Skip to comments.Houston Red Light Camera Report Undermines TxDOT Camera Study
Posted on 12/31/2008 11:15:45 AM PST by Ken H
Study finds accidents doubled at Houston, Texas red light camera intersections undermining the conclusions of a statewide report.
Accidents more than doubled at the Houston, Texas intersections where red light cameras are installed, according to a study released Monday by Rice University and the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI). This result posed a dilemma for TTI and the city of Houston which had requested the study.
Houston Mayor Bill White was furious when he saw the report's draft text in August. He banned the document from publication and ordered a re-writing of the text that would reflect a more positive result. To accomplish this task, White was able to turn to the study's primary author, Rice University Urban Politics Professor Robert Stein. Stein's wife, Marty, is employed by the city of Houston as a top aide to the mayor. Stein's newly revised report now concludes that "red light cameras are mitigating a general, more severe increase in collisions."
That left the Texas Transportation Institute with its own difficulty. Last month TTI coauthored another study with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) intended to support photo enforcement on a statewide basis. This report drew its conclusions from an examination of 56 intersections, 31 of which were found in Houston. The TxDOT-TTI study received wide publicity for the reported claim that red light cameras reduced accidents at camera intersections by 30 percent ( view study in 1mb PDF format).
"The TxDOT-TTI results are impossible to square with Houston's results," Houston attorney Randall L. Kallinen told TheNewspaper.
Kallinen and attorney Paul Kubosh have filed a lawsuit to force Houston to disclose the August draft of the Rice-TTI study under state freedom of information laws. Publicity over the lawsuit likely forced the city finally to release the final report during a holiday week. The revised report's data tell a much different story than that presented in the conclusions.
Houston currently tickets motorists at seventy intersections, but the Rice-TTI report examined the first fifty where the most accident data were available. Beginning in September 2006, Houston commissioned American Traffic Solutions to install the machines in groups of ten per month. The Rice-TTI study compared 24 months of pre-installation data to between 13 and 21 months of post-installation data for each of the five groups. According to TheNewspaper's analysis of overall accident data found in the appendices, the average number of monthly collisions went from an average of 15.4 collisions per month in the two years prior to camera enforcement to 58.3 accidents per month in the post-installation period. Although this figure is not reported in the study itself, the general fact is briefly acknowledged.
"The absolute number of collisions at camera-monitored intersection approaches is not decreasing," the study admitted.
To achieve the appearance of success, the study divided red light camera intersections into "non-monitored" approaches -- the directions of travel at the intersection where the red light camera is not looking -- and the "monitored" approaches where ticketing took place. There was a 132 percent increase in collisions at the non-monitored approaches of the intersection where red light cameras were installed and a non-significant 9 percent increase at the monitored approaches. The study treated these increases in both rear end and T-bone collisions as unrelated to the red light camera as long as the accident happened outside of the camera's view.
The study concluded that because the accidents went up at the non-monitored approaches of red light camera intersections, but effectively stayed the same at the monitored approaches, that the red light cameras were responsible for the "benefit" (a smaller increase) at one part of the red light camera intersection, but not the increase in acccidents at the other. This line of thought would suggest that the increased accidents at the non-monitored approaches of red light camera intersections reflected an increase in accidents at the other city intersections that had no red light cameras at all. The study admits this implication is untrue.
"Currently, conclusions on a general increase in collisions across the city are not supportable with available data," the study states.
The Rice-TTI dataset also throws doubt on the conclusions of the TxDOT-TTI study. Increases in Houston collisions documented by Rice-TTI mysteriously became decreases in collisions in the TxDOT-TTI report, as follows:
-Monroe at Gulf Freeway East Service Road: a 913% increase became a 41.7% decrease
-Hollister at Northwest Freeway: a 747% increase became a 60.5% decrease
-FM1960 West at Tomball Parkway: a 307% increase became a 44% decrease
-Richmond at Dunvale: a 103% increase became no change
-South Sam Houston Freeway at Telephone Road: a 164% increase became a 19.3% decrease
-East Freeway North Service Road at Normandy: a 52% increase became a 25% decrease
-North Freeway West Service Road at West Rankin Road: a 18% increase became a 32.7% decrease
In other cases, decreases became more pronounced and increases lessened. To cite just one example, a 217 percent increase in accidents in the red light camera approach of Scott Street at South Loop East North Service Road in the Rice-TTI report became a 50.1 increase in the TxDOT-TTI report. In general, far fewer collisions were reflected in the data used in the TxDOT-TTI report. Since Houston's results comprised more than one-half of the statewide results, it is unclear how TxDOT and TTI could have concluded a statewide reduction in accidents without data manipulation in at least one of the TTI reports.
