Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Monday, July 22

Gapers Block

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr


Dennis Fritz / March 1, 2010 8:15 AM

I say get rid of them. The city has openly admitted, several times, that the cameras have little to do with increasing public saftey and a lot to do with generating extra revenue. They are just a passive-aggressive from of taxation.

joshua / March 1, 2010 9:09 AM

if they're going to keep them, i'd like to see them draw more attention to them. that way motorists might actually be aware of their presence and would consider not running the light. it's obvious they're a revenue generator but the city should at least try to reduce accidents with them.

The Box Factory / March 1, 2010 10:27 AM

I think they are a good thing, if installed and marked correctly. Yes they do generate revenue, but more importantly they are proven to reduce accidents caused by excess speed and running red lights. For those who protest about the 'freedom' and 'privacy' issue, please go and be 'free' and 'private' somewhere a little quieter and safer than downtown Chicago.

gate / March 1, 2010 10:33 AM

I generally feel that they are violation of the 4th Amendment. Anytime I pass one of those cameras I am under suspicion of wrong doing without cause and under surveillance without a warrant. Those cameras are always recording by the way, not just when someone rolls through the light. We are all being watched whether we commit a crime or not. I'm not necessarily against private security cameras, just public ones that are used to abuse police power.

gate / March 1, 2010 10:41 AM

Do you have any statistics to show that the cameras are "proven" to reduce accidents? At best I've seen mixed results and in many cases they haven't helped at all.,0,4307283.story

I'm fine with cameras to help with safety. These cameras are obviously for revenue with safety being an after thought.

I think I'll stay here and fight for the freedom and privacy guaranteed by the Constitution. thanks.

hapless_citizen / March 1, 2010 10:52 AM

these cameras are very easy to misuse by the city - they could simply mess with the timing of the yellow light to make it too short, and the city could easily collect tons of revenue from folks who have entered the intersection at the tail end of a green light. Then there are the lights that are photo enforced but don't have a timer attached to the light to give the driver a sense of when to start slowing down or when to speed up to catch the light. i think this is a deliberate rip-off. i've heard that a similar traffic-camera-collection scheme in Houston was misused by the enforcement authorities to rip off citizens - this case came to light and there was a case filed against corrupt authorities.

the cameras are a good idea in theory, but how can we ensure that the timing isn't being tweaked for maximum revenue generation? and how can we ensure that drivers don't speed and risk accidents at intersections to avoid getting photographed?

rofimike / March 1, 2010 10:57 AM

The ones I've had the most experience with are sticklers about right-hand turns on red and ignore cars that speed straight through intersections well after the light has turned red. In some cases, I've seen the cameras catch people who simply stopped on or after the stop line--many of these lines aren't positioned to give the driver a clear vantage point at oncoming traffic, especially when cars traveling straight have stopped well ahead of the line (again, ignored by the cameras).

I don't really see how right-hand turns on red are a scourge to society.

Based on what I've read from media sources--not towns looking to make a quick buck--there are lots of questions about whether the cameras actually reduce accidents. Some studies even show increases (hooray for getting rear-end collisions by cars not expecting those in front of them to stop 5 feet in back of the line). The biggest issue, again, is that the cameras target the lest dangerous variations of "red light rolling".

I'd say excessively ticketing jay-walking is the equivalent, if jay-walking weren't 30x more dangerous.

The Box Factory / March 1, 2010 11:09 AM

@Gate: I just did some more background reading and find examples from both sides of the argument that appear to present strong support to their case via statistics. I suppose that's statistics for you ;)

I agree there is the possibility of misuse by our authorities, but think the benefits outweigh the positives if it helps make the roads safer by any degree. They have installed cameras near me, on the junction of Madison and Halstead and as yet I have yet to see them triggered by any thing other than people passing through a red light at speed.

I am however interested to hear if anyone can report seeing a camera triggered by a apparently legal scenario.

hapless_citizen / March 1, 2010 11:51 AM

"I am however interested to hear if anyone can report seeing a camera triggered by a apparently legal scenario."

um no that's not how sneaky tactics work. those within the power structures know better than to let lights be triggered by a legal scenario. the way to go is to create a scenario where citizens make a mistake due to a subtle manipulation within the law by the authorities. Misjudgement on the part of citizens thereby creates grounds for legal action against the citizen.

trm / March 1, 2010 12:23 PM

Break the rules and pay the fines when caught. Seems simple enough to me. Next.

Cheryl / March 1, 2010 12:39 PM

I don't really see how right-hand turns on red are a scourge to society.

