City downplays huge request for speed cameras near parks, schools
By ABDON M. PALLASCH Political Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org July 27, 2012 7:02PM
Map of proposed Red Light camera locations in Chicago for the Automated Speed Enforcement Program near schools and parks | submitted artwork | Sun-Times
Updated: August 30, 2012 6:05AM
That’s a lotta dots.
The map the city of Chicago is sending out with its “request for proposals” shows just how extensive coverage by cameras designed to catch speeders around parks and schools could be — if the city ever exercises all its options.
Not to worry, city officials say: Aldermen mandated that cameras go up in only 50 to 300 locations for now.
“By ordinance, we are limited to placing these cameras in only 20 percent of the 1,500 possible Children’s Safety Zones — that’s only 300 camera [sites] citywide,” said Pete Scales, spokesman for the city’s Department of Transportation. “We expect to only have about 50 of those up and running next year.”
Plenty of connected companies are getting ready to bid on the contract to install the cameras. Mayoral allies Greg Goldner and Mike Kasper have ties to one of the firms.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has agreed to several limitations to meet the concerns of aldermen who feared this was all about making money; that cameras would be too concentrated in certain neighborhoods, or would be too pervasive. They are meant to cover territories within one-eighth of a mile around parks and schools.
As the map shows, that’s much of Chicago. The city will study traffic patterns to see which areas will be targeted first, Emanuel said.
“There is nothing more important to the future of Chicago than the safety of our children,” Emanuel said upon passage of the ordinance. “The Children’s Safety Zone program will protect our children as they go to and from school, and as they play in our parks and recreational areas.”
In response to residents’ and aldermen’s concerns, hours of enforcement are limited to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. around schools and 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. around parks, when children are more likely to be present.
Money raised from the $35 or $100 fines from camera-based tickets will be spent on programs that “enhance the safety of children, including after school, anti-violence and jobs programs; crossing guards and police officers around schools; and infrastructure improvements, such as signs, crosswalk markings and other traffic safety improvements,” city officials said when it passed.
Earlier this month, city transportation officials held a meeting at which they answered questions for the would-be bidders. As chronicled by The Expired Meter website:
CDOT’s Scott Kubly explained that once the bids were submitted, a few of the leading vendors would be asked to pilot their technology at up to two locations to see how their equipment performs over a 30-day trial period before a final vendor was selected.
So how will the vendor, using only video, distinguish between youthful adults who look like children and mature-looking children who appear to be adults?
“Because judgment is involved, this is a gray area,” the website quoted CDOT’s David Zavattero. “It is up to the vendor to identify whether someone may be school age. Ultimately, it will be up to a hearing officer” to make that determination if the violation is contested.