Speed-cam­era pain thresh­old

D.C. bud­get prom­ises $40 mil­lion speed-cam­era shake­down

The Washington Times Daily - - Opinion -

If there were ever any doubt that speed cam­eras are noth­ing but a dis­hon­est cash grab, look no fur­ther than Washington Mayor Vin­cent C. Gray’s “no new taxes” bud­get, re­leased Fri­day morn­ing. Boldly ti­tled “Seiz­ing Our Fu­ture,” Mr. Gray’s spend­ing blue­print is more about seiz­ing cash from the wal­lets of Virginia and Mary­land driv­ers.

The Dis­trict faces a $172 mil­lion deficit, which Mr. Gray pro­poses to solve with $69 mil­lion in “gap-clos­ing rev­enue ini­tia­tives” and some re­duc­tions in de­mand for ser­vices. The big­gest chunk of ad­di­tional rev­enue — $31 mil­lion this year and $40 mil­lion next year — will come from “in­creased traf­fic calm­ing.” That’s code for more speed cam­eras.

Amer­i­can Traf­fic So­lu­tions (ATS), the Dis­trict’s for-profit traf­fic-cam­era hench­man, will take a $5.8 mil­lion slice of the loot in re­turn for gen­er­at­ing the moun­tain of ex­tra ci­ta­tions. The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Po­lice Depart­ment (MPD) says ATS will use four tech­niques to raise the ex­pected rev­enue. Ac­cord­ing to bud­get doc­u­ments, “MPD will ac­quire new photo and laser radar equip­ment and ex­pand the scope of au­to­mated en­force­ment ac­tiv­ity to in­clude ‘speed on green’ cam­eras that cap­ture ve­hi­cles ex­ceed­ing the speed limit through in­ter­sec­tions and mo­bile red light and stop sign vi­o­la­tions.” The spend­ing out­line also pro­poses “laser-based speed units” in tun­nels, “grid­lock en­force­ment” and “pedes­trian cross­ing vi­o­la­tions.”

While it sounds omi­nous, it’s also fa­mil­iar. Then-mayor Adrian M. Fenty made the same pledge in his bud­get in 2009. In fact, The Washington Times was first to re­port, a decade ago, on the full de­tails of the Dis­trict’s photo-radar con­tract with Lock­heed Martin IMS, the ven­dor at the time. “Speed on green” has been on the agenda from the very be­gin­ning.

From a tech­ni­cal stand­point, it only takes a sim­ple soft­ware up­grade to turn red-light cam­eras into speed cam­eras, but it hasn’t hap­pened. D.C. may­ors need to pan­der to the vo­cal, an­ti­au­to­mo­bile ac­tivists in their leftist base who ap­plaud any talk of “crack­downs” on driv­ers. May­ors also need to make their bud­get plans ap­pear to reach bal­ance by adding in big rev­enue num­bers. Last year, the cam­era shake­down gen­er­ated $33.7 mil­lion in profit, or $54 per res­i­dent.

To be sure, the city and the cam­era op­er­a­tors re­cently have been ratch­et­ing up the pain for driv­ers, but dou­bling the an­nual hit to more than $100 per res­i­dent can back­fire eas­ily. As ex­pe­ri­ence has shown with the failed photo tick­et­ing pro­grams in Los An­ge­les and Hous­ton, there’s only so much that driv­ers will take be­fore they sim­ply stop pay­ing the ci­ta­tions. The L.A. city coun­cil dumped them af­ter An­ge­lenos in droves be­gan toss­ing vi­o­la­tion no­tices in the trash. Hous­to­ni­ans took it a step fur­ther by us­ing the bal­lot box to oust the hated ma­chines from their streets.

The Dis­trict is al­ready over­sat­u­rated with ro­botic cam­eras. The lat­est batch of low-pro­file au­to­mated tick­et­ing ma­chines sneak­ily con­cealed on down­hill stretches of road al­ready have sparked com­muter outrage. Should Mr. Gray ac­tu­ally fol­low through with his prom­ises, the ex­tra lucre isn’t likely to last long be­fore vot­ers take mat­ters into their own hands.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.