Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=159208
Story Retrieval Date: 3/8/2014 8:14:32 PM CST
A bill to ban nearly all red light traffic cameras statewide got a legislative yellow light Tuesday evening following public hearings in Springfield.
Chairman of the Transportation Committee and the Subcommittee on Red Light Cameras Martin Sandoval (D-Cicero) said instead of passing bill 2466 to the Senate floor, he will send a shell bill that would give lawmakers the legislative year to cull traffic reforms from five separate proposals. That will happen by the March 6 Senate deadline.
Sen. Dan Duffy (R-Barrington), the red light bill’s sponsor, said he plans to meet with the four other senators who have proposed traffic reforms.
Duffy said the good news is that "the bill is still alive."
The bad news?
"I don't know whether this is a shell bill or a shell game," he said. "I guess we're playing typical Springfield politics here, and that's disappointing."
The machines have been snapping pictures at Chicago intersections since 2003.
Supporters of the traffic cameras say the cameras make intersections safer. Critics say they are more about revenue than safety. . According to Duffy, 15 states have repealed red light cameras so far, including Ohio, Texas and Minnesota. The Village of Schaumburg installed cameras in 2008 but repealed them a year later after drivers soured on their presence, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Scott Tucker is a candidate for the Illinois House and a supporter of Duffy's bill. He said that while the red light cameras probably won't be banned outright, he thinks the legislation will still end their presence in Illinois.
"We're trying to add all the reforms from all the four other bills into the shell bill, so that all the reforms that would improve safety andrender cameras irrelevant," he said.
Those reforms include making yellow lights last longer to give drivers more warning before a red, a longer “all-red" period when all drivers at an intersection stop, painting traffic cameras yellow, signs reminding drivers to stop on red, and no tickets for legal right turns on red lights.
Tucker said the last reform would cut more than 90 percent of red light traffic camera tickets in Illinois. That would render the cameras financially unsustainable.
Barnet Fagel, Illinois safety advocate and traffic researcher for the National Motorists Association, said although it was a victory to get the legislation before a subcommittee, he is less hopeful about the outcome.
"They've basically watered everything down," Fagel said. "They've printed out a death certificate [for the bill], but they haven't filled it in yet."
If the shell bill proves to be a death certificate, then Duffy said he won't vote for it.
"I'm willing to whittle away at [the cameras] little by little," he said. "[But] if the bill doesn't have any substance and doesn't make any changes, then I'm not going to be a part of it."
Tucker and Fagel said they and nine other voters from the Chicago area drove to the hearings in Springfield Tuesday to support the ban. Police officials spoke against the legislation.
"The folks who came out from Chicago were disappointed," Tucker said. But he maintained that Sandoval's decision to send a shell bill to the floor was really a victory for the supporters of Senate Bill 2466, because the legislation is "not dead, not buried in subcommittee."
He attributed that qualified success to voter activism.
"None of this had to happen," Tucker said. "It's happening because constituents are calling Sen. Sandoval and other senators" to complain about the cameras.
Tucker, Fagel and other activists are still encouraging voters to contact Sen. Sandoval and their district senators about this issue.
"I have guarded optimism," Fagel said. "If there's enough public pressure on the lawmakers then something good will happen. If there isn't, then nothing will happen."
Duffy said he's not giving up.
"I'm going to keep fighting it," he said. "If I have to bring up a new bill every year to do that, then that's what I'm going to do."