MCKINLEY PARK — Nearly 1,500 drivers who passed through a busy stretch of McKinley Park last year received speeding tickets, courtesy of the city's new speed cameras.
The controversial camera program, called a "cash grab" by opponents, tickets drivers for speeding in areas outside parks and schools during certain portions of the day. Drivers going up to 10 mph over the limit are hit with a $35 ticket, while drivers traveling faster than that are issued a $100 ticket.
In McKinley Park, the cameras are perched along the 2100 block of West Pershing Road between Western and Damen avenues, where they nabbed 1,412 drivers for speeding from Oct. 22 through Dec. 31, records show.
According to city data, the fastest drivers were ticketed more than their slower-but-technically-still-speeding counterparts — 83 percent of the tickets, or 1,173, were $100 fines, compared to just 239 of the smaller $35 fines.
That's a total of $125,365 generated by the cameras since they went live.
But these figures do not include the number of warnings issued to drivers during the 30-day grace period, nor does it include the number of "freebies," one-time warnings issued to a drivers after a grace period ends.
Factor those in — a city finance department spokeswoman said 6,747 warnings were issued in the same time frame — and the potential revenue grows considerably higher.
Assuming the same speeding patterns hold, and assuming heavy-footed drivers don't learn their lesson, the McKinley Park camera alone would put $3.1 million in City Hall's coffers annually, according to a DNAinfo analysis.
Already, the camera network issued 17,901 actual tickets and generated $337,452 in 2013, according to reporting by WBEZ.
That figure falls way short of City Hall's projections of $15 million in speed camera revenue for 2013, but officials have chalked up the lag to a delayed rollout, plus the 30-day grace period, when 487,000 warnings were issued, and the issuance of 86,587 one-time "freebie" warnings, WBEZ reports.
Add those up, and the city would've netted about $15 million in the inaugural year for the cameras, rolled out by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the name of children's safety.
The program is set to expand across the city in 2014, when more than 105 speed cameras will be installed at 50 locations throughout the city.
The system is expected to generate $60 million this year.