COLUMBIA — The city of Columbia has halted installation of red-light cameras, according to city officials. After announcing in January the intention to install 11 more, the city has now taken the plan off the table.
The cameras were installed in 2009 at five intersections in the city. In their two years of operation, the number of paid violations has decreased. In 2010, 1,457 tickets were paid. In 2011, that number dropped to 829.
Gatso USA, the private company that installed and maintains the cameras, receives a fee of $44 per paid ticket. The company received $54,076 from camera violations this year, down by $4,532 from the last fiscal year.
After payment to Gatso USA and expenses for police personnel, court and prosecution costs, and supplies, the city brought in $18,047 in revenue in fiscal 2010.
In fiscal year 2011, the cameras generated $116,650, down $41,865 from the previous year. City officials could not provide the city's expenses for fiscal year 2011.
Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine said that revenue had no bearing on the decision not to install more cameras.
"The reason red-light cameras were put in was to make the public more aware of the potential consequences of running red lights," he said.
Gatso President Andrew Noble said the decision against installing more cameras was the result of survey work the company completed at other intersections for which cameras were being contemplated. Those intersections didn't yield enough violations to justify cameras.
That might indicate that the red-light cameras already installed have caused drivers to be cautious throughout the city, St. Romaine said. "I think it's had a spill-over effect into the rest of Columbia."
Noble also said money had a bearing on the decision. Columbia Public Communications Director Toni Messina, however, said the number of violations was the primary factor, but conceded revenue is also down.
"They're not seeing the type of violations that they had seen earlier. The number of red-light violations has leveled off to a point where it's looking like they had the desired effect," she said. "When that happens, it generates less revenue and the vendor is affected by that as well."
Messina, like St. Romaine, emphasized that the city's intent was not to boost revenue but to make drivers more safe.
The city's fiscal goal for the cameras, St. Romaine said, was to at least break even. Last year's surplus went into the general revenue fund.
St. Romaine said that more cameras are unnecessary because the ones currently in place have decreased violations throughout the city.