Edmonton·Updated

Fewer photo radar tickets means safer streets, but leaner traffic safety budget, city says

The city issued 144,161 fewer photo or laser radar tickets last year compared to 2016, according to the latest numbers from the city.

27 per cent fewer tickets issued in Edmonton in 2018 over 2016

Edmonton issued far fewer photo or laser radar tickets in 2018 compared to previous years, according to city numbers. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

The city issued 144,161 fewer photo or laser radar tickets last year compared to 2016, according to the latest numbers from the city.

That's a drop of about 27 per cent.

City statistics show the number of photo radar tickets issued in 2016 was 522,780. The number has been dropping each year since, with 2017 at 458,508 tickets issued and last year's tally at 378,619.

"It's a positive story that we're seeing a reduction in overall number of tickets," said Gerry Shimko, executive director of the Office of Traffic Safety.

"The research is pretty clear that over time, drivers will adjust accordingly and will change their behaviours in a more positive way, which contributes to greater community safety."

Shimko attributes the drop in the number of tickets in part to drivers getting the message about speeding.

"It's just a general, good behavioural change that we're seeing through education and enforcement," Shimko said.

He added that no new photo enforcement vehicles were added to the city's fleet last year.

This map shows the top 10 enforcement sites by tickets issued in 2018, according to the City of Edmonton. (CBC)

It's not the same story at intersections equipped with red light cameras, where 138,298 drivers were caught speeding in 2018, about three per cent more than in 2017.

More drivers were also nabbed for running red lights in those intersections, 15,523 last year up from 13,793 in 2017.

That jump is partly because the city added seven new red light cameras, with more to be set up later this year, Shimko said.

But fewer speeders overall means less ticket-generated revenue for traffic safety programs, he said.

Gerry Shimko, with the Office of Traffic Safety, attributes the drop in the number of tickets in part to drivers getting the message about speeding. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

The city's data shows revenue from photo radar and intersection cameras generated almost $42 million in 2018, a drop from the $51.8 million reported in 2016 and the $51.3 million collected in 2017.

City administration will present its plan on dealing with decreasing photo radar revenue to city council later this year.

Cost to revenue loss, Knack says

Coun. Andrew Knack said Wednesday he is pleased to hear that fewer people are speeding, but cautioned there is a downside to the loss of revenue.

The city uses millions of dollars from photo radar tickets to fund traffic safety projects, like improved crosswalks, neighbourhood renewal and traffic-calming measures.

"We haven't put it on our general property taxes," Knack said. "[We] as taxpayers haven't been paying for traffic safety; it's just been those who've been speeding,"

He said if photo radar revenues continue to drop, council will have to make up for it through other parts of the budget.

"As people are following those rules more consistently, we have to prepare — we've still got traffic safety work to do in the city and we can't rely on that fund exclusively anymore."

Traffic-related fatalities

Despite the decrease in speeding infractions, the city is still far from its goal of zero traffic-related fatalities.

Vision Zero is the city's long-term goal to reach zero traffic-related major injuries and fatalities by 2032.

Last year, preliminary numbers show 20 people were killed in traffic-related fatalities compared to 27 in 2017, according to numbers provided by Shimko.

"Every one fatality that we hear about, always causes us consternation," he said. "Another family that has to go through that tragic loss is generally preventable." 

With files from Natasha Riebe

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