Capitol - Your Illinois News Radar » *** UPDATED x3 - More Garcia - Emanuel retorts - Garcia responds *** Emanuel lashes out at opponents after Tribune runs critical red light cam stories
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*** UPDATED x3 - More Garcia - Emanuel retorts - Garcia responds *** Emanuel lashes out at opponents after Tribune runs critical red light cam stories

Monday, Dec 22, 2014

* Tribune

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 “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.”

* Related…

* Are Rahm’s numbers creeping up? New internals show him near 50

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Amalia - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 10:14 am:

    “Commissioner Garcia’s $1500 red light problem” awesome headline! and a truly epic fail on Garcia’s part. it may not resonate with the many, many people who hate the Red Light system, but this will resonate with independents who view Chuy as a knight, a second coming of Harold Washington.

  2. - PMcP - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 10:17 am:

    And that’s what happens when rookies try to play in the big leagues…

  3. - DuPage Dave - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 10:19 am:

    The total collapse of democratic government in Chicago is rather astonishing. R.M. Daley developed the formula and Emanuel has perfected it. There’s no black opposition, no Latino opposition, no “lakefront” opposition to the power of the Mayor. Emanuel, who stands for nothing, will cruise to victory without a runoff.

  4. - From the 'Dale to HP - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 10:22 am:

    So the camera’s don’t really work, isn’t good policy, and were ‘built’ on corruption and graft. Keep up the good work, Rahm!

  5. - Illinois taxpayer - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 10:25 am:

    All from another Chicago Tribune “exclusive” trumped up on the front page day after day. Last time I checked, speeding was against the law. If police officers were enforcing the speed limits, rather than cameras, would the Tribune be running breathless stories about how enforcement is “ineffective”?

  6. - William j Kelly - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 10:26 am:

    One slightly used red light camera costume for sale.

  7. - Wordslinger - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 10:32 am:

    I wonder how many people actually believe the cameras are for safety and not revenue. Five percent? Ten percent?

  8. - Apocalypse Now - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 10:35 am:

    “show me the money”

  9. - OneMan - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 10:40 am:

    Well Illinois taxpayer, not sure where to start here..

    The Trib wrote about red light cameras, not speed cameras so I am not sure where where thoughts about speed cameras (totally different) come from.

    The argument for red light cameras were they helped safety, not because they could generate additional revenue. Several locations (Naperville, Bolingbrook) have taken their red light cameras out because they have not provided the benefits that were expected.

    Living in a city that has them (Aurora) who drives past/through two of them every working day I can tell you the finding that the number of rear end collisions increases is not a big surprise. I have found myself breaking hard to avoid even entering the intersection when it gets yellow (even though that is supposed to be ok with the cameras). I can easily see how accidents happen.

    The bigger question is fundamentally however, that traffic laws in general exist for safety reasons. So if using the speeding example you gave. Lets say it was found enforcing the speed limit by having an officer in a specific location (lets say a blind corner someplace) was catching speeders but resulted in a higher injury accident rate. Most people would argue that engaging in that specific traffic enforcement activity in that place may not be a good idea.

    Because if traffic law enforcement isn’t about safety than it’s about money.

  10. - Plutocrat03 - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 10:48 am:

    enforcement is “ineffective”?

    The problem with RLCs is how the program was developed. There was no traffic study that determined the frequency of RL violations at a given intersection to determine a need for additional enforcement. Take a look at the Trib list of RLCs producing the most revenue. Seems like the cameras are skewed to the poor neighborhoods in the city.

    The vast majority of fines issued by the cameras are for rolling stops for drivers turning right on red. No where as dangerous an offense as rolling through a red light.

    The RLC program in Chicago and surrounding suburbs has ben a fraud on the public from day one.

  11. - VanillaMan - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 10:49 am:

    Believing that the installation of red light cameras is for safety is like believing auto license plates are for catchy slogans.

  12. - Chris - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 11:00 am:

    “Believing that the installation of red light cameras is for safety is like believing auto license plates are for catchy slogans.”

    “Land of Lincoln”??

    Anyway, it would be like believing that plates are about identifying traffic scofflaws. It’s about revenue, of course, but the handy *byproduct* is that it’s easier to track scofflaws, and stolen cars, etc, etc.

  13. - Chris - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 11:04 am:

    Also, re “Are Rahm’s numbers creeping up?”

    *Of course* they are. Now that he is running against real, live, politicians rather than a hypothetical philosopher king who could cut taxes, raise city employee salaries, stop all the shootings, AND fix the Bears, people have to make a choice.

    As some folks round here like to say–it’s a choice, not a referendum. If it were a “retention” race, Rahm would almost certainly lose. Since everyone has to pick one of the other goofs in lieu of Rahm, he’s got a pretty good chance of winning.

  14. - VanillaMan - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 11:11 am:

    It’s about revenue, of course, but the handy *byproduct* is that it’s easier to track scofflaws, and stolen cars, etc, etc.

    The reports indicates that there is more handy byproduct in one hot dog, than there is in all the red light cameras, however.

