Last week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel asked lawmakers to approve the use of red-light cameras to identify, and automatically ticket, motorists speeding in "safety zones," with fines of up to $100 per infraction.
Critics have argued the proposal is more about revenue than safety, and a Chicago Sun-Times analysis of the zones eligible for speed cameras suggests the policy could become a cash cow: 66 percent of the city would fall within enforceable boundaries proposed.
"No one has a problem with citations for dangerous driving at high speeds. But those cameras would be eyeing everybody, including lots of motorists going just slightly over the limit," the Sun-Times wrote in an Oct. 24 editorial. "Those $100 penalties could add up pretty fast."
"Safety zones" are defined loosely as areas near schools or parks -- the Chicago Tribune didn't include colleges and universities in their analysis of the bill's terms. They tallied a "likely conservative" 47 percent estimate of the area eligible for surveillance. The Tribune also included O'Hare International Airport and Lake Calumet in their total city area, both of which have minimal roadway traffic and likely padded the total unsupervised area, the newspaper contends.
Both analyses paint a portrait of a much more expansive policy than originally indicated. Two bills have been introduced in the state House and Senate at the mayor's request, sponsored by Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago and House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, respectively, according to the Tribune. The Senate bill matches the Tribune's projected 47 percent impact projection, but the House version stands to cover about 75 percent of the city, pending adjustments Madigan promised would reign in its scope.
Both chamber leaders will have to compromise to bring the two bills closer together, which could include Cullerton conceding to Madigan's proposed time restrictions, limiting camera use to between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., according to the Tribune.