In my last blog I made the claim that the City of Columbia City Manager’s Office was attempting to put a disingenuous positive spin on their red light camera program by touting their so-called success in the media. Thanks to the work of John Schultz of the Boone Liberty Coalition, we now have the supporting documents from the city and guess what, I was right. The City Manager’s Office is telling some “little white lies”. Let’s take a look.

Here is the memo sent from Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine to City Manager Bill Watkins. [click here for the memo] It outlines the same information that was released to the press. I found the final sentence to be quite telling.

“This information will continue to be updated along with data from new intersections as they are equipped with RLCs to provide a sense of the real safety benefit attributing from use of these systems.”  –Tony St Romaine

Tony had his mind made up from the beginning, undoubtedly with more than a little help from the multi-national mega-corporation Gatso who profits from these cameras, that red light cameras make intersections safe. Regardless of the facts, Tony is sticking to his guns and feeding half-truths to the media.

Now take a look at the numbers Tony is using to make his claims of safety.  [click here for the chart] A few things really stand out.

For instance:

The number of injury accidents stayed the same at the Stadium and Providence intersection and actually went up 12.5% at the Stadium and Worley intersection. If, as the City Manager’s Office would have us believe, theses numbers are a true representation of the magic of red light cameras, are the cameras actually useless at Stadium and Providence and downright dangerous at Stadium and Worley? After all, Tony uses the word “safety”. I would assume he is interested in keeping people safe and not just bumpers.

Heck, overall accidents at the Stadium and Worley intersection rose 27.9% under the watchfull eye of the Gatso cameras. To most of us this would signal a complete failure of the system, but not to the experts in the City Manager’s Office. Who cares if this system is a failure when it makes money for the city to the tune of $18,000? [click here to see the numbers]

The memo states that the Gatso contract calls for cameras to be installed at 16 intersections. If the current system netted $18,000 in profits and added over $82,000 to the city bureaucracy, imagine if the system was trippled. When all 16 intersections are equipped with Gatso cameras the city will profit by almost $58,000 per year and will grow its bulging bureaucracy by nearly $263,000. Maybe old Tony is seeing dollar signs.

Keep in mind that there is a lot of missing data. For instance:

How many of these accidents were actually related to a red light violation; the very violations the Gatso system is supposed to save us from?

Since the camera system does not monitor all lanes of an intersection, how many of these accidents took place in camera lanes and how may did not?

What was the traffic count at these intersections before camera installation and after camera installation? More traffic would mean more accidents and less traffic would mean fewer accidents.

Where are the accident statistics from non-camera intersections? Do these intersections fluctuate by more than 10% from year to year?

Where are the overall accident statistics for the city? Did overall accidents in Columbia decline by 10%?

Was the practice of an all-red pause at intersections considered? An all-red pause and longer yellows would do more to improve the safety of intersections than red light cameras, but this change would not generate profits for Gatso and its partners at the City of Columbia. It’s all about the money, folks.

What it boils down to is that these statistics say nothing about the effectiveness of Gatso’s red light cameras. Assuming that Tony St Romaine and Bill Watkins are both intellegent enough to understand these statistics, it is frightening to see that our City Manager’s Office would attempt to distort the truth by feeding lies to the media and the citizens of Columbia whom they serve.

Does this prove that our city government couldn’t care less about the safety of our city, especially when there is a profit to be had?




  1. Liz DeFoe

    If the city has gone to the trouble to actually find answers to these questions, yes, the info could be subjected to Sunshine request. However, I would be pleasantly shocked if this were the case.

  2. h4x354x0r

    Another number that’s missing is the total traffic count. Without knowing the change in total traffic volume, it’s impossible to know whether the change in accident numbers really means a better or worse accident ratio. I know the traffic volume on W. Broadway has continued to decline. I suspect that, adjusted for traffic volume, there may not be any real decrease in the accident ratio at all.


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