By now, all drivers have seen a red light camera at an intersection. Unfortunately, many drivers have received a ticket generated by one of the red light cameras in the mail. Red light cameras have proven to be a big money maker for cities and the companies that operate them.
Now some officials are seeing another money-making opportunity in stop sign cameras.
Joe Edmiston and his team at the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, or MRCA, have placed cameras at stop signs in the park. The tickets cost drivers $175 each. But the cost isn’t what is upsetting drivers as much as the placement of the seven stop signs with the cameras. The stop signs are in odd locations—at the exit from a small scenic overlook, for example, or midblock on a dead-end road near a trailhead. Moreover, the cameras do not take a picture of the driver like many red light cameras do.
The cameras have proved to be a big money-maker for the park. L.A. Weekly reported that the cameras have been used to send ticket to over 70,000 visitors in the past five years (“Parks Agency Money Grab”), leading to a seven percent increase in the park’s annual operating revenue, and amounting to more than $2 million in some years.
In what seems like a response to the backlash from surprised visitors and public reports, the park reduced the tickets to $100. But if you want to fight the ticket, you have to pay a $25 up-front hearing fee. If you can’t pay the fee, you have to turn over bank account information and social security information, and provide your household income, rental and food costs, and more. Critics believe that they made the requirements so onerous so that people would be dissuaded from fighting the ticket and simply pay up.
The fee is refunded if drivers win their case or, more often, applied to their bill when they lose. Drivers challenging their tickets must appear before private adjudicators who are hired by the Mountains Authority. Few drivers ever win.
The park officials insist that the stop signs and cameras are necessary to protect the safety of walkers and hikers. But park visitors see it as a scam. There is no evidence that the areas were dangerous—there are no records of traffic incidence since 2005. Many are vowing never to go back to the park again.