Photo-enforcement tickets net city $360,000 in 2009

It’s just one set of cameras on Second Avenue Southeast — one pointing south, one pointing north. But the city’s fledgling photo-enforced speeding program in school zones is netting a bundle of city revenue but sucking up large amounts of resources at Issaquah’s Municipal Court.

For the five months the program has been operational in 2009, the speed camera cases made up 43 percent of all Issaquah-related court matters and has brought in $360,000 to city coffers. Of 10,226 infractions pursued by the city in 2009, the photo speeding tickets were the lion’s share.

“I honestly don’t think (the city) expected the number they got,” said Issaquah Municipal Court Administrator Lynne Jacobs.

Ticketed motorists can pay the fine up front, appeal, request a fine reduction or contest the ticket. From the total of 4,920 citations, 691 received mitigation hearings to consider a reduced fine, while 225 contested the ticket. Approximately 500 more haven’t paid the $124 fine and have been referred to a collection agency.

“We just process what’s given to us,” said Jacobs.

The Photo Enforcement Program began in May 2009 for motorists traveling over the 20 mph School Zone speed limit near the cluster of Clark Elementary, Issaquah Middle, Tiger Mountain and Issaquah High schools along Second Avenue Southeast. The lower speed limit is enforced between 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. only on school days.

As soon as the program started, it began logging violations at a blistering pace — about 110 a day. By January 2010, however, that number decreased to about 40 a day, indicating daily violations have dropped about 64 percent. The cameras are also known to break down or require servicing from time to time, reducing the number of reported infractions.

“This was the City’s goal: Making Second Avenue Southeast safer near four local schools without draining our community’s enforcement resources,” wrote city spokesperson Autumn Monahan in a written statement.

Police requested implementing the program because of the high volume of speeding infractions there, draining manpower.

But the photo-enforcement system doesn’t come cheap: The cost of the contract with system technology provider American Traffic Solutions (ATS) is $4,750 per month. That’s not including the court costs, city prosecutor, judge and staff time of the Finance, Police and Court Departments to process the infraction and associated information.

On the other hand, that isn’t stopping the city from bringing in a healthy amount of revenue from the fines. The $360,000 in 2009 revenues from the program is well over a third of the court’s total revenues.

According to the city, no other speed cameras are being considered at this time.