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At-large candidates, except Shapiro, pander to speeders

Except for Peter Shapiro, the candidates for DC Council at-large either don't think pedestrian safety is a very pressing issue, think the only people who will vote tomorrow are drivers who'd rather speed than be safe, or both.


Image from WAMU.

On Friday, the Democratic candidates for DC Council at-large appeared on the WAMU Politics Hour with Kojo Nnamdi and Tom Sherwood. Sherwood asked about Mayor Gray's plan to increase the number of traffic enforcement cameras, including ones that will detect drivers running red lights or speeding through lights when they're green.

In their answers, all 4 candidates focused on the question of whether DC is or is not pursuing the program just to raise revenue. But only Peter Shapiro gave any time at all to the serious danger to pedestrians that comes from drivers speeding, turning right on red without stopping, blocking the box, and more.

Any revenue bump will not last long as drivers adjust to actually following laws. Plus, it's a red herring to cast doubt on the program just because it's coming up in a budget cycle. DC needs to spend money to get cameras. Therefore, the program has to be part of the budget. MPD has been trying to buy the cameras for over a year, and budget and procurement have long been the obstacle.

Below are the candidates' answers:

Sekou Biddle: Putting aside the fact that these cameras will certainly change Tom [Sherwood]'s driving habits, I'm not a fan of this idea because, frankly, it looks like we're taking what was initially designed to be a public safety tool and turning it into a revenue generator. We see in the budget the claim that we're not having tax and fee increases, but we're looking to generate more revenue through speed cameras, and then using those cameras to do both speed and red lights. This really is disconcerting, and we need to really think about what we're using them for.

Vincent Orange: I do not support the idea. We've already raised in excess of $100 million through the speeding cameras and parking tickets and things of that like. I think that now it's become a revenue generator, and to say that we're going to cover the entire city with this apparatus is not a good idea in my view.

E. Gail Anderson Holness: I don't think it's a good idea. I think it's a waste of taxpayer money to use the funds to put those cameras in place ... I think there are other options to raise funds for the District of Columbia. I'm out there waving in the mornings and I see Maryland and Virginia tags coming into the District. There ought to be some kind of commuter tax.

You don't let the good suffer with the bad in this instance ... of course Tom, some of us go over the speed limit a little bit every now and again, and we're going to be subjected. But it's going through that green light piece is a major issue, so I'm not in favor of it all.

Peter Shapiro: I think there's a little bit of election-year pandering going on with this, because it's an important issue, and we've got some serious concerns with public safety in the city. Now the key is around balance, and so the red light cameras and even speed on green can be a very healthy thing. Now the idea of blanketing the whole city doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

Kojo Nnamdi: Why not?

Shapiro: Because there are many many intersections where if we put this in place, then it's only about generating revenue. There are any number of anecdotes, you will hear people, I have my own experience with this, where it it feels like it's essentially a trap for folks. It's not making the community safer, so what you really have to do is make sure that we have a comprehensive plan, but that they're located in places where they actually will reduce speed in ways that keeps the community safe.

Shapiro is right that there's a lot of pandering here. During the debate, Vincent Orange repeated the phrase "livable, walkable," as he did at the Urban Neighborhood Alliance forum. It rings hollow from Orange, but it's nice that he has decided to play up the "livable, walkable" angle.

But "walkable" is part of "livable, walkable," and part of making a place walkable is making it safe to walk around. If Orange really believed in that, he might have mentioned in his answer that it's important to curb speeding and red light running.

Shapiro is right that we should only place cameras where they will improve safety, and it might be just fine to reduce the level of fines as DC increases the number of cameras. However, when Gray said he would "blanket" DC with cameras, he likely didn't mean one on every corner, but rather far more than we have today. Good for him.

All 4 candidates focused their answers around their complaints of the program. Perhaps they were all assuming that most people who listen to WAMU are driving. One day, hopefully soon, people running for office citywide will feel that if they pander, it's better to pander to residents who want safer neighborhoods than drivers who want to speed with impunity.

