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Are Roadside Call Boxes Necessary or Outdated?

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Dwane Brown reports on whether roadside call boxes are a necessary safety measure, or an outdated expense.

Funding for roadside call boxes has nearly doubled in the past 10 years. Do you use a call box or has the availability of cellphones made them obsolete?


Lorie Zapf - San Diego City Council Member, District 6


When you need a freeway callbox, they are priceless.

Last night a woman used a call box to get help after she was kidnapped in Hillcrest and left on the side of the road. Her kidnapper stole her cellphone, making the call box the quickest way to contact authorities.

According to the Union Tribune, the creation of the call boxes was "spurred by the Jan. 21, 1985, sexual assault of a 27-year-old woman stranded on a busy stretch of Interstate 5 near downtown San Diego."

With the increased use of cellphones, however, call box usership has rapidly declined. In 1990, the yellow call boxes were used to make 170,511 calls. In 2010, that number was only 11,625.

At the same time, the cost of maintaining the boxes has nearly doubled.

Today on KPBS Midday Edition, San Diego City Council Member Lorie Zapf said she has reservations with the bureaucracy involved and the high costs associated with the call boxes. Zapf sits on the board that oversees the maintenance of the county's call boxes. KPBS Reporter Joanne Faryon will also interview Zapf on Evening Edition.

State Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher is preparing legislation that could potentially phase out the call boxes, and San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio has said that the call boxes are obsolete and should be eliminated.

Some citizens and politicians are asking: Should we be paying so much? Should we even be considering abandoning the freeway call box system entirely?

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