Who’ll run the

City picks vendor for ticketing system that will begin this summer

Arizona-based Redflex Traffic Systems is the front-runner to operate 16 red-light cameras around Minneapolis to nab traffic scofflaws. The city would give Redflex a flat-rate contract to eliminate profit motive to maximize tickets.

The City Council unanimously approved final contract negotiations at its Feb. 25 meeting. The system should be operational by this Memorial Day.

Minneapolis Police Lt. Greg Reinhardt, the project manager, said Redflex would receive a maximum of $965,000 a year in a multiyear deal still under negotiation. A fixed-cost contract would take the number of tickets issued "out of the equation," he said, adding that Redflex will have no control of the city's traffic signals. "They are just taking pictures."

Reinhardt presented the plan Feb. 16 at the Council's Public Safety and Regulatory Services Committee, receiving praise from committee members.

The city will pick 16 intersections to monitor from a list of 22. Six are in Southwest (see map below).

The ticket for running a red light costs $130. The city's share is $53.60. That means it would take approximately three paid tickets per intersection per day to cover the contract cost. "There isn't an intersection out there where we won't get that," Reinhardt said.

A recent survey at East Franklin Avenue & 5th Avenue South found 24.5 violators per hour running red lights.

A 1997 study done by the Minnesota Department of Transportation found 100 red light violators a day at the intersection of East 35th Street & 1st Avenue South in the Lyndale neighborhood, he said.

Even if drivers miraculously improve their habits, the city would not pay out-of-pocket under the proposed deal, Reinhardt said. Redflex will cover installation costs, maintenance and system upgrades. It has agreed to reduce fees if ticket revenues don't cover the contract. It has also agreed to delay initial payments until the city starts getting its ticket money.

According to Redflex's Web site, it is the largest provider of digital red-light photo enforcement services in North America, with contracts in 56 cities and towns across 11 states. It has $33 million in revenues, its 2004 annual report said. It rebounded from a $3.7 million loss in 2003 to show a 2004 profit of $3.3 million.

The photo cop cameras will take a picture of cars running red lights, including the license plate. (Approximately 70 percent of the cars caught on camera have visible plates.) The system would provide both still photos and a 12-second video, Reinhardt said. Information will include the time of day, the location and how long the red light had been on when the driver went through the intersection.

Redflex staff or subcontractors would review the images for violations and forward images of violators to city police. A sworn officer would make a second review and decide whether or not to issue a ticket. The officer could approve the ticket through a point-and-click computer system. The Police Department then sends Redflex information on approved tickets and Redflex or a subcontractor would mail the ticket to the vehicle's owner.

On a good day, a traditional traffic cop might issue 24 tickets, Reinhardt said. Under this system, an officer could theoretically issue hundreds.

The Redflex system will track its tickets separately from street cop-issued tickets, so the city will know how much money the system generates.

Reinhardt promised an aggressive public information campaign. The city will post signs at the intersections where it installs the cameras. "It is not like we are hiding behind billboards trying to catch speeders," he said.

Council President Paul Ostrow said he was pleased with the proposal but wanted the Council to review the final operational details.

Reinhardt said the project is aimed to increase safety, not increase revenue. He estimated the city could get an added $100,000 a year in Photo Cop ticket revenue - above the Redflex contract costs. That would pay for the officers to approve tickets and appear in court if car owners challenge the fines.

The city has approximately 14,000 accidents a year, 3,100 accident-related injuries and 17-18 deaths. Accidents that result from cars running red lights are particularly dangerous because they are side collisions, wherein drivers and passengers have less protection.

Photo Cop cameras should generate a "halo effect," Reinhardt said. Driving habits would not only reduce accident rates at the camera-monitored intersections, but improve driving habits throughout the city. The downside is that, in the short-term, the city should have an increase in less-dangerous rear-end collisions, as more people brake for yellow lights.

City staff will identify 20-24 potential Photo Cop site intersections, based on violations and accident data. They will select 16 intersections for cameras.

The city should have a signed contract with Redflex by mid-March, with installation beginning by late April. The system should be up and running by late May. The police will have a one-month grace period, and mail warning letters instead of tickets. The tickets should begin in late June.

City staff interviewed six potential vendors: Siemens, Transol, ACS, Redflex, Nestor and Mulvihill. Redflex was not the low bid, Reinhardt said. The city staff reviewing proposals chose Redflex because its technology was reliable and easy to use, it had flexible ways to install equipment, it had a good plan for community outreach and public information, and it guaranteed the city no out-of-pocket costs. It also brought a satisfied customer to talk to the city.

Reinhardt said he could not say which company had the low bid or what the bid was until the city had a signed contract with Redflex. Then bid information would become public.

Want to know more?

For more information on Redflex, see www.redflex.com.red-light cameras?