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Abraham Tekippe/ MEDILL

The speed cameras in Chicago are controversial, but there might be an area the two sides can see eye to eye on.     

Expanding speed cameras for safety's sake, not to fill coffers, is something people say they could support

by Scott Leighton Thomas
Nov 06, 2013

No matter where you fall on the “I love speed cameras” to “I despise their very existence” spectrum, there’s one indisputable fact: After using the fines to plug budget shortfalls, the cameras aren’t going anywhere soon.

That, along with the cameras' placement, has led to accusations of a cash grab by the city.

“Our real concern is in order to measure the effectiveness of these things you need to employ them in areas that are problem areas,” said Paul Sajovec, chief of staff for Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd).

Proponents of the cameras say the same thing. What differs is their perceptions of whether the cameras in place meet that criteria.

Max Muller, director of government relations at the Active Transportation Alliance, said the alliance supported the cameras because the money goes back to areas of the budget focused on transportation safety.

“Basic position on traffic laws is they should be enforced,” Muller said. “And one thing that can do that is police on streets; another is cameras.”

One possible solution could actually be expanding the speed cameras outside the designated parks and schools they’re currently kept at.

Sajovec said Waguespack’s office wouldn’t support a further camera rollout that “looked like the last one.”

However, he also added that they weren’t diametrically opposed to them in general. Muller said the alliance would support cameras outside of schools and parks as long as it was about safety and not revenue.

Any foreseeable expansion of the cameras, though, is unlikely: The state legislature had to change the law for Chicago to get the cameras, and the limitations to parks and schools is written in there.

Other cities, such as Washington, D.C., also have speed cameras near areas in which children can be found. But D.C. also places cameras in areas of recent speed-related crashes and fatalities and chronic speeding zones.

A look at the speed camera placements shows that only one is in one of Chicago’s most dangerous corridors for pedestrians.

The 2011 Pedestrian Crash Report Analysis found the 12 corridors with the highest pedestrian crash rates in the city. These strips of road, mostly on the city’s South and West Sides, were the most dangerous for pedestrians crossing and had the most serious injuries.