Meanwhile, if you are a Democratic voter in DC, vote for Peter Shapiro, whom we endorsed, in tomorrow's primary. It's not enough to just get a more ethical candidate if that candidate still won't take a stand on the important issues that actually affect policy. Ultimately, the reason to have a candidate who's not bought and sold by moneyed special interests is so they vote for better policies. Shapiro has demonstrated far more commitment to good policy than any other candidate in the race.

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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Orange doesn't rhyme with anything but the word "pander".

by TM on Apr 2, 2012 10:44 am • linkreport

It's important to acknowledge that cameras aren't the end-game in the road safety continuum. That and if you're absolutely convinced that the city has no other interest except in raising revenue then how exactly do you propose to actually prevent speeding and red light running? As it stands I can't really think of anything more reasonable than fining people who break the law. Besides you're on a public road in a machine that has a user-specific tag attached to at least one end of the machine.

by Canaan on Apr 2, 2012 10:52 am • linkreport

I thought Orange rhymed with "huckster."

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Apr 2, 2012 10:55 am • linkreport

Maybe the issue of cameras needs to be re-framed. Instead of being proactive, switch to a reactive stance.

If a pedestrian is a struck by a car and the car was either speeding or running a red light, then the driver has to pay for the installation of an appropriate camera at that specific location.

No, this solution likely wouldn't be as safe as logically positioned cameras, but it should prevent the revenue generating argument as this solution is responding to a specific safety concern.

by Paul on Apr 2, 2012 10:57 am • linkreport

Speeding drivers and danger to pedestrians --it's an interesting question. I'm mulling it around in my head. It seems to me that in virtually any such circumstance, if the pedestrians are endangered, it's because they're not obeying the law either. I'm all for zero tolerance on red lights --if possible, I'd be for cameras at EVERY intersection. But, speeding? If a pedestrian isn't unlawfully in the crosswalk or jaywalking, speeders would not pose a risk to pedestrians...at least not due just to their speeding. If you're trying to make roads safer for wayward pedestrians, then the low speed limits make sense, but recognize you're just making it safer fir unlawful conduct by the pedestrians.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Apr 2, 2012 10:59 am • linkreport

Hunh? I've seen the exact same debate on blogs, (like GGW). In fact, the recent article on speed cameras demonstrated that people can believe that the having more cameras is a revenue-generating "scheme." I didn't get the sense that any of the commenters were "speed panderers" but simply had an opposing view.

Here, the only apparent follow-up was to Shapiro's statement and even he agreed that blanket coverage isn't a good idea. That doesn't mean he's "pandering to speeders" because he think there is merit to that argument.

The biggest distinction I see in the answers is that Shapiro's statement was centered around a "balanced" approach neither supporting "blanketing the city" nor "reducing the number of cameras" while the others focused on (as you mentioned) the complaints of the program.

It's possible to think that the idea of speed light cameras ticketing you for blowing through a green light is a revenue generator and NOT be a speed panderer.

by HogWash on Apr 2, 2012 11:04 am • linkreport

I would agree with this except the placement of most of the speed cameras have nothing to do with protecting pedestrians.

by William on Apr 2, 2012 11:14 am • linkreport

It's not likely that speed camera advocates will be able to shake the notion that it's about safety and not revenue. One possible solution (or at least step in the right direction) would be to institute a "traffic camera tax rebate". Essentially, that would be a law that says that every penny of net revenue the city receives from traffic cameras must be split up evenly among every man, woman, and child in the city and sent out as a rebate check at the end of the year. The idea of a "holiday bonus check" from the city would likely be very popular.

by Falls Church on Apr 2, 2012 11:19 am • linkreport

For the sake of argument, suppose the point of speed cameras were just to generate revenue. Why would that be a bad thing? Would the people complaining about this rather see higher income taxes? Higher property taxes? Higher sales taxes? If we have to get revenue from somewhere, I'd much rather get it from people who are doing something bad (breaking traffic laws) than people doing something good (working and earning money, buying property, etc.). So even if traffic-enforcement cameras didn't do anything to improve safety, I'd still think they're a good idea.

Of course, the cameras do improve safety, and that's the main reason to support them. But the argument that we should oppose them because of the revenue issue is simply ridiculous.

by Rob on Apr 2, 2012 11:20 am • linkreport

"Adjusting" behavior to speed cameras just means learning where they are (after you've been burned, or noticed everyone suddenly hitting their brakes), and then making sure you slow down as you approach the camera, only to quickly speed up when you're out of range. There might be some incremental benefit to pedestrians around the camera, but I'm not convinced that this provides a net benefit to society.

