by Todd Feurer, CBS Chicago web producerBy CBS 2 Chicago Staff

CHICAGO (CBS) — Just weeks after the city began enforcing a new lower threshold for speed camera tickets, Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) is pushing for the city to reverse course.

On March 1, the city’s network of speed cameras began issuing $35 tickets to drivers caught going 6 mph to 9 mph over the limit. Previously, only drivers caught going at least 10 mph over the limit were being ticketed.

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Beale has introduced a proposal to end the ticketing of drivers going 6 mph to 9 mph over the limit, and to resume ticketing only drivers exceeding the speed limit by 10 mph or more. Those caught exceeding the speed limit by 10 mph would still receive $35 tickets, and those going 11 mph or more over the limit would still get $100 tickets.

“Frankly, we don’t even know for certain whether the cameras reduce crashes and fatalities. But what we do know is that the City’s speed cameras function as a cash cow,” Beale said in a statement. “Operating only in neighborhoods, the system is generating one ticket every 12 seconds and
hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenues, extracting the most dollars from those who can least afford it.”

Beale sought to send his proposal to the City Council Transportation Committee, but another aldermen used a parliamentary maneuver to send it to the City Council Rules Committee, which is where legislation opposed by the mayor is often left to languish without a vote. The move would at least keep the proposal bottled up in the Rules Committee until the panel votes to send it to a different committee for debate.

Beale also said he plans to introduce a separate measure next month to place speed cameras on Lake Shore Drive, “where the real speeding, real
danger, and a more equitable distribution of fines is possible and likely.”

The new lower threshold for speed camera tickets was approved by the City Council last November as part of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s 2021 budget plan, as she was facing a $1.2 billion shortfall for 2021.

The Chicago Department of Transportation has said the move was prompted by a 45% spike in traffic deaths in the city from 2019 to 2020, despite fewer cars on the roads due to the pandemic.

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Beale was among more than 20 aldermen who voted against the mayor’s budget plan, including the change in speed camera enforcement.

Earlier this month, Beale said, while speeding is an issue, he doesn’t see how the difference of 4 miles an hour would do anything to keep people safe. He said the new rules are just kicking Chicagoans when they’re down.

“People are hurting right now,” he said. “We’re in a crisis. We’re in a pandemic. Now we’re just going to basically just compound the problems that people are already having.”

The mayor’s office has continued to defend their decision to reduce the threshold for speed camera tickets.

City officials said, while there were fewer drivers on the roads in 2020 due to the pandemic, cars were going 8% faster on average than in 2019, and traffic deaths through the end of November were up 35% compared to the same time period in 2019. A spokesman for the Chicago Department of Transportation said there were 120 traffic deaths through the end of November 2020, compared to 89 during the same time in 2019.

You can view a map of the City’s speed cameras and Children’s Safety Zones by clicking here.

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NOTE: This story has been updated to correct the amount in fines drivers face for speed camera violations. Beale’s office originally said his measure would impose fines of $100 for all speed camera violations, but later clarified that it would keep the existing fine structure in place – $35 for 10 mph over the limit, and $100 for 11 mph or more over the limit.

CBS 2 Chicago Staff