AUSTIN — Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Sunday that the city would remove 50 red-light cameras, which capture photos of cars and drivers and issue tickets automatically, and outlined planned reforms for more than 300 cameras still in operation throughout Chicago.
Citing a "significant reduction of serious crashes" at the 25 affected intersections, Emanuel touted additional reforms that would "allow for increased community input, enhanced public safety and improved transparency.”
Reforms include adding a requirement for community meetings before red-light cameras are removed, moved or added, including these 50; installing pedestrian countdown timers at all 42 of the 174 red-light camera intersections that don't have them; and offering first-time offenders the option to take an online traffic safety class instead of paying the $100 violation fine.
The mayor called the online class an opportunity for generally safe drivers to have a "mulligan," a golf term that refers to a second chance after a one-time blunder.
The pedestrian countdown timers, initially set to be in place by the end of this year, will all be installed by June 1, Emanuel said during a news conference Sunday afternoon at the La Follette Park field house at 1333 N. Laramie Ave.
The decision to remove the cameras from 25 intersections was based on a review of Illinois Department of Transportation data, according to a release from the mayor's office. A similar exercise in 2014 led to the removal of 32 cameras from 16 intersections, the first such reduction since the program began in 2003.
Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), one of 13 City Hall supporters of the changes announced Sunday, said the move was "about safety and putting integrity back in the city."
"I would prefer police in my community fighting crime rather than writing traffic tickets," he said.
Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld released a statement Sunday calling the red-light camera program "an important piece of our overall efforts to improve public safety."
Scheinfeld said CDOT would seek public input this year for more communities from which the city could consider removing red-light cameras.
"Red-light cameras help reduce the most dangerous crashes and allow police officers to concentrate on fighting crime, not writing traffic violations, and public trust is vital for this program to be effective,” the mayor said.
“Since taking office, I have instituted a number of reforms to the program, including firing the original vendor, removing 82 cameras at 41 intersections, working with the inspector general to review the program, strengthening oversight, using improved technology and adding more public transparency."
Emanuel's challenger, Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, issued a statement shortly before the news conference calling the move a political maneuver and accusing the incumbent mayor of "cav[ing] into public pressure over red lights."
"Today, the countdown clock officially began on the red-light program in Chicago. In less than a month, voters will have the chance to end Rahm Emanuel's red-light rip-off," Garcia said, vowing to end the red- light camera program on his first day in office.
"I am confident voters will see this announcement today for what it is," Garcia continued, "pure politics."
Red-light cameras will be removed from the following 25 intersections, where they have already ceased issuing tickets:
- Ashland and 47th
- Ashland and 63rd
- Ashland and Archer
- Ashland and Diversey
- Ashland and Garfield
- California and 31st
- Central and Madison
- Cicero and Stevenson Expy.
- Cornell and 57th
- Cottage Grove and 95th
- Damen and Blue Island
- Elston and Foster
- Halsted and 63rd
- Halsted and 83rd
- Harlem and Northwest Hwy.
- Jeffery and 79th
- Kimball, McCormick and Lincoln
- Narragansett, 55th and Archer
- Osceola and Touhy
- Pulaski and Montrose
- Stony Island and 83rd
- Vincennes and 111th
- Western and 51st
- Western, Armitage and Milwaukee
- Western and Pratt
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: