It’s been nearly three years since the last one was installed, so we’re happy to report that the Portland Bureau of Transportation is getting back into the the photo radar camera business.
PBOT says two more cameras are coming this fall. The locations are on one of Portland’s most dangerous stretches of Southeast Stark Street — 122nd and 148th. Adding to the excitement is that these will be the first cameras since the program began in 2016 that can issue citations for both red light and speeding violations.
The use of what PBOT calls “fixed speed safety cameras” has been a huge success, but due to a variety of reasons the roll-out has been glacial. The Oregon Legislature endorsed the use of the cameras in 2015 and since then PBOT has installed just eight of them at a mere five different locations citywide. This is despite the cameras being politically popular and supported by a majority of the public (even, according to PBOT, in focus groups of Black, indigenous and people of color).
Speeding is pervasive on our streets and it poses a dangerous double-threat of inadequate enforcement and broad cultural acceptance. Automated enforcement via cameras is the way to stop it. Since 2016, across all locations in Portland where cameras are currently in use, people driving 1 mph or more over the posted speed limit has dropped 71%. People driving 10 mph over the speed limit has dropped a whopping 94%.
Not only do the cameras change behaviors, some of the revenue from citations goes back toward street safety infrastructure. In the past two years data is available (2019 and 2020), the cameras resulted in 132,513 cases filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court. Fines range from $85 to $500 (most are $170) and about 70% of the total revenue generated goes to the State of Oregon General Fund. What’s left over is split between ODOT and local governments. In Portland, after costs to operate the system (about $180,000 per year for the last two years) are paid out, the remaining amount goes into a fund to pay for improvements on PBOT’s High Crash Network of streets where an above average number of people are hit and killed.
Back in June, PBOT Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty (an initial skeptic of the cameras who’s now an ardent supporter) won a $450,000 budget amendment aimed at fighting our, “crisis of vehicular violence.” PBOT also recently renewed a five-year, $15 million contract with the third-party company that owns and operates the cameras. The new contract allows PBOT to install up to 20 new cameras.
The new cameras on Stark at 122nd and 148th can’t come soon enough. PBOT data shows that from 2015 to 2019, 198 deaths or injuries occurred at these two intersections combined. Learn more about speed cameras on PBOT’s website.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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