City considering using photo radar

By Kirk Winter

Council will discuss this at their next budget meeting.

Since 2019, municipalities were given the right to use photo radar on any designated road where the speed limit is 80 km or less. Toronto was the first jurisdiction to sign on, and since then they have been joined by 11 other municipalities and cities including Durham, York, Ottawa, Hamilton, Brampton, Peel, Waterloo, Mississauga, London, Pickering and Oakville.

Kawartha Lakes could be next.

Council listened to a detailed presentation made by Agnes Loder of Redflex, the only vendor authorized by the provincial government to supply automatic speed enforcement cameras, or photo radar, to municipalities across Ontario.

Many councillors like what they heard.

With recent changes to the Highway Traffic Act, municipalities are looking for ways to enforce the 40 kph speed limits found in school zones and municipally-declared community safety zones. Municipal police forces and the Ontario Provincial Police have limited numbers of officers to enforce these maximum speeds with any kind of regularity, so municipalities are looking for other options.

Redflex believes they have the solution to convince drivers to operate their vehicles more slowly in built-up areas: a return to photo radar.

Loder suggested to Kawartha Lakes council that they focus their technology in areas that “are most concerning.”

Joseph Kelly, senior engineering technician for Kawartha Lakes, who was also involved in the ZOOM call, suggested that drivers should be given at least a 90-day warning through signage to alter their driving habits before the technology actually starts issuing tickets.

Loder said that Kawartha Lakes can rent a mobile unit that could be moved from one location to the next relatively easily or semi-fixed units where the camera housing only is permanently affixed to the ground. The camera inside the housing is the piece that is moved from one fixed location to the next.

“Preliminary statistics have shown that the use of AES technology reduces average speeds by 30 percent,” Loder said.

“We know a decision like this will be newsworthy,” Loder said, “and we can assist with the rollout of your program.”  

When the presentation ended, councillors had a number of questions and concerns.

Councillor Tracy Richardson wanted to focus on the cost of renting just one of the mobile Redflex units. Richardson had calculated that at $105 a day, each camera would cost the city around $40,000 a year to rent.

Loder said those numbers were correct, but stated that if the city renewed their contract after the initial agreement ends “rates would drop to $75 a day.”

Councillor Pat Dunn said portable units make more sense as renting a number of the semi-fixed units would be too expensive.

Dunn asked how “vandal proof” the units are, wondering if they would survive an attack by an assailant with a baseball bat.

“Since the units are rentals any mechanical failures or vandalism is on the supplier, and repairs will be done free of charge,” Loder said.

Dunn also wanted to know if the cameras could be calibrated to enforce ORVs and their 20 kph limits, and was told by Loder they could.

Councillor Doug Elmslie asked Kelly if the city had yet declared any community safety zones, and was told no.

Elmslie also wanted to know if the owner of the vehicle gets the photo-radar ticket, or does the driver of the vehicle at the time when the ticket was issued?

“The owner of the car gets the ticket so you need to be careful who you lend your car to,” Loder said.

Councillor Andrew Veale asked if the ticket revenue would cover the costs of renting the technology, and the Redflex spokesperson stated “it depended upon how many violations were being detected.”

Mayor Andy Letham suggested that if the city goes ahead with the cameras, “they need to be targeted to high traffic areas to justify their cost.”

Loder agreed, suggesting that Kawartha Lakes start with one or two to determine overall costs and to decide on high traffic areas.

Councillor Emmett Yeo wanted to know how “mobile” the mobile units are, and how easily they could be re-located from one area to the next.

Loder stressed their ease of re-location but reminded the city there would be a fee for each time the units were moved. The possibility of a regular rotation of the units on a bi-weekly schedule was also discussed.

“Two cameras being circulated to 10-15 designated and marked school and community safety zones would likely work well after drivers had been given fair warning by previously posted signage,” Loder suggested.

By a vote of 6-3 council decided to include photo radar rental as a line item in the 2022 budget for debate once all the other pertinent data about locations and infrastructure has been gathered.

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