Why does at least half of the money paid for being caught running a red light by a camera go to the camera company?
Contracts between companies and cities can affect how much money the cities get.
In Clive, Iowa for instance, the red-light camera program generated $39,548.65 between July 2006 and March 2007, but all of that money went to the camera company because Clive didn't ticket enough drivers in any single month to make money. Clive has since changed its contract and now gets a percentage of each ticket.
The largest red-light camera company, Redflex Traffic Systems of Scottsdale, operates red-light or speed cameras in 22 states, and added 79 cities last year. It signed a $32 million maintenance contract with Chicago last fall, and in just the last three weeks of last year, Redflex added five new cities.
Redflex saw net, after-tax profits of $10.6 million in fiscal year 2008, up from $7.3 million the year before.
That ticket in Clive shows why: More than half of the $75 fine went to Redflex.
"That's ridiculous," said Ashok Manglik, a physician who paid his wife's ticket. "Why should it go to the camera company? At least 90 percent should go to the city."
Some cities, such as Orlando and Atlanta, put all the money back into the program so they don't profit from issuing tickets.
"It was a concern," said Mike Rhodes, manager of the Orlando's Code Enforcement Division. "Without casting aspersions on vendors, we didn't want to be seen as having any incentive to issue these tickets."
Plenty of people have been getting tickets in Orlando.
The city issued 785 "failure to obey a traffic signal" tickets — their equivalent of a red-light violation — between Sept. 1, 2007, and Dec. 31, 2007. But after the cameras were installed in September 2008, Orlando issued 8,250 tickets through its red-light camera program during that four-month period.