WATTS (CBSLA.com) – When the bell sounded, William Taylor of Watts became a man on a mission.
In August, the Vietnam veteran got a photo-enforced ticket in the mail to the tune of $490 for crossing the Metro Blue Line tracks at East Century Boulevard and Grandee Avenue as the gates were coming down. He immediately thought he was being railroaded.
"It was absolutely wrong, and it's taking money from people in this community who can't afford a $490 ticket on a bad traffic crossing," Taylor said.
A traffic video shows showed the retired defense contractor driving his red Kia through the crossing as the automated arms start to come down, signaling the train is coming. He was cited for failing to stop for the railroad, but Taylor maintained he was in the right and fought the ticket.
"What I saw in front of me was a green traffic light that said I had the right of way," Taylor said.
CBS2 confirmed Taylor's allegations. We drove through the intersection and indeed found that the arms come down as the traffic light is still green, a notably confusing situation for drivers.
In 2015, 34 photo enforcement tickets were issued at the intersection. In 2016, there were 807, an increase of more than 2,000 percent. That equates to almost $400,000 in fines. The Metropolitan Transit Authority, which runs the Blue Line, argues the increase in tickets is due to improved technology.
Jim Lissner, who runs a website called Highway Robbery, which tracks photo enforcement tickets, has a different view.
"It's a very confusing situation; it's a trap," Lissner said.
Taylor decided to fight the ticket, pushing his case before the MTA. In January, an agency chief admitted, "I have reviewed the merits of your claim and frankly, I agree with you. I believe the light phasing is confusing for traffic and that you should be refunded."
"I felt vindicated," Taylor said regarding the ruling.
MTA spokeswoman Paula Tonilas told CBS2 that because of Taylor's case, the intersection is now being redesigned. Another traffic light will be added to remove confusion. However, since last month, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has not stopped issuing tickets at the intersection despite the ruling on Taylor's case.
When asked about why people who may have wrongly been issued tickets were not being given refunds, Tonilas responded, "Well, we're not going to be in the practice of letting people off the hook who broke the law."
for more features.