Wednesday, July 27, 2011

City Council Shuts Down Red-Light Cameras

(LATimes) After months of intense debate over the fate and effectiveness of red-light cameras, the L.A. City Council on Wednesday delivered a final blow to the controversial program, voting unanimously to shut it down July 31.

The 13-0 vote came in the wake of a backlash over disclosures that paying hefty fines for camera-issued tickets is considered "voluntary" by many city officials and because the Los Angeles County Superior Court has opted not to aggressively enforce collections against those who simply ignore the citations.

City staff was directed to negotiate a contract extension with American Traffic Solutions, the private firm that operates the cameras. The extra time is needed, officials say, to deal with outstanding issues, including removing equipment and allowing the city to access the vendor's records, including some 65,000 unpaid tickets.

Terms of the contract extension must be negotiated, but many council members said it should be "cost-neutral" and could last six to 18 months.

Much of Wednesday's debate focused on the city's inability to pursue those who simply ignore tickets. There has been an uproar in recent days from drivers who diligently paid their fines. Some drivers have unsuccessfully demanded refunds and contemplated the possibility of a class-action lawsuit to recover fines and fees that can top $500.

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