Wally Wonders Why No editor, no publisher, you get what you get

October 26, 2011

Vote YES on Bellingham Initiative No. 2011-01

Some say that traffic cameras are about safety and other say they are about money.  Well at least for the Guide/Telegraph Road intersection near Bellis Fair Mall it is pretty clear now that it is all about the money.   A recent study by Gibson Traffic Consultants concluded the following:

Based on the 5-years of collision data obtained from WSDOT and the City of Bellingham; the collision data does not support the introduction of red-light cameras. Per the ITE collected statistics it only has the potential to reduce at angle red-light running collisions by a less than 1 per year but increase rear ends by an average of nearly 5 per year for this particular intersection.

With no fatalities or injuries related to the at angle collisions but 30 injuries related to rear end collisions it is anticipated that the proposed red-light camera would not reduce the collision/injury potential of the intersection and potentially increase the collision/injury potential at this particular location.

In this well traveled intersection, Red-Light Cameras are expected to increase the potential for injury, yet in an effort to raise revenue for the City of Bellingham, they are installing cameras in spite of making the intersection more dangerous.    You’d think that the City of Bellingham would have done this type of  study before they contracted to install red-light cameras, but they didn’t at this intersection, nor in any of the other areas slated for automated ticketing.

Indeed, the City of Bellingham has sold the safety of those who drive in and around their city in hopes of raising money to fill a budget shortfall.   The people of Bellingham have spoken in the form of petition, yet the Bellingham City Council and Mayor Pike ignored them and entered into a financial contract with ATS.

If you live in Bellingham then I urge you to vote YES on Initiative 2011-01.

Link to more information on the study and the problems with automated ticketing in Bellingham


June 21, 2011

Hasta la Bye Bye former Mayor Pike

When I heard the news that the Transportation Safety Coalition had turned in around 7,000 signatures for an initiative to let voters decide if they want traffic cameras in Bellingham, I knew we could start waving hasta la bye bye to Mayor Dan Pike.   Even with high kickout rates as signatures are verified, 7,000 is hopefully a lot more than the 3,880 needed and 7,000 is a referendum on Dan Pike and the current City Council of Bellingham.

When Dan Pike was Mayor of Bellingham he had a chance to hold an open forum and listen to peoples concerns about the cameras.  He didn’t.  As signatures mounted during the petition drive, he could have postponed signing the contract with ATS.  He didn’t.   Through the whole process he could have represented the interests of the people of Bellingham.  He didn’t.   Dan Pike may legally be the Mayor, but in reality, he isn’t.

From where I stand in Ferndale I see the people of Bellingham, left, right and in the middle looking for leadership in the next election, not in the current mayors office.  Hasta la bye bye.

June 10, 2011

Officer Camera

An article caught the other day brought to my attention once again, what a big mistake Bellingham made when it recently signed a contract to farm out a portion of local law enforcement to a private out of state company

When a Bellingham officer tried to pull a car over for a traffic violation on East Laurel Street about 8 p.m., the car took off. The officer turned on lights and sirens and began a chase…  www.bellinghamherald.com

After a couple of minutes the officer broke off the pursuit because of the increasing danger as the suspects sped through residential areas.   But while they broke off the pursuit, they didn’t stop the search for the suspects and eventually found them near their abandon car, where they also found bags of meth, crack cocaine and heroin.

Alan J. Nord, 24, was arrested on suspicion of attempting to elude police, drug possession with intent to deliver and driving with a suspended license.  www.bellinghamherald.com

feel lucky

I know what you're thinking. "Did he take six photos or only five?" Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself, so you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?

What a great example of why it is so valuable to have real police officers doing real police work.  I can’t help but wonder, if the original traffic violation had been observed by an Automated Ticket Machine, would Alan J. Nord be in custody at this moment and would the drugs be off the streets of Bellingham?  The obvious answer is No!

Officer Camera, no mater how sophisticated, isn’t going to hop off the light post and pursue the suspects across town until they eventually get their man.  Officer Camera is in fact going to remain seated on his light post, call ATS in Arizona and have them mail a fine out to the owner of the vehicle.  Which means that the would be captive suspect will remain free to deal his drugs and endanger the people of Bellingham.

Mayor Pike together with the Bellingham City Council made a very stupid move for a quick buck by off loading police work and your safety to automated cameras and out of state collection agencies.   There are only a couple of more weeks for Bellingham voters to sign a petition that will force the City of Bellingham to bring this situation in front of voters.  Check out the Transportation Safety Coalition’s website or visit them on Facebook for information about where to sign petitions.

February 28, 2011

Red Light Cameras Cause Accidents

Filed under: Local Issue — Tags: , , , , — wally @ 6:25 pm

Many in support of cameras refer to studies showing that cameras offer a net reduction in accidents and a net increase in safety while at the same time bringing in income for the city.  Mayor Pike has been pretty vocal  on the subject and made these comments in the Herald Blogs referring to an Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) report:

the full report conclusions, which state that rear-end collisions increase by 10%, t-bones decrease by 24%, and the injury/death rates drop substantially due to the increased trauma associated with t-bones compared to rear-end crashes.

