Miami budgeting $8 million income as new red-light cameras set to click
By Jacquelyn Weiner
Come 2011, the City of Miami is to start pulling in revenue from red-light cameras expected to pump $8 million into its budget.
As of Jan. 1, 41 cameras are to be up and running at 18 Miami intersections, José R. González, city assistant transportation director, wrote in an e-mail.
Another 20 may be added in March, said Capital Improvements Director Alice Bravo.
Installation of the cameras — which monitor traffic infractions — was one of the city's revenue-generating ideas to make ends meet for fiscal 2011 without raising property taxes. Allowing for the cameras was approved in 2008 and a contract was awarded in September.
They're expected to bring in about $8 million this fiscal year, a figure Mayor Tomás Regalado questioned in a recent interview. He pointed out that the red-light cameras have yet to begin operating, although the fiscal year began Oct. 1.
Mr. Regalado said the city may very well find itself with less revenue than projected at year's end.
"We have some soft spots," agreed Tony Crapp Jr., Miami's soon-to-be manager. He takes the helm Jan. 1.
Mr. Crapp said he plans to start the budgeting process in January to allow substantial time for any needed changes.
In the case of the red-light cameras, however, revenue projections haven't changed, Ms. Bravo said.
"Nothing's happened to change our forecast," she said.
Projections were always based on the red-light cameras starting operation Jan. 1, Ms. Bravo said.
Still, she emphasized, the main purpose of the cameras is to keep Miami's streets safe.
The "No. 1 thing is trying to promote safety," Ms. Bravo said. The cameras are "there for the purpose of providing safety to the motoring public."
Assistant City Manager Johnny Martinez echoed those sentiments when discussing the cameras during a September city commission meeting.
While the cameras are to "generate much-needed money and welcome revenue," he said, the purpose is to "regain control" of the city's intersections.
"You can only change behaviors if there's consequences," he said. "Our goal is to have zero revenue generated from this in the future," meaning that Miami's streets are safer.
Violators are to be charged $158. Miami gets $75 per ticket.
Aside from a flat per-camera fee, installing the red-light cameras is cost-free for the city.
Private operator American Traffic Solutions (ATS), which was selected via bidding, provides a turnkey, self-funding operation.
Drivers running red lights at intersections with the cameras will be ticketed — with some exceptions.
If the traffic light turns red when a car is in an intersection making a left-hand, is past the "stop bar" or is making a right-hand turn, it won't be considered in violation, Ms. Bravo said at the meeting.
Each intersection with a red-light camera is to have a sign reading "photo enforced."
Among the 18 major intersections that are to have red-light cameras are five along US 1 and detectors on Brickell Avenue and Flagler Street.
Also included is Northwest 37th Avenue and Northwest Seventh Street, which Ms. Bravo said has the highest number of crashes in Miami.
In an about five-year span from Jan. 1, 2005, to Aug. 31, 2010, she said, there were 868 crashes at the intersection.
Once violations are photographed, Miami police must sign off before a notice is sent out.
Violations are considered civil infractions, with no reporting to insurance companies or points added to records.
Notices are sent by mail, although violations can be paid online.
For those looking to challenge a citation, pictures of the violation and a 12-second video clip can be viewed via a website listed on the notification.
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