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Traffic enforcement options shift focus to safety over revenue

Masha Scheele

The current Automated Traffic Enforcement (ATE) contract with Global Traffic Group expires on Dec. 31, and Council continues to look at the options for the program. 

Global Traffic Group has provided photo traffic enforcement for the Town of Hinton since July of 2006.

One of the options presented to council at the standing committee meeting on Oct. 8 was to hire an additional full time level one peace officer position exclusively for traffic. 

This new position would replace the current ATE program and would include enforcement for speeding, stop signs, red lights, and parking issues. 

An advantage of having an officer pull vehicles over is that it allows immediate enforcement.

“Obviously a marked vehicle is seen by the public and that action is immediately, you’re not getting a ticket in the mail from either us as a town or from a contractor. It’s face to face and also doing that education piece, that compliance piece,” said protective services manager, Todd Martens.

The officer can also enforce other things when they pull over a vehicle such as proper licencing, licence suspensions, warrants, load security, expired plates, and other public safety issues, said Martens.

Another option council discussed was administering the ATE program internally, which requires two additional staff including a peace officer and an administrative position. 

“There’s two positions with that option, there’s more cost overall. It’s our program so there’s more legislation around that as well,” said Martens.

This option would allow the positions to focus on other things if traffic enforcement isn’t possible on certain days.

The cost of hiring a peace officer position is roughly half of having an RCMP officer provide traffic enforcement, stated Martens.

If council decides to hire another bylaw officer or take the ATE program internal, the focus would shift to safety and be less about revenue made from the program.

“The contractor is about safety but they’re also a business so they are looking to make revenue. Whereas when it is our program, if the appetite is to sit in school zones for certain times or percentage, that’s what we will do,” added Martens.

Estimated revenue when hiring a peace officer for ATE based on 2019 statistics of speed enforcement only is $176,438 total, which averages to about 165 tickets per month at $133.

Coun. Ostashek pointed out that expenses in the report brought to council didn’t include the additional peace officer’s wage, which would cause the program to become almost revenue neutral.

Martens explained that the report only includes revenue from speeding enforcement and doesn’t include stop signs, red lights, and other traffic problems.

The option to hire an additional peace officer would not leave a lot of money for the community grant program, which is normally funded by the ATE program.

“We looked at this purely from safety from ATE, we did not consider the funding of the grant program,” said CAO Martin Taylor.

Coun. Trevor Haas mentioned that since the town created the community grant fund program from the ATE program it would be tough to lose that revenue.

Hinton’s photo enforcement revenue is currently shared amongst the Town, the province, and the contractor, Global Traffic Group.

Some of the provincial funds go into the Victims of Crime Fund, while a portion of the Town’s revenue goes to the Community Grant Program for non-profit organizations.

Revenue from the ATE program has decreased in the past few years due to changes like discontinuing the stop sign enforcement, not moving forward with the red-light program, as well as eliminating zones based on safety, collision data, and the new 2019 provincial guidelines, according to the report.

Coun. Dewly Nelson stated more information was needed before tabling the discussion to the next standing committee meeting.

“It’s about knowing the revenue after expenditures for each of the programs and also what the plan for the community grant fund is. This council has never expressed that we want to eliminate that,” he said.