Scenes from rush hour

Red light cameras go down, speed racers rev up?

Red light cameras go down, speed racers rev up?

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The Red Light Cameras will not be catching any more traffic runners. Photo by Barbara Kuntz

It's rush hour on Monday in Houston — the first evening heavy traffic period since the City of Houston turned off its 70 red light cameras earlier in the morning. This followed the voters' Election Day decision to dismantle the traffic monitoring ticketing system and plenty of posturing on when the shutdown of the cameras would actually occur.

So does that make for a green light for local speed racers?

On today's drizzly streets, it was a mixed bag of civil disobeyers, drivers who learned their lesson from the reign of red light cameras, and those simply driving safely in the slightly stormy conditions. On the former camera corner, CultureMap observed, it was common to see a car linger in an intersection in order to make a cross-traffic turn, but otherwise, the scene was still relatively staid. Perhaps free-wheeling Texans have learned not to put the pedal to the metal on yellow, even though the risk of an automatic ticket no longer lurks from above.

KHOU reported that city attorney David Feldman revealed during a special city council meeting that the city is now engaged in a civil lawsuit in federal district court against American Traffic Solutions in order to determine the damages from breaking the five-year contract with the Arizona-based company that manages the cameras. The city will argue that the contract was legally overridden by a charter amendment and the will of the voters.

Meanwhile, traffic activist Randall Kallinen is still open to filing a class-action lawsuit if the city tries to collect money for old camera violations. (Mayor Annise Parker says that any tickets from cameras handed out before they were shut off at 10 a.m. Monday still have to be paid.) The saga, as it stands, is far from over.