Speed cameras: There’s more than meets the eye (updated)


This map shows that 58.8% of Chicago streets, excluding highways, are eligible for speed camera enforcement. Open the map.

The Expired Meter has been tracking the speed camera issue very well. (Here’s our coverage.) Along with reporting that an ordinance would be introduced to alderman at tomorrow’s monthly City Council meeting, it reported Monday on an interview with Alderman Waguespack who had been briefed on the city’s speed camera goals:

Originally, city officials claimed existing red light camera locations would be utilized to do double duty and be retrofitted to also do speed enforcement.

But, according to Waguespack’s understanding of the briefing presented by officials from the Mayor’s office, Chicago Police Department and Chicago Department of Transportation, the city’s long range goal is to install speed cameras at 1,800 intersections near school and parks under the auspices of slowing down drivers through $50 to $100 fines for speeding near these intersections. The state law calls for cameras to be used within a 1/8 of a mile safety zone surrounding the schools and parks. [They can be used in those areas, and in no other areas.]

Waguespack says, while the speed enforcement will be from 6:30 AM to 8:30 PM (9 PM on Friday) the cameras will be filming 24 hours a day, seven days a week and be utilized as a surveillance camera much like the blue light cameras the Chicago Police use to deter crime in high crime areas of the city.

“Essentially this is what they’ll become,” was Waguespack’s takeaway regarding the big brother aspect of the cameras from Monday morning’s briefing.

Three weeks ago, I helped Quinn Yost, a commenter on The Expired Meter I contacted, develop a methodology to determine how much of the city’s streets could be monitored by a speed camera. The Chicago Tribune already made this determination, but I wanted to verify it. They said that 47% of the city would eligible for speed camera enforcement, but it wasn’t clear if that was the portion of land in a safety zone, or the portion of streets within safety zones.

Yost’s conclusion? 12,956,780 of 22,020,032 feet of Chicago streets can be monitored by a fixed or mobile speed camera. 58.8%. View them on a map.

Updated 14:17: Read The Beachwood Reporter’s article about the “Camera Coinkydink”, published today, about the connection between lobbyists, Mayor Emanuel, Redflex (the city’s red light camera operator), and the mayor’s election campaign.

Updated 23:20: The research on red light cameras comes to less of a consensus than the research on speed cameras on their respective abilities to reduce crashes. The Expired Meter also reported today on a CDOT study about the city’s red light cameras. It shows, among other outcomes, that one type of crash decreased and another decrease (read the details there).

Based on the comments I’ve been reading about speed cameras here on Grid Chicago, there on The Expired Meter, and on EveryBlock, it seems that some people believe that research about red light cameras is relevant to speed cameras; I believe they’re disparate and distinct. I welcome links to research that explains or refutes a link. Regardless, I continue to hold the position that speed cameras reduce the prevalence of speeding, and thus reduce injuries (or the severity of them).

14 thoughts on “Speed cameras: There’s more than meets the eye (updated)”

  1. Just read the Beachwood reporter article, just depressing.  Can we start up a whistleblower fund to rat these guys out?  Somebody has to turn these guys in for the right price.

  2. Steve,

    I’m not sure I have an opinion on whether it is proper to use RLC data and experience is relevant to speed cameras.

    However, if City Hall wants to try to use RLC data to rationalize implementing a speed camera program, than people should know that there are questions about the effectiveness of red light cameras.

  3. I was glad to see that park buffer zones on the map included a zone around the Major Taylor Trail.  A few of our major street crossings also fall within the buffer zone for a nearby school.  127th St. and 130th St. near the south end of the trail have a few buffer zones.  I’d love to see those streets get a few cameras, because the speeding problem there is HUGE.  Similary, 103rd St. from Cottage Grove to I-94 (another speeding problem) is mostly within overlapping buffer zones for a school and a park.   Much of Western south of 100th is within buffer zones.  95th St. from Winchester almost to Halsted is covered by buffer zones.  Over half of 79th St. west of I-94 falls within buffer zones.  Over half of Vincennes south of 71st St. is covered by buffers.  Yeah!!!

