- The Washington Times - Monday, May 18, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Local commuters are about to receive a lot more traffic-camera tickets in their mailboxes. The District is embarking on an unprecedented expansion of robotic revenue collection. Too much milk has been squeezed out of this cash cow already.

As The Washington Times reported on Tuesday, the District’s red-light cameras are on track to grab a record $7.4 million from drivers by the end of the fiscal year. Add the $30 million generated by the city’s speed cameras, and the grand total purloined through photo enforcement this year is startling. According to thenewspaper.com, an online journal that covers traffic issues, the District’s traffic-camera program issued more than 3.73 million tickets worth $283 million between 1999 and March 3. Yet the city craves more cash.

To generate additional revenue, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty has proposed to put more speed cameras in tunnels, convert the city’s 49 red-light cameras to issue speeding tickets as well, and install more cameras on roving street sweepers to issue automated parking tickets. Cameras on street sweepers already generate enough tickets that current budget documents claim they will “yield $7,128,000 in additional unaccounted for additional revenue.”

Aside from big spenders on the D.C. Council, the other main beneficiary of this plan is American Traffic Solutions Inc. , the private contractor that owns the cameras, takes the pictures, determines who’s guilty, collects the fines and deposits the money in the city’s bank account. ATS only needs to make a simple software change so that the city’s red-light cameras can begin issuing speeding tickets at the same intersections. ATS receives a big cut of all fines collected.

D.C. Council members might want to consider potential public outrage in response to this revenue scheme. In Maryland, voters are flocking to sign a petition available at www.mdscamera.com to overturn Gov. Martin O’Malley’s massive speed-camera program.



The District has stamped the obnoxious quip “Taxation Without Representation” on its license plates since 2000 to protest its lack of voting members in Congress. That slogan is apt in this case, as numerous traffic cameras are placed on the outskirts of the city to target Maryland and Virginia commuters coming and going to work. Maryland residents receive 64 percent of the District’s photo tickets. This makes Mr. Fenty’s proposal a ripe form of taxation without representation. The District practices what its license plates preach against.

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