than the MTO recommendation.”

Turner suggested the city instead conduct a public campaign to inform Londoners about upcoming photo radar units, a move that was supported by Ward 2 Coun. Shawn Lewis, who attended the committee meeting as a guest.

“It’s very, very simple… if you don’t want a speeding ticket, don’t speed,” Lewis said.

Ward 5 Coun. Maureen Cassidy was also eager to have London go ahead with its ASE program, telling the committee that “speeding in neighbourhoods is the number one thing that comes up from my constituents.”

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“I know, in London, the issue of speeding, despite the pandemic, despite there being fewer cars on the road, has only gotten worse,” Cassidy said.

“If we can have an automated option to free up officers… to respond to crimes as they’re happening and try to prevent crimes before they happen, then I think that that’s a positive thing.”

Read more: Ottawa photo radar cameras issue 10,000-plus speeding tickets in under 20 days

Committee members voted 5-1 to support Helmer’s motion to have city staff proceed with implementation of London’s ASE program, rather than wait as originally recommended.

Ward 10 Coun. Paul Van Meerbergen was the motion’s lone opponent, having sent his vote after voicing concerns with the cost of the already approved program.

Helmer’s motion will have a chance to be enacted when full city council meets for its next sitting on April 13.

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