  15. - Keyser Soze - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 11:13 am:

    A political two-edged sword; raise revenue and voter blood pressure at the same time. Is this the new snow storm of 1978?

  16. - Amalia - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 11:13 am:

    The Fioretti comment is more predictable since the record is fresh and right in front of the mayor’s face with Council votes. the comment on Chuy proves what we always have to recall about Rahm…he ran an oppo firm. dig, dig, dig. this is just light lifting for them.

  17. - Roscoe Tom - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 11:16 am:

    If Fioretti and Garcia didn’t have someone read them the early editions of the Sun Times and the Tribune they would have nothing to say on the “campaign” trail. They are about as original today as a used hula hoop.

  18. - A guy... - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 11:18 am:

    It’s a money grab. Always has been. Funny thing is that there are a handful of productive locations where the citizens actually support these nasty devices; the most egregious scofflaw corners with weird configurations of lights and intersections. Sometimes Less is More.

    You could actually win on this issue without losing all of the “money grab”. Someone should figure this out.

  19. - Rod - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 11:39 am:

    Fiorett, Garcia, and Emanuel all like this debate about red light cameras it takes the voters minds off the property tax increases that will be coming to Chicago which still has the lowest property tax rate in Cook County. Among the reasons for these coming increases regardless of who is Mayor is the steep decline in property values in the City, on this see The second reason will be the required payments for municipal and CPS teachers pensions once all the litigation dust settles.

    None of the candidates are willing to admit the property tax increases that will be required in the future and the need to wavie the cap in order for Chicago to keep its head above water.

  20. - The Historian - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 11:43 am:

    Speaking of numbers, the headline on this moved me to Google “Emanuel Lashes Out”–you get 3,470 hits! Of the Top Ten, 8 are Rahm, with one for each of his two brothers. Just for comparison, “Miller Lashes Out” gets 32,500, but there are of course a *whole* lot more Millers than Emanuels…

  21. - Del Clinkton - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 12:06 pm:

    Nothing in the world wrong with red light cameras, if your not breaking the law.

  22. - Chris - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 12:07 pm:

    “The reports indicates that there is more handy byproduct in one hot dog, than there is in all the red light cameras, however.”

    The reports state a 15% reduction in right-angle crashes that caused injuries–by using a black box ‘confounding’ adjustment. And, yes, a 22% increase in rear-end accidents–BUT we don’t know the raw number change in either of them.

    I’m sure that proponents of the RLCs could find *one* death “avoided” (statistically speaking)–then you have to say “saving a life isn’t worth the infringement on my liberty to not get a ticket for breaking the traffic laws”–and that doesn’t sound good.

    Anyway, bottom line for me on these “fee” type revenue enhancements–>did this avoid raising my property taxes by $1? Can I avoid (w/o breaking the law) paying this fee, w/o meaningfully changing my live? Since the answer seems to be YES/YES, then I just don’t see the issue.

  23. - Chris - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 12:18 pm:

    “Among the reasons for these coming increases [in City property taxes] regardless of who is Mayor is the steep decline in property values in the City”

    I don’t care *at all* what my “rate” is, I only care about the actual amount on the bill. You could call my rate 150%, or 0.0000015%, if it’s $5,000, then it’s $5,000.

    It’s not as if equalized values (on which the rate is determined) have a real correlation with actual market values in most cases, anyway.

    The coming increase in tax *bills* has minimal correlation with the change in the AAV–the changes in assessed values are just about a re-allocation of the tax burden which *IS* going to increase in the next 4 years.

  24. - A guy... - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 12:26 pm:

    ===Del Clinkton - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 12:06 pm:

    Nothing in the world wrong with red light cameras, if your not breaking the law.===

    Except when they electronically generate a fine that a living, breathing cop would never cite you for i.e. edging over the stripe to make sure when making that Right on Red you don’t get creamed!

    Those are the vast majority of tickets these things generate; not blowing through signals.

  25. - FP_J - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 12:27 pm:

    I don’t dispute that very questionable practices were involved in the development of the red light camera program. If it improves safety, then it becomes a question of the ends justifying the means. The Tribune presents this study as if it answers the question about the ends. However, I have my doubts (I can’t read the original, since the Tribune stopped being worth my money sometime around 10 years ago).

    * Anyone who says there isn’t a traffic enforcement problem in Chicago and its suburbs hasn’t lived elsewhere. I’m not from the region and am often amazed at the brazen disregard for the law and the safety of others you’ll see here. In the city it is running stop signs, red lights, etc. In the ‘burbs it is excessive speeding.

    * The study says the crashes involving turns were reduced, while rear-end collisions were increased. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s statistics indicate that the former are 4 times more likely to result in fatalities than the latter.

    * Perhaps it is covered in the study, but it appears that this focuses only on vehicle on vehicle collisions. What about pedestrian safety? Rolling through a turn on red may be harmless in a suburban office park, but what about in the city? You know, where people walk.

    So, I’m not convinced one study provides a definitive answer. And if the cops aren’t willing to enforce the law, then the cameras should be used to do so.

