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D.C. logs nearly $26 million in traffic camera revenues in January

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Photo - Speed camera, NE Washington D.C., Thursday,  Dec 5, 2012
Speed camera, NE Washington D.C., Thursday, Dec 5, 2012
Local,DC,Transportation,Alan Blinder,Metro and Traffic

Hours after a D.C. lawmaker offered a new proposal Tuesday that he said would curb the number of motorists who receive tickets from the city's web of traffic cameras, the District reported that it collected nearly $26 million last month from its controversial automated enforcement network.

Preliminary data from the city's chief financial officer showed the District took in slightly less than $25.8 million in January from its nearly 100 cameras.

That was a 113 percent increase from January 2012, when the city logged about $12 million in revenues from its camera system.

Huge surge
The District's revenues from traffic cameras skyrocketed in January.
October: $350,000
November: $208,000
December: $1.9 million
January: $25.8 million

"It's amazing that they dislike motorists so much," said Lon Anderson, of AAA Mid-Atlantic, a frequent critic of the cameras. "Taking this kind of money from motorists, you'd think they'd love them."

The almost $26 million take in January represented a sharp escalation in the pace of the city's collections in the current fiscal year, which began in October.

During the first three months of the fiscal year, D.C. records show, the city averaged $815,000 per month in revenues tied to automated traffic enforcement for a total of about $2.4 million.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray has repeatedly said the cameras are in place for safety purposes "first and foremost," and administration officials point to declining traffic fatalities as evidence the devices are working.

The District recorded 19 traffic-linked deaths last year, down from 32 a year earlier.

And although Gray and the D.C. Council have sought to trim fines, a lawmaker said Tuesday that the District needs to do more to assist motorists.

At-large Councilman Vincent Orange unveiled a proposal that would require the District Department of Transportation to match a "recognized national standard" for the length of yellow lights -- which the city says it already does.

"The issue here is just making sure that the revenue we're generating from these traffic cameras is fair and that we're not manipulating the traffic signals to generate revenue," Orange said. "It's about safety and making sure that it's uniform and that we're not using our traffic signals to create cash cows."

But DDOT spokeswoman Monica Hernandez said the city already uses guidelines from the Institute of Transportation Engineers to set the intervals for yellow lights in D.C., along with supplemental rules that are more generous to drivers.

"Yellow interval is determined based on various factors such as posted speed limit, approach grade at an intersection, driver's reaction time and rate of deceleration," Hernandez said in an email. "Calculation of yellow intervals do not have anything to do with the presence of a red light camera."

Hernandez also said every traffic light in the District has a minimum yellow interval of four seconds.

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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