A full copy of the final Houston report is available in a 400k PDF at the source link below.
Source: Evaluation of the City of Houston Digital Automated Red Light Camera Program (Rice Univeristy, Texas Transportation Institute, 12/28/2008)
Jeez, you can’t worry about a little collateral damage while in the process of collecting money from the public.
More junk science.
Pick a number and make it fit.
Time for a blizzard of FOIA requests and the emapanelment of a Grand Jury to investigage this 'mayor'.
Typical bureaucratic-political fraud.
Starts as a scientific study, ends as a political statement.
I’m confident that if these studies indicate that the cameras make intersections more dangerous, the cameras will be promptly taken down.
After all, the cameras are there for safety - the politicians said so.
Has nothing to do with revenue generation. Nothing at all...
(above is sarcasm for those who haven’t already figured it out)
They sent these data to the Abu Ghraib for statistics to be tortured into submission.
The Houston pols publishing this report submitted it to the IPCC to see if they might get a crack at drafting the next big global warming report.
Needless to say political “standards” (such as they are) - are really going down very fast here in Texas
For those of you who haven't seen these things yet, there is a bright flash when the camera goes off. It's enough to distract everyone traveling through the intersection, not just the subject being photographed. Imagine yourself driving along minding your own business when suddenly a strobe goes off in your eyes. You start looking around wondering what the heck it was and end up colliding with someone else doing the same thing.
"As you can see, my approval ratings show a steady increase."
This has been pretty well known for a while now. After installing the cameras some cities have also cut in half the time the yellow light stays on. The only purpose of the cameras is to increase revenue, safety is just smokescreen.
1Simply put, permissive yellow means you can enter the intersection under the yellow light but do not have to be clear of the intersection before the red comes on. (that's how I learned in Massachusetts but that's hardly the model state for safe drivers!). In a non-permissive state, you must clear the intersection before the signal changes to red - even if you entered the intersection under green! A non-permissive photo intersection gorges on a diet of permissive yellow trained drivers. Note that the shortening of a yellow to allow a second or so of all red exacerbates the trap nature of the intersection.
I daresay that these technical violations of a red light are not accident inducing for the most part, assuming the cross traffic is starting from a start and not barreling up to a red light in anticipation of an imminent green. Those are not your t-bone generators. OTHO, panic stops the instant the light turns yellow to avoid a ticket will cause the spike in rear-enders that the study seemed to find.
Solve the permissive / non-permissive mix and the revenue plan for most red light camera schemes falls apart.
Screw the accidents. Let insurance pay for them. The city makes more money with the cameras. Let insurance pay for them.
Income vs. safety? Income wins.
Texas red-light cameras have another problem to deal with...
A couple years back, the PI lobby convinced the Private Security Bureau—the PSB is the state agency that regulates private investigators, security guards, etc.—to push through a law declaring that all digital forensic practitioners had to be licensed as PIs. They did this via language that required anyone collecting any kind of evidence to be a PI.
A few weeks ago, a Dallas-area judge threw out a camera ticket based on the fact that the operators of the camera system were collecting evidence without holding a PI license. Now camera tickets are being challenged all over the state. Stoopid laws giveth, and stoopid laws taketh away. (Yes, SIC on purpose.)
Global warming and second hand smoke.
“Houston Mayor Bill White was furious when he saw the report’s draft text in August. He banned the document from publication and ordered a re-writing of the text that would reflect a more positive result. To accomplish this task, White was able to turn to the study’s primary author, Rice University Urban Politics Professor Robert Stein. Stein’s wife, Marty, is employed by the city of Houston as a top aide to the mayor. Stein’s newly revised report now concludes that “red light cameras are mitigating a general, more severe increase in collisions.””
This guy must write for the AGW crowd.
Until people stop tailgating, this will continue. After a while the smart ones
will be PREPARED TO STOP!
White, Houston’s mayor, is just your typical big city rat politican. He is all about expanding government, expanding taxes, creating more dependency. Oh, he is arrogant as all can be - imagine that.
I made the bold prediction when the study was first announced, that the end result would be supportive of red light cameras. Afterall, White has plans to expand their use for revenue generation, I mean, safety reasons.
