A key question about the recent unannounced changes made to traffic cameras in New Orleans remains unanswered.
Why didn't Mayor LaToya Cantrell's administration announce the changes publicly when they were enacted?
The city, as of Wednesday morning, hasn't said why it didn't detail changes to the speed threshold upfront, prompting an uptick in speeding citations and angst in the community.
The New Orleans City Council wasn't briefed on the changes, so council members have been unable to share any insight.
A heads-up about the new thresholds was supposed to be included in a January announcement about sweeping changes to the camera program, but it was removed, said Beau Tidwell, a spokesman for Cantrell.
Officials with Cantrell's administration confirmed Tuesday that they lowered the speeds that trigger traffic camera tickets two months ago without notifying motorists.
Officials with New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell's administration confirmed Tuesday that they lowered the speeds that trigger traffic camera t…
The city's network of speed-measuring cameras now snag drivers in school zones if they go 4 miles over the 20-mph limit. Previously, the cameras were set to snap a picture and issue a violation notice only when a driver hit 26 mph.
The quiet policy change has stained a revised camera program Cantrell had said would ease drivers’ financial burdens.
She pledged to pull down all the cameras as she campaigned for mayor in 2017 but switched course after some residents said they saw the value of the devices in school zones.
The city eventually removed 20 of the 31 cameras outside of school zones, leaving up those that pulled in the most revenue for the city. And it adjusted the school cameras to operate only during school-zone hours, 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Before that change, school-zone cameras worked continually to ticket drivers exceeding regular posted speed limits.
Though the law does not require the city to give motorists any sort of speeding cushion, the city can create one as a matter of policy. Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration set that bar in 2012 at 6 miles over the limit in school zones and 10 miles over the posted limit everywhere else.
But Cantrell lowered that threshold on Feb. 4. That was around the same time that officials discovered that removing some of the cameras had caused fewer tickets to be issued in January than they expected. The city had projected a 13 percent drop in issued tickets but cameras in fact caught 18 percent less drivers speeding.
It was not clear whether officials had planned to move forward with the lower thresholds after removing the warning about them from the January news release or if they were spurred to action later because fewer tickets were issued than expected.
Staff writers Jeff Adelson and Jessica Williams contributed to this report.