City Council puts brakes on traffic camera proposal

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A plan to put cameras on traffic signals hit a yellow light yesterday, as Pittsburgh City Council debated the measure and delayed it pending a public hearing.

Councilman William Peduto wants the city to let a private company install cameras that photograph the license plates of cars that run red lights. Revenue from the resulting $100 tickets would go to re-calibrate and improve traffic lights, paint crosswalks, hire a traffic engineer and make other changes to enhance bike and pedestrian safety.

"Vendors from around this country have been contacting me" offering the cameras, he said.

The company would get a flat fee, taken from ticket revenue, for installing and maintaining the cameras. Owners of cars photographed running lights would have to pay the fines, but would not be penalized with "points" that could cost them their licenses.

"It only clicks on once someone has broken the law," Mr. Peduto said, in response to concerns that the cameras might impinge on civil liberties.

Others on council took a go-slow approach, with several saying they are hesitant to sequester ticket revenue in a special fund that could go only toward road safety improvements, as Mr. Peduto wants. They said council should have wide latitude on how to spend the money.

Mr. Peduto said restricting the use of the money would send a signal that the city is "not just trying to raise revenue. What we are trying to do is make our streets safe."

Council will hold a public hearing on the proposal, probably next month, and council members likely will vote in February. If the measure passes, the state Legislature still would have to pass a law permitting the city to use the cameras, as it has done for Philadelphia.

Separately, Mr. Peduto asked Public Works Director Guy Costa to change the trash collection schedule for part of Squirrel Hill. It is currently set for Fridays, but holidays push it to Saturdays, creating problems for strict Jews who cannot take out garbage during the Jewish Sabbath.

Mr. Costa said he will consider switching two East End collection routes.


Rich Lord can be reached at rlord@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542.


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