Speed Cameras

$67 Million for 300 Traffic Cameras: Guess the City

One city thinks now is the best time to invest in technology that has been causing problems everywhere else its used


For the children … or the government bureaucracy surrounding them. Whichever.
Credit: Skakerman / Foter / CC BY

It's Chicago, of course. And this is what the city gets after a bribery scandal pushed one contractor out of the bidding process. The Chicago Tribune reports:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration finalized a $67 million, five-year contract to install up to 300 cameras to catch speeders around city schools and parks, but a slow rollout could mean as few as 50 locations operating this year, the city and vendor confirmed Wednesday.

The program sold by the mayor as a child-safety initiative could eventually mean hundreds of millions of dollars in ticket revenue for the city. But Emanuel reduced his initial projection of $30 million in ticket revenue this year to $15 million, due to a combination of technical delays and the bribery scandal that engulfed the city's red light camera vendor amid a series of Tribune stories that began last year.

That contractor, Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., was considered a prime contender for the new speed camera program before the Tribune disclosed allegations that it won the red light deal as part of a $2 million bribery scheme involving a former City Hall manager. Emanuel disqualified Redflex from city contracts, and his administration eventually settled on a prime competitor, Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions Inc., as the preferred bidder for speed cameras in February.

You have to love how they barely mention the goal of protecting the children as the excuse for the cameras, but really it's all about the revenue. Somebody has to pay for those recent raises for those teachers who do such a terrible job teaching those same children.

And it wouldn't be Chicago if taxpayers had absolutely no idea whether they were getting a good deal or if this program even worked:

The city declined to release the bids of eight other companies that competed for the contract, as well as data from test cameras that ATS and contract finalist Xerox State & Local Solutions Inc. operated in Chicago. Territo also declined to identify how many potential speeders ATS cameras caught in the monthlong testing period but said the data showed "there's no question there is a significant problem with speeding in the city of Chicago."

But no doubt everything will turn out okay:

ATS agreed to pay $4.2 million in partial refunds on a half-million New Jersey tickets that might have been issued in violation of state law. While not admitting fault, the company said it wanted to support its client cities to cut short a series of class-action lawsuits alleging its red light camera systems weren't properly inspected or certified by 11 municipalities before citations started being issued in the state in 2009.

Territo said Wednesday that the New Jersey problem was tied to certification of timing problems that were not the company's fault, and he said ATS' speed camera program has "multiple layers of review to ensure that violations are being issued to actual speeders."

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  1. Where did Obama cut his political teeth again?

    1. He learned how to be the front man for Chicagos “Hyde Park Mafia” in many places ! This giving him a well rounded education in sanctimony and doing what he is told.

    2. ooooh, the payola must be sweet on this deal.

  2. It is impossible for a people to resist tyranny without a clear idea of who “we the people” is. The highest priority of the Soviet occupiers was to keep such an idea from emerging spontaneously. Applebaum credits the historian Stuart Finkel with the insight that communists have always acted more forcibly to undermine free association than to undermine free enterprise. Even when Lenin launched the New Economic Plan in the 1920s, she notes, the “systematic destruction of literary, philosophical, and spiritual societies continued unabated.” The Soviets’ worries were not misplaced: the Armageddon of Eastern European communism in the late 1980s was brought about not by plutocrats but by Czech intellectuals, Polish labor unions, and various church groups.


    And we wonder why are progtard friends hate corporations so much.

    1. Collectivism means everyone. And that means everyone. Doing your own thing with a group of like-minded individuals shall not be tolerated, because any collective action must involve everyone. The only way to involve everyone is through government force. Thus the only collective action that shall be tolerated is government action. Which of course is the collective action of just a few people who are actually in government, not the whole of society, but as long as society is fooled into not distinguishing between society and government, it will work in favor of the statists.

      1. Government can’t violate our rights, because the government is us; we are government, so we can’t violate our own rights, can we?


        1. Tounge in cheek there? Dear Leader has told us that very thing in those very words. Anyone with two brain cells should be terrified by those words coming from him. They are pure newspeak and reveal exactly what he is.

