Photo radar practices challenged

photo radr-web
A photo, alleged to be Morinville’s automated traffic enforcement operator concealed behind a building, caused some discussion in Council Chambers May 28. – Submitted Photo

By Stephen Dafoe

Morinville – Photos believed to show a vehicle belonging to Morinville’s Automated Traffic Enforcement operator hiding behind the pump house near the East Boundary Road have prompted a few emails and a brief discussion in Council Chambers May 28.

Acting on previous information from Administration that the vehicle was instructed to operate with its nose visible to eastbound and westbound traffic, Morinville resident Linda Lyons sent the photos to Administration and media over the weekend.

David Schaefer, Morinville’s Director of Corporate Operations, said during the May 28 meeting he was comfortable with the vehicle’s location after investigating the matter.

“In review of the provincial guidelines, the operator is operating in accordance with those guidelines,” Schaefer said, adding he had also met and reviewed the photos with the RCMP, who were also comfortable with the way it was operating. “I was on sight yesterday and because of the location, the fact that speeding in Morinville does continue to be a problem, and the operator is operating in accordance to the provincial guidelines, I would say that everything is OK.”

Schaefer said while he believed it was good that drivers slow down when they observe an RCMP vehicle, the intention of a posted speed limit and speeding laws is for the law to be followed whether the driver is being observed or not. “Since I started in October, Morinville speeding continues to be an issue, and as a result of that, maybe it is the ticket that needs to be observed and that will create the required change,” Schaefer said.

Councillor Sheldon Fingler said he did not like the idea of Integrated Traffic Services, Morinville’s contractor, concealing their vehicles from drivers. “I thought a while back we had said we would set higher standards, and we had said something specificly about not hiding behind the buildings,” Fingler said, adding if it hadn’t been previously stated it should be.

Fingler said in Edmonton he has observed enforcement vehicles that are not only in full view but well identified with decals. “It’s designed more as an education tool in advance and people do slow down when they see it,” he said. “I remember talking that we weren’t going to hide behind the building behind the fence. Yes, we have a problem with speeding, but I’d like to see us focus on education and that we investigate the vehicles in Edmonton that are all decaled up. That provides a much better reminder. You put it in construction zones and it is clearly, clearly labelled. I think we have to re-evaluate the program. We have to stop speeding, but at the same point it’s been talked about before.”

Schaefer said the Town’s operator is following provincial guidelines. “There is no formal policy that was adopted. The province has very specific guidelines that they must follow,” Schaefer said, adding speeding in Morinville is a serious problem. “The average speeds, especially on 100 [Avenue] and 100 [Street] – it would mean the immediate removal of your licence. The reality is there are not enough people out there to catch those types of offenders. Photo enforcement is only one tool, and if we are visible, we won’t catch those offenders. We are catching them with photo enforcement. Those tickets are forwarded to the RCMP so they can be addressed where they need to be.”

Morinville resident Linda Lyons, who raised the issue of the operator’s alleged concealed parking, said she and her husband Cliff view the practice as an unethical one. “We are just as concerned as everyone else regarding the ongoing speeding problems in town but do not believe that hiding your photo radar vehicle is the answer to reducing speeding,” Lyons told Morinville News. “As stated by Lisa Holmes in the Aug. 28 council meeting and written in [a Morinville News] Aug. 29 article, all the photo radar vehicles in St. Albert are in full view.”

Traffic Safety report called for

Following up on the photo radar discussion, Deputy Mayor Lisa Holmes called on Administration to bring some details to Council Chambers on the progress of the Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Review project.

“We had the open house last June and nothing since,” Holmes said. “It would be really nice if at one of our two [remaining] meetings we could, whether the report is ready or not, come and maybe we can have that conversation about where it’s at. I think we are all waiting to get that report to move ahead.”

Schaefer said Administration has reviewed all the public input from the June 5, 2012 open house, made significant changes based on input, and put the matter to the Traffic Safety Review Committee in May. He is hoping to have the report completed by the end of June.

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  1. Am I surprised? NO! We have the director of corporate operations quoting the “provincial guidelines” and yet, when I got my speeding ticket heading for work on 642 east (approx 30 ft from the town boundary, in full view of the 100 KPH sign, I quoted the “provincial guidelines” referencing “transition zones” and I was told, by the crown and by the judge, that there was no such thing as transition zones in Alberta! So, why, in the “provincial guidelines” written in 2009 and still in force as of this writing today, does it state that “The use of automated traffic technology in speed transition zones must be justified and reasonable, based on the site selection criteria. Automated traffic technology should not be used in transition zones, when a driver is approaching a higher/lower speed zone and is within sight of a higher/lower posted speed sign, unless there are exigent and well documented safety concerns that would justify its use.” There has NEVER been a safety issue in that location, but it is the perfect spot to make some money from this cash cow! The least the government could do would be to amend the Automated Traffic Enforcement Guidelines and take out the references to “transition zones” before they spout off saying ” there’s no such thing as transition zones in Alberta”! Again, Am I surprised? NOPE!

  2. Working within the letter of the law,bla, bla. bla.

    Please explain what SAFETY concerns exist in the last 100 meters of town if people speed as they leave town? (the truck can not get those entering town where there may be a problem)

    Most residents are OK with having photo radar. Most are not in favor of this type of enforcement.

    This fact has been repeatedly conveyed to council.

    Why can’t they hear us?

