Corp Comm Connects

City focuses on photo radar cash cow
July 22, 2019
Antonella Artuso

Toronto Council took the next step this week to bring photo radar to the city along with the millions of dollars in fines it’s expected to generate.

Council voted to contract the Australian company Redflex Traffic Systems Canada to install and operate automated speed enforcement technology -- a five-year deal that could be renewed for another five years and is worth up to $25 million.

Fifty photo radar cameras, or two per ward, are to be installed.

While exact locations have yet to be disclosed, it’s expected the cameras will be in school safety zones and could also be put into other community safety zones, such as areas with seniors’ residences, by the end of this year.

Photo radar penalizes the owner of the vehicle, who may not be the driver, so demerit points are not applied.

However, speeding fines are doubled in community safety zones.

At the same meeting, Toronto Council decided to ask the provincial government to allow the city to set up an administrative penalty system to collect and keep fine revenue from the new photo radar cameras and from the existing red light cameras.

Currently, all proceeds collected through red light cameras flow to the province.

Council also authorized staff to conduct a public education campaign and to secure access to licence plate registration information for the purpose of enforcing fines.

Councillor Jaye Robinson said she’s very concerned the Doug Ford government has yet to give the city the “full green light” on the photo radar initiative.

“We can put all the cameras in place we want but until they allow us to fine this won’t be a successful program,” Robinson said. “And it’s very important for particularly school safety zones.”

While the Ford government has indicated it intends to follow through with the Kathleen Wynne government’s approval of photo radar in the city, a former PC government cancelled a similar program on highways.

Earlier this year, Alberta’s former NDP transportation minister Brian Mason called for a review of municipal photo radar programs in that province, arguing they had become “cash cows” with no concrete evidence they had much impact on safety.

Toronto expects photo radar cameras to generate $18.74 million in revenue next year, and $23.08 million in 2021, a staff report says.

The program will see $11.63 million in expenses in year one, and $12.02 million in subsequent years, the report estimates.

While the city is starting with 50 cameras, it may not stop there.

Its red light camera pilot project began with 10 cameras circulated through 38 intersections.

In 2017, Toronto doubled the then number of red light cameras to 149 and made sure the evolved technology caught not only those vehicles that ran a red light but also those that did not come to a full stop at a red light before making a right turn. Fines for a red light camera snap are $350, while speeding in a community safety zone carries penalties ranging from $21 to $1,105 or more.

A photo radar pilot project conducted on stretches of Toronto streets with nearby schools found between 5,743 and 60,170 vehicles a week exceeded the posted speed limit.

Maximum speeds clocked through the project ranged from 87 km/h on Gateway Blvd. to 202 km/h on Renforth Ave. which has a 40 km/hr speed limit.