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Photo radar freeze affects local ATE program

Masha Scheele

Council gave administration the go-ahead to renew their automated traffic enforcement (ATE) program with Global Traffic Group for the next two years after the Government of Alberta announced a temporary freeze on ATE.

A letter from Alberta Transportation on Nov. 26 informed the town that the freeze on net new ATE technology would go into effect on Dec. 1 and last two years. 

The letter stated that it would provide an opportunity to engage with municipalities and law enforcement to implement changes to photo radar requirements, including enhanced data collection and reporting requirements announced in Feb 2019.

The freeze allows the government to work on revisions and is a way to avoid unnecessary expenditures before revisions are announced, stated administration during the regular council meeting on Dec. 3.

Protective services manager, Todd Martens, explained that the provincial government will also take 40 per cent of the program proceeds going forward, compared to the previous 33 per cent cut.

Regular provincial tickets stay at roughly 27 per cent, Martens added.

Previously, council approved a request for proposal (RFP) process on Nov. 5, but this can no longer happen since the provincial freeze also includes no new approvals of ATE programs as of Dec. 1.

Since the town’s current agreement with Global Traffic Group includes a clause to extend the contract beyond its expiration date of Dec. 31, that was one way of continuing ATE in Hinton over the next two years.

A few councillors commented on the need of the program and the safety issue within the community.

Coun. Albert Ostashek said, “My concern has always been about the safety aspect of ATE in Hinton. We’ve made changes to ATE over the years to make sure it is more conscious and focused on safety and less about revenue generation.”

He added that he believes ATE has changed driving behaviour and with Global Traffic Group being their only viable option it makes sense to extend the contract.

Coun. Dewly Nelson pointed out that one way to look at the effectiveness of the program is that revenue from ATE has decreased every single year since it’s been in effect, to a point where there isn’t enough to fund the community grant program. 

“We’re going to continue to take less and less from this program as people continue to speed less and less through our community,” he said.

Revenue from the program funded the community grant program, which awards money to local nonprofits each year.

Martens explained that other options include assigning a peace officer specifically to ATE or letting the program lapse until 2021, when the freeze is set to end.

CAO Martin Taylor commented that it would be tough to go without any revenue from the program in the next two years, making the choices limited.

The Town of Hinton will continue working with Global Traffic Group, but won’t be able to invest in any new photo radar equipment, approve any new locations, or complete costly upgrades.

The letter from the province stated that this freeze will help determine the best way for photo radar to improve transportation safety.