I'm going to tell you about what happened to a person named Andy Lopez. Now I don't know Mr. Lopez, in fact I've never met him or talked to him before. But something happened to him a few months ago that I've only just learned about in the last few days. Andy was driving northbound on 66th St. and came up to the intersection with Tyrone Blvd. He was driving just below the speed limit, and as he approached the intersection the light turned yellow. The light turned red 4.2 seconds after it turned yellow, and Mr. Lopez's tires were only inches from the stop line. His red light camera citation shows he ran the light one tenth of a second after it turned red. That is what happened. I'm not disputing any of that. In fact, I have viewed the video several times(it is linked below, or here on Youtube), and I confirmed all of these details myself. So why is this a problem? Well, according to the city that light is supposed to be yellow for 4.3 seconds, and if it was, Mr. Lopez never would have run that light and he wouldn't have received a red light camera citation. There was something wrong with that light, and Mr. Lopez had to pay the price.
The much bigger problem is that this is far from an isolated incident. This has happened at over half of the red light camera approaches in the city, and it happened 1,645 times in the first 13 months of the program.
When the 122-page red light camera program report was released in December(it is linked below), there was a 20-page section in the middle that showed the yellow signal times for every approach of every signalized intersection in the city. I took those times and compared them to the red light camera citation data that I just received a couple weeks ago. When ATS records a violation, they also record the yellow signal time, or amber time, before the light turned red. I compared these yellow times to what the report said the yellow times should be, and I was appalled. I found almost 5,000 citations where the yellow time was too short, and in the case of 1,645 of those, like Andy Lopez, if the yellow light had been the proper time, they never would have run a red light. This is a huge problem. The city has sent out over a quarter of a million dollars in citations to people that never would have received a ticket if the city's own traffic lights stayed yellow for as long as they claim they do. At the very least, those people should receive refunds and letters of apology from the city. The city is scamming innocent people, and they are making the streets less safe in the process.
The yellow signal times that the city claims are set at each signalized intersection in the city are available in the 122-page December 20th 2012 Red light camera program update report, from page 52 to page 71(it is linked below). You can also see the table below which only shows the red light camera approaches and their yellow signal times as well as the number of short yellow tickets issued at each approach.
“City yellow minimum” is the minimum yellow signal time as shown in the City's report
“Camera yellow minimum” is the minimum yellow signal time as shown in the red light camera citations for that approach
“Short yellow tickets” is the number of citations that show a yellow signal time less than the city's claimed minimum
“Bad short yellow tickets” is the number of short yellow tickets that had a citation red time less than or equal to the difference between the city yellow minimum time and the citation's yellow time. This is the number of people that would not have run red lights, if the yellow lights were set to the time the city says they are supposed to be set to.