- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 23, 2023

D.C. metro-area drivers be advised: D.C. is planning to add hundreds more traffic cameras to the city’s streets.

There are currently 140 cameras installed around the city, and the FY 2024 budget proposed by Mayor Muriel Bowser Wednesday would add 342 more.

Part of the urgency in installing the cameras relates to the city’s finances. With federal pandemic largesse ending, D.C. faces a $1.7 billion shortfall between the budget and city revenues, which have fallen by more than $390 million.

Numerous city costs have jumped, including salaries for teachers and cops, as well as per-student spending and funding pensions for former government employees.

In the new budget, the $7.4 million already allocated for installing the 342 new cameras is preserved, and another $13.3 million is earmarked for supporting the increased ticketing and adjudication duties for the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles.

In return, the cameras are projected to bring in $578 million in revenue over the next four years.

Some wondered if that projection was accurate, given that Maryland and Virginia drivers ticketed in D.C. have been known to skip paying the fines.

“If Maryland and Virginia residents do not have to pay, how?” Council member Christina Henderson asked.

Mayor Bowser responded by noting that 70% of out-of-city offenders ultimately end up paying their tickets.

There is also a safety component to the increase in traffic cameras. Mayor Bowser hopes that the spike in automated traffic enforcement will induce people to drive safer.

“This is what I believe. We don’t really, really want to collect a dollar from those cameras. We want people to stop at red lights, stay out of bus lanes, don’t run stop signs, and stop driving recklessly in our city. That’s what we want,” Mayor Bowser said.

Another transit item, the free bus rides proposed in late 2022 by the D.C. Council, was not included in the mayor’s budget, which became a point of contention for council members.

D.C. City Council Chairman Phil Mendelson referred to the budget’s “poor choices” in a statement, including the lack of free bus rides.

Mayor Bowser, on the other hand, sees the cost of subsidized rides as too great to bear.

“I think it’s important for the council members to carefully consider the cost. What it would cost to provide free Metrobus in the District, not just this year, but throughout the financial plan,” Mayor Bower said at the budget presentation.

The city council now has two months to review and propose edits to the FY 2024 budget before votes in May.

• Brad Matthews can be reached at bmatthews@washingtontimes.com.

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