    Jumping up to Rogers Park, Sheridan Rd. and Rogers are mostly covered.  Across the city, there are significant gaps on Western, Ashland, Archer and a few other major streets with speeding problems, but the zones cover a lot of the significant speeding areas.

    1. “Across the city, there are significant gaps on Western, Ashland, Archer…”

      What this is indicating to me is that we haven’t built schools and parks near these streets. While school and park planning is a long-term process, and the streets may not always have had these characteristics, but the speeds of streets affect how we use them. 

      1. The most significant gaps I noticed are in industrial and rail yard areas (no big surprise) and locations with a heavy concentration of retail.  As a result (again, no surprise),  the south and west sides have some large gaps.

        Take a look at the corridor along the Stevenson and rail yards within a few miles of it, and the old Stockyards area. The big gap north of Marquette Park contains some industrial land, but much of that is actually residential. The gap south and west of Marquette Park is mostly industrial. Forest preserves and cemeteries also create gaps.

        South of 95th St. and east of Cottage Grove, there’s very little coverage, because most of that land is industrial. The streets around Lake Calumet are a secret drag racing haven at night and seem likely to remain so for a while. Ride there on a Saturday or Sunday morning and you’ll see lots of fresh skid marks.

  4. I am a big proponent of the use of red light cameras and speed cameras as a way to reduce crashes and the severity of crashes.

    The current administrations lack of transparency is frustrating however. The data used to make their case, the lobbying efforts going on, and the refusal to comply with FOIA requests, all that simply creates an opportunity for opponents to change the discussion and rally against speed cameras.

    1. “The current administrations lack of transparency is frustrating however. The data used to make their case, the lobbying efforts going on, and the refusal to comply with FOIA requests, all that simply creates an opportunity for opponents to change the discussion and rally against speed cameras.”
      This often happens in election campaigns, especially in presidential ones. 

  5. This would be a disaster if allowed to pass. This proposal seems hell bent on convincing people not to live within the city limits.

      1. Thats not at all my point. Those living within the city limits will have to endure these speed cameras every single moment they use their automobiles. This a major detriment opposed to living in the suburbs where you might visit the city at most 1-2 times a month. I can’t imagine people would be too thrilled with city living after getting nailed with 3-4 6mph over tickets in a month, especially if they are not obligated, or compelled, to live within the city limits.

        Speeding is a moving violation and should be monitored and enforced by actual officers… allowing them to make judgement calls, ticket the actual driver instead of the vehicle and punish the offender with a fine in addition to a point on their license. This is a pathetic, offensive money grab that should only moderately affect safety (even a driver going the speed limit can be incredible reckless and dangerous to pedestrians) but will DEFINITELY piss off Chicagoans and cause people to either despise the city or simply leave it.

        1. I believe that police officers have the final say on whether or not tickets are issued when a red light camera captures a possible violation. I read the entire State “enabling legislation” and I don’t recall what it said about this. I’ll have to reread it. It’s on the State Legislature’s website. 


          I really liked this statement I read recently: “The major difference between traffic calming measures and other forms of traffic control devices, such as stop signs and speed limit signs, which require enforcement, is that calming measures are self-enforcing. Also, traffic calming should rely on the laws of physics rather than human psychology to slow traffic.”

          I wrote in a different article how other strategies should be tried first/simultaneously. 

        2. I agree that speed cameras alone will not reduce the car v. pedestrian/bicyclist crashes to zero.
          That’s why I think that in addition to speed cameras we need better education, better enforcement of existing laws (specifically the ones about distracted driving), and road design to include traffic calming measures as well.
          All these measures together will make a significant reduction in crashes possible.

          1. “Better enforcement of existing laws”. 

            Last night on Twitter I responded to a tweet where someone was saying we should adopt a law that was in the linked page. I didn’t even read the page or find out what the law is; I didn’t think it mattered. 

            What matters is enforcing the great and useful laws we already have. Then after enforcing them, we can figure out which ones work and which don’t, and repeal or tweak them. 

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