ARLINGTON — Red-light cameras were installed in Arlington to cut down on crashes at key intersections, and they are working, city officials say.But while the devices may be saving motorists from serious harm, fewer violations also mean less revenue coming into city coffers. The city had initially estimated it would collect $2.5 million in fines from its 24 red-light cameras this budget year, which ends Sept. 30, but it now expects to bring in about $500,000 less. Though Arlington anticipates a surplus because of reduced expenditures, City Council members learned recently that the red-light camera system at key intersections was one of several revenue sources expected to fall short of earlier projections.“The system is changing behavior. Even though we have more cameras, they are producing fewer violations,” Management Services Director Steve Evans said.The city was seeing an average of 5,603 red-light violations at each of 17 cameras in fiscal year 2009 but recorded only an average of 3,953 violations at each of its 21 cameras in fiscal year 2012, records show.Fewer crashesArlington started its red-light camera program in 2007. Half of the revenue from each $75 civil penalty goes to the state and the other half, after expenses, goes into Arlington’s general fund, which pays for city services such as police, fire, parks and libraries.The cameras use radar technology to determine the speed of vehicles approaching an intersection, and the camera system is activated if the computerized system believes an upcoming motorist is about to run a red light.Arlington has a part-time officer who reviews and confirms violations.According to a 2011 audit, the most recent data available, right-angle crashes at camera-monitored intersections in Arlington had decreased 31 percent, and rear-end crashes had declined 17 percent."We’ve had an accident reduction in total," Evans said.The city is also seeing fewer repeat offenders. Only 17 percent of violators in fiscal year 2012 had received more than two citations, Evans said.Reduced revenueThis isn’t the first time the program has brought in less money than expected. After generating about $2.5 million in revenue in fiscal year 2010 — exceeding the city’s expectations — revenue came in $864,000 less than projected the following fiscal year, according to city records.Overall, the red-light camera program has brought in about $8.4 million in revenue to Arlington, not including this fiscal year.Some of the red-light camera revenue is used to fund the Arlington Police Department’s driving while intoxicated enforcement efforts. Evans said the department has not been asked to reduce spending on those efforts this year because of lower-than-expected revenues.Other revenue sources expected to bring in less than budgeted include library fines, gas, water, telephone utility and taxicab franchise fees, and interest earnings on city investments.Even so, revenue for the general fund is projected to be $44,000 over budget — coming in at $206.9 million — largely because of increased sales tax collections. City expenditures are expected to be $766,000 under budget, largely because of a high number of vacant employee positions. This report contains material from the Star-Telegram archives.
Susan Schrock, 817-390-7639 Twitter: @susanschrock