California roll funds parks

Beware the MRCA stop sign camera
Beware the MRCA stop sign camera

Unbeknownst to me, I made my first donation ($100) to the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (“MRCA”) late last month.  And I won’t even be getting any membership benefits. Let me explain.

I stopped at the Topanga overlook for the first time on my way down into the valley. I remember wondering what the “photo enforcement program” sign referred to at the time. Now I know. There’s a stop sign as you leave. I guess I am enough of a Californian that sometimes my stops are “rolling stops” rather than the required “full stops.” Well the camera is monitoring that stop sign. Fair cop: I am guilty of a rolling stop and will be paying my dues.   The letter and online vidoe from the Arizona-based Redflex Traffic Systems attests to that.

A couple of years ago at my bus stop in the Bay Area I remember counting the number of drivers who came to a full stop at the four-way stop over a five minute period. If I recall, the answer was zero. In fact, having moved to LA I am now worried every time I slow down to stop as an amber light turns to red as I know someone will be running the light. Just last week, I slowed to stop and the person behind me practically side-swiped me in their rush to pull past and run the light.

To be clear, I do not object to fining folks who break the law. But I do feel it is short-sighted for an authority to write tickets for first-time offenders at spots like this, especially when they have outsourced the whole process to a private vendor in Arizona. I would love to know how much they collect on a busy weekend and how much is retained by MRCA. It’s clearly enough to provide free parking at the very least.  In my mind much better for a courtesy notice the first time around with fair-warning that that’s the only one.  Then they would deal with the safety issue and I would continue to think of them as my friendly park authority.

All that said, MRCA does a valuable job managing thousands of acres of park land in and around the Santa Monica Mountains and they get precious little public funding to do this. I just hope they focus as much energy on engaging with the public as they do fining them for minor traffic violations.  Over the long-haul, I am convinced that that is the smartest revenue strategy also.

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