Dallas’ Red Light Cameras may Face Changes as Revenue Estimate Drops

Initial gross revenue estimates for the red light camera system during Dallas’ 2007-08 fiscal year were $14.8 million, according to city records. The latest estimate? About $6.2 million. City Manager Mary Suhm on Friday estimated net revenue will fall $4.1 million under initial estimates.

That leaves Dallas government with a conundrum. Its red-light camera system has been an effective deterrent to motorists running red lights – some monitored intersections have experienced a more than 50 percent reduction. But decreased revenue from red light-running violations means significantly less revenue to maintain the camera program and otherwise fuel the city’s general fund.

Exacerbating the drain is a new state law requiring that municipalities send half of their net red-light-running camera revenue to Austin and post signs alerting drivers of upcoming camera installations. Also, city records indicate Dallas has lengthened yellow-light intervals on 12 of its 62 monitored traffic signals, giving motorists more time to beat a red light.

City transportation officials say they’re brainstorming potential changes to the red-light camera program, which is financed by the general fund, before a planned update to the City Council next month on the program’s status.

“We did not anticipate having such success so early with the number of people not running red lights,” said Zaida Basora, Dallas’ assistant director of public works and transportation. “If you have success in safety, you don’t have a lot of success in revenue. The other side is the people will go back to what they were doing before without the cameras.”

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