Edmonton braces for $20M drop in photo radar enforcement money

Edmonton intersections and streets are slated for safety improvements over the next two years as the city moves ahead with programs funded through photo radar revenues.

Photo radar program funds safety improvements on city streets

Photo radar in Edmonton generated nearly $50 million in 2020. (Submitted by City of Edmonton)

Edmonton intersections and streets are slated for safety improvements over the next two years as the city can still pay for them with photo radar revenues.

However, as the province prepares to review the use of automated enforcement, the long-term future of that funding source is uncertain. 

Four programs are in the works: increasing safety at intersections, school zones, reducing speed limits and activating communities in the vision zero streets labs.

The city's operations branch is asking council to approve $700,000 for the new community program called street labs, a budget report released Thursday shows. 

The streets labs program involves residents in creating safety pop up features like flex posts, curb extensions, and painted crosswalks. 

Coun. Sarah Hamilton said the street labs program is a relatively low-cost way to improve safety while neighbourhoods waiting for more permanent calming measures. 

"They request a crosswalk and it gets put on a list or they request enforcement, it gets put on the list and you don't really know when that's going to happen," Hamilton said. "They need people who are driving through their neighbourhood to have better, safer driving habits."

Three other programs — safe crossings, school safety, speed limit reductions will cost less than the city set aside, for a total reduction of $2.6 million in 2021-22. 

For example, changing the speed limit to 40 km/h in residential zones and shopping districts like Jasper and Whyte avenues won't cost as much as the $2 million that was anticipated when council approved the lower limit in November 2020. 

"Administration has been able to reduce this request to $700,000 through signage plan efficiencies," the report says. 

The safe crossings program, with a budget of $3 million in 2021, uses various tools like temporary curb extensions, scramble crosswalks, rapid flashing beacons and full traffic signals. 

Last year, the city upgraded 24 locations with 15 pedestrian signals, six overhead amber flashers and three rapid flashing beacons.

If council approves the scope of the safe crossings project, a new list of intersections will be released for 2021.

Council will be asked to vote on the revised budget for its street safety programs at a meeting April 6.

Photo radar future

After 2022, it's uncertain where the funding for residential street safety programs will come from.

The city estimates it will be working with less money — approximately $20 million less over two years from photo radar revenues because of the province's move to take more of the pie.

The city approved $41 million in 2021 from automated traffic enforcement revenues and now estimates it will take in $31 million. 

In 2022, it budgeted for $38 million and now estimates it will generate $29 million. 

The province is also reviewing the controversial revenue-generating tool, at times referred to as a cash cow because of the way photo radar vehicles waited in hidden spots to nab speeders.

Hamilton said if the province allows automated enforcement to continue, it could look different. 

"If it continues to exist, it should feel fair and it should be transparent," Hamilton said. "And I think then, whether or not it continues to be called a cash call, will depend on how people feel about the new rules around it."

The city's budget cycle, which starts in 2022, could see a different revenue stream to pay for residential street safety programs, Hamilton said, but regardless of where the money comes from, residents want safer streets.

"They see cars whiz past their front door," Hamilton said. "So it's not something that I think you can just say, well, you know, if the money's not coming from the reserve, we don't do the program. I don't think that's an option."


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