Kingston Council approves Automated Speed Enforcement pilot program

Kingston City Councillors discuss the proposed Automated Speed Enforcement pilot program during a meeting on Tuesday, Apr. 18, 2023. Screen captured image.

During a meeting on Tuesday, Apr. 18, 2023, Kingston City Council approved a plan to launch a one-to-two-year Automated Speed Enforcement (ASE) pilot program which will see two mobile ASE cameras installed in the city. According to a staff report distributed ahead of Tuesday night’s meeting, the project will come with a price tag of $365,000 to install the cameras, while annual operating costs are expected to come in at $686,000. 

ASE systems use cameras to automatically enforce speed limits in school and community safety zones (CSZs). In terms of how fines are generated through ASEs, the process is similar to the Red Light Camera (RLC) program already in place in the City. “If [a] violation is confirmed upon review, a ticket is then mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle with a fine proportional to the speed recorded. There are no demerit points associated with a ticket issued through ASE. The registered owner of the vehicle can then pay the fine or contest the ticket through the local Provincial Offences Court.”

During Tuesday’s meeting, councillors had a number of questions for City staff, as Lakeside District representative Wendy Stephen asked whether a potential threshold would be built into the program to avoid punishing drivers who are just slightly over the speed limit. “Some residents… were concerned if they were one kilometre over the speed limit, would they get a ticket?” 

In response to Councillor Stephen’s questions, Ian Semple, the City’s Director of Transportation Services noted plainly, “the speed limit is the speed limit.”

“The posted speed limit is the maximum speed that is appropriate to drive. A threshold, or an indication of what range above that [would be permitted], is not something that we would announce or provide information on. Motorists should travel below the maximum posted speed limit,” Semple said.

With the installation of the two cameras coming in at $365,000, as well as annual operating costs of $686,000, the ASE pilot project could generate significant costs for the City. The staff report noted that the two cameras would likely have the capacity to generate 10,000 annual charges, which would bring in approximately $550,000 in revenue, based on an average charge of 10 km/h over the speed limit, leaving a gap of $136,000. 

When asked whether the overall costs of the program could decrease over time, Director Semple replied: “The program that is in place in Ontario began in 2020, so it is relatively new… Right now, there is one vendor that is operating in the province and one location that is processing all of the violations. But, there is great interest in municipalities in expanding or starting these programs. So, with that expansion… it typically creates efficiencies and options that we would be able to take advantage of. So, there may be cost decreases in the future.” 

Director Ian Semple responds to a question from Council. Screen captured image.

In terms of where the cameras will be located, staff plan to move the ASE systems to various CSZs within the City over the duration of the pilot program. “The rotation of the cameras is measured in six-month increments. There’s a notice period ahead of time to announce that the cameras are coming to that location, and then they would be in operation for several months in that location before being rotated somewhere else,” said Semple.

As for how staff will identify potential candidate locations, Semple noted that additional research is still required. “Ahead of the selection of a location, there are studies [conducted] and other information is gathered… So, that’s part of the work that we would be doing as staff… looking at which of the locations in [CSZs] would be eligible and what [locations] would be appropriate to have the cameras installed in.” 

As City staff continuously reinforced the notion that any motorist caught going over the posted speed limit could “trigger a violation,” some Councillors seemed concerned about the possibility of the cameras punishing drivers going just slightly over the limit. “I don’t think a police officer has ever ticketed someone for being one kilometre over,” remarked Ryan Boehme, Councillor for Pittsburgh District. 

“What we are trying to convey to the public is that, if you travel at the speed limit or less, you will be assured you will not get a ticket… Setting a threshold, I think, is not something that we want to establish,” noted Brad Joyce, Commissioner of Transportation and Public Works. “At the end of the day, the Highway Traffic Act states that if you are going over the speed limit, it’s a violation. I think that’s where we want to stay.” 

Commissioner Joyce then went on to state that, should ASE systems generate significant backlash from local motorists — or create an overwhelming backlog in the courts — the City would be within its rights to end the program before the pilot is complete. “We can walk away from this. Part of the rationale that staff have for piloting the cameras is for us to actually assess the impact… There are impacts on resources within the organization to be able to do this. With this pilot, we’ll have a better indication of what that really looks like,” he said 

As for how successful ASE programs have been in other municipalities, Director Semple noted that data out of Toronto and Hamilton showed signs that the systems led to a reduction in speeding. “In both instances, [there was] a reduction in speed in the areas [where] they were using the systems. In Toronto, preliminary findings showed a reduction of… speeding from 55 per cent to 44 per cent,” while similar findings were observed in Hamilton. 

The ASE program passed with unanimous support from Council. The $365,000 in start-up funding will come from the City’s Working Fund Reserve, while the additional operating costs will be incoprated into the 2024 municipal budget. In terms of the next steps, staff will now work to identify candidate locations for the ASE systems, with the pilot project expected to launch sometime during Q3 2024.

Members of the public can view the full agenda from the meeting on the City of Kingston’s City Council meetings webpage, and the meeting can be viewed in full on the Kingston City Council YouTube channel.

One thought on “Kingston Council approves Automated Speed Enforcement pilot program

  • To Ian Simple My speedometer like most speedometers are not tuned to your radar..We may be doing 40 on our speedometers when your radar measures it as 45 and tickets us. This is crazy just as crazy as spending all our many many dollars on a system that will do litttle to protect schools but to raise revenue.Speed bumps and speed dection signs cost a lot less and do a lot more For less than $600,000 a public safety car with flashing lights would slow down traffic even better.

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