Chicago’s red light cameras fail to deliver the dramatic safety benefits long claimed by City Hall, according to a first-ever scientific study that found the nation’s largest camera program is responsible for increasing some types of injury crashes while decreasing others.
The state-of-the-art study commissioned by the Tribune concluded the cameras do not reduce injury-related crashes overall — undercutting Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s primary defense of a program beset by mismanagement, malfunction and a $2 million bribery scandal.
Emanuel has credited the cameras for a 47 percent reduction in dangerous right-angle, or “T-bone,” crashes. But the Tribune study, which accounted for declining accident rates in recent years as well as other confounding factors, found cameras reduced right-angle crashes that caused injuries by just 15 percent.
At the same time, the study calculated a corresponding 22 percent increase in rear-end crashes that caused injuries, illustrating a trade-off between the cameras’ costs and benefits.
The researchers also determined there is no safety benefit from cameras installed at intersections where there have been few crashes with injuries. Such accidents actually increased at those intersections after cameras went in, the study found, though the small number of crashes makes it difficult to determine whether the cameras were to blame.
Go read the whole thing.
* More Tribune…
Nearly half of the Chicago red light cameras included in a new Tribune study did nothing to make drivers safer and may have caused an increase in injury-related crashes.
Researchers hired by the Tribune to analyze the effects of the city’s cameras said the finding involved 43 of the 90 camera intersections in the study — the ones that averaged fewer than four injury crashes a year before red light cameras were installed.
The small number of total crashes makes it difficult to know for certain whether the cameras were to blame for the increases, but the scientists from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute said they are confident in their conclusion that the cameras offered no safety benefit at those intersections.
* Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s opponents respond…
Chicago mayoral challengers Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and Ald. Bob Fioretti are calling for an immediate suspension of the city’s red light camera program.
Citing a recent Tribune study that found the cameras fail to deliver safety benefits long claimed by City Hall, Garcia, a Cook County commissioner running against Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the Feb. 24 city election, said on Sunday that the city should stop ticketing drivers “until the red light camera can be justified.”
“The simple fact is that all the money that was received from the red light tickets made this administration blind to their impact on drivers and residents,” Garcia said at a news conference.
He called the cameras “a runaway program” and said a thorough investigation by an independent academic institution should be done to determine the effectiveness of the cameras.
* The Emanuel campaign responds with an oppo dump…
Statement Attributable to Steve Mayberry, Emanuel Campaign Spokesman:
“Before Commissioner Garcia can attack a program that is critical to public safety and has helped reduce the number of serious crashes that result in injury or death, he needs to explain his own questionable record on red light cameras. Commissioner Garcia must explain to the public why he accepted a $1,500 donation from Safespeed, a red light camera operator company, on March 10, 2014 and voted to approve their installation of a red light camera the very next day. In fact, Mr. Garcia’s tie-breaking vote ensured the company’s success. With all of the tough decisions we as a city must face in the next four years, the voters deserve better from a candidate for mayor.”
Background: Commissioner Garcia’s $1,500 Red Light Problem
In August of 2013, the Chicago Tribune reported that River Forest, Illinois officials needed Forest Preserve District of Cook County (FPDCC) approval for River Forest’s contractor, Safespeed, to install and operate a red light camera at Harlem Avenue and Lake Street, where the FPDCC’s headquarters are located.
On March 10, 2014, Citizens for Jesus Garcia accepted a check from Safespeed, LLC for $1,500.
On March 11, 2014, Commissioner Garcia voted in favor of an intergovernmental agreement that allowed for a red light camera to be placed on Forest Preserve property. Garcia’s vote ensured its success.
From OakPark.com: “Drivers beware: The red light camera at Lake Street and Harlem Avenue will go online in a month. More than a year after the camera on Harlem at North Avenue went live, the River Forest village board Monday authorized an intergovernmental agreement with Cook County allowing for the device to be installed on Forest Preserve District property.”
* The campaign also defended the program…
Background: Facts on Red Light Camera Program
The City’s red light camera program has reduced dangerous angle crashes, which are three times more likely than rear-end crashes to cause serious injury or fatality (IDOT).
The reduction in this type of accident has had a very real effect on public safety overall.
Mayor Emanuel fired Chicago’s red light camera operator and put in new accountability and transparency initiatives that have been monitored by the independent inspector general.
…Adding… A new one just came in about Fioretti…
Attributable to Steve Mayberry, Emanuel Campaign Spokesman:
“Alderman Fioretti is against the red light camera program, but voted for its expansion in the 2009 City budget. The alderman doesn’t support the $13 minimum wage, but voted for the increase. He is opposed the use of TIFs to benefit large corporations, but pushed for $15 million in TIF dollars for the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Alderman Fioretti does not have a problem with the Mayor—he has a problem with his own record.”
From the Garcia campaign…
“Commissioner Garcia has built his public career on listening to people — not ignoring them. He believes strongly local people know what is best for their neighborhoods. In this case, the camera was requested by River Forest. They also chose the vendor to be used. Both of those actions took place in 2013. Commissioner Garcia simply acted responsibly in listening to one of the municipalities covered by Cook County and ratifying their actions a full year later,” said campaign spokeswoman Monica Trevino.
“Today, Commissioner Garcia called for an investigation into the effectiveness of the red light camera program. For Mayor Emanuel to respond by unleashing his paid henchman is typical of his style of leadership. We still believe Mayor Emanuel owes Chicago drivers a thoughtful response to our red light camera proposal as soon as he returns from vacation. Until that time, the lights remain on and nobody is home.”
*** UPDATE 2 *** The Emanuel campaign retorts…
Attributable to Steve Mayberry, Emanuel Campaign Spokesman:
“Just a short while ago, Commissioner Garcia’s campaign released a fundraising email about red light cameras, asking for donations at the end. We guess it really is, as he stated yesterday, ‘all about the money.’
Was he ‘listening to the people’ when he accepted $1,500 from a red light camera vendor the day before he cast the deciding vote in their favor to install a red light camera?
Did Commissioner Garcia personally accept the check from the company?
Did Commissioner Garcia discuss with the company or its lobbyists the vote that was taking place the next day?
Or does Commissioner Garcia want the public to believe that this is all just a strange coincidence?
These are simple questions that someone seeking the City’s chief executive position should be willing to answer.”
*** UPDATE 3 *** Garcia campaign…
“It has been 2 days since the Tribune’s devastating profile of the red light camera program showed it was neither safe nor fair. And still Mayor Emanuel has refused to answer those facts. What we have been saying is the Mayor owes the people of Chicago a response on why his red light program is not working, and when he gets back from vacation, I hope he will answer that question. Until that time, the lights remain on and nobody is home, and that’s no way to run a City,” said Monica Trevino, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia spokeswoman.
“Instead of researching his own government, Mayor Emanuel is researching Chuy Garcia, and he’s not even doing a very good job. The Mayor should spend less time researching his political opponents and more time researching how to effectively run the City.” That is what we are talking about here is research. The research shows the city’s red light cameras have not been effective. That means we should stop the program and reassess. We should not send out another ticket until we can look people in the eye and say this program works.”
“River Forest asked for a red light at that intersection — and they chose the vendor — because research showed there was a need.” Those are the facts, but Mayor Emanuel obviously cares more about trying to score political points than he does about the facts. Chicago can do better.”
* Are Rahm’s numbers creeping up? New internals show him near 50