If you can show with numbers that there are fewer pedestrians hits or that the injuries are less serious where cameras are in place, I might feel differently, but my impression of speed cameras is that all they accomplish is sowing havoc on the roads. Even the notion of slowing down drivers at one point may just mean that drivers drive even faster afterwards to make up perceived lost time.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Apr 2, 2012 11:22 am • linkreport

Is this a day late?

by selxic on Apr 2, 2012 11:31 am • linkreport

"Of course, the cameras do improve safety, and that's the main reason to support them. But the argument that we should oppose them because of the revenue issue is simply ridiculous."

As I wrote above, I'm open to the argument that speed cameras improve safety, but I won't accept blanket statements, If you have evidence that's clearly tied to the cameras, then bring it.

As for opposing it if it's just a scheme to bilk drivers and provide a lucrative revenue stream -- then, there's plenty of reason to oppose it. Taxes are always problematic, but if you can make a case for them, they become tolerable. If revenue is needed, taxes should be calibrated to collect them from those who can afford to pay the tax. Camera fines are extremely regressive to begin with. In the District, however, the fines are beyond excessive. They are confiscatory to the extreme -- two to three times what they are in some surrounding suburban jurisdictions. Such outlandish fines can turn a minor transgression into a devastating economic hit for someone who can barely afford their car and the gas as it is.

They're not opposed because they generate revenue --they're opposed because it's a sneaky way to tax people who may not be able to afford it -- and because the fines are no longer in line with the nature of the conduct being penalized. A five-cent bag tax? Why not make it a $50 bag tax? Perhaps because it's ridiculous and would hurt commerce needlessly?

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Apr 2, 2012 11:38 am • linkreport

If "pedestrian safety" is such a concern, then why are most of the cameras deployed on freeways and commuter routes where there are no pedestrians?

For example, how is pedestrian safety enhanced by placing a speed camera on NY Ave eastbound after Bladenburg Road? Or on westbound East Capitol Street under the 295 overpass - an area where pedestrians are BTW prohibited?

Let's call this what it really is - a de facto commuter tax, aimed mainly at Marylanders (considering where the buk of the speed cameras are located) which, like any other tax, can be avoided by changing behavior (slow down, use a radar detector, or avoid areas where camera are deployed).

Call it a commuter tax applicable to drivers who come into DC from Maryland. Calling it anything else, especially a "pedestrian safety program", insults our intelligence.

by ceefer66 on Apr 2, 2012 11:59 am • linkreport

$125 is too expensive for speed camera fines. You might think that's just fine, but everyone else disagrees. And the candidates are going to tailor their messages to those members of the public.

Even if they use transit much of the time, most people are going to drive through the city at one time or another. The sort of safe speeds that drivers adhere to aren't deserving of $125 fine, and I think it's rational for the candidates to agree with that reasoning.

by JustMe on Apr 2, 2012 12:00 pm • linkreport

I think we need to distinguish between three cases here:

1) Drivers are doing something that isn't actually at all unsafe, but are being ticketed for it just to generate revenue. So the tickets raise revenue, but do nothing for safety.

2) Drivers are doing something that is genuinely unsafe, but they'll keep doing it even if they know they'll get ticketed for it. Again, the tickets raise revenue, but do nothing for safety.

3) Drivers are doing something that is unsafe, and if we ticket them, they'll stop doing it.

I thought the argument was about whether we're in case (2) or case (3). And my point was that in either of those cases, I think more tickets are a good policy. But it sounds like a lot of commenters here think that we're in case (1). And I agree that in that case, we shouldn't be ticketing people. But if that's the argument, then this isn't really about whether revenue is a good thing or not.

by Rob on Apr 2, 2012 12:25 pm • linkreport

"I'm out there waving in the mornings and I see Maryland and Virginia tags coming into the District. There ought to be some kind of commuter tax."

