The speed on green camera at the intersection of 16th Avenue and 10th Street N.W. is the busiest in the city.
Photograph by: Leah Hennel , Calgary Herald
Every day, Nemea Beskas says she feels like she’s being photographed by the paparazzi.
As she stands behind the counter of her store, Oak and Vine Wine and Spirits, the lights of a camera will flash in quick succession through her windows.
“You see it at night in particular, and it’ll go off, it seems, like three or four times a minute sometimes,” said Beskas. “It’s a constant click, click, click.”
That’s because Beskas’s business is located at the intersection with the busiest speed-on-green camera in the city for the third year running.
According to Calgary Police Service figures provided to the Herald, a whopping 28,593 speed-on-green tickets were issued to motorists travelling eastbound on 16th Avenue at 10th Street N.W. in 2013.
That’s an average of 78 tickets every day — and some of the infractions are worryingly fast.
In one case, a driver was going more than double the posted speed limit — 121 km/h in a 50 km/h zone.
The intersection, located near SAIT Polytechnic, has topped the ticket leaderboard in recent years, with 43,681 speed-on green tickets issued in 2012 and 26,107 in 2011.
Since Oak and Vine opened three years ago, the constant flash of the intersection camera has provided fodder for customers lining up at the till, Beskas said.
“They’ll often comment that the light has gone off X number of times in two minutes,” she added. “It’s a topic of conversation.”
Speeding violations were down in all areas — manned enforcement, photo radar and speed-on-green cameras — with a total of 297,932 tickets issued in 2013, down from 356,497 in 2012.
While part of the reduction might be attributed to the June flood, Staff Sgt. Paul Stacey with the traffic section said he’d like to think driver behaviour is a factor.
“Drivers are maybe starting to get the message,” Stacey said.
In addition, police are looking at statistics and directing their enforcement activity to trouble spots rather than randomly sending officers out to nab speeders, he said.
Stacey said he’s not sure why the 10th Street and 16th Avenue N.W. intersection camera is so busy year after year.
Responding to past criticism about drivers forced to slow down within a short distance — from 60 km/h near North Hill Mall to 50 km/h near SAIT — Stacey said the speed limit sign is well posted.
“There is no trickery involved. If people are speeding at the 50 speed limit, it’s because they’re not paying attention,” he said.
As for motorists caught going beyond highway speeds on city streets — one of the fastest was clocked at 139 km/h eastbound on Country Hills Boulevard and Beddington Trail N.W. in a 60 km/h zone — Stacey said they are showing a “total disregard” for other drivers and themselves.
When the city introduced speed-on-green cameras in 2009, proponents hailed them as a valuable safety tool, while critics branded them a cash cow.
Calgary has also been using red-light camera technology for more than a decade.
There are currently 51 intersections in the city that have speed-on-green cameras, red-light cameras or both.
Drivers caught speeding are fined between $57 and $351 depending on how fast they’re going. A vehicle going more than 50 km/h above the posted speed limit results in a mandatory court appearance for the driver, or the registered owner of the vehicle, if caught by automated enforcement. Red-light violations carry a $287 fine.
In 2013, the intersection with the busiest red-light camera was northbound Macleod Trail at 12th Avenue S.E., with 2,208 violations.
The year before, that dubious honour went to the red-light camera at 9th Avenue and 11th Street S.W. eastbound, with 2,101 violations.
The Calgary police commission said the traffic fine revenue figures for 2013 are still being compiled, but will be released at a later date.
Don Szarko, AMA spokesman, said speed-on-green cameras are an effective deterrent, but not one single piece of technology can be credited with lowering speeds overall.
“There is no silver bullet and there is not one solution,” said Szarko.
He said a combined effort — including driver education and continued enforcement — is necessary to change the “risk-taking culture we seem to have in Alberta.”
“We have new drivers entering the Alberta driving system everyday,” he said. “(The effort) is never-ending, it’s ongoing and it’s constant.”
Five busiest speed-on-green cameras in 2013:
10th Street and 16th Avenue N.W. (eastbound) — 28,593 tickets issued;
Country Hills Boulevard and Beddington Trail N.W. (eastbound) — 12,040 tickets issued;
68th Street and 16th Avenue N.E. (eastbound) — 11,733 tickets issued;
TransCanada Highway and Canada Olympic Drive S.W. (eastbound) — 8,643 tickets issued;
Edmonton Trail and McKnight Boulevard N.E. (eastbound) — 6,349 tickets issued.
Worst violations at speed-on-green cameras in 2013:
Country Hills Boulevard and Beddington Trail N.W. (eastbound) — 139 km/h in a 60 km/h zone;
10th Street and 16th Avenue N.W. (eastbound) — 121 km/h in a 50 km/h zone;
Edmonton Trail and McKnight Boulevard N.E. (eastbound) — 121 km/h in a 50 km/h zone;
Trans-Canada Highway and Canada Olympic Drive S.W. (eastbound) — 149 km/h in an 80 km/h zone;
68th Street and 16th Avenue N.E. (eastbound) — 128 km/h in a 70 km/h zone