Is the Photo Radar program effective at reducing speeds?

This is the question that plagues most discussions about transportation and traffic safety in the City of Edmonton. While this post won't give a conclusive answer to that question, I hope it provides another set of data with which we can approach discussions.

If you're interested in checking out my series of stats on the photo radar program (which I believe needs reform) you can check out the 2016 stats, or the 2015 stats

The entire purpose of enforcement is to "teach a lesson" to those that break the law. If people are not learning, then the enforcement strategy needs improvement, or you need to find a different avenue to teach.

I think a solid indicator in the question of whether or not citizens are learning is through looking at repeat offenders, those who have received an enforcement action, yet continue to violate the law.

# of Tickets Per Plate 2013 2014 2015 2016
1 189,816 223,898 226,655 234,154
2 44,332 62,464 60,848 63,172
3 13,899 22,888 21,260 22,034
4 5,086 9,329 8,631 9,228
5 2,173 4,480 3,807 4,213
6+ 2,149 5,229 4,347 5,031
Total Plates (total tickets) 257,455 (422,720) 328,288 (509,990) 325,548 (498,227) 337,832 (519,177)

The first thing that jumps out about this data is that yes, definitely a lot of unique license plates are being issued photo radar tickets. However, we also need to take into account that it's not just Edmontonians driving on our streets, we have to include the Metro Edmonton area as many bedroom communities commute into Edmonton. We also have a pretty slow-going portion of the Trans-Canada Highway running through our city, and the flashing ticket machine might be distributing speed notifications to impatient road-trippers.

For argument's sake, we'll use the population of Metro Edmonton (around 1.1 million) as our baseline. That means that roughly 30% of the Metro Edmonton population will receive at least one photo radar ticket per year.

Where the data starts to get interesting is when we break down not only by individuals but by the share of total tickets each group received.

30% is starting to become an interesting number in the context of photo radar.

Since 2014, 30% of all photo radar tickets issued have been to drivers that received 3 or more tickets per year.

Looking at the data available here, a reasonable argument can be made that the automated enforcement program is not working as a tool for eliminating speeding overall. Every year sees a large segment of offenders that receive close to a ticket or more per quarter. And if the people who received just 1 ticket stopped speeding completely, well... we would have run out of population that hadn't received a ticket in early 2016.

However, an argument could be made the current program is effective at lowering speeds in a particular location. As Global News reported, from 2014 to 2016 segments of Whyte avenue where photo radar was deployed have seen a dramatic (around 70%) drop in the tickets issued. However, administration is acknowledging that the simple addition of a 50km/h sign to the affected locations would have a positive effect on compliance.

The question of whether the photo radar program is effective at reducing speeds still doesn't have a conclusive answer, but one thing I believe quite strongly is that the program is not nearly effective enough to justify is continuation without reform.

I believe that a series of simple reforms will allow photo radar to become a useful stopgap tool that we can use on the path to eliminating traffic injuries completely. If you agree, please reach out and join my campaign for City Council in Ward 11, and let's make the photo radar program actually work for us.