Ten days after 180,000 Houston voters shot down the city’s controversial red light cameras, the issue has finally come to a head.
Two days ago the city attorney sent a letter to the president of American Traffic Solutions, the company that owns the system, requesting that the red light cameras be turned off Monday at 10am. On Friday, ATS responded, saying it will comply.
“On Wednesday afternoon we received a letter from the city attorney asking that the cameras go dark on Monday at 10am and ATS has agreed to abide by that request,” said George Hittner, American Traffic Solutions Vice President and General Counsel.
Hittner flew from the company’s headquarters in Phoenix to Houston Friday afternoon to hand deliver the letter.
Even after the cameras go dark, there’s still a contract to honor and a cost to pull out. It could cost Houston taxpayers more than $677,000, because the contract states ATS gets four months notice to cancel the deal.
“We have indicated since the election that there are legalities to work out and this is just part of that process,” Mayor Annise Parker said. “Once City Council canvasses the votes for all three propositions on Monday, we will announce our next steps.”
Hittner says those details will have to be hammered out at some point in the near future and insists ATS is committed to reaching a resolution with the city.
“There are a lot of issues that we still have to work out with the city, but as a starter we have agreed to turn those cameras off,” Hittner explained. “All of the contractual and other obligations of both parties will have to be flushed out at a later date.”
It’s not yet clear how drivers who have been issued citations will be impacted.
“There’s still a lot of violations in the pipeline that we got to figure out what we’re going to do with. How’s that going to be handled and quite frankly there are contractual obligations that we just have to work through,” Hittner said. “From an ATS perspective, of course we’re disappointed at the outcome of the election. But at the same time, the voters of Houston have spoken.”
“The voters have spoken but we’re not happy about it,” said President of the Houston Police Officers Union Gary Blankinship. “We think the cameras save lives. Not having the cameras will make us less efficient.”
While the voters have spoken, there’s still a lot at stake. Turning the cameras off means the city could lose millions of dollars in revenue at a time when it’s struggling with a budget shortfall.