Riverside edging toward red-light cameras

Majority of trustees favor program, which could include multiple locations

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter

By Bob Uphues


It may be up to a year before they make their appearance in Riverside, but red-light cameras appear to be on the way, with a majority of village trustees indicating support for rolling out the program during discussion of the subject on Aug. 2.

Next month, trustees will decide whether to accept a recommendation from Police Chief Thomas Weitzel on a preferred vendor or to issue a request for proposals from red-light camera firms, a decision which could slow down the implementation of a program unless the village hires a consultant to put together the RFP.

Village Manager Jessica Frances said her staff was "overwhelmed" by other projects and that if the board wanted staff to put the RFP together, it wouldn't come back to the board for approval "for a few months."

However, Trustee Doug Pollock indicated a competitive process was essential for his support, and Village President Ben Sells also favored the RFP approach.

"This may be the most significant thing we do as a board," Pollock said. "It's just common public policy to do competitive bidding."

Other trustees, including Michael Sedivy, Wendell Jisa, Joseph Ballerine and Elizabeth Peters said they were comfortable moving ahead with SafeSpeed LLC, the firm recommended by Weitzel after consulting other area police chiefs whose villages use that firm.

"I definitely want to move forward, and I wish we would have done this years ago," Sedivy said.

Police Chief Thomas Weitzel enthusiastically supported implementation of a red-light program in Riverside, and recommended Safe Speed as the company to do it.

"To me, all traffic enforcement is about changing habits," Weitzel said.

Red-light cameras have proliferated in Chicago and the suburbs in the past decade, with come municipalities reaping hundreds of thousands of dollars or more by issuing red-light violations ranging from drivers who blow straight through red lights or improperly turn left after a light has changed to people who roll through a right turn on a red light.

The vast majority of red-light violations are issued to people who roll through or who police determine have not stopped for a long enough period before turning right on a red light. 

At all intersections the cameras monitor, right-turns on red account for 90 percent or more of violations issued. Without red-light violations, the cameras would not be economically feasible for the red-light camera companies.

In addition to charging monthly fees for the cameras, for example, SafeSpeed gets $40 from each $100 red-light violation ticket issued by a municipality.

Because of that, red-light camera programs have come under fire from the general public as municipal money grabs that have little impact on overall safety.

The village of North Riverside, during their 2017-18 fiscal year, collected almost $1.4 million from red-light violations issued that year and another $1.3 million by collecting on delinquent red-light tickets through the Illinois Comptroller's Local Debt Recovery Program.

North Riverside last month extended its contract with SafeSpeed LLC for another four years. 

According to information included in the village board's Aug. 2 meeting packet, Weitzel estimated that Riverside could expect an average of $24,000 per month per intersection in revenue from red-light violations.

SafeSpeed in a survey conducted in April has indicated that the village has two locations where red-light cameras would be feasible right now. The Illinois Department of Transportation has final say over whether the cameras can be placed at an intersection.

The locations include the northbound and eastbound approaches of the intersection at 31st Street and First Avenue as well as eastbound 26th Street at Harlem Avenue.

Listed as not feasible in the April survey was the First Avenue and Forest/Ridgewood, which is heavily trafficked and immediately adjacent to Riverside-Brookfield High School. 

One of the reasons given for the location not being feasible was the fact that the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Great Chicago is still in the midst a major construction project.

However, the survey also notes "low cross traffic volume" on all four approaches. In the past SafeSpeed had identified the intersection as a feasible location, and Weitzel told trustees he still believes that will be the case once the MWRD work wraps up.

Email: buphues@wjinc.com Twitter: @RBLandmark

Reader Comments

25 Comments - Add Your Comment

Note: This page requires you to login with Facebook to comment.

Comment Policy

Michael Hullihan from Ft. Myers  

Posted: August 13th, 2018 8:40 AM

While no longer the Village Engineer, my appreciation for Riverside has not diminished and I feel obligated to comment. Red light cameras are a highly contentious issue. The firms installing/operating the systems have a vested interest. There is a specific discipline in Civil Engineering practiced by P.T.O.E.s (Professional Traffic Operations Engineers). At least three of the engineering firms routinely employed by the Village have P.T.O.E.s on staff. It would seem logical to get an objective opinion on the potential benefits of red light cameras at the suggested installation locations. Having recommended a reasonable course of action I would add one observation. 'Low cross traffic volumes at all four approaches' to Forest and First Avenues ? Really?

