The Alberta government is banning photo radar “fishing holes” on ring roads in Calgary and Edmonton starting Dec. 1.
Transportation Minister Devin Dreeshen announced Thursday the four-year freeze on new photo radar units that began under the UCP in 2019 will be extended another year, to Dec. 1, 2024, to allow for more municipal consultations to help define what sites are speed traps.
In all, 22 photo radar units along Edmonton’s ring road and eight along Calgary’s ring road will need to be redeployed to “sensitive” areas including school, playground and construction zones where safety is the priority.
“These sites are focused on revenue generation rather than traffic safety, so this will end in the province of Alberta,” he said.
Speaking at one site at Anthony Henday Drive and Ray Gibbon Drive, Dreeshen said it generates 1,500 tickets and about $200,000 worth of revenue every three months — 11 times the average photo radar site in Edmonton. He added the ring road is part of the provincial, not municipal, highway network.
Also in 2019, the UCP increased the province’s share of photo radar revenue across 26 municipalities to 40 per cent from 27 per cent. Dreeshen said that revenue split will remain the same.
While the original move had city councillors scrambling to deal with the prospect of reduced revenues, on Thursday Edmonton Ward tastawiyiniwak Coun. Karen Principe appeared in support at the provincial government’s news conference.
“Focusing on highly sensitive areas like school zones and construction zones should keep those who work and live in Edmonton safe,” she said.
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Kara Westerlund, vice-president of the Rural Municipalities of Alberta, also said it’s important to stop municipalities from using photo radar as a “cash cow” in areas with little safety risk.
“I can certainly appreciate that municipalities across the province are struggling to cover policing costs, but using photo radar strictly as a revenue generation tool is not the solution to that issue,” she said.
Alberta NDP Opposition critic Lorne Dach, speaking to reporters in the legislature Thursday, said he doesn’t understand why it has taken the UCP so long to make the move to get rid of so-called fishing holes.
“Photo radar fundamentally should never be used as a revenue generator as its main purpose — it should be a public safety instrument. The intent, I think, in many cases with this change is to move in that direction, but we’ll see if the public agrees,” he said, adding that municipalities who have been asking for more local responsibility have a “legitimate beef” that the province is interfering with that.
The province said photo radar generated $171 million in 2022-2023.
In 2019-20, before former UCP transportation minister Rajan Sawhney announced restrictions, including forcing municipalities to justify where they placed photo radar traps, it generated $203 million across the province.
Edmonton’s share of revenue from automated enforcement in 2020 was just under $50 million.
On Thursday, Dreeshen promised to publicly release data collected on speed rates, weather conditions, site locations, and the frequency of photo radar tickets being issued while the freeze and subsequent restrictions have been in effect.