Red-light cameras at 32 Los Angeles intersections remain scheduled to be removed, after the City Council's failure Tuesday to overturn a Police Commission decision to end the divisive program.
The contract with American Traffic Solutions, the company that runs the camera program, costs the city $2.7 million a year and will run out July 31. The council voted 7-5 to overturn the commission's decision and retain the program, but the motion needed at least eight votes to pass.
The Police Commission voted June 7 to end the program, in part because drivers with unpaid tickets are not subjected to consequential action and judges do not enforce traffic tickets generated by a camera.
The council may still overturn the decision if a new motion receives the required votes before July 31.
Councilman Tony Cardenas, who introduced a motion with Councilman Bernard Parks last week to keep the program on a month-to-month basis was not deterred by the council's decision.
"The issue is not dead. The vote that took place today had a lot of loose ends," said Cardenas. "Hopefully we get clarity between now and July 31."
"It is wasteful to immediately dismantle an infrastructure that is already in place," he continued.
Cardenas asked his colleagues to come up with a way to make the system better by the end of July.
Councilman Tom LaBonge agreed that the program needed work and said the city required more time for it to be studied. He emphasized that technology is important and the program should not be killed. Traffic safety is especially important in the San Fernando Valley, where wide boulevards cause drivers to speed, he said.
"We should be a fair city, not a fine city. A fine city is one that just puts fines everywhere. We should be fair to the people we represent," said LaBonge.
During the discussion, which went on for more than an hour at Tuesday's City Council meeting, Councilman Paul Krekorian advocated against extending the program.
"We need to spend this money on proven technologies, proven engineering methods, proven enforcement methods, where we don't have these kind of questions that cause the Police Commission to reject this by unanimous vote," he said.
The Police Commission decided that the red-light camera program was not the best way to ensure public safety, and elected officials should be respectful and supportive of that decision, said Krekorian.
The councilman, however, reflected on recent traffic accidents in his district.
"I will never in my life forget 12-year-old Emely Aleman, who was killed when she was in a crosswalk at Laurel Canyon and Archwood," he said. "Or Angela Rodriguez, who was paralyzed from the neck down from the age of 13 in that same accident."
Councilman Paul Koretz echoed Krekorian's views and introduced a motion to study the timing of traffic signals at intersections to improve safety, including intersections that do not currently have a camera due to a two camera per district limit. The motion passed 12-0.
City Council President Eric Garcetti, who said that the program should be shut down, criticized the price of the $446 red-light violation ticket, which he said can equal two-thirds of the monthly rent for low-income residents.
"That's devastating," he said. "We want to change people's behaviors, we want to save lives, but it's not working the way that it is."