- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Commuters are paying most of the citations issued under the District's automated traffic enforcement program.
After 15 months of using mobile radar cameras to catch speeders, the numbers show that Maryland drivers are getting almost 50 percent of the tickets.
According to the Metropolitan Police Department's Web site, 70 percent of the District's 408,180 automated speeding citations were issued to out-of-towners: 48 percent to Maryland drivers, 14 percent to Virginians and the remaining 8 percent to drivers from other states. D.C. motorists received the remaining 30 percent of the tickets.
Richard Diamond, chief analyst for Rep. Dick Armey, Texas Republican, the outgoing House majority leader and an outspoken opponent of the cameras, has said the program is "clearly designed to target commuters" based on the geographic distribution of tickets and the deployment of cameras on commuter roads such as Interstates 295 and 395.
Early 2001 figures provided by police showed that 60 percent of the photo-radar citations were issued on heavily traveled commuter roads and limited-access roads with no intersections or pedestrian traffic.
Last year, Marylanders received 44 percent of the citations, and 21 percent went to motorists from Virginia and other states. D.C. motorists received about 35 percent of the tickets, Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said.
The distribution of tickets in the photo-radar program is consistent with those from the red-light-camera program.
Chief Ramsey said last year that 75 percent of the District's red-light camera citations were issued to drivers from Maryland, Virginia and other states. Maryland drivers also receive close to 50 percent of the red-light-cameratickets.
Maryland politicians have said the numbers show only that more Maryland residents are working and doing business in the District, compared with residents of other states.
Mayor Anthony A. Williams has adamantly stated that the system is not a "proxy for a commuter tax."
He said the cameras primarily improve traffic safety. Mr. Williams also said his comments that the fine was a "tax" and "the way not to pay that tax is to not be speeding" were taken out of context and misinterpreted.
Other area officials said they see no evidence of a commuter tax and declined to comment further on the issue.
The Washington Times reported a week ago that the District made $20.6 million from the speed-camera fines in 15 months of operation, exceeding the original revenue estimates of $11 million annually.
The District has collected $19.2 million from the red-light cameras in three years of operation and wants to expand the program.
Mr. Williams and the D.C. Council decided in September to add five mobile cameras to the five now in use. They also could activate the photo-radar option in some of the District's 39 red-light cameras to help reduce the District's $323 million budget shortfall.
However, Kevin Morison, D.C. police spokesman, said the department is still analyzing numbers and has no timetable for the changes. He also said motorists will have a 30-day warning period before the cameras are activated.
Council member Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat, said the deal appears to show that the District is "moving toward" a plan to use cameras for revenue.
The announcement about expanding the camera program has cost the District key allies, including AAA Mid-Atlantic and Mr. Armey.
Lon Anderson, AAA spokesman, said that without strong evidence showing the cameras have reduced deaths, damage and injuries, the program looks like "a tax on motorists." He also said motorists appear to be helpless in trying to change it.


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