Houston Puts The Red Light On Red Light Cameras

Houston's red light cameras are off for good. In a thirteen to one decision — Houston Council Members voted to do away with the program and break the contract with American Traffic Solutions. The lawsuit will continue — but the cameras are off.

Nine months after Houston residents voted down the red light cameras, the program is officially dead.

Michael Kubosh spearheaded the campaign against the cameras and was there when the final vote took place.

"Thank God they finally did it today. It looked like they were going to waffle. It looked like they were going to kick the can down the road some more. But I guess they just got tired of it. They've been doing polling and they know that the citizens have spoken, and even the people who voted for the cameras are for honoring the vote of the people."

Just one councilmember, Sue Lovell, voted against repealing the program. She contends the city should accept a settlement offer from ATS and thus avoid the possibility of having to pay millions of dollars in damages for breaking their contract.

"We're not going to walk away with this with zero damages. We're going to have some debt. And no matter what the debt is, it's going to put us in a situation of making tough situations."

Lovell's argument held no sway with her colleagues, who all voted against her proposal to accept the settlement offer.
Mayor Annise Parker says it is now illegal for the city to operate the cameras and adds that's not the only thing that's against the law.

"For those who may be celebrating the fact that the red light cameras are now turned off, it is illegal to run a red light."

The city's legal department sent a letter to ATS instructing them to turn the cameras off.

ATS officials say they'll continue to pursue litigation against the city and seek $25 million in damages.

Parker calls that amount completely ludicrous.

"We have stated over and over again that we don't believe that we owe anything near that. And that ATS can continue to put out inflated numbers, but the issue is resolved. The cameras are off. We have repealed the ordinance. So we need to get down to negotiating what the proper settlement will be."

Parker says although the cameras are permanently off, the city will continue to pursue payment from people who got citations when the cameras were active. She says the city intends to use that money to pay any agreed upon damages to ATS.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...