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Red-Light and Speed Camera: Analyzing the Equity and Efficacy of Chicago’s Automated Camera Enforcement Program

This report analyzes Chicago’s automated red-light and speed camera program. Using data from red-light and speed camera tickets issued between 2016 and 2019, the authors evaluate the distribution of camera tickets, the economic burdens of ticket fines and fees, and the safety impacts of the speed cameras. The authors also provide recommendations to improve the equity and efficacy of Chicago’s camera program.

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Key Findings: 

  • Predominantly Black and Latino areas receive a higher number of tickets per household. 
  • As a camera’s distance from a freeway increases, the number of tickets issued decreases. 
  • Residents in low income neighborhoods pay a higher share of ticket fees relative to their income and the number of tickets received; low income residents incurred fees on 46 percent of all tickets received compared to 17 percent for upper income residents. 
  • The deployment of cameras resulted in 36 fewer fatal and severe injury crashes, 68 fewer moderate injury crashes, and 100 fewer minor injury crashes. 

Recommendations:  

  • Reduce base fines commensurate with risk of harm.
  • Introduce late fee caps, stop doubling of fines as penalty for late payment.
  • Implement a statute of limitations for non-payment.
  • Scale fines and fees by ability to pay.
  • Scale fines and fees based on number of infractions.
  • Introduce a graduated pricing structure for red-light violations, comparable to speed violations.
Stacey Sutton, Ph.D. and Nebiyou Tilahun, Ph.D.
University of Chicago Department of Urban Policy and Planning
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