Add 'while on the phone' to that and suddenly they are a scourge, particularly if one is legally crossing the street on foot, with the walk light.

I'd prefer the cameras record everyone driving, and handing out tickets to those caught on film talking on their phones, reading, putting on makeup, etc.

cadabra / March 1, 2010 1:08 PM

I'd like to see a map showing where these are an how much $$ they generate. Not to avoid them; I don't drive. I'm just curious how much revenue they actually generate. Does anyone know if such data exists?

eee / March 1, 2010 1:20 PM

I know this generalization DOES NOT apply to everyone. However, the people I personally know who are opposed to red light cameras are notoriously terrible drivers. (I'm talking multiple accidents, tickets, and even revoked licenses.) I find it an interesting coincidence.

Carlotta / March 1, 2010 2:21 PM

As a pedestrian I've noticed a drastic decrease in cars running the red light, thank God! That's not to say that the city hasn't rigged the red light cameras for revenue generation, however.

I've stood at Belmont & inner Lake Shore Drive waiting for an express bus. Cars went down that exit ramp at a good speed but managed to stop at the red light in time. But the camera is set up to assume that anyone going at x miles an hour is going to run the light. For a while that camera was really cranking out the tickets. But drivers now take the camera into consideration, so they go slower.

Keep the cameras, even have more of them. But expect diminishing revenue returns as drivers adjust their driving habits to their presence.

David / March 1, 2010 3:07 PM

I say get rid of them.

I have not had a ticket or accident in well over 10 years, so sorry eee...

This is a privacy violation and unacceptable in any form.

All you people so eager to undercut privacy rights... wtf is wrong with you?

gate / March 1, 2010 4:30 PM

The camera boxes actually contain two cameras. one is a high resolution camera that snaps a photo of your car. that is the flash you see when it is triggered. The other is a digital video recorder that is always active or at least active when there is motion.

christian / March 1, 2010 8:17 PM

The other day I was at the intersection of Fullerton and Cicero stopped at a red, an unmarked police car with his lights on went through the intersection and was “caught” by the camera. How often does something like that happen? Same goes for busses.

not moneybags / March 1, 2010 9:31 PM

I am not a terrible driver, have never been in an accident, and had a handful of tickets in over 25 years of driving. yet since the installation of the the red light cameras I have had almost $500 in tickets. Most of them were from turning left on a yellow.
one was a right turn on red violation because I didn't wait a full 5 seconds before turning.

my issue with the cameras is that it is turning a city of what I consider to be pretty good, sensible drivers into a city of people afraid to make a safe turn. traffic is slower, people are not turning left on the yellow by 2's anymore and are slamming on their brakes at intersections. I would be interested to find out if the number of rear-end collisions has gone up since the arrival of the cameras.

I don't like when people drive like assholes, but I respect that the majority other drivers around me can make a freaking decision about what had formerly been a legal move.

It's purely a money grab by the city, affecting the working people who live here.

J / March 2, 2010 8:24 AM

I just know at my intersection (Hollywood and Sheridan) it seems to have made a big difference. Before the cameras, pedestrians getting hit by cars running red lights was a common occurrence. Two people that I know of in my building alone were hit by cars crossing at that intersection. And once I witnessed an entire family almost get wiped out by a driver running a red light.

That sort of thing rarely happens anymore since the cameras were installed.

I know it's only one (particularly bad) intersection, and I don't have any statistics to back me up, but it at least seems to be working in my neighborhood.

J / March 2, 2010 8:30 AM

I want to add that I don't have a problem with using it as a revenue source.

I do think that they should be clearly labeled for more of a public-safety effect, but I don't feel sorry for anyone who gets a ticket for running a red light just because they didn't know there was a camera.

Mike / March 2, 2010 9:52 AM

If our elected officials were really concerned about safety, they'd punish bad drivers. I don't have a problem with the cameras (if the yellow is lengthened to 4 seconds) but people who blow lights at these intersections ONLY get the fine. They don't get a record offense or a moving violation. So it does not result in points. You could run ten of these a day and you'd only get fined. I wish traffic in Chicago was enforced with the same zeal as parking. Pulling someone over takes time and effort. Driving a squad car down a block and ticketing ten cars on street cleaning day is much easier. The city is much better at generating revenue off its citizens than protecting them from one another.

R / March 2, 2010 1:53 PM

So David, you feel you have a privacy interest in running a red light on a public street?

Spook / March 2, 2010 3:28 PM

I'm certainly glade they're up at Armitage and Kedzie where I see them "blink" like a Check Cashing Currency Exchange sign.

