I was surprised and pleased to read this morning that red light cameras will be leaving my home town of San Diego. My sense, based on reading some articles, is that the cameras did not improve safety and may have made matters worse. My strongest sense of outrage was caused, however, by the fact that the tickets for the cameras were $490 whereas speeding and other tickets could be much cheaper. My son got a red light ticket for $490 simply by not stopping long enough before making a right on red — hardly a severe safety problem.
Part of my surprise from the elimination of the cameras is that it was done by the new mayor, who was seen as a “union hack” and who defeated a libertarian-ish Republican competitor who ran against city hall and big government. Perhaps Mayor Filner was induced to take the action based on competition from the libertarian challenger. But since he just won the election, I am not so sure. Sometimes your political opponents do at least a couple of good things.
While Filner said that he was ending the program because the cameras were seen as a money grab by the government that did not really improve safety, the news story provides a more cynical explanation: the cameras generated $1.9 million in fines, but after including all of the costs of the program, the cameras produced merely $200 thousand for the city. Still, the previous administration — run by an establishment Republican — had not seen the light.