Elmer Perkins  

Posted: August 13th, 2018 7:05 AM

I was on a trip east last month where I saw camera enforcement on stop signs. I suppose people here would argue with those as well, that they should be allowed to roll thru the stop sign, when they see fit, because they are late to pick up little Jimmy from school. Automated enforcement is the future, get used to it.

Ed Sel  

Posted: August 12th, 2018 6:10 PM

These cameras aren't about safety, they're about nicking people on cheap gotcha violations to raise revenue. If this really is about safety, eliminate the right turn on red violations that generate 90 percent of the revenue and do nothing for intersection safety. The slimy, unethical business model for these red-light cameras is well documented in many investigative reports. The fact that the police chief and village officials support these things adds no legitimacy or ethics to their presence. The best solution for this is a state-wide ban, but that will never happen in this openly-corrupt state.

Steven Spiro  

Posted: August 12th, 2018 1:06 PM

Erin, I'm sorry but I'm not clear about what you wrote immediately below. Also, I used supporting pensions as just one example of where violation monies could go to. I suppose there's a variety of other budget areas that it could go as well, for example, employees' pay, recreational events, etc. I see it as extra and needed money to help out financially struggling municipalities.

Erin O'Brien from Riverside  

Posted: August 12th, 2018 12:30 PM

@Steven Spiro - this is the second time you've mentioned pensions and using the funding toward that. Why not go toward the old, failing infrastructure, or other services that benefit ALL residents? Why support the unsustainable pensions of a few?

Steven Spiro  

Posted: August 12th, 2018 9:21 AM

Mr. Perkins, I tend to agree with you. Some people have a sense of entitlement that they should be immune to fines for committing established traffic violations like rolling through red lights on right turns. They claim it's a false safety issue, and just a way for the red-light camera companies and municipalities to make money. I did offer an alternative, but, with the existing system, I agree that I'd rather have the offenders contribute their share of monies toward, for example, funding pensions than having non-violator taxpayers carry take on that share of the load.

Elmer Perkins  

Posted: August 12th, 2018 8:49 AM

You all seem to agree that this is just about raising money. They will get the money somehow, so take more of it from the lawbreakers, and less of it from the rest of the taxpayers, who follow the basic rules of the road.

Steven Spiro  

Posted: August 12th, 2018 7:08 AM

Just one quick addendum. I suppose a municipality like North Riverside might argue that the costs of a video monitoring system, borne entirely by the village, might be prohibitive. You don't need a video monitoring system. You could just use police officers to randomly record license numbers of cars whose drivers are obeying the traffic laws. As long as the drivers weren't friends, family, and/or cronies of the police officers or village officials (which is always a concern in North Riverside), the system should be equitable Also, it would cast the police in a more positive light for many.

Steven Spiro  

Posted: August 12th, 2018 6:46 AM

I have an idea that I may have heard or read about before. Why not change the equation so-to-speak? Instead of punishing drivers for red-light violations, why not reward them for obeying the traffic laws? From the municipalities own coffers, or possibly through grants, why not use other monitoring technology (red-light camera companies wouldn't participate because there would be no money to be made by them) to video capture the license plate numbers of vehicles that stop for prescribed lengths of time before turning right, that stop before the horizontal white lines at red-light intersections, etc.? A weekly random selection from the pool of all vehicles obeying such traffic laws during that week could be made for which the registered vehicle owner would receive a $100.00 check. Bold signage at such intersections could state something to the effect of, "Obey all traffic laws-chance to win $100.00". If, for example, North Riverside used such a system at Cermak and Harlem, it would cost the village less than $6000.00 a year in driver pay-outs. The system would obviously promote safe driving (and, that's the primary reason for using red-light cameras, right?), would eliminate the animosity that many drivers that violate feel toward red-light cameras and municipalities that issue the fines, and would decrease the number of drivers that avoid such intersections or businesses within the municipality because of such red-light intersections. Of course, using such a system, there would be no money to be made by the red-light camera companies, by the municipalities, and by the other participants in the red-light system. But, as we've been told over and over again, it's all about safety. Is less than $6000.00 a year per intersection too high a price to pay for safety?

Erin O'Brien from Riverside   

Posted: August 12th, 2018 12:48 AM

@Steve Spiro - People are watching for kids running across oncoming traffic at Harlem and Cermak, trying to avoid the buses that make frequent stops, allowing drivers to cut across 3 lanes from the parking lots, etc. Coming to a full and complete stop when you can safely merge, solely out of fear of a $100+ fine, shouldn't be given the same mental priority as legitimate safety issues.

