CITY HALL — The city's Transportation commissioner said drivers are dramatically altering their habits in the face of speed cameras, but he still expected them to generate $60 million in revenue next year, according to testimony in budget hearings Wednesday.
Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein said speeding violations were dropping 40 percent in the first two weeks of a monthlong trial period, and dropping 60 percent in the first week violations were being issued.
"If you get a ticket, you are just not paying attention," Klein said, adding that there were few repeat offenders.
"Yet it's a significant portion of our 2014 budget," pointed out Ald. Rey Colon (35th).
Klein said the cameras were budgeted to generate $60 million in 2014.
"That'll probably happen, no matter what," he added. "But I'd like to see it at zero."
Klein said the city's speed cameras, which are operating in 18 locations after being launched in August, with 50 expected by early next year, were placed to emphasize safety, not generate revenue.
"We're very proud of the program," Klein said. "It's taken us a long time to do it, because we wanted to do it right.
"We really focus on the safety bit," Klein said, adding that locations were selected based on known accident and speeding data.
"I know there were a lot of skeptics out there. But it's working," Klein said, emphasizing the social gains from fewer accidents, even at the potential loss of revenue. "No matter what happens, the city is going to be a much better city, regardless of revenue."
Klein is leaving his post at the end of the month to return to private business and devote himself to his family, after being closely identified with the city's renewed emphasis on improving bicycle traffic and developing the Divvy bike-sharing program.
For that reason, several aldermen criticized Klein during the hearing for stressing bikes over tasks like filling potholes and painting crosswalks.
Others wished him well in private life, with Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) saying, "A month from now, you'll look back on today — and enjoy where you are."