EVERETT — Blasting through a red light could cost drivers in Everett next year, even if there isn’t a cop around to see it.
In a 5-1 vote Wednesday, the Everett City Council approved staff to write a request for proposals from companies to supply red-light cameras and other equipment at six intersections and near one school.
Each intersection is in the top 13 for crash frequency in Everett, staff said in a presentation earlier this year.
Councilmember Liz Vogelivoted against the motion and opposes the city using the cameras. Instead, the city could make its roads and sidewalks safer for people through design, she said.
“The benefits of changing our physical environment will last a lot longer than just these cameras,” Vogeli said.
In an interview with The Daily Herald, she also said she heard concerns about the devices going into areas of the city with some of the lowest median incomes and most people of color.
“That is a big reason why it is not adamantly supported in my neighborhood, in District 4,” she said.
Locations for the cameras include:
• Casino Road at Horizon Elementary School.
• Eastbound 112th Street SW at Evergreen Way.
• Southwest-bound Everett Mall Way at Seventh Avenue SE.
• Northbound Evergreen at Fourth Avenue W.
• Northbound Evergreen at eastbound Casino.
• Northbound and southbound Rucker Avenue at 41st Street.
• Northbound and southbound Broadway at 16th Street.
Staff estimated costs at $663,000 per year for 13 cameras and $504,000 for four full-time employees to manage the program in the first year.
Similar to a parking ticket, the $124 infractions don’t affect a driver’s record or insurance.
Annual revenue from fines was projected to be $1,375,000. Any revenue available after covering the program’s expenses would go to traffic safety projects but not automatically for the neighborhoods where they were collected.
That worried Demi Chatters, who ran for the District 5 position this month but lost to Ben Zarlingo. People she met during her campaign didn’t want the cameras, she said. Someone earning minimum wage takes home less than the $124 fine in a day. If a person can’t pay it, then following penalties could accumulate and hurt their credit and their ability to get housing, she said.
“This issue is so upsetting to me because it is so regressive, it is so punitive,” Chatters said.
According to a staff report earlier this year, four of the listed intersections averaged 54 crashes per year between 2012 and 2016. Someone suffered an injury in at least 25% of those collisions.
“I’ve seen the unsafe way that people are running through, particularly the protected left turn lights,” council President Brenda Stonecipher said. “The crash data certainly supports the need to do something about it.”
Yet researchers have come to differing conclusions about whether red light cameras actually make intersections safer. According to a review of literature cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some studies have suggested the cameras may even increase the number of rear-end or serious-injury crashes, for example.
Other research has shown fewer crashes when the cameras are installed. Methodologies have varied, making it hard to find clear comparisons.
One of the most-often-cited studies in favor of the cameras was completed in 2002 but debunked six years later when other researchers replicated the study and found the original group had “incorrectly reported a reduction in crashes.”
In Everett, two photos would be taken for both red light and school zone violations.
When someone runs through a red light, one photo shows the vehicle at the stop line and another of it in the middle of the intersection as well as the traffic signal. It also records a 12-second video.
At school zones, the cameras capture the vehicle with speed zone lights activated and record vehicle speed.
The photos are prohibited from public release, city traffic engineer Corey Hert said.
He expects to present a company’s proposal to the council for approval in April or May. By then, four new Everett City Council members will be in office.
Installation of the devices and the start of the automated traffic safety program — the city’s name for the camera projects — was expected to take six to eight months.
If they get installed, it will be a project over a decade in the making.
In 2009, the Everett City Council first pursued a contract for the devices. But a class-action lawsuit over the cost of the tickets, filed in King County, prompted Everett leaders to hold off on implementing its traffic safety program. A federal judge dismissed that lawsuit in 2010.
The council was considering a grace period in the first month, when people who get the infractions would only receive a warning instead of a $124 ticket.
This story has been modified to reflect the proposed locations for red light and school speed zone cameras.