WASHINGTON (CBSDC) - If you are one of the many commuters whose daily drive takes them through the District, you’ve seen the rash of new speed cameras populate city streets in the last year.
In case you were hoping those same cameras were to be just a fading trend, well, they’re not. In fact, if it’s up to Councilwoman Mary Cheh, drivers would see cameras on more streets than they wouldn’t.
The returns on speed and red light camera fines for the 2012 fiscal year are in and the District is raking in a sizable bundle. Through the month of July the city had made roughly $65 million from the fines, according to the Examiner, which start at $75 per ticket – a $10 million jump from 2011’s returns.
The exact numbers have not yet been made available, but Chief Financial Officer Natwar Ghandi says the number, which is a lot higher than originally predicted, has helped contribute to an estimated $140 million surplus in D.C. He added that a $23 million boost in camera ticket revenue late in the fiscal year helped push that number so high.
As expected, lawmakers in the District have dollar signs in their eyes. Councilwoman Mary Cheh, who admits the speed limits are too low in some places around the city, establishing some cameras as unfair speed traps, says she wants to see more red light cameras … a lot more.
“I would like to have red light camera on every light in the District,” Cheh told reporters.
This is troubling news for one spokesman for AAA, who told the Examiner the camera presence should be viewed as a method of “decreasing traffic crashes and slowing would-be speeders.”
“Our concern is that the District has moved beyond using these cameras as a safety measure,” Christopher Falkenhagen said. “And (the District) is instead using them to raise revenue.”
By comparison, D.C.’s neighboring counties have not hauled in nearly the windfall. Since 2009, Montgomery County has earned approximately $30 million from camera fines, while Prince George’s County has made a more modest $8 million from the same practice in 2012.
Spokesman for Mayor Gray, Pedro Ribeiro clarifies that the city doesn’t balance its budget on speed cameras.
“We didn’t’ anticipate it,” Rebeiro said. “What it shows us is that there are a lot of people breaking the law.”