Aldermen call for red light camera standards

City officials would have to hold community meetings and provide evidence that red light ticket cameras would make specific intersections safer before they could install the devices going forward under a plan that also would establish standard lengths for yellow lights across Chicago.

Ald. Tom Tunney, 44th, and Ald. Anthony Beale, 9th, want to require that all intersections in the city equipped with the cameras have so-called “countdown” pedestrian-control signals so people driving toward a green light could see how many seconds are left before it changes. The proposal would set yellow light lengths of at least 3.2 seconds. And it would require City Council approval of each camera location, giving aldermen who don’t want the cameras in their neighborhoods a measure of say-so.

In addition, city officials would need to produce traffic studies estimating the safety impact of the cameras at intersections where they want to put them.

“We want to make sure red light camera installations are for public safety, and not the perceived revenue issues they have been,” Tunney said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he had not seen the ordinance, and he declined comment Wednesday on whether he thinks the proposed changes to the red light camera program are a good idea. If Emanuel doesn’t back the plan, it has little chance of success.

The move comes after the Chicago Tribune reported last fall that the Emanuel administration quietly issued a new, shorter yellow light standard when the city began the transition from red light camera vendor Redflex Traffic Systems to Xerox State & Local Solutions in February 2014. The switch to a 2.9-second yellow came after the city had long set the standard length for yellow lights at three seconds.

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