HAYWARD -- Red-light cameras could be a thing of the past within two years.
Police are recommending that the cameras be phased out as contracts expire beginning next fall. The City Council will take up the matter at its Tuesday meeting.
Several cities have dropped red-light camera programs for a variety of reasons, including high cost and little or no evidence that they reduce accidents, according to the staff report.
"As these systems flourished across the nation, they became the subject of both praise and rancorous debates as to their legitimacy as safety tools and whether their usefulness in reducing crashes had taken a back seat to their potential for generating revenue," the report said.
Although Hayward's goal was traffic safety, not revenue, "the overall goal of reducing accidents has not been sustained," the report said.
Councilman Mark Salinas was more succinct. "Depending on who you ask, people either love them or hate them," he said.
Beginning in 2008, the cameras were installed at eight intersections where police reported higher rates of accidents caused by drivers running red lights: Industrial Parkway West and Huntwood Avenue; B and Second streets; West Winton Avenue and Hesperian Boulevard; West A Street and Hesperian; Industrial Parkway Southwest at Whipple Road; Mission Boulevard and Industrial Parkway; Santa Clara Avenue and Jackson Street; and West A Street and Interstate 880.
Only half of those intersections have seen any decrease in broadside collisions, which often result from red light-running, and three intersections actually had an increase in such accidents in the two years after cameras were installed.
Data on rear-end crashes tell a different story. All but three of the intersections in the system had increases in rear-end collisions, with B and Second rising 75 percent.
Salinas has been hearing from residents and commuters about the cameras since taking office. "Soon after I was elected, I got an email from someone who wanted the cameras, but they were upset when they got caught by one. They wanted the cameras, but for other people," he said.
The red-light cameras cost the city $962,976 annually. Revenue from tickets was highest in 2011, at $1.3 million. The amount dropped dramatically last year, but the staff report says some of that could be because of problems with Alameda County's revamped financial database and the possibility that the money wasn't credited properly. However, even if that is reconciled, it may be that the cameras are costing the city money.
"I wouldn't call them a cash cow," Salinas said.
Since the first camera was installed in 2008, 62,987 red-light camera citations have been issued. In 2012, almost 60 percent were for right-turn-on-red violations.
"While California law requires drivers to make a complete stop before turning right at a red light, right-turn violations are rarely involved as a factor in collisions," the report said.
As part of the study of the effectiveness of the cameras, in 2011 Hayward went back to old-fashioned policing, handing out tickets at the five intersections with the highest number of accidents. Almost immediately, collisions dropped 35 percent.
"People pay attention and respond differently when they see an officer on a motorcycle or a car," Salinas said.
Contact Rebecca Parr at 510-293-2473 or follow her at Twitter.com/rdparr1.
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Hayward City Hall, 777 B St., Council Chambers, second floor