Erin O'Brien from Riverside   

Posted: August 12th, 2018 12:31 AM

Talk about burying the lede. Something something safety, something something violation, then, "... Riverside could expect an average of $24,000 per month [in revenue]." I'd love to see what the village plans on doing with the extra $288,000/year. It isn't mandatory to stop at the line before making a right on red*, yet the cameras get tripped if you don't stop at that line. Berwyn's police dept. website claims otherwise. Scary that the police are getting the law wrong. How many invalid tickets are doled out? *A stop at the line is only required when is a pedestrian or biker is present. http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/fulltext.asp?DocName=062500050K11-208.6

Justin C. Royer from Riverside  

Posted: August 11th, 2018 5:59 PM

What are the cancellation terms and conditions once you realize how unpopular this program is? Be sure to request that payout information in your RFP. They're effectively finding new and inventive ways to dip into the pockets of average folks...who will most likely be your neighbors, a parent rushing to pick up a kid from practice, a grandparent going to visit the grandkids...you know, the hardened-criminal type. Most of the money collected could come from within our community and we'll be offloading 40% to an outside company with no interest in the quality of life of the residents. Why have fine be $100...seems excessive if the goal is to correct RTOR driving behaviors (profit motive). As an engineer, I'm very perturbed that someone wasted their engineering talents developing a speed camera system which adds no value to society? Don't fall for the get-rich quick schemes these companies are selling! Thank you Mr. Uphues for your continued coverage of this issue in the western suburbs. Suggest everyone google "red light camera uphues" for additional reporting. (http://mobile.oakpark.com/News/Articles/1-17-2017/Easy-money%3A-Area-red_light-camera-tickets-a-boon-for-clouted-company-/)

James Walker  

Posted: August 10th, 2018 5:28 PM

The VAST majority of tickets from the for-profit red light camera rackets are for violations of less than one second into the red. Virtually all the terrible t-bone crashes the for-profit camera companies falsely claim to prevent are for violations after the lights have been red for several seconds - typically 5 to 9 seconds into the red. The group that gets the vast majority of tickets is unrelated to the group that causes almost all the terrible crashes. Red light cameras are for-profit rackets sold on a bait-and-switch false analysis that no one should agree with. The cameras are illegal in many states and should be illegal everywhere. James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

David Gentile from Riverside  

Posted: August 10th, 2018 11:30 AM

If right turn on red is actually a safety concern at any of these intersections, a better choice would be to put up a "No turn on red" sign, and then enforce that. But that would not support the business model of the red-light camera companies which need to fine safe drivers $100 for rolling right turns on red after yielding. My view is that we should be lobbying Springfield to change IL law everywhere so that intersections that have real concerns get "No turn on red" signs, and every other intersection should allow right turn on red after yielding and making sure it is safe to proceed. That would immediately put these red-light camera companies out of business and make everyone's life a little brighter. The CVS at Harlem and Cermak is a good place to observe what these cameras accomplish. You will see a number of cars make completely safe turns after yielding while earning themselves $100 fines. You will also see cars pull up that are too scared to turn at all on red with the cameras there, and that then hold up a line of cars. Or as I've learned, some people are deliberately doing this to save the people behind them a ticket. And I can't say I disagree with them ?" in effect they are making it a "no turn on red" intersection which would be the better choice if safety was actually the issue, rather than ill-gotten revenue and "highway robbery". If you or I found a legal loophole that allowed us to make lots of money, while not doing the public any good and making everyone's life a little worse we'd have an unethical business model, and that is exactly what red light companies do. Better choices would be speeding cameras or general security cameras, since these would target actual safety issues, which is not the real purpose of red light cameras.

Elizabeth Gardner  

Posted: August 10th, 2018 11:21 AM

If we want to actually make the streets safer AND clean up on fines, speed cameras on Desplaines, Riverside Road, Barrypoint, Quincy, and Lawton would be a better investment. I've never seen anything even close to a danger situation connected with right on reds at either proposed intersection, but I see dangerous zooming almost daily.

Elmer Perkins  

Posted: August 10th, 2018 7:55 AM

@Steve S. Excellent point. These intersections are very well marked, and if you can't avoid being ticketed, you just aren't paying attention to what you're doing. I work on the streets of Chicago, and see how well these cameras work. The difference in driver behavior between a camera /no camera stop light is huge. And I've never seen a rear end collision because of the camera. People learn where they need to behave.