The good Reverend Holness demonstrated her lack of understanding of the Home Rule charter and the powers bestowed upon the District of Columbia by our Congressional Overlords. Ridiculous that she suggests that a commuter tax is even an option.

by Birdi on Apr 2, 2012 12:25 pm • linkreport

To follow up on my previous post, I think it'd be a good idea to raise speed limits on limited-access roads in DC, or anywhere else where having cars go faster than the current speed limit has no consequences for safety. But the point there isn't that we shouldn't enforce the speed limit -- it's that we should set a reasonable speed limit.

And in other cases -- like ticketing drivers who run red lights or who don't yield to pedestrians in a cross walk -- it seems clear that drivers are doing something very unsafe. Does anyone here think we shouldn't be ticketing those drivers more often?

by Rob on Apr 2, 2012 12:30 pm • linkreport

@JustMe

It may just be you. I don't think you will find many people here who will agree with your "of safe speeds that drivers adhere to aren't deserving of $125 fine." I tend to think if someone is cruising down Connecticut at Florida Avenue, and going 40mph, then:

A. Thats not safe
B. They deserve a ticket.

You can argue the amount, but that is just semantics.

by Kyle W on Apr 2, 2012 12:32 pm • linkreport

Drivers are doing something that isn't actually at all unsafe, but are being ticketed for it just to generate revenue. So the tickets raise revenue, but do nothing for safety.

I don't think that's a fair assessment of what's been discussed. I have to check previous posts but I don't recall anyone ever promoting the idea that "speeding" (as a single issue) is "unsafe." There was a bit more complexity to the argument than how you broke it down here.

by HogWash on Apr 2, 2012 12:45 pm • linkreport

@Rob

I agree that if you're going to raise revenue for the city (sort of a necessay "evil") then things like fines for law breakers (and vice taxes) are a good way to do it. But if traffic cameras are about raising the revenue necessary to operate the city, then it should be fair and not single out motorists only. Proportional revenue should also be raised from bike and ped law breakers.

However, if it's all about safety and not revenue, the revenue should be returned to the taxpayers in the form of my above suggested holiday bonus check (kind of like the oil fund dividend Alaska residents receive).

by Falls Church on Apr 2, 2012 1:07 pm • linkreport

Just remember that 70% of the vehicles on the road on any given day in DC are NOT registered in DC. So, maybe it is about revenue... don't much care if more commuters are paying than DC residents. Though it does make little budgetary sense to budget revenue from something that should be a declining revenue stream (when people follow the law...)

by Some Ideas on Apr 2, 2012 1:22 pm • linkreport

Several fallacies going on here:

1. Assuming that cameras must either be "all about safety" or "all about revenue." They have dual purposes (like MANY city functions) and absolutist solutions like "get rid of the cameras" or "give the money back as a rebate" are pointless suggestions.

2. Assuming that "safety" is equivalent to "number of people killed/maimed." The anti-camera cohort continues to ignore the evidence that speed cameras increase safety, and they also make the mistake that safety must mean fewer people getting killed. We've talked over and over here about how fast traffic reduces pedestrian activity because it's unpleasant; this has to do with the perception of safety by pedestrians regardless of whether people are being hit or not.

by MLD on Apr 2, 2012 1:33 pm • linkreport

Proportional revenue should also be raised from bike and ped law breakers.

Except that I feel that, by my own standards, this isn't a valid idea-- I don't think that people who aren't doing anything particularly unsafe should face stiff fines. In many cases, the speed limit is set inappropriately low, and drivers using their "best judgment" end up getting ticketed for driving at speeds that would be considered acceptable in other cities.

Why shouldn't the candidates pander to speeders? Most of us don't have a problem with drivers going 36 in a 4-lane 25mph zone. And many parts of MoCo seem to function perfectly well with fines in the ~$50 range

by JustMe on Apr 2, 2012 1:38 pm • linkreport

I think the candidates, rather than disavowing effective speed enforcement, should embrace the cameras. Then, if they still feel strongly about the issue, let them come out in favor of INCREASING posted speed limits.