        2. Yes. And there were no people until government, in its benevolence decided that it needed something to rule over and traverse its mighty ROADZ.

    2. communists have always acted more forcibly to undermine free association than to undermine free enterprise

      Helps to explain the ‘public accomodations’ bullshit that prevents people from doing, or not doing, business with whomever they choose.

    3. The Soviets’ worries were not misplaced: the Armageddon of Eastern European communism in the late 1980s was brought about not by plutocrats but by Czech intellectuals, Polish labor unions, and various church groups.

      This ignores the source of the Soviet Empire’s weakness, an economic system based on limiting the wealth of individuals and spreading it around by political means instead of economic determination. Of course, proglodytes are copacetic with that.

  3. Just wait until you see the pension liabilities on those cameras.

    1. Whaddisit to youse?

      /Operating Engineers Local 399

  4. I’m still not entirely sure why my girlfriend choose Chicago out of all the places we haven’t been for out Labor Day trip.

    1. You’ll have a good time. Lot’s of amazing food and drinks. May I suggest a quick dinner here: http://bigstarchicago.com/# ?
      And head across the street for more drinks here: http://theviolethour.com/

      Jealous. I think the wife and I will be there in November.

      1. These are excellent suggestions.

      2. Hopleaf! Beer and mussels and awesome.

    2. Maybe Nikki can give you pointers. I am in suburbia, extending two middle fingers toward nearby Cook County and not much help with Da City.

      1. Maybe Nikki can give you pointers.

        I read that as “painties.”

        Needless to say, I have been let down.

        1. Sadly, the girlfriend doesn’t swing that way.

      2. Where are you? I grew up in Lake Bluff and Lake Forest, but have been in California for close to 30 years now. I haven’t been back in a great while and wonder how much it has changed.

  5. I’m still trying to figure out how 300 shitty cheap ass cameras can possibly cost $67 million. I’ve put together camera systems before (lab observations of experimental pigs, needing night vision), and…there’s no way it costs that much. This is so obviously egregious corruption that it’s almost funny. Of course, it’s not even remotely surprising.

    1. Maybe it includes monitoring and maintenance for X number of years.

      1. Let’s just throw out some numbers. 300 cameras at $67 mil is…$223,333 per camera. First of all, the cameras cost nothing; they are a CCD and some electronics. The only maintenance they require is replacement if they go bad and since they’re cheap as hell, that’s nothing. Yes, the contract could be for years, but $223,333 to maintain a cheap ass camera for even 10 years is utter bullshit. This is corruption, graft, and scam central, and everyone involved knows it.

        1. grifters gotta grift.

          1. Kickbacks aren’t free.

    2. Well, you’re not factoring in the defensive equipment and the high-energy lasers, to be later employed in delivering immediate due process with extreme prejudice.

    3. Since it’s *up to* 300 cameras, that works out to *at least* $223,333 per camera. For comparison,
      Baltimore’s replacement of 83 cameras was estimated to cost about $450,000

      or $5422 per camera. Admittedly, that’s for *replacements*, but still.

      1. I was thinking the cost of a monitoring center and staff might be included with the startup cost.

        1. With all due respect, hiring people to watch the intersections seems like it would be cheaper than this. And you’d get the bribery money right to the poor people who need it most!

          1. Yeah, pay a guy 50k a year to sit in a lawn chair at an intersection and you still come out cheaper.

            1. Isn’t that what a traffic cop is?

              1. Yeah, but he gets to shoot your dog too.

                1. Traffic cops may go the way of the dinosaur if cars become self driving. The only question is where are they going to reassign all those public servants and how are they going to replace the lost graft, I mean revenue when cars no longer speed or run lights.

                  1. But then how will the states generate revenue!? THINK ABOUT TEH CHILDRUNZ!

                    On a more serious note, I used to hate the idea of a self-driving car. The older I get, and the more idiots I see driving cars, I’m not so sure anymore.

                    Also, it’d be way easier to do hookers and blow on the way to the airport.

