Tag Archives: red light cameras

Red Light Revenues

After installing red-light cameras at three major intersections, Linden, N.J. has raised $800,000 in revenues in just three months. An official in the treasurer’s office told The Star Ledger that the windfall is “very exciting.” Other New Jersey municipalities issuing increased red-light camera tickets include Brick Township and Newark.

Are red-light cameras cash cows? Rajiv Shah, professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago says between 70 to 80 percent of revenues come from right turns on red. While cameras may increase revenue they also increase accidents. His analysis of Chicago intersections with red-light cameras  shows a six percent increase in traffic accidents at those intersections. The city raised $63 million in revenues in 2009 from the cameras. For more, check out Rajiv Shah’s blog on video surveillance EyeingChicago.

Camera Controversy

As city budgets may be in even more budget trouble than their state counterparts, mayors are looking for creative ways to raise the revenues needed to cover their expenses. In recent weeks, some cities have looked to drivers as a source of these revenues, angering many residents.

Up and down California, cities have used red light cameras as a way to raise funds, with drivers crying out that they are an unfair way of issuing fines. Thursday, South San Francisco began issuing tickets to red light runners caught on camera after four years of debating the issue at city council.

In Anaheim, however, city council members have moved to ban red light cameras, a step that would require voter approval. Officials there have announced that they will not use the enforcement of driver safety as a source of revenue. Mayor Kurt Pringle told The OC Register:

“It’s very discouraging when government thinks its sole purpose is … to use public safety as a revenue-raising tool.”

However, other city officials assert that red light cameras both benefit taxpayers by raising revenue and reduce traffic accidents. The LA Times reports:

The city’s red-light camera program, one of the largest in the nation, has drawn praise from supporters who say it helps efficiently police dangerous intersections, discourages red-light running and frees up patrol officers for other duties.

Regardless of the costs and benefits of red light cameras, they put city officials in the questionable position of profiting from dangerous drivers. Like excise taxes that raise revenue from citizens’ dangerous or unhealthy behavior, red light cameras are an inappropriate revenue source.

The Speed Camera Wars

The Washington Examiner reports that D.C. police are frustrated by new technology that allows drivers to pinpoint and avoid speed and red-light cameras. The technology, called PhatomAlert, streams to iPhones and GPS devices, sounding an alarm as drivers get close to cameras. Radar detection devices are illegal in D.C. and Virginia, but outlawing these devices may prove impossible.

D.C. police say their 290 cameras, first installed in 1999, have saved lives. Studies of the effectiveness of cameras on road safety offer conflicting data. The Governors Highway Safety Association says they’ve reduced violations and crashes.  The Virginia Transportation Research Council says they increase rear-end crashes.

Others argue cameras are more of a revenue trap for government, and they are used in bad faith; for example, citizens in Denver contend yellow lights were shortened to increase fines.

Photo radar tickets generated $1 billion in revenue between 2005 and 2008 for the District. In Maryland, Montgomery County’s cameras are expected to generate $29 million this fiscal year.

Anti-camera sentiment has led to lawsuits — motorists in Washington state are suing for being fined excessively for violations caught on traffic camera. And worse: a man in Glendale, Arizona took a pick axe to a speeding camera. He was fined $3,500.