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Smile speeders! Photo radar bill headed to Governor’s desk for signing

Posted by on July 6th, 2015 at 12:33 pm

SW Barbur Blvd observations-14

Speeding on SW Barbur Blvd.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

After many people had already begun their holiday weekend, the Portland Bureau of Transportation chalked up a major legislative victory.

HB 2621, which will allow PBOT to operate fixed photo radar cameras on Portland’s deadliest major streets, passed the Oregon Senate on Friday afternoon by a vote of 17-12. The bill now heads to the desk of Governor Kate Brown for signing.

PBOT Director Leah Treat said via email today that she’s “very happy” the bill passed. “As the City is implementing Vision Zero,” she wrote, “automated speed enforcement should prove a critical tool in getting drivers to slow down.”

Friday’s vote capped a dizzying week of activity for the bill. On Monday morning it hadn’t even pass out of committee in the House.

The bill allows the City of Portland to install photo radar camera units (a pair of cameras, one for each direction) only on High Crash Corridors. Here’s how the bill defines them:

“urban high crash corridor” means a segment of highway that has an incidence rate of reported traffic crashes resulting in fatalities or serious injuries that is at least 25 percent higher than the rate for highways with the same speed limit or designated speed within the jurisdiction on average between January 1, 2006, and January 1, 2016, and for which the governing body of the city makes a finding that speeding has had a negative impact on traffic safety.


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Treat says the first cameras won’t go live until July 2016. By 2018 PBOT plans to install a total of 20 sets of cameras.

Slide from a presentation given to the legislature by a PBOT lobbyist.

We haven’t yet received a list of the specific intersections where the first cameras will go; but a PBOT presentation given to a legislative committee included these locations:

  • SW Barbur Blvd. at SW Miles St.
  • SE Division at 148th
  • SE Division at 156th
  • SE 122nd at Stark
  • NE 82nd and Davis St. (Vestal Elementary School)

Other streets on PBOT’s High Crash Corridor list include; SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy, Burnside, Sandy Blvd, SE Powell, SE Foster, and NE Marine Drive.

Once all 20 cameras are operational, official estimates say the program is likely to reduce speeding by 61 percent. At that rate, PBOT says they’ll save 16 lives and prevent 1,800 injuries over the next six years.

The revenue from citations issued by the new cameras is estimated to be $22.6 million in the first biennium and nearly $50 million per year by 2021. The bill states that this new revenue can only be used for operating and maintaining the cameras, “and for improving traffic safety for all modes of transportation.”

HB 2621 was PBOT’s top legislative priority this session. As pressure to make streets safer reached a boiling point in the community over the past few months, city leaders — including PBOT Director Treat, Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick, and Mayor Charlie Hales — repeatedly encouraged activists to contact lawmakers and tell them to support the bill.

Treat has said the ability to use photo radar cameras is one of the initiatives that, “can make the most immediate impact” on achieving Vision Zero. In addition to catching speeders, she also hopes the cameras will deter aggressive driving.

Stay tuned for more coverage.

— Learn more about this bill in our archives and read the full text here.

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65 Comments
  • Evan Manvel July 6, 2015 at 12:50 pm

    This made my day. Congrats to the leadership at the City (Mayor Hales, Commissioner Novick, Director Treat and PBOT, and the city’s legislative staff), and to all who wrote their legislators to get this billed passed.

    Here’s to safer roads!

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  • Adam H. July 6, 2015 at 12:51 pm

    This is great news! I look forward to seeing a reduction in speeding and “improving traffic safety for all modes of transportation”. Hopefully, this includes safe bike infra.

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  • Fourknees July 6, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    Why not put the cameras on SW Barbur at the BH overpass? Seems like that would have a higher impact, especially for those riding bikes over the two bridges with no bike lanes.

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    • rick July 6, 2015 at 4:47 pm

      Cameras are needed at that northbound Capitol Highway onramp to Barbur by the bridges. Lots of speeding around there.

