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Red-light cameras aren’t going anywhere

A red light phoenforcement sign. |  Sun-Times Medifile

A red light photo enforcement sign. | Sun-Times Media file

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Updated: June 18, 2013 7:24AM

This week in Impotent Outrage, we have the latest unsurprising developments in the culture of red-light cameras and the municipal governments that love them, need them, can’t live without them.

Our first news flash came out of Chicago, where it took a report from the city’s Inspector General to reveal that The Man “was unable to substantiate (his) claims that the city chose to install red-light cameras at intersections with the highest angle crash rates in order to increase safety.” Knock me over with a feather.

To be fair, the report also noted that “we found no evidence of this program being managed in a manner designed specifically to maximize revenue,” but that’s boring. It’s more exciting to highlight that Chicago’s robot-cams wrote $61.2 million worth of tickets in 2012 ($71.9 million when tacking on things like “collection costs”).

While we ponder if Chicago will tinker with its moneymaker in a manner that will shave that revenue in a significant way (hint: it won’t), we had a second headline from Florida, where state officials passed a law in 2011 that allows yellow lights to run shorter than federal recommendations.

Sure enough, a Tampa TV station reported that a half-second reduction in a yellow light can double the number of tickets issued at intersections with red-light cameras (RLCs) … and “the yellow interval reductions typically took place at RLC intersections and corridors filled with RLC cameras.”

This also failed to shake the ground, since Chicago has been accused of having lightning-quick, purposeful yellow lights for years. Florida, a state that has decided presidential elections, needs to stop being a follower and start being a leader.

Along with lacking the value of shock, this week’s red-light headlines fail to answer the critical question when it comes to ticket cameras: If they go away, how will you replace the money? According to the aforementioned Inspector General, Chicago’s robo-system issued more than 612,000 red-light tickets in 2012.

I’m not even going to attempt the math on how high the tobacco tax would have to go to cover that.

Sad to say, but until we, the people, can provide an answer to the prospective revenue gap, you can bet the red-light brigade will be a permanent fixture on the landscape — no matter how dramatic or large the headlines become.

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