February 05, 2007
Red light camera collections: Better than first reported

Last month it was reported that only 25% of drivers ticketed for running a red light in front of one of the cameras had paid the fine by the end of 2006. Many of these people had till the end of January before being in violation, however, and when you take those payments into account, the compliance rate is much higher.

Nearly two-thirds of drivers cited for running red lights during the first three months of the city's camera-monitoring program have paid the $75 fine, according to new Houston Police Department data.

The figure is higher -- and police say more precise -- than previous reports because it includes more payments delayed until near or after a 45-day deadline.

"It's a more accurate reflection," said Sgt. Michael Muench, who oversees the program.

Previous data, obtained by the Houston Chronicle through an open-records request, showed about a quarter of violators paid through the end of December. Police predicted then that the final percentage would be higher.

The Houston Police Department released the new data, which adds payments made in January, after a Chronicle story reported the less favorable statistics.

The breakdown by month is as follows:

September - 1,127 citations, 800 (71 percent) paid.

October - 1,590 citations, 1,175 (74 percent) paid.

November - 3,420 citations, 1,983 (58 percent) paid.

Three-month total - Citations: 6,137, Paid through January: 3,957 (64 percent)

December totals aren't included because some still are within the 45-day payment period.

The monthly totals for number paid are my approximations based on the percentages cited. The article suggests, and I believe, that the November total will creep up as late payments filter in. I'd keep an eye on it, though, because it will take almost 450 more to get November up to the same 71 percent compliance level as September. What will happen if the payment rate is lower than expected? How cost efficient is it to go after these people?

Statistics for September and October, which police consider the most complete because those violators have had the longest time to pay, show almost 2,000 violators paid the $75 ticket. That brought nearly $150,000 to the city.

The city paid about $90,000 of that to American Traffic Solutions Inc., which operates the system, police spokesman John Cannon said.

Jim Tuton, that company's CEO, has said he expected the collection rate to be as high as 90 percent, based on collections in other cities.

In other words, the city took in about $60,000 from this. It's a little hard to extrapolate to an annual figure, since there was a big jump in November, presumably due to the addition of more cameras. I think it's safe to say the yearly total will be nontrivial, though still a small piece of the overall city budget. Houstonist has more.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 05, 2007 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles | TrackBack