City Yellow Lights Too Short, Judge Says Before Tossing Red Light Tickets

PrintSome of Chicago’s yellow lights are too short, according to an administrative law judge who said he’s thrown out “60 to 70 percent” of red light camera tickets he’s come across recently because of the discrepancy.

The city uses the state and federal standard of having yellow lights display for a minimum of three seconds at intersections. But an administrative law judge, who hears appeals from motorists ticketed by red light cameras, said during a hearing this week that he has seen evidence that yellow times are slightly beneath that at some Chicago intersections with red light cameras.

The hearing at 400 W. Superior lasted three hours Monday, after the city sent three lawyers and several department supervisors to defend five tickets being challenged by Barnet Fagel, a video forensic specialist who helps drivers fight red light and speed camera tickets.

Three attorneys, a law department supervisor, a public information officer and a Chicago Department of Transportation deputy director overseeing the city’s traffic camera programs showed up to what normally would be a brief, attorney-free affair. Typically, drivers try to persuade administrative law judges that their ticket should be thrown out by presenting photos and other evidence.

But Monday, city attorneys Alexis Long and Tom Doran spent the first 30 minutes of the hearing challenging Fagel’s expertise and his ability to testify in these matters on behalf of the motorists who were ticketed.

Read more at DNA Info.

18 Responses to City Yellow Lights Too Short, Judge Says Before Tossing Red Light Tickets

  1. Jeff says:

    “Three attorneys, a law department supervisor, a public information officer and a Chicago Department of Transportation deputy director overseeing the city’s traffic camera programs showed up to what normally would be a brief, attorney-free affair.”

    The city is obviously running scared here, with recent stories about red light spikes, numerous legal challenges to the red light camera system, and an embarassing bribery scandal surrounding the awarding of the red light camera contract to Redflex Traffic Systems. The fact that an ALJ called bullshit on the city’s yellow light claims is just the latest body blow to a system that now faces substantial opposition.

  2. I traveled to Chicago from Michigan to observe the hearing on Monday.

    The judge, Robert Sussman, was VERY fair and very patient to listen to all the arguments on both sides before ruling that the amber/yellow intervals were too short on the particular red light camera cases judged on Monday AND on many more red light camera citations that he has judged recently.

    With the massive bribery scandals involving the former contractor Redflex, the extensive list of questionable tickets being reviewed after the Tribune investigation of the unexplained spikes that the city and the contractor could NOT have failed to notice when they were happening, and the many tickets being dismissed with illegally short yellow intervals – the entire Chicago red light program should be permanently ended.

    Chicago residents need to contact their Aldermen and the Mayor’s office to demand a permanent end to the red light camera program. Half a billion dollars collected with so many questions and problems is ENOUGH.

    James C. Walker, Life Member – National Motorists Association

  3. pkdickman says:

    Hey doctor,
    How about a blow by blow?
    The only thing I like more than making zoning lawyers sweat, is seeing city lawyers sh!t bricks.

  4. Saucexx says:


    How many times have we heard from the City that yellow times are not short. How many sycophantic ATA and Streetsblog posters have babbled on and on in the City’s defense. Well now here’s the proof. And by the sound of it, Redflex covered up the fact when they controlled the system. It’s only a matter of time before some one ends up behind bars. And the City should be forced to give back every penny they’ve skimmed from the residents of Chicago.

  5. Donald Knox says:

    The City Manager in charge of reviewing the tickets processed by IBM from the RLC’s was heard to joke at the last Christmas Party that the only “Legit Tickets” issued by the RLC’s are for Illegal Turns on Red. And that the 2.5 to 3 second Yellows are deliberately not being changed even though it would be a simple line of code text change into the Database that controls the Signals.

  6. Greg says:

    So let me see…the city sent 6 people fight 2 tickets which would have resulted in $200 in fines, at a cost of what was surely well over $200, given that 3 were lawyers…

    And how did the city even know about this? Out of the hundreds they see every day, why these tickets? Could it be perhaps that Barnet is very vocal and they want to shut him up?

