From New York Post:
March 4, 2007 -- Say cheese, scofflaw.
The number of drivers photographed while running red lights more than doubled after the city expanded its red-light camera program in December - and now the city's mulling whether to order 900 more cameras.
In January 2006, when there were 50 cameras placed around the city, 21,799 drivers were nabbed and mailed $50 summonses. This January, after 50 more cameras were installed, the number of scofflaws surged 158 percent to 56,312.
At $50 per red-light ticket, the city could collect as much as $2.8 million in added revenue. Over a year, at the same pace, the city could pocket an extra $33.8 million. In fiscal year 2006, the program brought in a total of $13 million.
But the city insists red-light cameras are about safety - not scratch.
"The program is not about issuing the summonses," said Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall. "It's about reducing the number of times people will be tempted to go through red lights, which not only puts them in danger, but puts other people at risk, as well."
Weinshall said the program is "extremely effective" as a deterrent, and that the city would ideally like to have about 1,000 cameras around the five boroughs - 10 times the current number.
The city needs the approval of the state Legislature to get more cameras, and Weinshall believes the city will lobby for it.
"Obviously, we can't cover enough of the city's 12,000 intersections with 100 cameras," she said. "I believe that until we get a sufficiently bigger number of red-light cameras, this will stay on the city's legislative agenda for a long time."
Right now, the city rotates 100 cameras among 175 intersections with high rates of accidents caused by running red lights.
The cameras capture digital images of an offending car's license plate, and a summons is mailed to the vehicle's registered owner.
Very few drivers beat the tickets. In 2005, the latest year for which statistics are available, 306,117 red-light camera summonses were issued. Only 8,700 drivers appealed, and almost 90 percent of those were found guilty.
The city also operates 200 dummy cameras as deterrents. They flash when cars go through red lights, but don't trigger tickets.
"When drivers see the light go off, they do not go through the light next time," Weinshall said.
Weinshall thinks January's summons surge will level off as more drivers realize intersections have eyes.
"Drivers will learn where the cameras are, and the number of summonses will decline," she said. "Which is what we want to see. We want to see fewer people going through red lights."