Philadelphia ticket camera program protected

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 12/29/2011

A last-ditch effort at the Pennsylvania statehouse to protect the use of red-light cameras in the state’s biggest city has made its way to the governor’s desk.

Currently, the city of Philadelphia is authorized to use the revenue generator. The revenue from the program is split between the city and the state for use in other communities.

However, the program in Philadelphia is scheduled to expire at the end of the year. To avoid the fate advocates of the ticket cameras did some last-minute maneuvering in Harrisburg to make sure they are not taken down.

House lawmakers voted 149-48 to sign off on Senate changes to a bill that initially dealt solely with the state’s official definition of motorcycles. The revisions to HB1399 would extend the ticket program’s expiration date to June 30, 2012.

About five months after the governor-appointed Transportation Funding Advisory Commission recommended expanding the use of ticket cameras throughout the state, the bill now moves to Gov. Tom Corbett’s desk for his expected signature.

Critics of ticket cameras can claim a small victory during the legislative year. Despite the extension of the Philadelphia program for six years, multiple efforts at the statehouse failed at attempts to take the program statewide.

One bill sought to authorize Pittsburgh, Scranton and 17 third-class cities with populations of at least 18,000 people to post red-light cameras.

Advocates for the cameras like to say it is a safety issue. They also point to the advisory commission’s study recommending the cameras’ continued use, as well as expansion.

Opponents, including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, dispute any claim that the primary focus of the cameras is to keep people safe. OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer said it is obvious that Pennsylvania’s use of the enforcement tool is primarily focused on filling coffers instead of simply trying to keep people safe.

Revenue from the Philadelphia program is divvied up between the city and the state for use in other municipalities. According to a state analysis, about $30 million has been raised since the inception of the program in 2005.

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