    And apparently the video shows proof that the yellows are under 3 seconds – video proof – and the city still denies it? I guess facts are the enemy of the city…

  7. Jeff says:


    Anything the Emanuel administration tells you about traffic safety is 100% horseshit. For example, the out and out fraud (about red light cameras and traffic safety) that City Hall put on to justify speed cameras in Chicago:

  8. Jeff says:

    Geek gets a shoutout from the Trib:

    “Fagel appeared at the hearing with support from the anti-camera group Citizens to Abolish Red Light Cameras, which issued a news release Tuesday describing Sussman’s rulings. A story about the hearing by the Expired Meter transportation blog first appeared on that blog and on the website DNAinfo.”

    Finally, the Trib gives the Geek the credit he is due. You see — there is a bright side to “obsessive-compulsive disorder” after all.

  9. to all, I and other parties are working on a script dialog based on the official record which I am requesting under a FOIA to go out by close of business today.

  10. Lynn Stevens says:

    I think this calls into question “prima facie” in red light tickets.

    I’m also interested in how the city knew about this hearing in order to attend, and am annoyed at the poor use of my tax dollars. One lawyer, ok. Six high paid employees, wasteful!

  11. Jeff says:

    Predictably, many commenters on Streetsblog and other sites argue that a 2.5 second yellow light is just a “technicality” — that a half a second shortage on the yellow signal isn’t enough of a reason to invalidate a ticket.

    As with most of the usual “head up the ass” rhetoric about traffic safety that you find on Streetsblog, this argument ignores basic facts and logic. If you are going the speed limit (30 miles an hour), a half second more yellow light duration gives you 22 feet of additional time to either: (1) conclude that you will make the light and continue; or (2) stop and wait until the light goes red and then green. This added 22 feet can only inure to the benefit of road safety.

  12. The Parking Ticket Geek says:

    So nice to hear from you Lynn.

    Let me give you some perspective that will further infuriate you.

    The maximum amount of the 5 tickets would have been $500 (actually it’s a bit less).

    Thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars in legal time was spent on fighting what are the equivalent of parking tickets.

    It’s not just wasteful, it’s outrageous.

  13. Drew says:

    Jeff et al…

    Streetsblog and their Pavlovian followers wouldn’t complain about the time of a yellow light until such time as they get an RLC in a under 3 second intersection.

  14. Lynn Stevens says:


    Ha! I initially typed “outrageous!” but in light of recent national/world events decided to tone it down.

  15. Jeff says:


    The Streetsbloggers are the first to complain about bad drivers, all the while making excues for the muhc greater percentage of bikers who violate traffic laws – blowing stop signs, runnings red lights, and cycling the wrong way down one way streets. Logic and consistency are not their strong suits.

  16. Ivan Ben Thair says:

    The citizens need to put it on a ballet to vote to have all the red light cameras removed like the citizens in Houston did. It is much less stressful (and safer) to drive in the city of Houston now that all the camera have been removed. The city is suppose to use a big portion of the money to improve traffic flow by improving traffic signal timing and progression, but they never spend close to what they can for improvements to traffic congestion relief. It is just a money maker for the city with no safety or traffic flow improvements and no annual accounting for the money spent solely and traffic improvements. As far as speed cameras, traffic engineers normally consider areas to be speed traps,if more than 15% of drivers are exceeding the speed limit. That means the speeds should be raised if you have a more that the 15% exceeding the posted speed. Speeds are suppose to be set by traffic engineers using speed studies (not by law enforcement), and the speeds should be set at what is known as the 85TH percentile speed, with data to back it up. The speed studies need to be done with free flowing traffic (only the lead vehicle is recorded) for two hours or 125 vehicles, done in off peak hours to avoid congestion and undo slow traffic. Trial runs may also be needed to make sure it is a reasonable posted speed for the average driver. If they were only giving tickets to 15% then it would prevent the average safe driver in the 85% group from getting a ticket. Reasonable speeds make happy, and safe citizens.

  17. […] issued a news release Tuesday describing Sussman’s rulings. A story about the hearing by the Expired Meter transportation blog first appeared on that blog and on the website […]

  18. Jeff says:

    Ivan Ben Thair:

    Unfortunatley, in Chicago, the Mayor and his stooges on the City Council can block city wide ballot measures they don’t approve of. The only city wide ballot measures they allow are ones that align with their own political interests.

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