Because, de facto, that is what their present position is.

by JeffB on Apr 2, 2012 1:39 pm • linkreport

To address the "the behavior is not unsafe" issue. Just because you didn't perceive a risk in doing so does not make the activity more safe. I can drive 100 mph on a straight dry track and not hit anything but that doesn't take away the risk that was there. Even if I can do it again and again without negative consequence.

by Canaan on Apr 2, 2012 1:43 pm • linkreport

Saturday night, about 7pm, northbound 295 just before the Malcolm X Avenue exit. I know that there is a permanent camera there, so I slow down, but the car in front of me, who is only doing about 65 sees it a bit to late, then slams on the brakes coming nearly to a complete stop. I have to swerve onto the shoulder to avoid him.

Thank you to the MPD for placing this speed camera on a controlled access divided highway to make this highway safe for all of the pedestrians and cyclists that use it.

by dcdriver on Apr 2, 2012 1:48 pm • linkreport

It's possible to think that the idea of speed light cameras ticketing you for blowing through a green light is a revenue generator and NOT be a speed panderer.

That's actually a feature I most endorse. Go figure :). I do think it might be misnamed though. As a pedestrian the type of driver I most worry about are those that, when sensing a light might be about to change, launch their vehicles into warp drive to attempt to make it through the red.

If they guess wrong, and many many do, then you have a vehicle moving through an intersection at killing speeds. We need to change the culture downtown that 40 - 50 MPH is appropriate speed to attain to "make the light".

by JeffB on Apr 2, 2012 1:51 pm • linkreport

Even in DC, the majority of people killed in auto accidents are automobile occupants. The city has a duty to protect Maryland drivers from other Maryland drivers.

by Jim T on Apr 2, 2012 1:54 pm • linkreport

@dcdriver: I think the speed limit on that part of 295 should be higher than it is.

However, if the driver in front of you slowed from 65 almost to a complete stop because of a speed camera that's set to ticket anyone driving over 59, then you should blame that driver for being a complete idiot, not blame the camera.

And if having the car in front of you slam on its brakes means that you need to swerve onto the shoulder to avoid a collision, then you're following too closely.

by Rob on Apr 2, 2012 2:11 pm • linkreport

Several fallacies going on here: Assuming that cameras must either be "all about safety" or "all about revenue." They have dual purposes

And, this is fundamentally the problem with traffic cameras. They are dual purpose. Few people deny the need to increase safety and many people agree that cameras can potentially increase safety if implemented with safety in mind (and if this isn't a settled issue, as some suggest, it's not too hard to determine whether cameras improve safety by analyzing the data).

The entire problem with cameras is with their other purpose -- raising revenue. By singling out motorist law breakers, traffic cameras are a patently unfair way of raising revenue and lend themselves to "war on cars" accusations. So, the baby gets thrown out with the bathwater and people end up opposing cameras because they are at least partly about increasing revenue in an unfair way.

If you care about safety, you'll unbundle traffic camera policy and make them only about safety.

by Falls Church on Apr 2, 2012 4:53 pm • linkreport

@Fischy (Ed F.), speeding cars can end up on sidewalks and can be going too fast to stop at a red light or stop sign.

by cm on Apr 2, 2012 5:15 pm • linkreport

Every single way in which government raises money is a "patently unfair" burden on someone. Lotteries are an unfair tax on gamblers. Liquor taxes are unfair because they target people who drink! Income taxes unfairly target the wealthy! Payroll taxes and sales taxes are regressive.

With the traffic cameras, there's fortunately a whole host of easy ways you can get out of paying the fines: slow down! choose a different route!

But yes, if I were really in favor of safety I would be in favor of creating a bureaucratic mess in order to redistribute $50 to every person in DC. Hint: that money already gets redistributed to DC residents in the form of services.

I really do understand your argument, but the reality is that unbundling revenue from the cameras won't do anything to stop the screaming of those who hate the cameras. Heck, the Mayor is in favor of more cameras and I think most would agree he doesn't usually latch on with the urbanist non-driving fringe radicals like me who think traffic cameras are great at slowing people down.

by MLD on Apr 2, 2012 5:28 pm • linkreport

People can support traffic cameras and be concerned that they are not set to become revenue-generating speed traps. DC's are too often set very wrong; one notorious one is on Michigan Avenue where it's hard to drive through without getting a ticket. And tickets are given if even an inch of the back bumper of a car is still not clear of the intersection when a light turns from (quick) yellow to red.

