School zone speed cameras are coming to Auburn

The goal of the program is to increase public safety, city officials said.

Speeders beware — school zone speed cameras are coming to Auburn.

The Auburn City Council unanimously passed a resolution allowing Mayor Nancy Backus to enter into an agreement with Arizona-based Verra Mobility that provides automated traffic safety cameras.

Speed cameras will be installed in somewhere between six and 12 school zones that currently have the flashing light beacons, city engineer Jacob Sweeting said during the Feb. 14 council meeting. Speeding in a school zone carries a fee of $200, according to the city code. The speed limit in school zones is 20 mph.

The goal of the program is to make school zones safer for students and other pedestrians, Sweeting said.

“So the benefits of the school zone cameras is that it provides us constant and regular enforcement that will result in increased driver compliance and improved safety of students, pedestrians and other motorists near the schools,” Sweeting said.

The cameras will only be active when the beacons are flashing in the morning as kids are coming to school and in the afternoon when kids are leaving school, Sweeting said.

Between 2009 and 2019, 93 crashes happened in school zones while the beacons were flashing. Nine of those school zone crashes involved a pedestrian and 26 resulted in an injury, according to the city.

The contract is for five years because the city expects that over time, the cameras will train drivers not to speed in school zones, and the cameras will eventually become obsolete.

Verra Mobility is the company that will be providing the city with the cameras, according to council documents. The city chose Verra Mobility because several neighboring cities including Kent, Federal Way and Puyallup have similar contracts with that company, Sweeting said.

Each camera will cost $4,000 per month to operate, but the contract outlines that the city will never have to pay out of pocket for a camera, Sweeting said.

For example, if a camera only generates $3,000 in tickets, the city will only have to pay Verra Mobility that $3,000. On the other hand, if a camera generates $6,000 Auburn will only pay $4,000 and keep the rest, Director of Public Works Ingrid Gaub said.

The city anticipates there will be more than enough citations each month to pay for the cameras. The city conducted a preliminary study of school zones over a two-day period and recorded over 5,000 vehicles speeding in the school zones while the beacons were flashing.

At $200 a ticket, each camera would only have to issue 20 tickets per month in order to start generating revenue for the city.

The city is adamant that the intent behind this program isn’t simply to generate revenue for the city, but rather to increase public safety.

“From day one our absolute focus has been on safety,” Sweeting said. “Everything that we’re doing is trying to realize safety and also doing a way that’s not going to empty our pocketbooks.”

When the contract is finalized, the city will begin doing research to determine which school zones should receive the cameras, then have the program up and running by the fall of 2022, Sweeting said.

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