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City Council To Debate Speed Camera Plan This Week

A city of Chicago red light camera (Credit: CBS)

A city of Chicago red light camera (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – The Chicago City Council is expected to vote this week on the mayor’s controversial plan to use cameras to catch speeders near schools and parks.

The City Council Committee on Pedestrian and Traffic Safety signed off on the speed camera plan last week, sending the measure to the full City Council, which will take up the proposal on Wednesday.

The ordinance would use existing red light cameras and vans equipped with cameras to catch speeders during certain hours outside schools and parks, but some aldermen complained the plan might seem more likely to be a way for the city to make money, than to keep children safe.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Michele Fiore Reports

Is it about money as some claim?

“I don’t necessarily think they’re out to make more money. I get the idea of keeping people safe,” said Susan Pagano as she pushed her little one in a swing at Disney II Magnet School at 3815 N. Kedvale Av.

Although she doesn’t think the city’s just in it for the revenue, she does question why the mayor is focusing on cameras, instead of pushing for more speed bumps near parks and schools.

“I think it kind of forces people to slow down, where I don’t know if a camera would always … they might not know the camera is there,” she said.

There are already two speed bumps outside Disney II, something parent Heather Faircloth said makes sense.

“You have to slow down at speed bumps. You don’t really have a choice,” she said.

Pagano said it wouldn’t make sense to install speed cameras in locations where there are already speed bumps.

“I think where there’s speed bumps, then there’s no need, because that just seems like overkill,” she said.

Wrigleyville resident Jacob Hannon disagrees.

“You know, I have a dog. We walk around there all the time, and people race, slam on the brakes, go over the speed bump, and then race again,” he said. “They only have very localized effect.”

Hannon said he’s on board with whatever it takes to make the roads safer for bikes and pedestrians.

“I know people who bike daily to work, and it’s always sort of a, you feel like you’re running a gauntlet kind of situation,” he said.

The Active Transportation Alliance – a nonprofit group that advocates more walking, cycling and public transit in Chicago – also is backing the speed camera plan.

Executive Director Ron Burke said the city can’t put speed bumps on every street near schools and parks – especially major thoroughfares like Western Avenue.

“We’re not going to get them on all 9,000 miles of Chicago streets. We need a comprehensive strategy, really, to help address speeding; and speed cameras is on element,” he said.

In the face of criticism from some aldermen, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has scaled back his speed camera plan, setting a cap of 300 cameras – rather than 360 – and cutting back the fine for those caught going 6 to 10 miles an hour over the limit from $50 to $35. Those going more than 10 miles an hour over the limit would get a $100 fine.

Fines would be doubled if they are not paid on time and five unpaid fines would result in the loss of the owner’s driver’s license. Unpaid fines could also result in a car being booted.

First-time offenders would be given warnings, instead of tickets. And during the first 30 days of speed camera enforcement, no tickets would be issued to any speeders caught by the cameras; only warnings would be issued.

Under the mayor’s plan, aldermen would be consulted before cameras are placed anywhere in their ward, although they would not have veto power allowing them to block the placement of cameras.

The administration envisions a handful of cameras by this fall, perhaps 50 by next year. Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein told aldermen last week that he doesn’t believe the city will ever reach the 300 camera limit.