Mayor Anthony A. Williams’ concession that the District of Columbia has been using speed cameras to raise revenue earned the city a well-deserved black eye this year, courtesy of the American Automobile Association Mid-Atlantic (AAA). According to the organization’s “Transportation Cheers and Jeers for 2002,” Mr. Williams’s admission was one of the worst local transportation developments in the area this year.
During its first 16 months of operation, the District’s speeding camera program has resulted in more than 432,000 citations and more than $21.6 million in fines paid by motorists. From the beginning, Mr. Williams and police chief Charles Ramsey have long sought to play down the idea that revenue considerations played a significant role in the decision to install the cameras. Unfortunately for public relations, Mr. Williams let the cat out of the bag in September, saying that the cameras were “about safety and revenue, and the way not to pay that tax is not to be speeding.” One week later, AAA, citing Mr. Williams’ comment, told The Washington Times that it had withdrawn its support for the District’s traffic camera program.
“We think that automated traffic enforcement has its place, as long as it’s strictly regulated and used for safety purposes, ” said AAA spokesman Lon Anderson. “As soon as revenue is involved,” he added, “that’s when AAA is opposed.” To buttress his point about the District’s misuse of cameras as a revenue tool, Mr. Anderson pointed to one such device located on Arizona Avenue near Canal Road. The camera located next to a steep hill on Arizona Avenue, where the speed limit is 25 mph is “more a demonstration of gravity” than an actual safety hazard.
Kudos to AAA for blowing the whistle on D.C.’s system of revenue traps.