Setting the cameras to intentional trap people for revenue when they are not driving unusually or unsafely is no better than the Southern speed traps catching yankees headed to Florida of the past.

Makes reasonable people just fed up with the entire system when it becomes so crooked.

by Tom Coumaris on Apr 2, 2012 5:48 pm • linkreport

We seem to find it perfectly acceptable to use parking tickets as a revenue-raising method. I'm not advocating it, but we, the public, seem to be comfortable with it. I don't see why the speed cameras should be singled out as a specifically unacceptable enforcement method combined with revenue-raising, compared to the other things we do.

by JustMe on Apr 2, 2012 5:48 pm • linkreport

I see nothing wrong with Sekou's answer. He's saying that the purpose should be public safety, not revenue generation. As much as I like the idea of a backdoor commuter tax, I think that speeding cameras should only be used to limit unsafe speeding, not speeding within social norms (say, 5 miles over the limit through green lights).

Look at North Capitol St. between Michigan Ave. and Fort Drive. That is a divided highway and yet we treat it as if it were a residential street with kids playing stickball.

This is not pandering to drivers -- I'm a cyclist and pedestrian more than a motorist. It's common sense.

by Ward 1 Guy on Apr 2, 2012 6:00 pm • linkreport

Ward 1 Guy -- there are two issues. 1. is building roads to an engineering design capable of very fast speeds in excess of what should be driven in a center city. That's the problem with N. Capitol (and it was built this way in anticipation of the construction of I-70/I-270 on either side of the Metrpolitan Branch railroad).

2. In the 1970s and the oil crisis when the US DOT forced a reduction of speeds on highways to save gasoline, there was a significant drop in highway deaths/accidents. Not so much from a reduction in accidents on Interstates, but because of a concomitant drop in speed on non-freeway roads and a complementary reduction in accidents and deaths.

So a reduction in authorized speed, regardless of the engineering design of the road and the level of speed it enables, done in accordance with the land use context, will likely reduce traffic deaths, although frankly, in DC, there aren't that many, although one is too many.

- http://mpdc.dc.gov/mpdc/cwp/view,a,1240,q,548138,mpdcNav_GID,1552,mpdcNav,%7C.asp

by Richard Layman on Apr 2, 2012 8:16 pm • linkreport

But yes, if I were really in favor of safety I would be in favor of creating a bureaucratic mess in order to redistribute $50 to every person in DC.

You could just make it a tax credit. To implement it, all you would need to do is change one line on one tax form. It could be similar to TETR (telephone excise tax refund) which the IRS had to implement a few years ago.

Every single way in which government raises money is a "patently unfair" burden on someone. Lotteries are an unfair tax on gamblers. Liquor taxes are unfair because they target people who drink! Income taxes unfairly target the wealthy!

Gamblers and liquor drinkers have no political clout, so you don't need to worry about them as a politician. The rich have tons of clout, hence the reason it's so difficult to raise taxes on the rich even though it's obviously in the best interest of the 99%. Drivers? Well, drivers have the most political clout of them all. If you feed the "war on drivers" machine, you will lose as a politician, hence the reason no one wants to take a firm stand supporting cameras.

by Falls Church on Apr 3, 2012 11:38 am • linkreport

1) I see absolutely nothing wrong with raising revenue from lawbreakers.
2) "Speeding in DC is not a safety problem?" Get real.

by Fred on Apr 3, 2012 11:41 am • linkreport

All interesting. The good thing is that we now see that people can disagree on this and not be labeled negatively as "panderers." Let's remember that.

:)

by HogWash on Apr 3, 2012 11:57 am • linkreport

"You can argue the amount, but that is just semantics."

No. It's not semantics, it's money. For some people, it's a big chunk of their income, if they have any.

"@Fischy (Ed F.), speeding cars can end up on sidewalks and can be going too fast to stop at a red light or stop sign."

If they're driving recklessly, that's true. Of course, the sidewalk thing happens once or twice a year region-wide, and usually not related to speed. There's a difference between driving over speed limits which are often too low, and driving recklessly fast. Mostly, though, I was complaining about the fee, especially because so often it hits people who are not driving at reckless speeds.

"We seem to find it perfectly acceptable to use parking tickets as a revenue-raising method."

