Welcome to Another Campaign

I’ve decided to try one more time to win a seat on the Fremont City Council. Last time many said I didn’t stand a chance going up against two incumbents. While I didn’t win, I came very close, coming in within a percentage point of winning. This near victory showed how far we’ve come building a true grassroots organization of Fremont residents that can win a seat on the City Council.

I’m excited to start a new campaign. I believe that we have a very good chance of winning this time around and getting the first candidate on the Fremont City Council that I know of that has steadfastly refused to take campaign contributions from developers.

I’ve decided to leave up all of the blog posts from my 2010 campaign. I’m proud to stand by any comments that I’ve previously made.

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2 comments on “Welcome to Another Campaign”

  1. Roger Jones Reply

    Vinnie, here is my response to your comments on Red Light Cameras.

    While it is not a main source of revenue for the city and while no claim was made that revenue was the goal, revenue plays a crucial part. The police never would have presented the proposal to Council in 1999 unless projected revenue exceeded projected expenses. Let’s not kid ourselves. Fremont sends Redflex nearly $600,000 each year for the camera equipment and services. Police Dept. overhead to run the program is about another $100,000 per year. If income does not exceed $700K per year, then the shortfall will be paid from the general fund of the city. This is not going to happen, or if it does, either expenses will be reduced perhaps by a modified rate from Redflex or citations will increase through manipulation of the trigger speeds of cameras or more aggressive enforcement.

    There is a built-in incentive to NOT reduce red light running and to NOT reduce violations/citations. And lo and behold, violations are not being reduced. Massive enforcement has not reduced red light running since 2009. Violations have been increasing. If enforcement achieved even a 25% – 30% reduction in citations, it would put the program into the red.

    Extending the length of yellow lights

    Vinnie, along with police and engineering, have stated their beliefs in the past that this strategy will not work or somehow is not the right thing to do. Better to have motorists run a red than a yellow. Any number of assertions are made but they are made based on suppositions and conjectures and not facts nor data. Vinnie says that employing a 1.0 second all-red phase seems to be an even more effective safety measure than extending yellow lights. Where does that information come from? Cities often use the all-red phase whether they have cameras or not. It is used to increase clearance time especially at very broad intersections. An all-red phase is not or should not be used as justification to keep yellow lights at or near the minimums.

    Vinnie goes on to say Fremont’s yellow lights conform to the state standards (MUTCD). This is kind of half true. The standard specifies a range. Fremont can increase the yellow lights beyond the minimum or beyond current timings and still conform to state standards.

    Here is what we do know. Fremont keeps its yellow lights at the photo enforced locations under its control near the minimums. It arbitrarily adds one tenth or two tenths depending on its own system of rounding. It also uses the minimum according to the speed limit and not the actual average speed of traffic or the 85th percentile speed. This “strategy” if one could call it, actually means a majority of drivers in the dilemma zone at some of its intersections are not give adequate time to come to a stop. However, whenever the length of the yellow light has been extended, there are fewer instances of red light running. Each and every time. Here, there, and everywhere. Witness clear evidence of this in Newark, Oakland, Emeryville, San Carlos, San Diego, Loma Linda, and even right here in Fremont.

    Here is what we know and what actually happened and is still happening right here in Fremont. In Nov. 2010 Caltrans increased the yellow light on Mission Blvd at Mohave Dr. from the legal minimum of 4.3 seconds to 5.0 seconds. There was an immediate and huge reduction in red light violations. Violations of the straight through type which camera proponents say are the types which cause the most damage and produce the most serious injuries dropped by 76%. Whenever and wherever this strategy has been employed violations have come down. In rough numbers, there is a 10% reduction in straight-through violations for each tenth of a second added to the yellow light when the yellow was set at or near the legal minimum.

    Now, this has been totally ignored by Police, Engineering, and City Council. A study of red light violations from reports produced by Redflex, itself, show that 59% of all violations occurring in Fremont occur within one-half second of the red phase. If one-half second were added to even the 3 most offensive cameras, no longer would income exceed expenses over all. Red Light Running will be reduced by such great margins that income from all 10 cameras will not compensate for the reductions at just the 3 most offensive cameras. (Offensive cameras are those where the yellow lights are set lower than the minimum according to approach speed of traffic). Why is this not done? Why not reduce red light running by employing this one engineering countermeasure which costs nothing? Because by doing so will severely impact the revenue stream. Remember, Income MUST exceed expenses. Safety will no longer seem such an important goal. Why is it less safe to reduce red light running?