                  2. But cars will likely become self-driving the day after all the “green laws” have achieved their stated goal of getting us all “out of our cars.” There will be no parking places left, gas taxes will be $20/gallon, tolls $100, etc. And if you think I’m overreacting, just poke about on the internet a bit. Today’s the day that Plan Bay Area is set to be adopted, and it won’t be long until everyone around San Francisco will seeing changes in this direction. (One report from this says driving needs to be made six times as expensive to finally get people to all succumb to public transit.) Soon coming to a region near you.

                    1. Public transit can never replace the car. Not unless you make everyone live in super cities and ban private land ownership

                    2. Not unless you make everyone live in super cities and ban private land ownership

                      They’re working on that too.

            2. Not when you factor in the pension and health benefits and the 16 weeks of vacation.

          2. As someone new to libertarian ideas, can someone point me in the direction of whatever writings I should read that relate to this article? I feel like camera traps violate a right to face an accuser in court but like I said, what do I know?

    4. I would be all for this (even at $67 mil) if it were for night vision on experimental pigs. Speeding tickets, not so much.

    5. Experimental night vision pigs?!


      1. E.N.V.P.s are widely known to be much more effective at catching speeders too.

        America loses again.

    6. If you (sigh) read the article, it becomes clear that the cameras are being leased; the cost of operating the leased cameras is $45,000/year/camera. If you get really ambitious and go to the City of Chicago’s Procurement Services site, you can look up the contract, which specifies a 60-month (5-year) term. $45K x 5 years x 300 cameras is $67.5 million. So Chicago isn’t actually paying $67.5 million just to install those cameras, it’s paying up to that amount to install and operate (and maintain) the cameras for five years, in a world in which all 300 are immediately installed. Which is impossible, BTW, because the contract says the City won’t buy more than 50 during the first year.

      There’s plenty of evidence that Chicago is corrupt and authoritarian as all hell without having to make misrepresentations like the one being made here.

  6. I can tell you that the “cheap ass cameras” will not give you readable image of the license plate on a moving vehicle. What they are buying is a lot more than 300 cameras. It is a system that determines speed, takes a high speed photo and communicates the information from remote locations to a system for processing. The system then has to interface with the motor vehicle department to determine where to send the ticket to.

    1. It is a system that determines speed, takes a high speed photo and communicates the information from remote locations to a system for processing. The system then has to interface with the motor vehicle department to determine where to send the ticket to.

      Ooo, that’s got to be expensive! Lol. No, it doesn’t. The public sector and its contractors are the only ones operating like the cost inputs for technology are the same as they were in 1980. The field has experienced a revolution in efficiency in the past few decades to rival the decades that gave us modern agriculture where the population serving farm production was reduced from over seventy percent to less than ten percent. Cost in the private sector reflect that reality, but the public sector consists of a game played by grown up children that reduces public monies to Monopoly level value.

      1. It is a system that determines speed, takes a high speed photo and communicates the information from remote locations to a system for processing.

        So, it’s a system that does shit my smartphone does, only more expensive somehow? Got it.

        1. So, it’s a system that does shit my smartphone does.

          Umm … no … your smart phone isn’t that smart.

            1. non sequitur.

      2. Ooo, that’s got to be expensive! Lol. No, it doesn’t.

        I am sure you know all about commercial cameras, which by the way, is only a small part of the whole system.

        I do have a good idea how much a commercial camera system would cost for hi def coverage of something like a parking lot. My baseline for cost is private sector costs. I can assure you that a $2000 private sector outdoor hi def camera is still not good enough to capture the license plate of a moving car.

    2. Then why won’t they disclose the other bids?

  7. Damn, my first guess was New York.

  8. Also, I could set up 300 cameras for -way- less than 67 million.

    They must’ve required substantial amounts of hookers and/or blow.

