Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Red Lights and Loose Change

I've never actually received a ticket in the mail.

Not yet, anyways. But I'm expecting it, and probably sooner rather than later. It seems that it's probably a forgone conclusion.

Let me start off by stating the obvious: this ticks me off. I mean, really badly. There are a lot of things that rub me the wrong way, for sure. Those of you who know me intimately can attest to that (Mike's feathers got ruffled? Well, duh.) The red light camera thing really digs under my skin. It's right up there with the smoking ban, but that's another gripe for another day.

Anyone here in Chicago, or wherever else red light cams are used, has seen it all too often now. You come up to the light as it turns yellow, you slow down, stop, and some sucker flies by you trying to make the light. The flashes go off all around, and you know that you've survived, yet again. You probably even smile for a minute.

To quote Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket: "Better him than me."

Running a red light is never a good thing (again, stating the obvious here). Accidents occur. Cars get wrecked. People get hurt. It's against the law. We just shouldn't do it.

Of course, I can't disagree with any of that. The reasons for having the red light cams are good and even legitimate reasons, I suppose. And if they were in place, truly, to deter running red lights and promote public safety, I might even be OK with that. But like most laws that shape and form our ever-growing nanny state, in the end it comes down to revenue.

Cold. Hard. Cash.

One of Chicago's most esteemed Council members, Ed Burke, was quoted in the Tribune on June 22, 2007, as saying that the revenue from the fines “is budgeted in our annual appropriation ordinance”. “That is why all these cameras are being installed. … The reality is that people blow through these intersections and they are going to be caught and they are going to be fined. It has become a big revenue source, absolutely.”

Hubris AND gall.


Good luck trying to fight the ticket, by the way. Again, I'm not yet speaking from experience, but I've heard that the system makes it nearly impossible to be successful disputing the ticket. I've also heard it's not cheap. In June of 2007 it was $90. I don't know what it is now.

I got on this topic today because a friend of mine, who lives in Rome, posted a link to a recent story on the BBC website about red light cams and the scam that was uncovered. Read it if you'd like. If not, the gist of the article is that the lights were rigged and an exorbitant amount of people were fined. It's estimated that the said shenanigans netted $170 million. The yellow lights, it seems, lasted only 3 seconds as opposed to the regulation 5 or 6.

Do you think Chicago, with it's squeaky clean political reputation, is operating on the up and up with this, or any type of, automated revenue generation? Just asking.

Big Brother has gotten bigger and bigger over the years. Next to London, Chicago has more cameras recording the public's movements, red light or otherwise, than any city in the world. London, incidentally, started using cameras because of their, (yes you guessed it), chronic traffic problems. And like Chicago, London developed a brand new revenue stream as a result.

You DO see the pattern, right? Of course you do.

Cameras are on the tollways, freeways, alleyways, and breezeways. The city is asking businesses and private residences to link all of their cameras together with the city's. Soon, we'll all see everything. Won't that be great? I, for one, want everyone to see just exactly who's getting held upside down by their ankles while the loose change clanks to the ground and into the government's abyss.

My friend who posted the BBC article said, "Ah yes, another reason why the class action lawsuit doesn't exist in Italy." That's certainly food for thought that I'm hoping the Chicago City Council won't eat.

So it goes...


  1. I was caught - but didn't get the ticket in the mail until about 6 months after the yellow light incident. And yes, it was pretty obvious it was me - about 8 different pictures, no way I was getting out of that!

    It wasn't so much the getting caught - it was the ridiculous wait time that really pissed me off. Certainly they would want their revenue much earlier, no? And then I could have recalled the offense!

    Anyway, I think it is $100 now.

  2. i love it. really love it. and to top it all off, not only is it a nanny state, it's an orwellian "we'll watch everything you do," spy state. you think those cameras are only gonna be used for traffic incidents? really? not for any other more-private undertakings? hmmmm, i think i might have a lovely bridge for you...

  3. Mike, I got a red light ticket for making a legal right turn on a red light. You cannot win in this shitbag of a city. Politics, clout and crime rule it. I have none of that so I am on the bottom of the pyramid.