Unfortunately, Texas suffers the standard problem that most states have - big cities are rat controlled, the rest of state republican. Fortunately, the rest of Texas is big enough to counter the cities, so far.
There are lies, damn lies, and statistics.
That's something I never understood. The traffic light cameras themselves do not cause the accidents, it is the idiots who ride up to your bumper as you stop for a red or yellow light that do.
I personally don't have a problem with red light cameras with reasonable oversight because there are dangerous intersections where it is critical that traffic laws be enforced and there aren't enough cops to go around to enforce the law at every intersection. Of course, I don't find myself running red lights on purpose either.
I hadn’t seen a red light camera intersection until I came to Houston over Christmas. We were never ticketed but it seemed as if every intersection we crossed which had a camera flashed and took a picture because someone was going through the light.(At least that’s what the camera thought.)
what to do...
more tax money? more deaths?
I am betting they figure out a ‘solution’ that keeps the tax money, and fails to address the deaths... THAT’s how the govt works!
*It’s enough to distract everyone traveling through the intersection, not just the subject being photographed. Imagine yourself driving along minding your own business when suddenly a strobe goes off in your eyes.*
The only person driving through an intersection when a camera goes off is either running the red light her/himself or about to be t-boned by the person running the red light.
Why can’t people just learn to stop when a yellow light is stale or to stop blazing through city streets too fast to stop at yellow lights at all? How hard is that to figure out?
What do you expect, Texas next US senator told us the critics just need to shut up. Like he did about so much else under his reign.
Houston Revenue scheme PING
I want to know how many cops and bus drivers (metro and school) have been caught on these. Since it is a private company that collects the money, at least at one point they did NOT want to waive the fees for non-emergencies and the city tried to make the violators pony up the cash.
The city is in a tizzy right now about what to do over suspected assault by police officers. Put a video camera in the downtown holding cell (before booking) and you’ll catch cops in the act of assault and the damn well knows it. It is a potential multimillion dollar lawsuit that could hit our city.
Prior to Ike, there were reports out of Dallas that they were turning off some of the cameras because they weren’t making the city money anymore (violators had decreased at those intersections).
Actually, there is sometimes a strobe light that is unrelated to the camera that takes a picture. Its purpose is to allow a police officer to determine when a light (that he cannot see from where he may be sitting) turns red. And it flashes whether there's a police officer there or not. This provides him with the ability to stop and ticket a driver from a different direction.
Not that simple.
Slowing down on the green because a 2-second yellow might come at any time is the cause of slamming on the brakes at the last minute.
A citation or being rear-ended is an unnecessary burden to have to choose between.
Praying others won't tailgate is a fool's solution (or a grossly self-centered immature twit's).
Who you calling a twit?
Here in Charlotte, the yellow lights became a flash that was barely discernible. But eventually someone made them stop using the fool cameras.
Nobody in government can think before or after they do anything.
Houston Mayor Bill White was furious when he saw the report’s draft text in August. He banned the document from publication and ordered a re-writing of the text that would reflect a more positive result. To accomplish this task, White was able to turn to the study’s primary author, Rice University Urban Politics Professor Robert Stein. Stein’s wife, Marty, is employed by the city of Houston as a top aide to the mayor. Stein’s newly revised report now concludes that “red light cameras are mitigating a general, more severe increase in collisions.”
So in other words Bill, you are a lying sack of...
And you want to make a go at the senate seat that may be vacated by Kay Baily Hutchison???
I just don’t think we can trust you there buckwheat...
Mayor White (the white guy Democrat) is a former Clinton administration figure as was Houston’s Mayor Brown (the brown Democrat). They are carpetbaggers who don’t give a crap about this city, they are political animals. Like Chris Bell, 4 time loser (and Democrat).
This was a stupid assumption, especially if the intersections are posted the same as in the Dallas area (or at least the Dallas suburbs).
Here, a sign warns that red-light cameras are in use at all approaches to an intersection. So, even if only one approach actually has the camera in position to record red-light runners, the typical driver doesn't know which one unless they are familiar with the intersection and know what to look for.
If the intersections in Houston are posted on all approaches, it's going to modify the behavior of drivers: they'll stop more often on yellow lights. An increased number of rear-end collisions is the most likely outcome.
Yes, Bill White is a dirtbag (IMO). My wife used to work for him... she had a horrible experience.