Although most major intersections in The Woodlands are controlled by an elaborate camera management system, a few are monitored by a separate system for the purpose of catching and ticketing red light runners. Of all the intersections in The Woodlands, just five are monitored by red light cameras.
Those intersections are Woodlands Parkway at E. Panther Creek Drive, Woodlands Parkway at Woodloch Forest Drive, which was the first camera installed in 2007, Lake Woodlands Drive at Gosling Road, Research Forest Drive at Gosling Road and Woodlands Parkway at Kuykendahl Road.
The cameras are operated by Montgomery County, which has contracted with Arizona-based Redflex Traffic Systems. Montgomery County Precinct 3 Commissioner Ed Chance said the county pays Redflex a fixed fee of about $2,300 per camera per month to operate the system.
Red light violations cost drivers $75 and the penalty is a civil one, rather than criminal, said Assistant County Attorney Phyllis Rainey. Citations are issued by the Montgomery County Constables Office. The violation does not affect drivers' auto insurance coverage or rates and is not included on their driving record, Rainey said.
The purpose of the red light camera program, Chance said, is not to generate revenue for the county, but rather to improve traffic mobility and safety.
"If we've got traffic continuously running at Woodlands Parkway and Woodloch Forest, they would run that light so badly that it would delay southbound traffic for as much as 10 or 15 seconds," Chance said.
He said most green light cycles are between two to three minutes and that by delaying traffic by just a few seconds, red light runners could cause delays of up to 25 seconds at some intersections, which could then lead to substantial backups.
Although the money a violator pays initially goes to the county, that money is then diverted back to Redflex to pay for the system and to the state to pay for emergency management operations, Chance said.
Any money the county would receive can only be used for traffic management efforts, but Chance said The Woodlands system operates at a deficit, last year of about $50,000.
He said the deficit is a result of fewer violations, and hopes to continue the program.
"There is certainly a decrease in accidents and an increase in traffic flow, and that is normally what we measure," Chance said. "Is traffic moving through? If so, then our goal has been attained."
He said there are no plans to add more red light cameras to intersections in The Woodlands, but if a particular intersection proves to be troublesome, that intersection could potentially get a red light camera.
"We monitor intersections, and if it becomes a problem, we'll have them reviewed and see if there is an alternative [to improving mobility]," Chance said.