By Steve Klinger
The city’s red light cameras will end spring training next week and open the regular season on citations, pinching motorists where it hurts – in the pocketbook – beginning March 31. Mayor Ken Miyagishima fielded questions on the cameras and other topics at the monthly Progressive Voter Alliance meeting tonight and sought to assure attendees the city is motivated solely by safety concerns, not the potential income from the citations.
After a split with the state, the mayor said, the city’s share must be used for traffic safety and overtime for police to investigate violations. It wasn’t clear if he meant to investigate the video footage or something else, but either way it misses the point if city officials have bought into Redflex Traffic Systems’ sales pitch to the extent they really think this system is going to significantly improve traffic safety in Las Cruces.
There are certainly too many selfish and reckless drivers here, spoiled by years of lax enforcement, who can’t be bothered to stop on red, or even go on green for that matter. But the bigger problem is that the great majority of traffic signals are not synchronized, resulting in bottlenecks because of poor street design and worse engineering.
Especially traveling east and west on Picacho, most of Amador and Lohman, Missouri and University, the heavier traffic is the more likely that ill-timed signals will impede and frustrate drivers. It happens at north-south intersections too: a left-turn arrow that lets about three cars through before the next motorist is stuck for another cycle. Or an arrow that won’t trigger if you get to the intersection a nanosecond after the red-light cycle has begun.
And if you’re not turning, it’s go a block, catch a light, go another block, catch another light.
Waiting behind 50 cars to turn left onto Lohman, or Spruce from North Telshor in the afternoon – anytime in the afternoon – builds the kind of frustration that leads to aggressive behavior. This is not to condone that behavior; it’s just a fact of life.
Red-light cameras may nab offenders, but it’s like putting a tourniquet on a wound gushing blood; you’ve only postponed dealing with the fundamental problem.
Other cities the size of Las Cruces seem to be able to synchronize traffic signals. It may be expensive, but it’s not rocket science. Let’s hope some of the Redflex-generated money can be used to build traffic safety from the ground up: reconfiguring the system so motorists can make the next light at 35 mph instead of 50.