The study showed a decrease of 24.6% in T-bone crashes, an increase of 14.9% in rear end collisions, for a net decrease of 9.9% in overall crash numbers.

I find it kind of a pointless endeavor to dispute the numbers those in support of red light cameras derive from this study, however I couldn’t be more opposed to these cameras if they were guns, so I feel its at least worth pointing out an alternate interpretation of the study results.   This table is from the same the same report and it sheds a little more light on the fact that the report is based on a very small data set of only 7 samples and the data varies wildly so our statistical confidence in its accuracy is very low.

Table 2. Results for individual jurisdictions for total accidents.
Jurisdiction number*
(in random order)
Percent change in right-angle crashes
(standard error)
Percent change in rear end crashes
(standard error)
1 – 40.0 (5.4)
21.3 (17.1)
0.8 (9.0)
8.5 (9.8)
– 14.3 (12.5)
15.1 (14.1)
– 24.7 (8.7)
19.7 (11.7)
– 34.3 (7.6)
38.1 (14.5)
– 26.1 (4.7)
12.7 (3.4)
– 24.4 (11.2)
7.0 (18.5)

Given the standard error, redlight cameras net effect on right angle crashes could vary between a 45.4% decrease to a 9.8% increase if this study is accurate.  While at the same time we could guess that the net effect on rear end crashes could vary anywhere from a  16.1% to a 52.6% increase.   With one of the seven sample areas reporting an increase in both types of accidents after red light cameras were installed it seems quite plausible that with six locations going in in Bellingham we might see a net increase in accidents at one of the areas.   Anyone hear Bellingham’s Mayor mention that?   The supporters of these systems seem all to ready to assume that people are going to be happy with a “net” improvement in safety.   I think that is a bad assumption.

How would we all  feel about new H1N1 flu vaccine that studies show is  9.9% safer than the old one?  But what if that 9.9% safer was a “net” number  that came from a 24.6% average decrease in  your risk of contracting H1N1, but a 14.9% greater risk of contracting another deadly type of flu?    Still interested in that 9.9%?  What about if the drug companies offered the new vaccine for free by charging those who contract the flu $250?  What about if they gave half of it to the City of Bellingham?     If none of that makes sense to you then you understand one of my arguments against red light cameras.
“Net”  is a sum of the good and bad elements in a situation and in the case of red light cameras, the potential good decrease in right angle T-bone accidents and the money that the City of Bellingham brings in won’t mean squat to those who will be harmed in the bad new crop of rear end accidents.   And it doubly won’t mean squat because there is another more “net” safe solution that will decrease both T-Bone and rear end collisions as well as lower speed through intersections and increase safety in school zones.  That more “net” safe solution however cost money rather than makes money and I can only presume that is why the City of Bellingham is choosing the money making alternative.
Tragically the more safe solution is right in front of our eyes, yet no one seems to see it because everyone is looking at dollar signs, Tim Eyman, and privacy issues.  Warning signs and signals are the safe  answer and they are part of the red light system being offered.  The cameras merely record an infraction, while the signs and signals do the real safety work by warning drivers of a special situation that will need extra care and attention.   As I’ve pointed out in a previous post, according to the same FHWA who produced the above mentioned report, signs and other engineering means without cameras make up the top 10 or 15 methods of creating more safe situations at intersections and school zones.

Even in the system being adopted by the City of Bellingham, signs and warning signals are the most visible part of the system.  I can only guess at how ineffective the camera would be at improving safety if they were simply perched on a pole with no types of signage or lights?  Here’s how I think it looks if you break out the camera independent from the signs.

Signs/Warning Lights Traffic Camera
Make all drivers aware that special care is needed at intersection or crossing· All types of accidents at or near intersections are reduced. 

Reduce red light running

Increase safety at school zones

Initial investment in signs can be costly

Does not violate anyone’s privacy

Are the top recommended way to increase safety in and near intersections

Tickets go on driving record and repeat offenders may lose license.

Have widespread public support

Provide evidence for ticket which have no more effect than a parking ticket

Probably will reduce T-bone accidents

Will definitely increase rear end accidents

Individual privacy is reduced

Provides income stream for City

Not on top 10 list of ways to increase intersection and school zone safety.

Have very limited public support

Offenders caught on camera are not at risk of losing licenses.


Breaking it down, red light cameras provide an income stream yet cause accidents, while warning signs and signals simply make intersections and school zones safer for everyone.  Warning signs are the safety solution that should be pursued by the City of Bellingham yet I don’t see that happening.  I was a bit shocked to hear the Bellingham police chief, during a Bellingham City Council meeting, say that there are still two school zones in his town that don’t even have flashing lights.

We’ve seen Bellingham push a 2 cent tax for bus service, a 2 cent tax for transportation district, and for businesses a  2 cent tax for beautifying the downtown area, yet no one I’ve heard has been pushing a 2 cent tax to improve signs and warnings at dangerous school zones and intersections.    I think the Mayor and City of Bellingham have had there judgment clouded with dollar signs from these red light cameras.

Think back to that flu shot analogy, would you rather get a free shot with dangerous side effects or get a much safer vaccine at a reasonable price?   I would encourage the City of Bellingham to just drop the whole red light/traffic idea which would make the initiative election irrelevant and save everyone both time and money.

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