Unexpected drop in traffic camera revenue could harm D.C. budget
Washington, D.C. loves its traffic cameras. Whether they catch people running red lights or catch people going 40 miles per hour on a three-lane avenue with a barrier in the middle, traffic cameras ensure that not everyone who visits this city in a car will leave without writing a big, fat check to the government. In fact, traffic cameras can account for nearly 1.5 percent of D.C.’s $6.3 billion local budget. That’s just under $95 million.
At least, that’s how much money the local government expected to make from traffic cameras in the last fiscal year. Instead, the city has collected only $26.1 million as of the end of August, over $70 million short of what was predicted.
D.C.’s Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey DeWitt warned the rest of the government of possible budget imbalances due to the traffic ticket revenue shortfall, according to the Post. If the revenue is not made up for by some other means, $50 to $70 million in spending could be removed from next year’s budget.
D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson criticized the city for its over reliance on ticketing drivers to raise money and said that the Council couldn’t lower fines when it wanted to because of the impact it would have on revenue, according to the Post.
Defenders of the cameras, however, just claim the unexpected revenue drop is evidence that the cameras are working. Both a spokeswoman for Mayor Vincent Gray and Police Chief Cathy Lanier say safety, not money, is the top priority.
“As I have said many times, we usually see significant reductions in citations issued in the first few months of deployment,” Lanier said, according to the Post. “This demonstrates that drivers are changing their behavior.”
Photo: Nicholas Eckhart via Flickr