“This is clearly a request of the city, a request of the mayor, something that will result in the savings of lives, nothing more important than that,” said Senate President John Cullerton, who sponsored the measure.
Under the bill, the city would be allowed to set up cameras in “safety zones” within one-eighth of a mile of the property line of schools and public parks. Drivers going more than five miles per hour over the speed limit would receive tickets of up to $100.
Those exceeding the speed limit by one to five miles per hour would get warnings, said Chris Mather, the mayor's spokeswoman.
The cameras would issue tickets between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. around schools on school days and one hour before a park opens and one hour after it closes, though some lawmakers want those time frames narrowed.While painted as a safety measure, critics contend it’s more about generating revenue.
“People in this state are sick and tired of being nickel and dimed to death,” said Sen. Dan Duffy, R-Lake Barrington, who called the cameras a “blatant revenue grab by the city of Chicago.”
In Chicago, Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein defended the city’s speeding camera effort, saying it's about the safety of pedestrians.
His comments came after Ald. Margaret Laurino, 39th, noted a Tribune analysis that concluded the cameras would be allowed in about half the city under legislation being considered by the state Legislature.
“At the end of the day, it’s really about people’s lives,” Klein said. “It’s not just about the people that die. Whey your child is hit by a car, it’s earth shattering for you. I’m thankful that we have a mayor and aldermen that recognize the importance of safety at all levels.”
The cameras would first be targeted for areas near schools and parks that already have red-light cameras, where the technology can be enhanced to snare speeders on camera. But, as written, it also would allow for mobile cameras to be spread throughout much of the city.
“I’ve been watching videos of people whizzing through red lights at 50 mph and hitting buses,” Klein said. “Our cameras capture amazing footage. You know that they are not paying attention. And so I think it is appropriate to use technology to counter that.”
Laurino, who chairs the Pedestrian and Traffic Safety Committee that likely would have to approve use of the speeding cameras, said she hoped they would not be used to issue tickets for minor violations, like driving 1 mph more than the speed limit
“The perception could not necessarily be a good one if it’s perceived that it’s just out to raise revenue, when actually what our intent should be is safety,” Laurino said. She spoke before the Senate approved the bill.
Klein, who had the same job in Washington, D.C. before Emanuel recruited him, said he understood that camera enforcement can be disconcerting.
“Fact is, I got a red-light ticket in Washington, D.C., but I think we have to look out for the greater good, and I think that I would much rather get a ticket, or be aware because of tickets, than run over a child,” Klein said.