Experts Warn Traffic Cameras Will Hurt Providence’s Economy

Monday, March 12, 2018
GoLocalProv News Team

Will suburban shoppers avoid Providence's parking meters and cameras?
One of Rhode Island’s leading economists says the newly deployed traffic cameras, that have now issued more than 20,000 violation in two-plus months, is one of the worst ideas he has seen implemented in Rhode Island.

“This is a symptom of Providence's [fiscal] problem, not a solution. This is one of the worst things I've ever seen -- there's no reason for this,” said Len Lardaro, Professor of Economics at the University of Rhode Island. "Everyone knows there's no real surplus when you take into account overhead. Everyone knows Providence has fiscal problems."

“I find it a bad way to treat the citizens of Providence. I can see why people are revolting -- by the city not showing a lot of respect for its citizens, how can they expect the citizens to have respect for them?” added Lardaro, who is the author of the Current Conditions Index (CCI) for Rhode Island, a monthly indicator of the present state of the economy.

The traffic camera program, which was implemented in January by Mayor Jorge Eloirza's administration has caused confusion for Providence residents, drivers, and the municipal court system. More than a thousand turned out the first day to fight the tickets.

Professor Lardaro, URI
Tourism and Small Business Warn About the Implications

“Well, you’d have to weight several factors. Certainly, the CVB does extraordinary work bringing in conventions. Usually, folks are based at a hotel without a car but may have bus service,” said Myrna George, Former Head of South County Tourism Council.  “That said, folks visiting with a car, will certainly be compromised navigating the city and therefore consequently the entire state.  Wonder what the projected revenues are versus promoting tourism?”

Social media is flooded with criticism of the program for its lack of planning, deployment and public education.

An Uber driver and community activist Anthony Sionni has posted how the traffic cameras are a deterrent to tourists and that the implications of the $95 per violation fines are only now starting to be understood.

He posted how a tourist visiting Providence faces a juggernaut of cameras to go out for dinner:

Let’s just say you’re in town and you’re staying at the Hilton Hotel. You decide you want to go to Los Andes restaurant on Chalkstone Ave. You get in your car, you leave the hotel, you drive up Atwells Ave and take a right onto Dean Street, bam red light camera! 

You proceed down the hill to the intersection of Pleasant Valley Parkway and Valley Street, bam red light camera! You keep going straight to make a left turn on to Chalkstone, bam red light camera! You finally get to the restaurant. When you leave the restaurant you’ll be faced again with three red light cameras going back and something new, a speed camera on Chalkstone Ave! 

A total of 7 cameras going back and forth within a mile and a half drive to get to the restaurant and a mile and a half drive to get back from the restaurant.

Implications Are Significant

Critics of the new system warn that small business owners like restaurants and hotels may be impacted, but the poor design of the program may hurt local small businesses. 

“It's just another reason not to feel good about the state. As an economy, although we're doing the best we have in a long time, a lot of people still are being left behind, and this is salt in a wound for some people. As we've seen, it's often several hundred dollars -- this is one of the poorest run things I've seen in a long time,” said Lardaro.


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