The city of Chicago in 2012 collected more than $69 million from red light camera citations, documents show.
It was $69,098,698 to be exact.
There are nearly 400 cameras around the city. The top five most-ticketed intersections raised more than eight million dollars, and many of them are in some of the city's busiest neighborhoods:
- 5: 95th and Stoney Island: 11,645 citations were issued last year, earning the city $1,304,003
- 4: Van Buren and Western: Just off the Eisenhower Expressway, 15,134 tickets were issued, earning the city $1,578,511
- 3: LaFayette and 87th: Exit off the Dan Ryan at 87th Street and you’ll see where the city issued 15,466 citations and collected $1,616,323.
- 2: Lake Shore Drive and Belmont. This intersection on the city's north side generated 16,579 tickets and earned the city $1,842,091
- 1: Interstate 55 and Cicero Avenue near Midway International Airport: 19,984 tickets were issued and the city collected $2,004,158.
Those five intersections added up to roughly 12 percent of the red light revenue total of $69 million dollars.
"It’s a money issue. You know that," said Chicago resident Omar Johnson. "They’ve got them up and down Stoney island. It’s about money. Everyone I know has gotten one."
In fact, University of Illinois at Chicago professor Rajiv Shah says the cameras that first appeared in Chicago 10 years ago may be counter-productive from a safety perspective.
"There's not a significant improvement in safety with the red light cameras in Chicago," he said.
In fact, he said his research shows that 80 percent of the red light tickets issued are for illegal right turns on red, and he says those turns don't cause many accidents.
"If you remove those right turns, that's going to reduce revenue and not make it profitable to have these cameras at intersections," he said.
Shah said he believes the red light cameras can actually increase minor collisions.
Even the Chicago Department of Transportation's website, visited by more than 500,000 red light offenders each year, seemed to agree: "Rear-end crashes were found to increase on average at red-light camera equipped intersections. Rear-end crashes are more likely to result in minor injuries or property damage.”
Shah said the city should be more forthcoming about its motives with the cameras and said that safety benefits should be made public.
A city spokesperson said the money collected from red light violators goes into a corporate fund and is used in the general budget.
Chicago's Top 10 Citation-Producing Red Light Cameras:
View Chicago's Top Ten Red-Light Cameras in a larger map