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    • John Hart July 7, 2015 at 7:26 am

      “over the two bridges with no bike lanes”

      That’s the real problem. Why are there no bike lanes on those bridges? Riding along in the bike lane, suddenly there is NO bike lane, look back and move out into the car lane – extreme danger from hostile and inattentive drivers – and hope to get across the bridge and back to a bike lane.

      BUILD ROADS CORRECTLY in the first place! Continuous bike lane ALL THE WAY, no breaks, no obstacles, no forcing riders to move over into the car lane. No excuses.

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  • Lester Burnham July 6, 2015 at 12:56 pm

    Now if only we could get aggressive drivers off the neighborhood bikeways.

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  • Doug Klotz July 6, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    Isn’t this law just for speed enforcement, not red-light running,where fixed cameras are already allowed? The photo of the sign would seem tbe the wrong one.

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  • Alan Kessler July 6, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    Doug, that’s correct.

    SECTION 2. (1) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, in the jurisdiction operating
    a fixed photo radar system under section 1 of this 2015 Act:
    (a) A citation for ***speeding*** may be issued on the basis of fixed photo radar if: [blah blah blah]

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  • TJ July 6, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    I understand the focus on high crash corridors, but why not put the cameras everywhere? Speeding is a livability issue in both comfort level and noise pollution.

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    • Spiffy July 6, 2015 at 2:22 pm

      I’m sure they plan to more them to wherever the worst offenders are, unless the worst stay at the same intersections…

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    • El Biciclero July 6, 2015 at 2:36 pm

      Wasn’t there a school district somewhere that put camera enclosures on all its buses, but only had active cameras in a few at a time on a rotating basis? Couldn’t we do something like that, where if the cameras do get moved, we could leave an enclosure behind to make it look as though the camera were still there? Eventually, we’d have enclosures in lots of places, but nobody would know whether there was a real camera inside or not.

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      • paikiala July 6, 2015 at 4:18 pm

        How do you know PBOT is not going to do this?

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        • q`Tzal July 6, 2015 at 4:34 pm

          You can neither confirm nor deny.

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      • EngineerScotty July 8, 2015 at 3:17 pm

        Back when red light cameras first went online, the City of Beaverton was allowed by the Leg to install four: It went and installed five, arranged things so that they all appear to function–but only four of the five cameras, on any given day, actually generated tickets (the fifth took pictures of red-light runners; but no citations were issued). The “inactive” camera changed each day, IIRC there was no public notice of which camera was not actually issuing citations.

        The city argued that this arrangemen tcompiled with the four-camera limit; a judge said no. As a result, the cameras at 158th and Walker were deactivated, and now just sits there and does nothing (or at least did nothing for a while).

        I’m not aware of any jurisdictions in Oregon in which law-enforcement cameras are permitted on buses, either to enforce flashing reds on school buses, or to catch vehicles operating in bus lanes.

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  • Kristi Finney-Dunn July 6, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    So happy about this! I like to think my testimony in person to the Legislature about my son Dustin’s death helped. Although he was killed by a drunk driver, evidence suggests that the driver was speeding as well as traveling outside his lane. I hope hope hope this will reduce the number of other family tragedies like ours. Thanks to PBOT and Novick especially for their hard work on this bill, including getting several speakers to testify.

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    • rick July 6, 2015 at 1:16 pm

      Thanks for your testimony and effort. You have changed lives.

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    • Spiffy July 6, 2015 at 2:21 pm

      did you stop maintaining facesoffatalities.com?

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    • Obsidian July 22, 2015 at 2:05 pm

      How would receiving a citation in the mail weeks later prevent someone’s death let alone someone drunk driving?

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  • Bjorn July 6, 2015 at 1:30 pm

    If after the cameras are installed the incident of fatalities and injuries drop and are no longer 25% higher than other similar roads will the cameras be removed?

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    • oliver July 6, 2015 at 2:21 pm

      Hopefully they’ll be (re)moved to other areas where speeding is a problem regardless of crashes.

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    • paikiala July 6, 2015 at 4:20 pm

      If the crashes go down on one corridor, the average also goes slightly down, but other corridors without treatment should be about the same (assuming not much halo effect). Other ‘problem’ sites will bubble up.

