Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Photo Enforcement Catches Phoenix Bus Drivers Running Red Lights

Light after light, at intersections all across the Valley, mass transit bus drivers are caught on camera blowing through intersections where the lights are clearly red.

At 32nd Street and McDowell Road in Phoenix, the photo enforcement camera video captured a bus driver slamming on the brakes too late, as the light is red long before the bus enters the intersection.

A closer look shows the bus nearly hitting a pickup truck turning left, with pedestrians about to enter the crosswalk.

At 19th and Northern avenues in Phoenix, the cameras flash as a bus runs the red light right in front of a police officer.

All of these buses are owned by the City of Phoenix.

In the last two years, bus drivers in the Valley have been hit with at least 27 red light citations, a small number on paper but still "not acceptable," said Mike Nevarez with the City of Phoenix Public Transit Department.

Nevarez said drivers are contractors who work for private companies, and when the city gets a ticket, the ticket is given to that private company who then reassigns it to the driver.

"It's a performance indicator," Nevarez said. "We want to make sure they are aware of the tickets, that they take care of them and they respond to them in a timely fashion."

While the City of Phoenix keeps track of the citations, the Regional Public Transportation Authority, the Valley's second-largest provider of mass transportation, does not.

"Running a red light is a major safety violation, plus it's illegal," said Jim Wright with RPTA.

While it's a major violation, RPTA has no idea how many drivers have received red light violations.

That's because RPTA receives the ticket and then turns it over to a private contractor, keeping no record of the violation.

But the ABC15 Investigators observed more than just red light running.

Over the past several weeks, we watched as buses sped down the interstate.

We set our cruise control to the posted speed limit and watched as the crowded buses blew right by us.

"Certainly its not acceptable," Nevarez said. "Buses can't normally even attain that speed."

Not every bus we observed was flying by.

We also used radar to clock the drivers, some of whom waved at our cameras as they passed.

Veolia Transportation, the company that supplies the majority of bus drivers in the Valley, said safety is its top priority and that citations are unacceptable.

The company said drivers that receive a single ticket are retrained, and if there are additional offenses they are terminated.