by Morinville News Staff
The Government of Alberta will put a temporary freeze on new photo radar devices effective Dec. 1 as it begins a consultation and review with municipalities and police on the future of photo radar in Alberta.
Starting Sunday, municipalities and police agencies will not be able to install new or upgraded photo radar devices or deploy existing photo radar equipment to new locations.
Alberta has 27 municipalities operating photo radar programs. Photo radar generated $220 million in 2016-17.
The provincial freeze will remain in place while the government works to refine rules for photo radar site selection, operational restrictions and data collection.
“Our goal is to ensure photo radar is used for safety, not to generate backdoor tax revenue,” said Minister of Transportation Ric McIver. “Albertans are skeptical about the impact photo radar has on safety, and we do not have useful data to analyze so we can make a decision. Alberta has three times as many photo radar units per capita as British Columbia, but our roads are not meaningfully safer. A temporary freeze means municipalities and police cannot purchase or install new and costly equipment while we work with them to build better oversight and reporting on the effectiveness of photo radar.”
Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Doug Schweitzer said he believed traffic tickets should help increase public safety and not be used to generate revenue. “We are conducting this review because Albertans need to have confidence that photo radar is an effective way to keep people safe,” he said. “I look forward to working with the minister of transportation to understand the value of photo radar and see if it’s worth preserving.”
The government says an independent, third-party review of photo radar was completed in September 2018. It found that data is limited and inconsistent, and indicated better data collection and reporting requirements are needed to ensure photo radar is used to maximize safety, not revenue.
Minister McIver said the consultation and review could take up to two years.
At Council’s Nov. 19 Committee of the Whole meeting, Mayor Barry Turner moved to consider three options for Automated Traffic Enforcement (ATE): Continuing with the current ATE program; continuing to pursue regional opportunities for ATE provision; and directing Administration to develop a business case for a regional or in-house service and expansion of the program to include traffic lights, stop signs and crosswalk enforcement.
That discussion was to take place at Dec. 10’s meeting. Whether the conversation proceeds given the provincial freeze remains to be seen.
By policy, all photo radar revenue in Morinville must be spent on traffic, pedestrian, or public safety initiatives. To date, funds have been used for street lights on Cardiff road, solar lights on the trail system and other initiatives.
UCP Budget 2020 sees the Government of Alberta raising its share of photo radar tickets from 27 per cent to 40 per cent.