GAGE PARK — Mayor Rahm Emanuel was unruffled Thursday by reports speed cameras are falling far short of their budgeted revenue of $70 million this year.
The mayor insisted that when speed cameras were first proposed in what he called "child-safety zones," they were intended to reduce speeding near schools and parks. That goal has been achieved, he added.
"We have only one fact," Emanuel said. "People are slowing down."
Former Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein first commented on this driving phenomenon during last year's budget hearings. He acknowledged that speed-camera violations dropped off during the month-long warning period each one has upon being installed.
"If you get a ticket, you are just not paying attention," he added.
Yet Klein projected the city would nonetheless reach its budgeted goal of $60 million from the cameras. That amount was bumped up to $70 million in late budget tinkering.
Yet a Sun-Times report culled from Freedom of Information Act data said Thursday the city had assessed just $3.7 million in speed-cameras fines in the first two months of the year.
Emanuel said he was unfazed and that there were 10 months to go in the year. He added that the cameras had achieved their primary purpose, adding, "They are effectively slowing people down."
Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th), who has picked up a couple of warning citations of her own from speed cameras, said signs posted near the cameras don't give drivers enough warning. She has sponsored a resolution calling for additional signs or street striping. New Transportation Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld responded this week that signs currently posted near speed cameras were sufficient.
The cameras assess a $35 fine for driving 6 to 10 mph above the speed limit, $100 for more than that. Emanuel did not comment on speculation he could lower the $100 threshold to 7 mph above the posted limit.
Ald. Carrie Austin (34th), chairman of the Budget Committee, echoed the mayor in saying it was too early in the year to worry about meeting the budgeted amount for speed cameras.