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  • spencer July 6, 2015 at 1:50 pm

    well done everyone! keep the heat turned on high!

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  • Spiffy July 6, 2015 at 2:20 pm

    The revenue from citations issued by the new cameras is estimated to be $22.6 million in the first biennium and nearly $50 million per year by 2021.

    are they saying that they expect speeding to get twice as prolific, or that they’ll only be able to prosecute half of the speeders initially?

    either way that seems like a bad goal to have… I would want to expect less revenue or I would think the cameras weren’t working…

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    • paikiala July 6, 2015 at 4:21 pm

      It’s more a matter of how fast cameras can be installed (or their housings) which costs money.

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  • CaptainKarma July 6, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    I’m sure Oregon Live readers are all moving to Canada now.

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    • EngineerScotty July 8, 2015 at 3:18 pm

      Canada has lots of enforcement cameras. (At least Vancouver does…)

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  • gutterbunnybikes July 6, 2015 at 2:49 pm

    Install them on all the greenways.

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    • paikiala July 6, 2015 at 4:22 pm

      None of the greenways come close to having the average crash rate, let alone crash rates 25% above average.
      Perspective.

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      • gutterbunnybikes July 6, 2015 at 6:25 pm

        I know that, a guy can dream can’t he (hell half the comments on this site are dreams).

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  • LC July 6, 2015 at 3:49 pm

    How much higher than the posted “limit” does someone have to be going to set one of these things off?

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  • John Liu
    John Liu July 6, 2015 at 4:05 pm

    Good news.

    Seems the definition might be broad enough to include other closer in roads if they have a high accident rate.

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    • paikiala July 6, 2015 at 4:34 pm

      “crashes resulting in fatal or serious injuries’, so not property damage only crashes – the least reliably reported type, and not minor injury crashes. This means most of the roadways that might qualify will have 35 mph or higher speeds.
      Curiously, depending on the calculation method, some low volume streets might also qualify since one or two significant crashes on low volume roads skews to a high rate.
      Is there a minimum volume threshold? Does PBOT even crunch the numbers on low volume roads?

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  • J_R July 6, 2015 at 4:52 pm

    The reason for focusing on (or restricting the cameras to) the high crash corridors was to alleviate the concerns of all those who fear invasion of privacy and all the associated complaints. If you actually read the bill you’ll see how much effort has gone into giving the motorist the opportunity (excessive reminders) to actually comply with the law.

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  • Chris I July 6, 2015 at 5:39 pm

    This is great news. The speeding on major arterials in east Portland is outrageous.

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  • rain waters July 6, 2015 at 9:38 pm

    Someday these might be built into speed limit signs.

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    • Editz July 7, 2015 at 11:37 am

      It’s more likely they’ll be built into the cars themselves.

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      • EngineerScotty July 8, 2015 at 3:19 pm

        Or self driving cars simply will refuse to go above the speed limit.

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  • B. Carfree July 6, 2015 at 11:28 pm

    This is a good start on the single most essential (missing) piece of bike infrastructure: the social infrastructure. In my opinion and experience, the only way to zero road fatalities is zero-tolerance traffic law enforcement. (Yes, I did once live in a small city that did this. It was marvelous.)

    This is just one small step. Hopefully it will be a rapid journey to the promised land.

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    • Eric Leifsdad July 7, 2015 at 10:21 pm

      Yes, a very small step. This is just one very limited tool in what needs to be a much broader enforcement effort. How about some tailgating stings? Just time the distance between vehicles on a straight stretch and you don’t have to wait long to write a ticket for a 0.75s gap, regardless of the speed limit. One may also notice failure to remain within lane, rolling stop signs, and other violations if there were more efforts to remind drivers that the laws are here for everyone’s safety.

      But, people plead “unfair” if given a wide, easy road and a speeding ticket, so clearly they need to be given narrower roads which are far more challenging. Some may even get tired of the requisite level of concentration and decide to ride a bike.

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  • Stephen July 7, 2015 at 5:24 am

    Now that the bike lobby has done their pr post here how about a little truth.

    Speed camera have been about safety.

    This push was on I believe two bike vehicle crashes that involved vehicles not seeing the bike rider and turning in front of them. This will never be stopped by a speed camera and no doubt occurred below even the zero vision speed proposed.

    How many crashes were really caused by even exceeding the speed limit?

    (Not logged in because it was there like a bike rider who runs a light and is hit by a car 3 mph above the limit$

    How many were caused by the bike rider (who are no doubt here on a group posting).

    Basing “safety” on impact speed ignores the fact that there is much more to accidents than a number. Would you base airline safety on impact speed (they fly at over 120 knot on the ground)?

    The city use of this monetary not safety.

    http://Www.motorists.org
    Ban the cams on Facebook
    Camera fraud on Facebook

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    • Stephen July 7, 2015 at 5:25 am

      CORRECTION ON TYPO. SPEED cameras have NEVER been about safety!

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      • Dan July 7, 2015 at 7:51 am

        1. Did you write one single grammatically correct sentence in your whole post? If so, I cannot find it.

        2. There is no bike lobby.

        3. Reducing speed is about safety for everyone, and improving livability in the neighborhoods that you want to speed through.

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    • rick July 7, 2015 at 6:22 am

      a site that opposes speed limit reductions? Should SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway be 85 mph?

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    • Chris I July 7, 2015 at 9:14 pm

      You are killing America.

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    • EngineerScotty July 8, 2015 at 3:23 pm

      Ah yes, the “National Motorists Association”. The lobbying organization for leadfoots (leadFEET!) everywhere–fighting the tyranny of traffic laws, public transit, bicycles, pedestrians, and everything else that interferes with American’s God-given right to use whatever horsepower they can afford, whenever and wherever they want to.

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  • Triumph July 7, 2015 at 11:20 am

    There needs to be some tempering of expectations. It would also help for BikePortland readers to read the text of the bill to understand its limitations.

    A) A driver needs to only submit a “certificate of innocence” and, per the law as-written, the citation is then dropped without further pursuit.
    B) All photos have to be reviewed by a police officer prior to issuing.
    D) Most areas that have/had photo radar have a 5-10 mph tolerance above the posted speed limit before issuing. (i.e. 45 mph on Barbur – still pretty fast.)
    E) Most areas that had photo radar stop after a few years due to operating cost. The for-profit company that operates the cameras (ex. Redflex) usually get about 50%, then you need to pay for the police reviewer and the administrative fees. If enough people do not pay or can get out of the ticket (as the Oregon law allows by simply submitting a certificate of innocence), the program goes into the red and is stopped after a few years. This will likely happen here as it has most other places in the US. I lived in Arizona when the photo radar fad came and then died after about two years.

    I’m a regular reader and daily bike commuter but felt the need to add some reality to this conversation.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 7, 2015 at 11:32 am

      Triumph,

      I read that stuff too and was equally alarmed by what sounds like very weak language. For now, I think it’s worth celebrating the bill’s passage… But you are right that we should watch this closely and keep tabs on it. I will take a closer look at how the passed version of the bill differs from the original one.

      One thing to keep in mind is that PBOT is really data-driven these days and I am sure they plan to monitor the effectiveness of this program.. and given the privacy concerns about this type of thing, PBOT will be falling over themselves to be transparent about it.

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    • John Lascurettes July 7, 2015 at 12:33 pm

      Regarding the Certificate of Innocence from the text of the bill (PDF here)

      (c) An individual issued a citation under this subsection may respond to the citation by submitting a certificate of innocence under subsection (3)(a) of this section or may make any other response allowed by law.

