Del Valle Challenges City’s Red Light Cameras
Wants Reform Of ’Oppressive’ Driving, Parking Policies
The corner of Halsted & Madison might seem an unlikely place for a press conference.
But Chicago mayoral candidate Miguel del Valle picked this location Monday afternoon for a very specific reason.
It’s because it is the location one of Chicago’s over 190 red light camera enforced intersections, an intersection that’s generated $326,000 in RLC revenue since it was first installed.
“Red light cameras were originally intended for the purpose of protecting pedestrians and reducing the number of automobile accidents at intersections with a history of automobile accidents,” said del Valle who voted for the original legislation allowing RLC enforcement when he was in the Illinois General Assembly. “I want to go back to that original intent.”
Chicago has the most red light cameras of any American city and issued 763,419 violations just in 2010, and generated $64.1 million in revenue in 2009.
While Chicago’s extensive red light camera program has generated over $250 million since its inception in 2003, del Valle has some strong reservations about how the program is being run, feels it has become overly oppressive to Chicago drivers and is proposing a comprehensive review of these policies.
“As mayor, if I don’t see evidence an intersection has a history of accidents than I don’t think there should be a red light camera there. We shouldn’t be installing red light cameras for the purpose of generating revenue, that’s not what they’re for. That’s not what they were originally intended.”
Del Valle also cited University of Illinois professor Rajiv Shah, an expert on red light camera programs, who’s recent analysis of 39 Chicago intersections with red light cameras actually saw 6% increases in accidents.
“If there is an intersection with a history of many traffic accidents and you install red light cameras then let’s evaluate after a year to see what has happened,” del Valle explains. “Has it made a difference or in some cases has it caused additional accidents as a result of motorists trying to avoid that ticket slamming on their breaks. You don’t put a red light camera in and forget about it because it’s making money for you.”
Extending Yellow Light Times At Traffic Lights
Del Valle, currently Chicago’s City Clerk, is also proposing that one second of yellow light time is added to all traffic lights at problematic intersections in the city. Citing examples and studies from Virgina, Georgia, Arizona and Maryland that show by extending the amber light interval by just one second can reduce red light running by 73% to as much as 100% in some cases.
In some cases, the impact from this change was so dramatic, several cities decided to drop their red light camera program altogether.
The vast majority of traffic signals in Chicago have a three second yellow light interval–the minimum required by federal law.
“In this case, less government is better government,” del Valle said. “It costs much less and requires far less work to increase the duration of our yellow lights. Before we continue adding fines to our city, we should try the method that may actually yield the best results for public safety.”
Del Valle also wants to look into the reasons why red light camera revenue goes into the city’s general fund and not into improving the safety of dangerous intersections or into public safety campaigns to reduce red light running.
“We already know about one shadow fund because of our TIF system. We do not need another because of the red light cameras,” del Valle said.
Denver Boot, Ticket Amnesty, & More Flexible Parking Ticket Payment Plans
But del Valle also wants to reform a few other city parking and driving policies.
The current rule is you can be booted if you have two unpaid tickets over a year old or three unpaid tickets in final determination. The Clerk feels the current two ticket threshold is too tough on drivers.
“I think it is too harsh,” says del Valle who wants to go back to the three ticket policy of two years ago. “I felt from the very beginning that two tickets is just too harsh. People are struggling, there’s a downturn in the economy. We certainly have our parking restrictions and people should follow them. If people are illegally parked, certainly they deserve a ticket. People should follow the rules, but going to two tickets for the purpose of generating more revenue is just too harsh.”
However, any significant changes would be made to the city’s current booting policy due to the parking meter lease contract, may cost the city money.
Within the enforcement portion of the contract it specifies any increase in the number of tickets to make a vehicle boot eligible could become what the contract calls a “compensation event.” While the language of the contract does not quantify this situation, ultimately it would mean the city would have to pay Chicago Parking Meters, LLC for any easing of boot enforcement.
If elected Mayor, Clerk del Valle also wants to soften the city’s current payment plan program.
“I would like the city to consider hardship cases,” explains del Valle. “When someone is living pay check to pay check and most people are, we need to take that into consideration. We have to collect our revenue but at the same time we need to establish fair payment plans. We need to be sensitive to the plight of people out there.”
In fact, as Mayor he would propose a parking ticket amnesty program to bring in revenue more quickly.
“I have always have supported periodic amnesty measures, because it does bring in revenue,” says del Valle. “Remember, we’re talking amnesty on the increase not on the original amount of the ticket itself. I’m in favor of doing it from time to time. Not too often because then people will sit on them.”
It seems pretty clear the Clerk has been listening to Chicago drivers while on the campaign trail for Mayor, as many of his proposed initiatives are ones that impact motorists.
“The city has become, and that’s why I describe it as an oppressive climate,” says del Valle. “Because we’ve just crossed the line in terms of how we bear down on people in the name of revenue collection, whether it’s RLC s that keep being installed all over the place or ticket writing or meter increases in terms of the privatization agreement.”he lo