City Contract May Have More Drivers Seeing Red

Red-light camera company cashes in

You may not be smiling when that red-light camera flashes, but someone in Arizona very well could be.

Redflex Traffic System—the Arizona company responsible for 248 of Chicago's red light video surveillance cameras—will be paid $32 million to maintain the first 136 systems over the next five years.

Earlier this year, Redflex received a $52 million contract to maintain all the other cameras (installed after October 22, 2008).

According to John Bills, assistant director of city operations for the Office of Emergency Management and Communications, the "proprietary nature of the technology" prevented the city from lumping all the cameras together in one contract.

"This program has stood the test," Bills told the Chicago Sun-Times. "We've issued over one million tickets with very minimal technology errors. People are guilty 97 percent of the time. Yes, it's a costly program to run. But look at the positives. Look at how many lives are being saved by changing negative driving behavior."

And while City Hall has always insisted the installation of cameras has always been about safety, it doesn't hurt that the surveillance systems have raised $94.5 million so far, with more than $50 million in fines this year alone.

The local news blog Chicagoist has calculated that the new contract works out to approximately $47,000 per camera per year. Ironically, if fewer people ran red lights, then that would mean fewer tickets and less revenue, and the city would not be able to afford the very cameras in question.

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