An ITS automated traffic enforcement vehicle sits on 100 Avenue across from 87 Street with the passenger window rolled down facing east. – Submitted Photo.
By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – While speeders passing by Morinville traffic education signs increased in the third quarter, tickets issued by Morinville’s automated traffic enforcement contractor were down almost 75 per cent over the same period last year.
Independent Traffic Services Ltd. (ITS) presented Council with its third quarter report in writing Nov. 27. From July to September of 2012 the contractor issued 624 tickets at Morinville’s 17 Town- and RCMP-approved locations. That number is a decrease of 1,831 tickets from the 2,455 issued in the same quarter of 2011.
In his written report, ITS owner Bruce Kaminski said more concentration was given to Morinville’s inner core roads as opposed to the outer boundaries, including Morinville’s east end. Earlier this year a speed education sign was placed at the controversial location. Kaminski indicates in his report it may not be enough.
“Our radar display signs continue to educate and remind drivers of their speed, however, the recorded number of vehicles exceeding the posted speed limit is showing an increase in the third quarter of 2012 as compared to 2011,” Kaminski wrote in his report. “The digital warning sign that was relocated in April to the east side of town is capturing some extremely excessive speeds.”
Controversial ticketing may have returned
Morinville residents Linda Lyons and Jim O’Brien have been critical of how photo radar operators conduct themselves in the community. In emails to The Morinville News and other media, O’Brien and Lyons provided photos indicating the operators have been setting themselves up at the controversial east exit location again recently and suggest they are hiding when they do so.
In a response to O’Brien’s questions on the reappearance of the operators near 87 Street, copied to local media, Morinville’s Chief Administrative Officer Debbie Oyarzun said the monitoring zone O’Brien had photographed near the pumphouse, just west of the intersection, is in an approved zone running from 87 Street to Grandin Drive along 100 Avenue. Oyarzun went on to say the zone had previously extended to East Boundary Road. The purpose of the current zone is to catch drivers speeding into rather than out of town.
“In this zone, the operator will still monitor in all directions especially as it is near an intersection in order to provide data for assessing safety and making decisions on zones, however, tickets are issued for drivers speeding going westbound into town,” Oyarzun wrote in her reply.
O’Brien was not satisfied with the response and believes the operators were monitoring those going out of town instead. “The location of this photo radar vehicle absolutely prohibits him from effectively monitoring westbound traffic,” O’Brien wrote. “His sightline is such that it is physically impossible to photograph the licence plate of a westbound vehicle. He can do no more in terms of monitoring westbound traffic than is presently being done by the device on the pole just west of 87th Street.”
ITS’ third quarter report shows 103 tickets were issued between 87 Street and Grandin Drive over a 16-hour monitoring period between July and September. The report does not offer a breakdown between eastbound and westbound traffic; however, Oyarzun said tickets were issued in both directions as the contractors are permitted to ticket approximately 30 metres east of 87 Street to cover the intersection of 87 Street and 100 Avenue. “It’s focusing on that 87 Street intersection not as people are leaving town,” she said. “We are still seeing high speeds there so you have the 30 metres which is approved by the Solicitor General guidelines.” The intersection is a concern for both children being dropped off and picked up for school as well as vehicles turning west and east off 87 Street.
The Town will be asking the Solicitor General’s office to consider reducing the speed limit east of Morinville to 70 kilometres per hour from the current 100 km/h. “We’d have 50 in town, then 70 and 100 because we are still seeing excessive speeds in that end of town,” Oyarzun said, adding the change in speeds would be similar to the west of Morinville where there is a 70 km/h zone around the industrial area. “We’re trying to get it the same on both ends of town.”
Oyarzun said ITS has been asked to make sure the nose of their vehicle is well out so motorists travelling in both directions can see.
Of the 624 tickets issued in the third quarter, 63 per cent were to those living outside Morinville.
So the report doesn’t offer a breakdown of which direction offenders were travelling?
Is the CAO saying that such info is physically impossible to get, or we’re just not going to get it?
Madam – your whole statement concerning this issue is typical of answers given (or rather NOT given!) to many questions and is DEFINITELY NOT satisfactory! Our most recent observations were taken at around 11:30 to 12:30 in the AM and, trust me, none of us have ever seen a school bus stopped on Hwy 642 in the area of 87th St at that time of the day. Could be wrong but an examination of the bus schedules might shed some light on this issue.
I will say, however, that since our most recent submissions, the photo radar fellow HAS moved his vehicle a few feet from his previous location – still more in line with observing EASTBOUND traffic (and still hidden quite well until said traffic is adjacent to the vehicle), but PERHAPS he is now able to effectively monitor WESTBOUND souls as well.
Should ANYONE doubt the veracity of our statements, I would invite them to the location for a first-hand look at the situation. The vehicle tracks, etc are really quite clear now that the snowy season is upon us.
And by the way: You don`t ASK a contractor to do ANYTHING – you TELL him (or her) what you want them to do!
Photo radar isn’t about safety, it’s about generating revenue. If it’s truly about safety, the Town should cease placing fine revenues into general coffers and instead fund a driver education program at MCHS, thereby compounding the safety benefit. Also, if it is about safety, direct and immediate contact with the offender by RCMP/Sheriff staff is far more effective than a letter received weeks later and the costs of such direct contact could be offset by fine revenue. After all, since safety is the alleged priority, shouldn’ the most effective means of achieving safety be utilized?
Unless, of course, it isn’t about safety.
Unfortunately, the eastern access to Morinville is a “moneymaker” for the photo radar contractor and will continue to be monitored because, as both James and Don have pointed out, safety is NOT the driving force behind issuing speeding tickets through the mail. This location is ideal because Secondary Highway 642 (100 Ave) is owned by the Province, not by Morinville. So, the town can say the Traffic Safety Committee (of which the photo radar contractor is a member), in conjunction with the RCMP, have declared the area as a school bus stop and school zone but not have to paint pedestrian crosswalk lines or install crosswalk signs / lights because that is the responsibilty of the Province, which obviously does not care about the safety of our kids. As was stated in the report, 63% of the tickets were mailed to non – Morinville residents! If they do not see crosswalk lines / pedestrian signs, they are not so likely to slow down immediately. Two points, 1) James questioned why the photo radar contractor is telling the town and the RCMP how to do it’s business with regard to potential locations. If the Traffic Safety Committee and the RCMP are not capable and / or qualified to direct this contractor, fire them and get others in who can! I have no qualms with directing a contractor to do what I want, not what “they” want 2) This so called “speed education” sign placed at the east entrance to town is iffy, to say the least. It presumably records peak speeds of all vehicles coming into town. I watch it fluctuate up and down by as many as 10 – 15 KPH as I approach doing 45 KPH on my way home from work every day. So, if it does record peak speeds, then someone doing 50 KPH could be recorded as doing 65 KPH! Seems like a means to an end to “justify” having photo radar at that location !! Photo radar will be around Morinville for many years to come because now, in addition to paying off the Community Center with it, we will probably have to include the cost over-runs for the renovations to the town hall. What will be next? I can see the speed limit in town being dropped to 30 KPH throughout to increase the number of potential speeders! Is there any way we can find out how much this photo radar contractor makes yearly from the Morinville contract?