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View Diary: Traffic Cameras: Don't watch me, bro! (97 comments)

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  •  WRONG (20+ / 0-)

    If you were to limit your statement to only red light or speed enforcement cameras, I would be inclined to agree with you.  However, the cameras that the diarist is discussing have many perfectly valid engineering applications, and are generally useless for law enforcement due to their low resolution

    For example: Using them as a component of an actuated signal system, like the diarist mentions. When combined with a vehicle sensor algorithm, it does the job better than the inductive loops, and is much easier to maintain.

    Another example: As part of a larger ITS system, which lets engineers in a traffic management center respond to incidents in near real time and adjust the system to compensate.

    And a third: Supplying vehicle counts to planners. Even though it's low-res video, you can use a system like Autoscope to process the video to provide counts of vehicles at the intersection. From an operations standpoint, that's very important information to have, and collecting it using other methods can get expensive.

    "He who fights monsters should see to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."

    by Hayate Yagami on Fri Nov 22, 2013 at 08:41:46 AM PST

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    •  clarification (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Redlight and speed cameras are on the ----list.

      Traffic management; there, a case might be made.

      Your voficerous reply is so noted. Thank you for your concern.

      “Vote for the party closest to you, but work for the movement you love.” ~ Thom Hartmann 6/12/13

      by ozsea1 on Fri Nov 22, 2013 at 09:18:15 AM PST

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    •  And you think?. . . (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bluedust, Keith930, Roadbed Guy, Justus, ozsea1

      . . .those low resolution cameras are going to stay that way? And you think they won't, in a short time, be used for many other purposes?

      I wasn't born yesterday. In a scant few years, those cameras will be able to read the label on that can you're drinking from and maybe even the thread count of your shirt.

      •  Yeah, no. (7+ / 0-)

        The traffic/transportation engineers and planners don't care about HQ video, so I don't think we'll be blowing the money on the fancy new toys.

        "He who fights monsters should see to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."

        by Hayate Yagami on Fri Nov 22, 2013 at 11:53:23 AM PST

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        •  In my experience in the ITS field .. (6+ / 0-)

          ..I saw a lot of political, law enforcement and Homeland security interest in these systems. Even though they were intentionally designed to be low resolution to avoid the temptation for these agencies to commandeer the system when it suits them,  there are the beginnings of non-traffic related usage 'abuse' in some instances.

          In Tennessee, the engineers in charge of the system had to answer and report to the Governor's Public Relations group regarding non-emergency messages displayed on the freeway message boards. The politicians see it as a feel-good, warm and fuzzy political device that somehow promotes the feeling that Governor Bredesen/Haslem was on the job and keeping everyone safe and comfy. However, it can be argued that the constant messages regarding this years fatality statistics compared to last years, or "It's Boat Safety Week', etc. is a distraction and lessens the impact of an urgent advisory when critical information is actually needed to alert motorists to extreme safety issues on the roadway ahead.

          Let the Engineers run the system.

          Tennessee does not video tape its camera feed except in rare and unusual circumstances. If they did, the management would be in court on a permanent basis to testify in the weekly fender bender lawsuit. However, when the DC sniper was at large a few years ago, my friends in Maryland told me the FBI brought in a server to the Maryland Traffic Management HQ to hook up and record and save every second of every camera view. In this case, most people might feel this was a justifiable reason. They removed the server once arrests were made.

          We often dealt with agencies in charge of protecting the nations security. The infrastructure consisting of not only the cameras, but all of the thousands of structures and poles along the roadside connected by fiber optic cable, is seen as an opportunity by these agencies to co-opt and install their own devices for purposes other than traffic safety. Cable has been run to a Fusion Center for purposes yet unknown, and suggestions were made about installing 'sniffers' to detect the transport of radioactive materials being transported along the highways.

          I suspect this multi-billion infrastructure we are building to move traffic will be hijacked by other interests and modified to some extent to accomplish their particular set of goals. Let's not pretend otherwise.

          Isn't it discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit? (Noel Coward)

          by Mid10Dem on Fri Nov 22, 2013 at 02:50:15 PM PST

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          •  A historical footnote... (0+ / 0-)
            I suspect this multi-billion infrastructure we are building to move traffic will be hijacked by other interests and modified to some extent to accomplish their particular set of goals. Let's not pretend otherwise.
            You might find the origins of Sprint (the wireless carrier) interesting.

            Hint: It was originally SPRINT (an acronym), and "SPR" was Southern Pacific Railway.

            The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

            by wesmorgan1 on Sun Nov 24, 2013 at 07:07:19 AM PST

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      •  Having seen the output from the "low res" cameras (0+ / 0-)

        I can tell you that license plates are 100% readable.

        A friend made a movie in which he got permission to use camera footage from local "traffic" cameras as part of the plot. You can read the license plates perfectly clearly, so he had to get the road closed to regular traffic for a period of time, to ensure only cars involved in the film would appear in the footage.

        Town policy is the only thing preventing them from being used as "red light" cameras.