    The whole issue of the length of yellow lights is not just my claim or the claim of some wild anti-camera folks. The Calif. State Dept. of Transportation has appointed a committee to study the formula which is the “industry standard” to see if has flaws and is in need of revision. More and more it is becoming known that the “camera sweepstakes” are predicated on keeping yellow lights short.

    Do Red Light Cameras reduce red light running?

    The answer is NO. Fremont has not seen any reduction in the number of violations in the last 4 years other than at Mission and Mohave. In fact, had it not been for the change at this one intersection in 2010, overall numbers of violations would have been increasing.

    Do Red Light Cameras actually reduce collisions?

    This is the common belief but Fremont has produced no data; it has conducted no specific study to show this. I have the only 4 reports the City has has ever issued and these reports contain over generalized conclusions on cherry-picked data. City staff continually tell us of their beliefs that safety benefits have accrued, but there is no actual evidence of that.

    Mission and Mohave

    The data base managed and maintained by CHP (SWITRS) lists 50 collisions at Mission and Mohave in 10 year period of 2001-2010. In the one year after the change was made to the yellow light there has not been one collision. Not one. This proves nothing other than it is an indication that fewer violations actually may translate into a significant safety benefit. Note that of the 50 collisions, not all actually occurred in the intersection and certainly the causes were for many reasons and not necessarily attributed to red light running. I include this data only as the sort of data from which good analysis could be conducted. The only analysis I have found being conducted is whether enough shekels are received at month’s end to pay Redflex and such.

    The City of Hayward Police Dept conducted its own collision analysis when it was in their 5th year of photo enforcement and found collisions had increased. Rear enders had increased across the board and broadsides, too, had increased at some photo enforced locations. Is there some reason this seems to have no relevance with our city’s staff and elected officials?

    Right on Red violations.

    We do not set the fine. We do not make the law. We just enforce the law. The vehicle code makes no distinction between the fine for an illegal right on red vs. a straight-through violation. It carries the $500 fine which is a mandatory minimum amount. Whenever complaints arise, you hear that these violations are unsafe. Fremont issues 30% of its citations to these right-on-red violators. An actual ticket for “failure to yield” requires a pedestrian, bicyclist, or motorist put at risk by the violator. The fine is $258. Have there been any of these types of collisions where the Primary Collision Factor has been a violation of right on red (vehicle code no. 21453)? Have there been more collisions or fewer collisions at intersections where only a Yield and not a Stop is required when turning right? There is no interest by the City to find out. Virtually all violations of right-on-red show in the video of the violation no potential danger to anyone. It is a citeable offense but these tickets are not for safety but for revenue. Fremont is using “gamesmanship” to parlay this expensive ticket for some of the most minor violations.

    Cash Cow

    A constant source of revenue. One which keeps on giving. This is a cash cow. This is the red light camera program. It does not reduce red light running. If it did, then after 10 years why has it not decreased these violations significantly enough to put themselves out of business?

    Impact on the Local Economy

    Fremont pulls in nearly $1 million per year from camera tickets and most of that money goes to the camera vendor, Redflex. However, the money pulled from the pockets of the “offenders” in fines, traffic school fees, and increased insurance premiums is around $4 million per year. $4 million per year for no provable benefit. This what Hayward said. Would leaving $4 million in the pockets of consumers to spend in restaurants, movies, local shops help or hurt the local economy? But, this is not our money. It is money from the offenders, the aggressive drivers. The facts are that many of the tickets go to good drivers trapped in the dilemma zone and who, through no fault of their own, were turned into law-breakers. This discussion can be left to another day. The explanation of how good drivers are being scooped up in the net by the thousands in order to catch the few true offenders will take some time. Simply extend the length of yellow lights by even a fraction of a second and the results will be the reduction of red light running. This is the stated purpose of cameras but which is not being achieved.

  2. Roger Jones Reply

    Vinnie, I am still waiting for a candidate to have a position on Fremont’s red light cameras. The City’s staff including the Police and Engineering knows that increasing the yellow light times by only 7/10’s of a second will reduce red light running by over half. The issuance of nearly 10,000 tickets at $500 each is not reducing these numbers. Therefor, the system is not working. In fact, the built-in incentive is actually to INCREASE red light running not to reduce it, since any reduction also reduces revenue.

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