The District's use of speed and red light cameras generated a record $55 million in revenue in fiscal 2011, and current numbers show the record will be shattered again. That's proof, according to one traffic expert, that the cameras do nothing to deter speeders and are only a money-raising mechanism for governments.
John Townsend of AAA Mid-Atlantic said his group has seen an increase in the number of people being ticketed despite the attention the cameras are receiving.
"Eighty-thousand people in the past two years have run red lights, and that's just unconscionable," Townsend said. "No one should speed, and no one, especially, should run a red light."
In the first seven months of this fiscal year, the city already issued $40.3 million in automated enforcement tickets. At that pace, the yearly total would near $70 million.
The fine for speeding in the District ranges from $75 to $250, depending on how much the driver exceeds the speed limit. Running a red light results in a $150 fine. If drivers fail to pay their ticket or challenge it in court within 30 days, the fine automatically doubles -- a factor Townsend said also contributes to rising revenues.
Although Townsend says adding more cameras will not change people's behavior, the mayor's office believes differently.
"The automated traffic enforcement program has one goal, and one goal only: to keep our streets safe," said Pedro Ribeiro, a spokesman for Mayor Vincent Gray.
The D.C. Council passed a $9.4 billion budget for 2013 on Tuesday. Of that, $5.8 million is dedicated to expanding automated traffic enforcement. The new cameras will not be operational until at least October.
"Even increasing the traffic fines by 115 percent and doubling the number of camera locations is still not making our streets safer," Townsend said. "It's not modifying people's behavior. I suspect it's time for us to get our officers back out there."