David Kirkpatrick

March 15, 2008

Nanny state in decline — Dallas-style

Filed under: et.al., Politics, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:07 pm

It looks like my hometown, Dallas, is scaling back its use of red-light cameras because they work too good. People are running fewer red lights, so the city isn’t getting the revenue expected from the devices.

From the linked article:

Dallas City Hall has idled more than one-fourth of the 62 cameras that monitor busy intersections because many of them are failing to generate enough red-light-running fines to justify their operational costs, according to city documents.

Initial gross revenue estimates for the red light camera system during Dallas’ 2007-08 fiscal year were $14.8 million, according to city records. The latest estimate? About $6.2 million. City Manager Mary Suhm on Friday estimated net revenue will fall $4.1 million under initial estimates.

That leaves Dallas government with a conundrum. Its red-light camera system has been an effective deterrent to motorists running red lights – some monitored intersections have experienced a more than 50 percent reduction. But decreased revenue from red light-running violations means significantly less revenue to maintain the camera program and otherwise fuel the city’s general fund.

And more:

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.

Council member Angela Hunt, long skeptical of the reasoning behind such camera systems, says she’s not surprised Dallas is faced with altering its efforts to reduce red-light running.

“The idea of the red-light cameras is that they’ll be used as a revenue generator instead of being implemented for public safety purposes. It’s imperative that the council review this program, especially when the results don’t align with the initial performance projections,” Ms. Hunt said.

She cited national statistics suggesting that the cameras increase rear-end collisions.