Garnering Support for Traffic Enforcement Cameras

Last year, the Washington Post published an article about speeding and red-light cameras (Shudder speed, Nov. 5). The article cited many cases of citizens hating the cameras, voting against them, vandalizing them and otherwise being significantly opposed. Personally, I'm fine with the cameras, since I do not speed or run red lights, which is, of course, the ultimate weapon to use against them.

However, I do find myself in partial agreement with those who argue that the cameras are used to raise government revenues. At the end of the day, if everyone obeyed the rules, the cameras would collect no revenue, which is good and a laudable goal. However, until that day, the cameras are collecting fines. I believe that money could be strategically used to garner support for the use of the cameras themselves.

The article stated that DC collected about $36 million in revenue for fiscal year '08 from camera fines. If half of that is actually needed to operate the cameras and administer the fines, etc., that leaves $18 million in other revenues. I actually have no idea of these numbers: I am making them up. I would think that once the system is established, that the administrative costs would be much lower than this, but I don't know.

I suggest we take a lesson from the state of Alaska. Citizens receive a payment from the Alaska permanent fund, which is funded from minerals royalties. DC could do likewise, refunding each citizen their share of the camera excess revenues fund. Using my example above, each citizen would get a check for about $30. That's not an enormous amount, but it helps resolve two issues:
- Arguments about the cameras being primarily as revenue generators would become moot, since the city would not keep any revenues beyond the costs of administering the program.
- Support, particularly among law abiders and non-car owners would strengthen. I know that if my household was going to get a check every year from fining criminal drivers, I would be very supportive.

(cross-posted on Greater Greater Washington)

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