Speeding camera fines will go down Monday, mayor says

November 2, 2012

One D.C. camera, on New York Avenue NE, raked in $11.6 million over 23 months. (Daniel Britt/The Washington Post)

Motorists will be fined less for most speeding tickets issued by camera starting next week, Mayor Vincent C. Gray announced Friday.

What is now a $75 ticket for going 10 mph or less over the speed limit will become a $50 ticket Monday, while the current $125 tickets for going 11 to 15 mph will be reduced to $100. Camera tickets from 16 to 25 mph over will remain at their current levels of between $150 and $200, but those caught going more than 25 mph over the limit will pay a new higher fine of $300. Transportation and police officials will also engage in wholesale reexamination of speed limits in the city, meaning some could be raised and others lowered.

Gray said the changes came after “lots of feedback” about the camera enforcement system, which generated $84.9 million for the city last fiscal year. The changes, he said, will “improve fairness while continuing to ensure and improve public safety.”

Administration officials believe the changes will mean about $23.6 million less in yearly city revenue. But last fiscal year, the cameras brought in $27.1 million more than projections that remain the same this fiscal year — meaning even with the lower fines, an additional $3.5 million in unbudgeted revenue is expected before the fiscal year ends next Sept. 30. 

Gray said he wants to use that money to hire 100 additional police officers, bringing the force to 4,000. That’s a level the city’s not seen since 2009.

The move to lower fines comes as the D.C. Council has made moves to readjust the traffic enforcement regime amid the growing perception that the speeding tickets represent a regressive revenue grab rather than a public safety initiative. Members Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) have proposed more wholesale changes, including lowering fines for speeding violations up to 20 mph to $50 and dedicating half of camera revenue to traffic safety. Their proposal has a higher price tag, however, which promises to complicate those efforts.

Gray is lowering the fines by emergency rule-making, which does not require public comment or a revenue analysis from the Chief Financial Officer.

Wells, in a statement, said he is “pleased to see the Mayor is listening” to people with concerns about the camera program. “Their message was clear: Speed cameras work to reduce speed and make streets safer, but the city must be smarter about setting fines,” he said.

Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.
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Mike DeBonis · November 2, 2012