      (3)(a) An individual named as the registered owner of a vehicle in current records of the Department of Transportation may respond by mail to a citation issued under subsection (1) of this section by submitting a certificate of innocence within 30 days from the mailing of the citation swearing or affirming that the registered owner was not the driver of the vehicle and by providing a photocopy of the registered owner’s driver license. A jurisdiction that receives a certificate of innocence under this paragraph shall dismiss the citation without requiring a court appearance by the registered owner or any other information from the registered owner other than the swearing or affirmation and the photocopy. The citation may be reissued only once, only to the registered owner and only if the jurisdiction verifies that the registered owner appears to have been the driver at the time of the violation. A registered owner may not submit a certificate of innocence in response to a reissued citation.

      It is not the “get out of jail free” card that you imply it is. It is there in particular to protect a register vehicle owner from getting a citation from someone else driving the car and committing the infraction; and one’s own photo ID must be submitted with the certificate. It can be reviewed and re-submitted by the reviewing officials if they determine that the person in the ID and the person in the photo citation are the same person. Yes, it generates more paperwork and also means some people who shouldn’t get off will get off, but I’ll take it.

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      • EngineerScotty July 8, 2015 at 3:27 pm

        John is correct–if you’re the registered owner, and you’re caught speeding, a “certificate of innocence” isn’t likely to help.

        (Though if a married couple with two cars each registers one car in the name of one spouse, and then routinely drives the other, a CofE may help–as citations are only issued to the registered owner, not to anyone else, though the “someone else” might get a warning letter. The exception being rental cars, car2go, etc.–there, the rental agency is IIRC expected to name the authorized user of the vehicle, and then the cops send THEM the ticket instead).

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  • Paul g July 7, 2015 at 9:06 pm

    Just to make sure you understand what you are advocating.

    Speed monitors in all cars, meaning that a government agency is constantly collecting and monitoring your travel.

    Speed cameras on every sign — same thing, some government agency will have data on who is traveling where and when.

    Perhaps you don’t object to the government vacuuming up information like this and storing it in massive databases that inevitably have other value (your car tags –> drivers license –> all kinds of personal information —> your transportation habits).

    I understand and support the desire to cut down on excessive speed, but there are other ways other than instituting massive automated cameras. But if you are comfortable with the UK, where virtually all your public movement is captured collated and stored by the government, then ok.

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    • Chris I July 7, 2015 at 9:16 pm

      The desire is to cut down on deaths. Reducing speed is proven to do this. We can either raise taxes significantly to fund road improvements that reduce speed, or we can do this.

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    • BicycleDave July 7, 2015 at 9:51 pm

      How much privacy did we give up because about 3000 died on 9/11/01? 30,000 die annually on the roads. Maybe with the right safeguards we don’t have to give up too much privacy?

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    • Eric Leifsdad July 7, 2015 at 10:34 pm

      The government can already get all of that data (and surely had indexed your comment before you had even clicked ‘post’.)

      There are generally no laws against private surveillance of public space, and that video can be gotten with probable cause.

      Speed monitors don’t need to track gps coordinates, just speed/acceleration. These will probably come from insurers and banks before they come from government.

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    • wsbob July 8, 2015 at 12:19 am

      “…I understand and support the desire to cut down on excessive speed, but there are other ways other than instituting massive automated cameras. …” Paul g

      Such as? Number one reason society resorts to devices like photo radar to try get a handle on excessive speeding, is ‘money…the lack of it.’.

      Being constantly under surveillance is one of the tradeoffs of living in modern high population density cities.

      The dawn of the age of automated motor vehicles may soon be upon those of us living in or near high population density cities. People there won’t have to drive their cars: in those areas, no more speeding tickets except for people deciding to hack the car’s speed regulatory system.

      Absent any actual crashes, injuries and death resulting from motor vehicles exceeding the speed limit, deterioration of community livability has been one of the biggest negative consequences of motor vehicles traveling too fast: safety of streets by use other than motor vehicles…foot, bike, skateboard…goes down. Noise and pollution from motor vehicles goes up, the faster motor vehicles go. Helping to restore neighborhood and community livability is part of what photo radar cameras have to do with.

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      • Obsidian July 22, 2015 at 2:28 pm

        Not to nitpick, but… “being constantly under surveillance” is not the same as “no expectation of privacy in public”. Otherwise we tip the scales into “institutionalized stalking”. Just some food for thought, that’s all.

