In first month, speed cameras near schools, parks spit out 2,700 tickets
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter November 19, 2013 4:14PM
Updated: December 21, 2013 6:34AM
Speed cameras around Chicago schools and parks have churned out more than 2,700 tickets and 324,000 warning notices during the first month of enforcement, but 90 percent of speeders have not been nailed twice.
Those 2,722 tickets add up to $245,160 in fines during the first 30 days the cameras issued violations.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is counting on speed cameras to raise $70 million in revenue in 2014. He has portrayed the windfall as a way to avoid “penalizing” children for the federal government’s decision to “walk away” from summer jobs, Head Start and after-school programs.
Aldermen believe that’s a lowball figure and that speed cameras could rake in more than twice as much.
The figures released Tuesday add fuel to the fire.
From Oct. 16 through Sunday, the nine speed cameras installed around Gompers, McKinley, Garfield and Marquette Parks churned out 2,722 tickets, nearly 300,000 30-day warning notices and 24,000 final warnings.
The Emanuel administration chose to emphasize the other half of the equation: Speeding dropped by more than 65 percent from the first week of warnings until the third week of ticketing — from 507 vehicles per day going at least 10 miles per hour over the speed limit to 175 speeders a day.
Ninety percent of the speeders have not been issued a second ticket, officials said.
Motorists caught going 6 to 10 mph over the posted limit pay a $35 fine. Drivers caught going at least 11 mph over the limit pay $100. In the first month of enforcement, 416 violations were issued for those driving 6 to 10 mph over the speed limit; another 2,306 were issued to those driving 11 mph or more over the speed limit, according to city statistics.
“It is encouraging to see that automated speed enforcement has already had a significant positive impact on drivers’ behavior…But, we still have a chronic problem of excessive speed and we need to continue to change the culture of speeding in Chicago,” departing Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein was quoted as saying in a press release.
The comment echoed what Klein told aldermen when he was on the hot seat at City Council budget hearings earlier this month. He called the decline in speeding “tremendous” and a selling point for a politically unpopular program that he sold the mayor on implementing.
“The number of actual citations going out is not that huge by the time you get through 30 days of warnings. And keep in mind, we’re only setting the trigger speed at 10 [mph over the limit], even though we’re allowed to do it at 7. And everybody gets a freebie,” Klein said during budget hearings.
“There’s so many fail-safes in here. If you get a ticket, you’re just not paying attention. . . .You literally have to be on your phone or drinking if you get a ticket,” Klein said at the time.
Klein said then that the speed camera in Transportation Committee Chairman Anthony Beale’s Far South Side 9th Ward has ticket volumes “70 percent higher” than any other camera because it’s catching out-of-state motorists “zipping into the city” from Indiana.
“I know there are a lot of skeptics out there, but it’s working, and the number of tickets is pretty small because we have so much education out there. In some cases, speeding drops by 90 percent by the time tickets actually go out,” Klein said.
Cameras installed at Douglas, Legion and Washington parks started issuing tickets this week. Cameras installed at Abbott, Humboldt, Major Taylor, Portage, Columbus and Warren parks are still in the warning phase.
With speed cameras installed at 50 locations by the first quarter of 2014, the city’s take could easily top $100 million, aldermen contend.