Pity the City of Humble’s red-light cameras. They are so misunderstood. Thousands of motorists drive through Humble every day and if the voluminous number of posts on the website “Nextdoor” are a clue, there is nothing many of these motorists hate more than the city’s red-light cameras.
And, of the seven City of Humble intersections with red-light cameras, no camera is more hated – and misunderstood – than the one installed at FM 1960 and Townsen Boulevard.
– City Manager Jason Stuebe clarifies some misconceptions –
The Tribune in January posted a story about Humble’s red-light cameras. The story included two important points: fines paid by motorists fund trauma programs as required by law and the cameras have dramatically reduced the number of accidents at those intersections.
In addition, the city has awarded $300,000 of the red-light camera revenue to the Northeast Hospital Foundation to purchase equipment and emergency treatment and training for Memorial Hermann Northeast Hospital.
“Nextdoor” bills itself as “… the world’s largest social network for the neighborhood …” and “… the private social network for your neighborhood.” The website says, “There are so many ways our neighbors can help us – finding a last-minute babysitter, planning a local event, sharing safety tips …” and complaining about Humble’s red-light cameras, especially that pesky one at FM 1960 and Townsen.
Lake Houston’s Nextdoor neighborhood postings are overflowing with post after post after post commenting on Humble’s red-light cameras. Some are complimentary and supportive. Many are critical, with readers claiming they were fined unjustly. Several even linked to the original Jan. 16 Tribune story.
“Don’t pay it (the fine),” one claims. “You’ll get a letter saying you can’t register your car online. You’ll have to mail in your registration or go to the DMV.”
Another writer says not coming to a complete stop is her constitutional right.
“I have received two tickets for yielding at the red light versus doing a complete stop,” she writes. “I paid the first one. I refuse to pay the second one because it is a violation of my constitutional rights!”
Because the ticket has given her anxiety due to the frustration, the writer encourages the group to get together and form a petition.
When it comes to Humble’s red-light cameras, who’s a motorist to believe?
As one writer declared, “… seeking advice on here is pointless. Half say it’s not enforceable, half saying it is. Some say it affects credit reports … others say just forget about it altogether … if you’re seeking the advice of ‘my neighbor’s friend whose brother has a police officer cousin who works at the jail,’ then this is your place.”
In order to clarify the misconceptions on the Nextdoor thread and to get correct answers to questions raised by motorists, The Tribune turned once again to the best local source for all information pertaining to Humble’s red-light cameras, Humble City Manager Jason Stuebe, whose comments have been edited for space.
Of course, Humble Mayor Merle Aaron has the most valuable piece of advice: “You won’t get a ticket if you don’t run the red light.”
Tribune: What happens if a violator doesn’t pay the fine?
Stuebe: Past 30 days, a $25 late fee is assessed. After 90 days, the state places a hold on the vehicle registration. H-E-B, Kroger, etc. will not renew and the individual is sent to the DMV which will require the individual to pay the fine prior to the vehicle being registered.
Tribune: Can a violator’s license renewal be withheld?
Stuebe: A driver’s license cannot be withheld. It is a civil penalty and does not affect the driver’s license or insurance.
Tribune: Can you protest and get the fine waived?
Stuebe: Yes, through a hearing process at the red-light camera office. A hearing officer could determine after a review that the violation was questionable and drop the violation and fine. The hearing officer’s decision can be appealed to the municipal court judge which includes a $50 administrative court fee. If the judge overrules the hearing officer’s decision, all fines are dropped and the court fee is not assessed.
Tribune: The most common complaint is the FM 1960 at Townsen red light. Was the timing shortened to generate more ticket revenue?
Stuebe: In no instance has the city ever shortened the length of a yellow light or considered or condoned such a thought in order to generate more ticket revenue. Yellow light length is established by TxDOT through a traffic engineering study – for every 10 mph of speed limit, the yellow light duration is 1 second. If the posted speed limit is 55, the yellow light is 5.5 seconds.
Tribune: If a violator calls for a court date, then reschedules, will the fine be dismissed?
Stuebe: No, the violator must go through the hearing process.
Tribune: One writer claims Humble is collecting the fees illegally because the city didn’t file an engineering plan. Is this true?
Stuebe: This is incorrect. The city installed red-light cameras prior to the 2007 state law requiring engineering studies be performed at intersections. Humble’s cameras are vested and grandfathered and do not require the study. Should the city install additional cameras, an engineering study would be required.
Tribune: Explain the financial arrangements with the Arizona company that maintains the red-light cameras.
Stuebe: The city of Humble leases the cameras from American Traffic Solutions (ATS) for approximately $5,150 per camera per month. The City has 10 cameras at a cost of $51,500 per month.
Tribune: Another writer says, “By the time all fees and crap are deducted from the fine, there’s no money left.” True?
Stuebe: The city receives 100 percent of the fees and from that pays for the lease agreement with ATS and the salaries and benefits of police officers responsible for the program. Once those expenses are paid for, the remaining funds are split 50/50 between the state (which goes to their trauma fund) and the city. Our funds, as required by statute, are limited to traffic safety programs and improvements and traffic enforcement. As a rough estimate, the city received $3.26 million after payment to ATS – $1.62 million went to the state and $1.62 million stayed with the city.