And I hope to see more of them in my hood.
I can't imagine that they do any harm( at worse) especially in certain neighborhoods where speeding has become part of the cultural fabric and of course the ghost bikes that end up as markers of those who pay the price for the ultimate
expression of the divine right of auto drivers.

mike / March 2, 2010 4:58 PM

I love the people who complain that they shouldn't have to come to a complete stop if they're turning right on a red. Do they ever walk in this city? Every pedestrian knows that half of drivers DON'T EVEN LOOK TO THE RIGHT for pedestrians when they barrel through a right on red.

hapless_citizen / March 2, 2010 10:46 PM

i'm ok with having the cameras, and do agree that driving habits will change for the better with such a system... but what about legitimate drivers who get slapped with tickets due to misjudgement of the duration of the yellow light? how am i to decide whether to start slowing down as i approach the intersection if i don't know how much longer the signal will be green?

How about the city help out legitimate drivers by installing Timers at all lights with cameras?

maardvark / March 3, 2010 1:02 AM

My main problem with the red-light cameras is that they don't have any margin built in for benefit of doubt. People get tickets for making perfectly legal right turns on red, or for proceeding on a yellow light (also perfectly legal). Then they have to go to court to contest the ticket. If they redid the timing on the cameras such that only unambiguous cases got tickets, I'd be okay with it.

T / March 3, 2010 10:34 AM

If these cameras did what they are supposedly meant to do - discourage drivers from breaking traffic laws and from driving unsafely- then they would be putting themselves out of business over time. If the revenue collected from these cameras is not decreasing over time then it's clear that they aren't "working" they way they are supposed to and that they are simply being kept around as another moneymaker for daley.

The Box Factory / March 3, 2010 12:51 PM

Looks like the fines might be increasing to cover some addditional driver education:

Interestingly, this article claims that the camera cannot identify the driver. Does that contradict some peoples understanding of these camera's capabilities?

C-Note / March 3, 2010 1:20 PM

I'm all for red light cameras inasmuch as they prevent and/or punish irresponsible driving, despite the problematic fact that the primary motivation behind them is to generate revenue. I don't have a problem with expanding their use.

And as for the 4th Amendment and our "privacy interests," I'm afraid the civil libertarians among us have come out on the wrong side of this issue. The 4th Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. I'm pretty sure that red-light cameras are capable of neither searches nor seizures.

gmoty2 / March 3, 2010 8:12 PM

It would have been nice if Lawrence and LeClaire had one since a guy in a BMW ran that red light (even though the red light had been active at least 20 secs) and totaled my truck. I don't see how we are being violated..since the images are only saved if an offense is perceived to have occured. I feel like the Airport body screeners are more violating than red-light cameras are. I believe as people adjust their driving habits...revenuewill drop and you will start to see the cameras go away since they won't be profitable. I think at least 30% of red-light tickets are people who are not stopping before making a legal right turn on a red light.

Steven / March 4, 2010 4:16 AM

In Holland there are speeding cameras. Go over the limit in a certain stretch of roadway and you'll get your pic snapped and a ticket in the mail. I would rather see these on Lake Shore Drive and other expressways to penalize the foolios who think they can drive 70 mph in urban traffic than these red light cameras at intersections where the yellow light is purposely timed too short. Red light cameras don't improve safety. Speeding cameras do.

Mucky Fingers / March 4, 2010 11:47 AM

Driving 70 mph on Lake Shore Drive* is a right of passage for many Chicagoans...including the S curve.

(This drive is preferably done late on a Saturday Night, traveling north after an evening spent downtown with friends.)

paul / March 4, 2010 12:21 PM

Unfortunately, losing friends and having cars totaled by DUI-ers is a right of passage too.

If you break the law and get caught, take the consequences. If you really feel cameras are an invasion of privacy, maybe you should drive without a license plate, that way you can break the law and never be 'violated'.

A driver who can't anticipate a 'stale green' light doesn't have the smarts to be driving. If you get more than five of these tickets you should be using your limited facilities to figure out the Bus routes.

GB store

Recently on Fuel

Urban Ethos [26]
What is Chicago's "urban ethos"?

Cool Glass of... [16]
What're you drinking?

Supreme Decision [22]
What's your reaction to the Supreme Court's decision on the Affordable Care Act?

Taking it to the Streets [20]
Chicago Street Fairs: Revolting or Awesome?

I Can Be Cruel [9]
Be real: what is the meanest thing you've ever done?

View the complete archive

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15