That's supposedly what's happening in Dallas after they implemented red light cameras, much to my surprise (I'm not sure I've heard of cities having the "too much success" problem before). Cities installing red light cameras all inevitably say they're doing so for public safety, but now that they turn out not to be a revenue generator, the City of Dallas will scale back plans to expand the cameras further. As a result, reports the Dallas News ("Dallas red light cameras may face changes as revenue estimates drop," March 18):
one likely recommendation to the council is scaling back Dallas' plans to expand the red-light system to 100 cameras.
The council in September voted to expand its camera vendor contract with Dallas-based Affiliated Computer Services, from five years and $13.3 million to seven years and $29.1 million, in order to install the additional cameras.
Initial plans envisioned most of the additional cameras operating by spring. Ms. Basora said installing fewer cameras would probably be more cost-effective.
Another idea staff may recommend to council members is idling cameras on a rotating basis, which the city already has begun doing, or operating them at different intersections where red-light running is more habitual.
In the first case, cameras will remain perched above the intersections they monitor but won't snap pictures of red-light runners, and therefore, won't generate $75 civil citations, which the city mails to the offending vehicles' owners.
Ms. Basora noted, however, that most motorists won't realize this and behave as if the cameras are operational.
Dallas pays ACS a guaranteed $3,799 per month for each operational camera, and just a fraction of that to maintain inoperative cameras.Safety vs. money
The results of Dallas' 2-year-old red-light camera system are mixed blessings for City Hall, Mayor Tom Leppert said.
"The good news is it's having the effect everyone in this community wants: fewer red lights being run. The goal was not to make money on this," Mr. Leppert said. "But these are numbers and realities we'll have to deal with."
The mayor added that under no circumstances does he expect a decrease in red-light camera revenue to affect the city's public safety budget, although the overall budget may not enjoy as much revenue, perhaps resulting in the city streamlining other items.
So the city not only implemented the program anticipating new revenue, they shortchanged taxation for basic services anticipating the difference would be made up with revenue from these cameras! As they say on South Park, "Officer Barbrady, I call 'shenanigans'!"
The only reason to inactivate cameras is if their real goal was to generate a revenue stream, and they've been installed in places where red light running isn't a big safety concern.
I don't know quite what to say about this news story. Part of me wanted to write a post that said, "Well, maybe they do work," though I'd like to see more detail about the revenue dropoff, payment rates, etc.. But the hypocrisy of Dallas now idling cameras because they don't generate revenue, especially after so much whining and dramatic rhetoric about safety and Bad Ol' Dangerous Red Light Runners, leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and makes me think the cameras really were just about revenue all along.
RELATED: Lubbock discontinues red light cameras after accidents increase 52%. See also coverage from MSNBC.