    •  Wrong again (10+ / 0-)

      The idea that red light and speed enforcement cameras are only about revenue is exactly incorrect. Of course, some cameras are used (or abused) in that way, just as traditional speed traps have been and continue to be used as a revenue source for years and years. But they make money because so many people violate the rules and drive in a way that is dangerous to those with whom they share the roads.

      Pedestrians and bikers are dying every single day because of uncontrolled speeding and red-light running. Here in NYC, the estimate is that more than a million drivers run red lights each day. Enforcement cameras are proven effective, in study after study, to reduce these violations, protect pedestrians' and cyclists' right-of-way, and save lives.

      If the only purpose of a road were to allow drivers to get where they're going with no impediments at all, then perhaps these tools wouldn't be important. But roads and streets are public spaces that belong to all of us, and speed limits and traffic lights are there to protect our safety. Drivers (of which I am one) may not like it when they're caught, but there's an easy way to avoid that -- drive at the speed limit, and stop at right lights.

      Transportation advocates like Transportation Alternatives in NY have been fighting for more cameras, and it has nothing to do with government revenue.

      •  Have to disagree. (7+ / 0-)

        I pass a speed enforcement camera every day on my commute.  There are two kinds of cars that pass that camera.  One, cars who don't know it's there and speed on unaffected.  These people get tickets later, but the camera has no effect on their speed at the time and do nothing to enhance the safety of the adjacent school.

        The other cars are those who know it's there and slow down in the enforcement spot, then speed up again as soon as they're past.  For these cars, there is minimal effect on school safety, but they don't get a ticket.

        In short, this camera does nothing to enhance pedestrian safety, but it does generate revenue.

        You can't spell CRAZY without R-AZ.

        by rb608 on Fri Nov 22, 2013 at 02:38:33 PM PST

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        •  Accident rates increase with cameras (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          It's a 2 page article, worth reading in full, so you can understand how the "safety" data are being manipulated, but here are a few choice quotes:

          In Charlotte, North Carolina, station WBTV had this to say, "Three years, 125,000 tickets, and $6 million in fines later, the number of accidents at intersections in Charlotte has gone down less than one percent. And the number of rear-end accidents, which are much more common, has gone up 15 percent."

          In Greensboro, the News & Record reports, "There has not been a drop in the number of accidents caused by red-light violations citywide since the first cameras were installed in February 2001. There were 95 such accidents in Greensboro in 2001, the same number as in 2000. And at the 18 intersections with cameras, the number of wrecks caused by red-light running has doubled."

          The granddaddy of all studies, covering a 10-year period, was done for the Australian Road Research Board in 1995 (cameras went up in Melbourne in 1984). Photo enforcement "did not provide any reduction in accidents, rather there has been increases in rear end and [cross-street] accidents," wrote author David Andreassen in the page-one summary.

      •  Um, no. (8+ / 0-)

        I used to work for a speed/red light camera company. There was one and only one reason they existed: for the money. They didn't care about safety.

        The state law allowed red light tickets for people who had stopped, but their front tires crossed ever so slightly across the crosswalk line. Ticketing those people did exactly nothing to enhance safety, but those tickets got sent, and held up in court.

        The state law required tickets be sent within 14 days of the violation occurring. Many were sent out after that, on the fairly sound theory that most people either wouldn't know that or would have thrown out the envelope with the postmark on it that would prove it was mailed too late.

        A large batch of tickets had the wrong information on the location of the camera. The font with that info was miniscule. "Send the tickets anyway, most people probably won't check!" $$$

        And that's not even counting the more egregious issue of the (in)accuracy of the cameras. The company counted on people not taking the time to go to court to contest their ticket. And the judges in this particular county were guaranteed to require that the defendant prove they weren't speeding. One managed to do that with image overlay software that showed that, given timestamps and distances travelled, they COULDN'T be going the speed they were accused of. Didn't matter.

        The whole dirty business is just a scam.

        I’m tired of sacrificing lives on the altar of the Second Amendment. - Mark Damico

        by Hastur on Fri Nov 22, 2013 at 03:39:22 PM PST

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        •  Impeding the crosswalk doesn't affect safety? WTF? (1+ / 0-)
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          Let me guess - you drive everywhere and get annoyed when a pedestrian tries to cross.

          warning: snark probably above

          by NE2 on Fri Nov 22, 2013 at 05:33:09 PM PST

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          •  No, and no. (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Justus, ozsea1, kurt

            I don't drive everywhere and when I do, I yield willingly to pedestrians.

            We're not talking about impeding a crosswalk. We're talking about people who tried to stop for a red light, and couldn't quite do it without going slightly - I mean centimeters - over the line.

            If you're going to get a ticket anyway, you might as well barrel on through the red light as try to stop. I doubt this helps the cause of safety.

            I’m tired of sacrificing lives on the altar of the Second Amendment. - Mark Damico

            by Hastur on Fri Nov 22, 2013 at 06:19:57 PM PST

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