Red Light Camera Manufacturer Sticks It To Chicago
Amidst the hub-bub surrounding the Presidential election, a big story regarding red light cameras was somewhat ignored.
Of course, Fran Spielman of the Chicago Sun-Times did not ignore it.
It seems the city OK’d a maintenance contract for $32 million to Redflex, the company that makes those wonderful red light cameras us drivers adore, at 123 intersections around the city.
The contract is for upkeep and maintenance on the original 136 cameras that were installed, and not any of the new cameras covered in a contract for $52 million penned earlier this year.
I am a bit confused by the size of the contract though. If you do the math, this contract breaks down to $47,000 in maintenance, per camera per year.
What kind of equipment requires THAT much maintenance. According to the numbers the city gave us regarding the new contract, Redflex is only charging $24,000 to install a red light camera.
Instead of paying $47,000 for upkeep on the old cameras, wouldn’t it be cheaper just to install a brand new camera for $24,000? This is, perhaps, too simplistic analysis, but at the same time, the numbers do not make sense.
Considering the sorry state of the Chicago budget deficit, this contract seems like Mayor Daley just allowed Redflex to ripoff the city.
TRAFFIC | City has issued more than a million tickets with devices’ help
By Fran Spielman
The Arizona company whose red-light cameras have pumped out more than a million Chicago tickets will be paid $32 million just to maintain its first 136 video surveillance systems, under a five-year contract approved by City Hall last month.
Redflex Traffic Systems has installed 248 cameras at 123 accident-prone Chicago intersections since 2003, with 50 more intersections planned for 2009. The cameras have raised $94.5 million and reduced red-light running by 59 percent.
Earlier this year, the Daley administration ended a nationwide search of video surveillance technology by signing a new, five-year, $52 million contract with Redflex. The agreement cut the cost of each camera system from $100,000 to $24,500. It also included maintenance for cameras installed after Oct. 22.
But the “proprietary nature of the technology” prevented the city from including operations and maintenance for the 136 original camera systems, according to John Bills, assistant director of city operations for the Office of Emergency Management and Communications.
That’s why Redflex has a new, $32 million contract.
Redflex lobbyists include former Chicago Ald. Mark Fary (12th), husband of O’Hare expansion chief Rosemarie Andolino, and William Griffin, a friend of Mayor Daley and Finance Committee Chairman Edward M. Burke (14th).
“This program has stood the test. We’ve issued over one million tickets with very minimal technology errors. People are guilty 97 percent of the time. Yes, it’s a costly program to run. But look at the positives. Look at how many lives are being saved by changing negative driving behavior,” Bills said.
Ever since Chicago entered the Brave New World of Traffic Enforcement, City Hall has insisted that red-light cameras were more about safety than money.
But that argument appears to be undercut by the $94.5 million raised so far and by the wording of the new contract. It requires Redflex to “maintain an 85 percent prosecution rate” and pay penalties and damages for malfunctioning cameras.
“For each system not operational 95 percent of any consecutive, 30-day period, the city will suffer harm that is difficult or impossible to calculate, including loss of revenue relating to red-light violations,” the contract states.
But Bills said, “That’s not about revenue. That’s about holding our vendors accountable. I should not have to wait weeks to get a [new] camera installed.”
Motorists caught on camera running red lights get a $100 ticket in the mail, along with digital photographs of the violation. They can also view the cold, hard evidence online — by typing in their license plate number, along with the citation and code number.