Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Breaking the law continued: maybe more people run red lights

Today's Post has a piece, "District red-light cameras rake in revenue as more tickets issued last year," on red-light camera tickets.  I have a problem with the general approach to the stories, because not ticketing condones breaking the law, and multi-ton vehicles red light running is dangerous indeed.

Image: the automated ticketing process for running a red light.  Source: Irving, Texas Transportation Department.

The title for the entry comes from this paragraph of the article:

“Drivers might as well face it, the District is a strict enforcement zone,” said John B. Townsend II of AAA. “The odds of getting a photo-enforced ticket are demonstrably greater in Washington, D.C., than they are in all of the surrounding jurisdictions combined. The District collects nearly two-thirds, a stunning 61.6 percent, of the [red-light camera] revenue total for the national capital area.”

Maybe there are more red-light cameras in the city.  Maybe people feel more comfortable or more entitled to break the law in DC.

It would be an overgeneralization to say that most of the tickets are likely to be given to non-residents, although the article indicates that the "most productive" cameras are stationed at intersections on commuter routes in and out of the city.

The hottest red light cameras in the District, based on number of tickets issued last year, are at: 

●Westbound New York Avenue at Fourth Street NW (5,297 tickets, worth $794,500).
●Southbound on the South Capitol Street ramp before I Street SW (4,884 tickets, worth $732,600).
●Westbound New York Avenue at Florida Avenue NE (4,849 tickets, worth $732,350).
●Westbound Suitland Parkway at Stanton Road SE (4,679 tickets, worth $701,850).
●Westbound New York Avenue at New Jersey Avenue NW (4,134 tickets, worth $620,100).

In any case, the argument that because DC generates a majority of the red light ticket revenue in the metropolitan area that the city is somehow doing something wrong is not a logical one. It's what is called an ad hominem argument--to the person, or in this case, "city," and not to the facts.

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At 8:36 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

And to be fair, more tickets isn't surprising if you have more red light cameras.

So, double whammy.

That being said, pretty good evidence that red light cameras are about revenue, and not about safety.

I'm not questing the existence of some sort of externality. But when you're looking at over 100M a year in automated traffic fines, and about 20 traffic deaths a year in DC, that comes about 5M per death.

(No idea on how many injuries but I also go up an order of magnitude, so maybe 200-500 serious injuries in DC from car use)

And given that the deaths are being paid out via insurance, which car-owners are contributing too, very hard to suggest this isn't a revenue grab.

At 9:57 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Well, I have to agree with you, given that the placement of the cameras are in low-pedestrian locations.

At 11:49 AM, Anonymous oboe said...

I can never understand the exquisite distinction between red light cameras being "about safety" versus "about revenue".

People running red lights is dangerous. So obviously there's a safety component. Having said that, I have no problem whatsoever with extracting $100M+ USD from red-light runners.

You use the term "revenue grab" as though it were a bad thing. It arguably beats a commuter tax, or tolling bridges. And it's a great way to force folks who live in the suburbs to subsidize DC's disproportionately generous anti-poverty programs.

At 11:54 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Oboe, I agree with you on speed and red light cameras. I am not quite as hearty about parking tickets. Parking tickets discourage people from patronizing your commercial district... that being said, people shouldn't get a free pass there either.

The problem of course is dealing with the Mid Atlantic AAA. (Which I still aim to write about, arising from the National Bike Summit.)

At 11:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey all, I've found out a fool-proof way to stick it to the money-grabbing "man". Wanna hear it?

Stop running red lights. Stop speeding.

It's a plan so simple it might just work...

At 8:47 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I was interviewed for Channel 7 after this yesterday, and that was the basic point I made--which didn't make it into the broadcast sadly, the most important point.

I said that I'd be fine with DC not making one dime from red light camera-based tickets, as a result of people not breaking the law.


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