Chicago will keep extra $7.7M in red light ticket money it collected

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Speed camera ticketing begins in Chicago

The City of Chicago admitted that it secretly shortened some yellow stoplights to collect extra revenue from its red-light cameras.

The city received a $7.7 million windfall this year from the 77,000 tickets issued under the yellow light change, and while a refund was considered, the head of the Department of Transportation chief says the city will keep the extra ticket money.

The city says any yellow light lasting 2.9 seconds or longer is in line with national standards, so there’s no reason to return the money.

“These were violations of the law, they were legitimate tickets and we stand behind them,”Chicago Department of Transportation chief Rebekah Scheinfeld said at a City Council hearing on red light cameras.

The Chicago Tribune reports that the city made a determination in September to restore the longer yellow light standard.


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  • 57ml

    This not a surprise, communities across the country have done the same as chicago. There are no national standards for yellow timing, just some generic guidelines based on the speed limit. So artificially communities have adjusted the guidelines downward in the name of collecting revenue.

    • FedUp

      Unannounced changes to yellow lights simply to increase revenues? Could gaming the system be any more flagrant? Nice of our local governments to unabashedly fleece us; who was the honest civil servant that came up with this plan? Let’s see if WGN or another news outlet will do any further reporting of this. Or will they be silenced?

  • Carlos

    I just received a $100 red light ticket from driving to Midway on Cicero from i290 this October. Cicero has some yellow lights that are definitely not 2.9 seconds.

    • Pat L

      That’s where I got mine too. That intersection has, the most tickets issued. I wasn’t speeding, it turned yellow JUST before I entered and was red before I was totally through the intersection. I didn’t fight it because I had heard it was a lost cause to try. I would have also has to take a day off of work, probably pay for parking, and drag my 84 year old mother with, since I was driving here car and she was actually mailed the ticket. What a scam.

  • Sick and Tired

    These days I feel akin to the patriots who threw the tea in the water. Politicians passing ordinances that are questionable. This situation and the cameras that surround the schools. Flashing lights everywhere giving us pricey tickets. Signage that states “the speed limit is 20 WHEN CHILDREN ARE PRESENT.” It’s untrue. The cameras are clicking away giving a multitude of tickets when there are no children around. This needs to change. No one is doing this out of concern for the children, it’s a guise to raise a ton of money. I am going to start calling all my reps and let them know that I am not voting for them if they keep pulling sneaky moves like these.

  • Brian Ceccarelli

    3.0 seconds is the federal minimum–a “standard” of the USA’s MUTCD–Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices. All jurisdictions in this country must obey theses “standard”. Another MUTCD standard is that “red”, as opposed to blue, means stop.

    2.9 seconds or 3.0 seconds? 0.1 second seems insignificant to some, but that 0.1 second shortfall of an already too-short 3.0 second yellow will increase the red light incursion rate by 100%. That’s double the money for Chicago.

    You should ask, “Why does shortening yellows increase red light running? Why can’t driver’s adapt?”

    And the answer is simple, “It is all about the physics. Cars are subject to the laws of physics and drivers, no matter their behavior cannot change the laws of physics.”

    The physics is this: It takes a certain about of distance to stop and a certain amount of time to reach the intersection when one cannot stop. The yellow light must give you the time to reach the intersection before the light turns yellow. Does it? No. Have a stop watch? As a passenger in the car, measure how long it takes for the driver to react to a yellow light and come to a comfortable stop. Then measure the length of the yellow light. You will find the yellow light length to be half the time it takes the driver to stop the car. Problem? You bet! And Chicago and all cities in this country have the same problem. It is a federal guideline to screw this up. This same federal guideline is also the reason behind all the crashes.

    Chicago, like all cities in the USA, enforces a DOT methodology which forces drivers to run red lights by opposing the laws of physics. Enforcing the methodology to precision is identical to enforcing a law forbidding gravity. Everyone is guilty. That is why Chicago has issued more red light cameras than twice its population.

  • Jon B.

    They’ll probably need the extra money to defend the lawsuits that are assuredly coming. The City better hope nobody has ever been t-boned at any of these intersections.

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