People do complain about the obscene fines for expired meters. However, it's different because parking meters are themselves revenue-generating mechanisms. Fines are only different in amount, not kind, in terms of charging for parking. If it's an expired meter, it's the failure of the owner to put enough money in, or for not returning in time. Parking rules are also meant to encourage commerce. Speeding is an arbitrary violation totally removed from road conditions. When an officer is involved, there is the possibility of mediating discretion, Not so, if it's a camera.

Mostly, I'm peeved because I've gotten 3 camera tickets -- each time I was "clocked" at the bare minimum: 11 miles per hour over the speed limit in DC and 12 mph over the limit in MD. Not 10.5 or 11.5 mph over, or 12 (DC) or 13 (MD). "Clocked" at just enough to earn a big fine, when 0.5 mph less would have meant no ticket or fine. I think the cameras are lying. I even tried to demonstrate mathematically to the administrative hearing officer that the DC camera clocked me at about 10% higher speed than I was actually traveling based on the distance travelled between the two photographs taken 0.2 seconds apart. She didn't buy it, but I'm convinced I was right.

If the fine had been less, I would have paid it, because I was speeding. Because the fine was so excessive, going from $0 to $125 based on a difference of 1.0 -- and really, potentially based on a difference of 0.1 mph, since the law doesn't allow for rounding up -- I sought a hearing. A waste of time and resources all around.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Apr 3, 2012 12:02 pm • linkreport

I see absolutely nothing wrong with raising revenue from lawbreakers

Then would you also be ok raising revenue from bike and ped law breakers?

by Falls Church on Apr 3, 2012 12:24 pm • linkreport

Clearly visible license plates on all bikes, photographed every time they go through a red light or don't make a full stop before right on red. Pedestrians, too -- clearly displayed i.d for photographing every time they jaywalk.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Apr 3, 2012 1:00 pm • linkreport

I'm ok with speed cameras if the speed limit is reasonable - then you'd have to go 11 mph over a reasonable speed limit, which is ok. But there's speed cameras on Rt. 50 where there's a 30 mph speed limit in a place where it's basically a highway and should be at least 50 mph. And there's speed in the 395 tunnel in a 45 mph zone that's a highway and should be closer to 55 or 60 mph as well.

So plenty of people are getting hit with large fines, regardless of their income level, for basically driving at reasonably safe speeds. And we should expand this program?

Nope, not voting for anyone who's not even willing to "pander" to me on this issue.

by John H. on Apr 3, 2012 2:02 pm • linkreport

GGW would have a lot more credibility if there was op-eds calling for removing some the egregious cameras here (295, 395, NY Aveneue).

by charlie on Apr 3, 2012 2:08 pm • linkreport

I'm ok with speed cameras if the speed limit is reasonable - then you'd have to go 11 mph over a reasonable speed limit, which is ok.

Ah, yes! Let's set our speed limits to some reasonable speed. Then allow people to go 10 mph over that reasonable speed. Which is ok. Not sure why. It just is.

by oboe on Apr 3, 2012 2:35 pm • linkreport

" I see absolutely nothing wrong with raising revenue from lawbreakers
Then would you also be ok raising revenue from bike and ped law breakers?"

If it was an evenhanded system, sure!

"But there's speed cameras on Rt. 50 where there's a 30 mph speed limit in a place where it's basically a highway and should be at least 50 mph."

You are talking about Rt. 50 IN THE CITY? Where there are a lot of pedestrians? A speed limit of AT LEAST 50 mph, which of course really means AT LEAST 60 mph?

by Fred on Apr 3, 2012 4:52 pm • linkreport

@David
Sekou did address the concern you criticized him for ignoring: "I'm not a fan of this idea because, frankly, it looks like we're taking what was initially designed to be a public safety tool and turning it into a revenue generator." I think that was baseless and unfair.

by Dennis on Apr 3, 2012 8:05 pm • linkreport

"Except for Peter Shapiro, the candidates for DC Council at-large either don't think pedestrian safety is a very pressing issue, think the only people who will vote tomorrow are drivers who'd rather speed than be safe, or both. "

The people have spoken.

by Kolohe on Apr 4, 2012 6:45 am • linkreport

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