Miami's red-light traffic cameras miss income targets big-time
By Jacquelyn Weiner
Despite a major cutback in red-light camera revenue projections, Miami's actual returns are still lagging.
As of March 31 the city had collected $363,903 from traffic infractions the cameras spotted, according to an e-mail from the budget and finance departments.
Even if $400,000 was collected each quarter, the city would still fall far short of Miami's year-end estimates of $2.16 million as of March 31.
When it drew the budget, the city projected $8 million fine revenue from red-light cameras.
However, the fiscal year started in October and the cameras weren't in use until January.
Mayor Tomás Regalado said the high projections were based on comparisons to other cities, the number of cameras and the number of cars traveling through the intersections.
The projections were also made in the midst of a harrowing budget crunch as the city grappled with a $100 million-plus budget hole by budgeting new revenue streams and across-the-board pay cuts.
Not doing so could have prompted service reductions and layoffs.
Now the city is shooting for $2 million to $3 million from the cameras, Mr. Regalado said.
One reason for the underperforming penalties, he said: drivers spot signs indicating a camera at the intersection and alter their behavior.
"It's helpful because there are less accidents," Mr. Regalado said, "but I guess that the pattern changes."
Tickets for violations caught on camera are $158 each. Miami gets $75 of that.
The cameras are used at 18 Miami intersections.
Mr. Regalado said the city is "looking at line items to close the gap" and could freeze vacancies or draw on its $5 million reserve included in the budget.
Tapping Miami's $14 million reserve, he said, isn't an option.
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