  3. As a parent of children who walk to and from school and a citizen of this town, I am concerned about the speed of vehicles driven around town as much as anyone. I am more concerned that the attitude toward speeders is to punish them first and then hopefully they will slow down after receiving their fine. By concealing these radar vehicles, they are doing nothing to prevent the speeding in the first place. By hiding around the corner on Sunnydale Road and taking pictures of someone speeding through the G.H. Primeau school zone will do nothing to stop that speeder from striking a child who has wandered into the street. By being visible, cars do slow down. Is that not what they are supposed to be doing? I guess its hard justifying the expense of photo radar units and their staff if traffic speed is controlled and there are no more dollars coming in. Hmmm

  4. Comments to Will, Joe and Richard –
    Thank you for adding your comments to this article. We have been trying to get “valid” and “reasonable” answers from Council, Administration and yes we even submited a report to the Solicitor General, Alberta Justice, Edmonton RCMP K Division, local RCMP office, and received no answers.

    Are we against using photo radar – NO!
    Are we worried about speeding and the safety of everyone in town – YES!

    Our concerns have always been:

    •The actual contract drawn up with ITS and the Town of Morinville. The contractor gets a percentage of whatever tickets are collected and while we asked what the percentage was, of course this is confidential information.
    •The Transition Zone or not. Yes it is time for the Province to update this Guideline. However, the Town did update their zones so that it would exclude any photo radar tickets within that “questionable” transition zone. Now the M411 zone ends at 87th Street.
    •The hiding of vehicles and the length of time spent or their allowable hours at the so called “low risk, high revenue locations”. Again some of this apparently has been address by Town Council in that between the RCMP, Traffic & Safety Committee and Town Council, ITS have been given directions as to how many hours at each zone. Also, I have been advised that Administration has told ITS not to hide.

    We have taken photos and continually forwarded them to Administration and Council and it would seem that nothing is done. Both my husband and I would be interested in hearing from anyone who has any ‘OTHER’ ideas as to what action could be taken. Our email address is:

    Since it is election time, maybe we ALL could email the Mayor and Council and demand that something is done as suggested by Councillor Fingler. Get the contract updated to be more specific or find a new contractor.

  5. Use the photo adar in town where there are people. Not on the roads leaving town where there is no one.

  6. I would love to see the photo radar unit turn up on Grandin Drive at times. I live not far from the stop sign at the corner of Grandin and 95th St. Many people seem to think that the stretch from there to the next stop sign at 98th Ave is a race track.

    More than a few times I’ve heard car engines roaring around the corner and having to come to a screeching stop. I don’t have a radar gun, but I’m fairly certain some people have done upwards of 100 km/h, and more than a few people doing at least 80 km/h, going around that corner. Yesterday, I actually watched a guy roar around the corner, pass someone doing the speed limit, only to have to cut in front of them to stop (or roll through) the stop sign.

    I bet that the town could scoop more than a few dollars in fines and also make the road a safer place to travel by setting up shop there.

  7. Are people speeding in Morinville? Easy answer, YES.
    Is Photo radar an effective way to control speeders? Again easy answer, NO.
    The biggest problem with photo radar is that it has no ramifications.
    A ticket is delivered in the mail 2-3 weeks (assuming here that it still take that long) for X amount of money. The fact here is that most people will spend that amount at a bar or restaurant in one evening.
    That’s the biggest reason why people are not slowing down.
    It does not leave a harsh reminder.
    Have a trial period of 2 to 3 months having the town constables and or RCMP act like the photo radar and hide one officer/constable with a radar gun that radio ahead to another( around the corner or down the road)the offender’s speed were the ticket would be issued.. These tickets would impact the driver’s habit due to the fact that now they are losing demerits.
    I can almost guarantee that you would see a drastic reduction in speed.

    Until something like this happens, photo radar will be nothing more than another source of income for the town and ITS.

  8. Again, thanks to Paul and Brent for your comments. Brent, we fully agree with your comment and we have been asking specifically to get photo radar spread throughout Morinville and especially on collector roads through residentuals (e.g. Grandin Drive, Sunnydale Road, Morinville Drive, etc.). We made this quite clear when we attended the Traffic & Safety Open House (which by the way we are still waiting to see a written report). Maybe if a group of us got together and made a joint presentation it would carry more whollop instead of individual complaining. Again, I offer our email address if you are interested.

    Cliff and Linda

  9. My Comment re: this particular article is basically repeated as another comment to Stephen’s 3rd of June editorial on the same topic. If you have not checked that one out, I strongly urge you to do so.

    First of all, I find it rather amusing – and a whole bunch sad – that the closer we come to the October Civic Election, the more our present Council members (and potential future candidates) appear to take notice of issues which many constituents have commented on and/or complained about over the past couple of years. Unfortunately, and for reasons unknown, our present Council appears to lack the intestinal fortitude to simply TELL Administration what to do about any given issue. This applies not only to the ongoing photo radar situation, but also to a number of other topics such as playgrounds for the kids; presentation of the LONG-overdue Traffic Safety Report (promised from the Open House of LAST June); whose signature appears on the documentation which authorized that massive cost overrun on the old civic plaza renovations; and what was the result of the Community Peace Officer infamous ATV trial! What our elected officials are quite clearly demonstrating is a distinct lack of anything remotely resembling leadership… It is certainly becoming an awful lot easier to decide whom NOT to vote for in the next election.

    Next, with respect to those citizens who have taken the time to put pen to paper and comment on this issue – YOU ALL HAVE LEGITIMATE AND VALID CONCERNS. Unfortunately, and once again, you will receive NO joy from either Council or the Administration… To anticipate otherwise is to merely be delusional.

    Linda and Cliff’s comment pretty much tells the whole story and if anyone is really interested in learning more, please use the email address given.

    Stephen – keep it up. Who knows? Maybe someday the “powers that be” will actually provide a timely, honest answer to citizen’s queries…


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