Bogus St. Petersburg red light camera tickets still not refunded

9:34 PM, Feb 27, 2014   |    comments
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ST. PETERSBURG, Florida - City staff told city council during a marathon workshop Thursday that it had extended a number of yellow lights that fell below the state's minimums. But there's still no indication drivers who got red light camera tickets because of the short yellows will ever receive refunds.

Mayor Rick Kriseman, city council, red light camera (RLC) supporters, as well as opponents met for more than two-and-a-half hours Thursday afternoon to discuss the future of the technology in the city.

And while staff demonstrated a number of steps it has recently taken to ensure the city's RLC program was among the region's most fair, the city had no answer for how to address some of the unfair tickets identified in previous 10 Investigates reports.

TIMELINE: 10 News' Short Yellows Investigation
MAP: Short Yellows in Your Neighborhood

Specifically, the yellow lights Eastbound at 1st Ave. S and 34th St. S were extended from 4.4 seconds to 4.6 seconds earlier in February, but RLC critic Matt Florell believes 776 drivers would have avoided tickets had the timings been set to 4.6 seconds, as state regulations mandate, in the first place.

Similarly, short yellow lights at southbound 34th St. at 22nd Ave. S. and southbound 34th St. at 38th Ave. N may have wrongly ticketed drivers prior to their Feb. 3 retimings.

While unusual for the mayor to attend a council workshop, Kriseman was there to reiterate his support for the program.  He said he would continue to keep red light cameras in St. Pete until so few people run red lights that the program runs a defecit.

Councilman Karl Nurse, long considered the program's weakest supporter on council and a possible swing vote, indicated longer yellow lights have significantly reduced red-light running and the cameras may not be necessary anymore.

"We are probably close to the end," Nurse said, in reference to the program's life in St. Petersburg.

While Kriseman will continue to direct staff to administer the RLC program, council has the ability to cancel the city's contract with American Traffic Solutions (ATS).  Currently, four of the board's eight members are vocal opponents of red light cameras.

One councilmember who has long opposed RLC was Steve Kornell, who suggested a possible grace period for "close calls" if the city keeps the program. The idea was initially floated by Nurse, and has been used elsewhere in Florida with few problems. Drivers who only "ran" a red light by 0.3 seconds or less, for instance, would not receive the automatic $158 fine.

According to a city staff report, 24% of the RLC tickets St. Petersburg issues are for violations that occur in the first 0.2 seconds of red.

Kriseman provided no indication whether he'd support refunds, but council does not have another RLC workshop scheduled.

Contact 10 Investigates reporter Noah Pransky via Facebook or through his updates on Twitter.

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