Edmonton

Alberta government to study use of photo radar, puts temporary freeze on equipment purchases

The Alberta government is placing a temporary freeze on municipalities purchasing or upgrading photo radar equipment.

Photo-radar ban 'on the table' as Alberta begins two-year review

The Alberta government is beginning a two-year consultation process with police services and municipalities to ensure photo radar is used to improve road safety rather than generating revenue.  (Robson Fletcher/CBC)

The Alberta government is placing a temporary freeze on municipalities purchasing or upgrading photo radar equipment, while it conducts a two-year study into its use.

"We will be freezing in time the use of photo-radar devices effective Dec. 1," Transportation Minister Ric McIver said Tuesday.   

The government will begin a two-year consultation process with police services and municipalities to ensure photo radar is used to improve safety and is "not just a hidden tax," McIver said.  

Photo radar use in Alberta generated $220 million in 2016-17. 

"It's obvious that photo radar generates income but the focus should be on how it affects safety on the roads instead of how it can be used to skim a few extra dollars from Alberta drivers," McIver said. 

"Once we have better more consistent data we will be in a position to make more informed decisions about the future of photo radar in Alberta." 

Ban 'on the table'

Following an independent, third-party review of photo radar last year, the previous NDP government said it planned to eliminate photo radar as a tool for revenue generation. 

The review found photo radar operations in Alberta showed only a marginal contribution to traffic safety, despite Alberta having three times the number of photo-radar devices per capita than British Columbia or Manitoba. 

The provincial government will be keeping all of the previous government's guidelines that came as a result of the review, McIver said Tuesday.

"This is an extension of what they were planning on doing," said Alberta's transportation minister.

A total ban on photo radar in Alberta is "on the table," McIver said.

"I think we're going to go where the evidence leads us. If it's for safety, we're going to keep it. But if it's for revenue collection, only revenue collection, we won't. But we don't want to presuppose where the evidence will take us," he said.

The government supports the NDP's review and guideline changes, which restricted photo radar use in some locations including transition roads and high speed multi-lane roads, McIver said, but better data collection and reporting requirements are needed.

"Everything's on the table but I think we're going to go where the data takes us."

Kathleen Ganley, the NDP's justice critic, said the former NDP government had already made it clear to municipalities that they had to collect traffic safety data before March 2020.

"So I don't think this needs to be delayed," she said. 

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said prior to the government's announcement on Tuesday the city is willing to work with the province on their photo-radar program.

"If our toolkit changes on that, we'll have to make adjustments accordingly. But we'll comply with anything the province wants to know about our program," he said. 

The temporary freeze and data collection with the 27 Alberta municipalities that use photo radar is expected to take about two years. 

The government will be using the data to refine rules for photo-radar site selection, operational restrictions and data collection. 

McIver did not know on Tuesday how much the review of photo radar, which will be done by the province and not independently, would cost taxpayers. 

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