  9. Ottawa did it for way less
    How much does a red-light camera cost?

    The cost totals amounts to about $100,000 per location. This year the City’s budget includes $1.0 million for additional camera sites. This includes:

    Start-up costs
    Equipment purchase
    Operating costs

    1. But that’s in *Canadian* money.


  10. “The city declined to release the bids of eight other companies that competed for the contract.”

    It annoys the hell out of me when government does this. The ONLY reason to not release this information is because it will show how corrupt the bid system is. In the same way that 85% of what the government won’t tell us in the name of “national security” merely shows how many tyrannical government has become.

  11. Maybe the residents will start shooting the cameras instead of each other.

  12. They will need cameras to watch the traffic cameras – the ones being shot, burned, and cut down by “vandals”.

    And then cameras to watch the cameras watching the traffic cameras, after the same vandals get wise.

    1. Definitely need to buy stock in those camera manufacturers’ companies.

    2. It’s just cameras all the way down.

  13. That’s more than $200k/camera. Does that not seem a bit extreme? I know it’s got the servers, software, etc- but if they paid more than $5million for THAT part they got utterly ripped off (and it would still be over $200k/camera).

    Oh yeah, and doesn’t camera surveillance cause more rear end collisions than it saves wrecks from light runners? I think I read that on Reason somewhere.

  14. Tulpa approves. More red light cameras mean more freedom for clovers who shake like their shitting peas at the thought of someone, somewhere “getting away with it.” What is “it?” Anything.

  15. *they’re* FFS

  16. “I’m sorry Dave, I can’t let you appeal your traffic fine. I cannot allow you to challenge the accuracy of our procedures, Dave.”

  17. I have some experience with the cousin of the speed cams, the red light cams. On a recent trip into Chicago from the safe and leafy ‘burbs, I got hit with a red light fine of $100. There is a web site where you can view your car running the light. Looking at the video, I could see that the yellow light lasted under 3 seconds. That seemed a little short for a 40 mph zone. So I sent off a letter saying as much to an adress where you can appeal violations. The response from them: you didn’t pay your fine right away, so the fine goes from $100 to $200. Any further delays and we have the right to impound your car. My tip to anyone who has to drive in Chicago: pay up right away if you get a ticket!

  18. The rea$on$ citie$ u$e camera$ are obviou$ to mo$t ob$erver$, and the rea$on$ do NOT include $afety.

    Chicago has ripped off their residents and visitors of about $400 million dollars with the red light cameras. The greed that drives city hall will expect even more from the speed cameras.

    What is curious is why Chicago residents put up with being herded like lemmings to the machine pickpockets. Houston residents absolutely revolted and made the city take the red light camera cash registers down, even though ATS managed to rip off the city for $4.97 million in cancellation penalties.

    Anyone who thinks ticket cameras are about safety is terminally naive.

    James C. Walker, Life Member-National Motorists Association (frequent Chicagoland visitor, most recently in May 2013)

  19. And Raleigh, NC, has been turning them off because they’re responsible for creating a surge in rear-end accidents when motorists panic at the sight of the orange light and slam on their brakes.

    AND the companies “managing” the cameras and doing the billing just MIGHT be running what even we might consider an exorbitant profit margin based on their alleged “value add.”

  20. Anaheim, Bell Gardens, Belmont, Berkeley, Burlingame, Compton, Corona, Costa Mesa, Cupertino, East LA, El Monte, Emeryville, Fairfield, Fresno, Fullerton, Gardena, Glendale, Grand Terrace, Hayward, Indian Wells, Irvine, LA County, Lancaster, Loma Linda, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Maywood, Montclair, Moreno Valley, Murietta, Paramount, Pasadena, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, Redwood City, Rocklin, Roseville, Rowland Heights, San Bernardino, San Carlos, San Diego, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Fe Springs, Santa Maria, Santa Rosa, South Whittier, Union City, Upland, Westminster, Whittier, Yuba City, Yucaipa

    These are California cities that either dropped cameras after in use for awhile, or where city councils banned them before any were used.

    Speed and red light cameras are money-grab devices for revenue that could not financially exist without deliberately improper engineering.

    James C. Walker, Life Member-National Motorists Association

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