Speed Cameras Could Generate Nearly $100 mil

How much money could the city of Chicago take in by installing speed cameras near schools? Far more than it’s earning from red light cameras, estimates driver advocate website The Expired Meter, citing a traffic study conducted by the Chicago Department of Transportation.

The study monitored the speed of vehicles only during weekdays from 6 AM to 11 AM and then from noon until 4 PM. During the nine hours per day over the course of 43 days, cameras recorded 1,418,797 vehicles passing through the seven approaches.

While the city’s report said nearly 26% of all vehicles were exceeding the speed limit, under the proposed law tickets would only be issued if the driver exceeds 5 mph, which drops that percentage to 9% or 131,034 vehicles.

In other words, if speed cameras were enforcing during this two month period, 131,034 drivers would have been issued tickets totaling $13.1 million in fines.

Granted, once the cameras are in place, drivers will alter their behavior by slowing down. The Expired Meter’s estimates account for that, too.

Applying a regression to the mean to the projected initial numbers, the first twelve months of enforcement where fines would be issued, from just these seven locations would still produce 990,822 speed violations or nearly $100 million in fines–a dollar amount that far exceeds the total revenue generated by the all 382 red light cameras every year.

In other words, projected violations were discounted by 5.3% every month, acknowledging driver behavior will change and violations will fall over time.

(It doesn't account for drivers who alter their behavior by no longer driving in the Chicago, thus robbing the city of gasoline taxes.)

Mayor Rahm Emanuel told reporters, “I don’t care if we collect a single dollar from this initiative. This is about saving the lives of children.”

But The Expired Meter’s story points that the cameras would operate from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., five days a week -- far longer than children are actually in school. Those hours account for the high revenue projections.

“You can tell it’s not really about safety when you look at the hours of operation (proposed hours of enforcement) are not during just school hours but when most people drive to maximize revenue,” says Brian Costin of the Illinois Policy Institute, a libertarian think tank.

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