Pay dirt: Traffic cams nab $608,000
Traffic cameras in Cedar Rapids have generated more than $600,000 in less than seven months, meaning the revenue will almost certainly exceed projections.
City officials estimated about $750,000 in revenue from the cameras during the first full year, but they are on pace to surpass that figure in nine months. Since the first tickets were issued March 2, the cameras have brought in an average of $2,900 a day for the city.
“I’m hoping it goes down, because that will mean people will have stopped having so many violations,” Police Chief Greg Graham said.
Note – Search the database of the 27,000 violations below
The city receives all the fine money collected before the camera vendor, Gatso USA, gets its share. Each month, Gatso bills the city $30 for each ticket that has been paid.
Only 12,825 of the 27,554 citations have been paid so far, but officials said most of the tickets aren’t due yet or are being appealed.
Linda Tebussek, the city’s financial operations manager, said the city is adjusting its contract with a collections company to include recovery of the citations that go unpaid.
Ticket revenue is funneled to the Police Department’s operating budget through the city’s general fund, officials said. City Council approval is required to spend any of the revenue above the $750,000 projection during the year, Graham said.
“It’s clearly a manager-council decision; I don’t have a blank check,” Graham said. “It’s all open, and there’s nothing sneaky or underhanded when we buy stuff.”
Graham said extra money could be used for items the council decided not to fund during the budgeting process or for unplanned expenses.
“We don’t go, ‘Hey, we’ve got another hundred grand. What toy do you want to go buy?’” Graham said. “I’m pretty conservative when it comes to stuff like that.”
Sgt. Cory McGarvey, who leads the traffic bureau, said he would like to see the money used to hire more accident reconstructionists and to pay for laser speed guns, which cost $3,000 each.
McGarvey said the purchases would fit with the goal of reducing serious crashes. He said the next few months will be a true test of any impact the cameras may be having.
“If we get through the winter and we see a significant reduction, that’s a great sign that we’re finally getting somewhere,” McGarvey said.
The cameras monitor seven intersections, and an eighth corner will be added later this year. Speeders on northbound Interstate 380 also are being photographed, as are motorists who drive by a mobile camera in a red Jeep that can be parked anywhere.
Graham said statistics continue to indicate that drivers are changing their behavior. Three people were killed in crashes on the Interstate 380 S-curve through downtown last year, but as of last week, officers had not worked a single crash in that area in 2010, Graham said.
Crashes within Cedar Rapids have dropped about 8 percent, and crashes involving injuries are down about 12 percent, compared with last year, police said. Data on crashes at the camera-monitored intersections is being tracked, but “they haven’t been up at the intersections long enough to get any real, true comparable data,” Graham said.
Graham has consistently said his motivation with the traffic cameras is to reduce accidents and injuries, not the money.
“I’m very pleased with the results so far,” Graham said. “Time will tell whether we actually sustain this.”