  26. - OneMan - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 12:42 pm:

    So then Chris, I suspect you would be cool with a unit in your car that reported each time you drove over the speed limit?

  27. - VanillaMan - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 1:09 pm:

    Nothing in the world wrong with red light cameras, if your not breaking the law.

    According to our red light cameras, you are normally commuting through this part of the city between 7:45 am and 8:00 am. However on the day of the crime, the red light cameras show that you weren’t taking your usual route to work that day and you were driving 30 minutes later - enough time to have committed the act you have been charged with.

    Sure - government surveillance is not a problem if prosecutors don’t have a warehouse of data on your innocent little comings and goings, and when they don’t need someone to hang a crime around their necks based on that innocent data, right?

    Red light cameras are your friends, right? Only used on guilty people.

    Read the report. There is a better and safer way to collect more money than this.

  28. - Illinois taxpayer - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 1:23 pm:

    One Man–

    Running red lights is against the law too, usually by drivers speeding. The “safety” argument is a convenient one to encourage no enforcement–neither by camera nor, as in your example, by “unsafe” police enforcement.

    Motorists adjust over time. Drivers who see a police car are more cautious. Drivers who know a camera is near will also grow more prudent with time.

  29. - Demoralized - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 2:30 pm:

    ==Sure - government surveillance is not a problem if prosecutors don’t have a warehouse of data on your innocent little comings and goings, and when they don’t need someone to hang a crime around their necks based on that innocent data, right?==

    Next time the paranoia train comes by your house let it go by.

  30. - VanillaMan - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 3:00 pm:

    Which is it Demoralized?

    No innocent people in jails, or paranoid train passengers? This state executed innocent people. Thanks to DNA, dozens of innocent lives were saved.

    Red light data will be used to help convict defendants charged with crimes. Some of them will be innocent.

    Choo choo!

  31. - Ron Burgundy - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 3:02 pm:

    Nice statement by the Garcia camp, other than it doesn’t address the matter of the check.

  32. - A guy... - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 3:07 pm:

    Chuy, just get to it; get in and get out.

    “With due respect Mayor, this is not an issue in River Forest and I’m not running for Mayor of that community. It’s an issue in Chicago and I’m running against you”.

    Lights on, nobody home line is cute. Cute will lose.

  33. - Demoralized - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 3:09 pm:


    I think you’ve had a bit too much egg nog this season given your posts today. I’ll let you enjoy yourself since it’s Christmas.

  34. - OneMan - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 3:38 pm:

    Illinois taxpayer

    I could say XYZ is illegal, so my guess you are ok with virtually continuous monitoring via a surveillance system for all sorts of law violations…

    Drugs are against the law, so daily drug tests would be cool right for everyone who steps outside their home…

    The issue isn’t enforcement, the issue in enforcement using a methodology that creates unessessary and perhaps worse risks that intermittent violations of the law might cause.

    Law enforcement activities, like a great number of other things is in part cost/benefit work. The benefit of red light cameras might be outweighed the additional costs of additional accidents they may cause.

    You would seem to be comfortable with this since it produces revenue which may reduce your costs…

    Just like I am comfortable with the state taxing the hell out of light beer since I don’t drink the stuff. Policy shouldn’t be driven by the concept of TOP (Tax on Other People)…

  35. - Under Further Review - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 4:02 pm:

    Garcia is in the tank for voting in favor of a single red light camera in River Forest, which is also the home of the Cook County Forest Preserve District Headquarters, so that makes him as bad as Rahm Emanuel? Sheesh! It sounds to me as if Garcia deferred to the village officials in the suburb.

  36. - A guy... - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 4:37 pm:

    UFR, he did. The vote was a formality because of jurisdiction. He’s doing himself a disservice by defending it vigorously.

  37. - Wordslinger - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 5:33 pm:

    Geez, does Emanuel really want to get in a conversation on who’s contributing to campaigns?

  38. - Chris - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 5:45 pm:

    “So then Chris, I suspect you would be cool with a unit in your car that reported each time you drove over the speed limit?”

    I don’t like straw to get on my seats, so I generally don’t give rides to strawmen.

  39. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 5:47 pm:

    I am with you, Wordslinger.

    I don’t think I’d want this election to be about red-light cameras or campaign finance if I were the Mayor.

    Plus, why punch down?

    But hey, I guess this is why they’re paid the big bucks.

  40. - Chris - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 5:49 pm:

    “It sounds to me as if Garcia deferred to the village officials in the suburb.”

    So, the River Forest officials told the RLC company lobbyists to donate to Chuy’s campaign fund? Sounds like a conspiracy!!

  41. - Under Further Review - Monday, Dec 22, 14 @ 9:39 pm:

    I cannot get worked up about a single campaign donation to Garcia or his vote in favor of a single red light camera. Emanuel refused to refund a cent to thousands of motorists who received tickets from cameras where the traffic control signals were calibrated too fast. Emanuel accepts campaign contributions from everyone with a pulse.

    It is called proportionality folks.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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