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    • Lyle w. July 8, 2015 at 9:35 am

      Next time you’re at a major intersection, look up at the traffic light stanchions… See that little dome camera hanging out that looks like a security camera you’d see at a grocery/retail store? Smile, because your face and license plate number is being entered into a database.

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    • EngineerScotty July 8, 2015 at 3:28 pm

      I’m much more worried about automated licence plate scanners and the like, then about enforcement cameras.

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  • wsbob July 8, 2015 at 12:53 am

    Don’t mean to hijack this story or discussion, but did want to mention a July 7th Oregonian story about a situation having to do with Cornelius Pass Road that I think is speed related. Here’s the link:

    http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2015/07/state_approves_money_to_improv.html#incart_river

    Long story short: People drive too fast on this road. ODOT and the counties (both Washington and Multnomah…it passes through both counties.), entitle them to drive too fast by way of high posted speed limits. Aside from the obvious livability degrading consequences to areas adjoining the road, of allowing excessive speeds on this road…from time to time, heart wrenching occurrences take place, such as people going way too fast for the road, and losing control of their motor vehicle.

    The O heads up their story with a classic photo of a car crashed on the road in May of this year. The story’s lead theme is about funding just approved by the legislature to ‘fix’ the road; among which, is to put in guardrails…so that when people lose control of their vehicles, they don’t plunge down into some of the deep ravines along the road.

    I’m sorry if it sounds like I may be assuming the young person driving the crashed car was exceeding the speed limit, or driving way too fast when maybe she wasn’t. Story doesn’t report about speed the vehicle was traveling at time of crash.

    Speeds traveled on the road are generally too fast though, and I think this is something commonly known about. With this in mind, I wonder if it’s too much to ask, to consider dropping the posted speed limit, and maybe installing some photo radar cameras along the road…instead of putting up guard rails as a ‘bandaid’ for a known speeding problem on the road.

    And how about prioritizing, installation of generously wide bike lanes adjoining the road? That is, prioritizing their installation before the guard rails, curve straitening, and other things promoting higher speeds with motor vehicles on the road. This road is, after all, routed through some of the most beautiful valley and mountain country in the county. Allowing use of the road to gradually rise to the intensity and danger of freeways, is destroying much that this route has to offer.

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    • Chris I July 8, 2015 at 6:09 am

      She was texting while driving.

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    • Dan July 8, 2015 at 7:15 am

      I wonder if drivers have a death wish, using this road. /s

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    • rick July 8, 2015 at 8:14 am

      It is the first main north / south road just west of Forest Park. Nearby roads from Skyline to U.S 30 need lower speed limits to help pedestrian and bike traffic.

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  • Todd Boulanger July 8, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    Yay! A step forward for traffic safety and Vision Zero outcomes.

    [Does anyone know if they make anti camera mini license plate covers for bicycles?]

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  • Mike Healey July 9, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    I understand and support the desire to cut down on excessive speed, but there are other ways other than instituting massive automated cameras. But if you are comfortable with the UK, where virtually all your public movement is captured collated and stored by the government, then ok.

    I’d be interested in knowing what other ways you suggest. More cops in cars? They would only catch a very small proportion of speeders.

    As for the UK government capturing, collating and storing “virtually all your public movement”, this sounds verymuch like a fantasy about government interference in every aspect of our lives. There are 35m registered motor vehicles in the UK and the majority of them are on the roads.

    The size of the database and hardware needed to keep track of them all would be beyond their capacity, especially given the propensity of very large govt. computer systems to crash, fail to rn as proposed, go masively over-budget and be eventually abandoned.

    I agree that there are a very large number of CCTV cameras on public streets, but storing all the images of drunken people spilling out of pubs and clubs would require the same level of storage. It would, in any case require facial recognition systems of far greater sophistication that we (probably/posibly) have, to identify everyone in every video feed in every camera in the country.

    Me, I’d find it impossible to believe that any government in my lifetime could exhibit the level of competence required for any of the above to take place with any degree of efficiency or effectiveness

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