Steven Spiro  

Posted: August 10th, 2018 6:48 AM

So, we're in agreement that rolling through red lights on right turns without fully stopping first for a specified duration is a violation. Would you agree that fully stopping first for a legally specified period of time, and then turning probably is safer than rolling through a red light without stopping or stopping for a millisecond ? Would you agree that a few seconds while stopped before turning provide extra time to scan the environment and to exercise vigilance? Wouldn't you agree that might be safer than rolling through the red light? There is another argument to be made. Red-light camera intersections are usually very well-marked by signage, red flags, etc. What is to be said about those drivers that don't respond appropriately to these warnings, and roll through red-light right turns? I'll bet that for many of these drivers their inattentiveness caused them to miss the warnings. If so, perhaps the rather large fines for these violation will increase their attention-span while driving. I think it can be argued, although I have no data to support it, that red-light cameras might have the overall effect of increasing the attention-spans of drivers that have encountered them and have been fined for violations. Being more attentive while driving is a good thing, wouldn't you agree?

David Gentile from Riverside  

Posted: August 9th, 2018 10:20 PM

Sorry I didn't proof read my comment below. It should have said - Cars that yield and then roll on a right turn on red harm no one. Society is in no way improved by enforcing this technicality. But it does make everyone's life a bit worse. Some people are too scared to turn right on red at all with the cameras there. They hold up a whole line of cars. Yes it is legal for the village to enforce this, but highly unethical. If one of us found a legal loophole that let us make a lot of money while making everyone's life worse with no social benefits, we would be bad, unethical people. Just because what we did was legal would not make it right. That's exactly what the village wants to do. It is legalized theft.

David Gentile from Riverside  

Posted: August 9th, 2018 9:50 PM

Cars that yeild and then roll on right turn on red harm no one. Society is in no way improved by enforcing this technicality. But it does make everyone's life a bit worse. Some people are too scared to turn right on red at all with the cameras there they hold up a whole line of cars. Yes illegal for the village to enforce this but highly unethical If one of us found a legal loophole that let us make a lot of money while making everyone's life worse with no social benefited would be bad unethical people just because what we did was legal would not make it right. That's exactly what the village wants to do. It is legal theft.

Steven Spiro  

Posted: August 8th, 2018 12:35 PM

I used to be dead-set against red-light cameras, but I've moderated my position somewhat based on several considerations. First, many municipalities are cash-strapped because of, for example, huge monetary pension obligations that they are struggling to meet. The cash from red-light violations can help in this regard. Secondly, the red-light cameras capture driver/vehicular violations. And, why shouldn't drivers be accountable for these violations whether the tickets are written on-site by a police officers or based upon reviews of red-light camera video-tapes? In regard to the statistics that were quoted below, those are, I assume national averages, and, as such, don't necessarily accurately represent the statistics specific to any given municipality, for example, Riverside. It seems to me that the use of red-light cameras to discern violations, and then to hold the violators accountable monetarily makes sense.

James Walker from Ann Arbor  

Posted: August 8th, 2018 11:35 AM

Research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that right on red turns, including those with or without a full stop, are involved in only six one-hundredths of one percent (0.06% or 0.0006) of crashes with injuries or fatalities. Almost every right on red ticket goes to a safe driver who endangered no one. This is a predatory for-profit racket, not a safety program. It is little different than the government stealing from mostly safe drivers for profits. James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

Greg Nessinger  

Posted: August 7th, 2018 3:29 PM

No mention in the article on how it would make the village safer, only richer. What safety problem is this solving? Pure and simple a money grab. 40% goes to the camera company.

Helen Vogel  

Posted: August 7th, 2018 2:25 PM

One should never count on fines to assist in balancing a budget or creating a new revenue flow.

Jonathan Behenna  

Posted: August 7th, 2018 2:17 PM

Another way to wack residents. Nothing but a revenue generator.

Dan Somers  

Posted: August 7th, 2018 1:53 PM

This is an embarrassing cash grab. I thought we were better than this. My favorite part of this story is that is that the intersection of Forest and 1st Avenue wouldn't be considered for the initial installations. Since red light cameras are supposed to increase safety, wouldn't an intersection adjacent to a school be a natural first choice? An intersection that had three accidents in four days recently? No, this intersection has less traffic and therefore less revenue potential. Once again, embarrassing. Most studies have shown that the cameras in large do a couple of things. Decrease right angle crashes, but then increase rear end crashes by and even larger extent. A good place to start in researching this is the excellent "Chicago Tribune" series that includes this article http://www.chicagotribune.com/ct-red-light-camera-safety-met-20141219-story.html

Facebook Connect

Quick Links

Sign-up to get the latest news updates for Riverside and Brookfield.

MultimediaContact us
Submit Letter To The Editor
Place a Classified Ad

Classified Ad