Illinois local governments generated more than $1 billion in red-light camera revenue from 2008 to 2018, according to new analysis by the Illinois Policy Institute.
Each red-light camera ticket in Illinois costs drivers up to $100, depending on the municipality.
Chicago has long been a poster child for red-light camera abuse. The city is home to the nation’s highest count of red-light cameras, a former high-ranking transportation official serving jail time for taking bribes from a red-light camera company, and a pricey settlement for drivers who a judge ruled did not receive proper notifications in the ticketing process.
But the first-ever comprehensive look at red-light camera revenue across Illinois shows Chicago is far from alone.
In fact, when taken together, smaller local governments outside the city have installed almost as many red-light cameras as Chicago and collect nearly as much revenue. Further, federal investigations are raising questions of whether pay-to-play politics played a part in their proliferation.
The annual haul from red-light camera tickets statewide has more than doubled over the decade, with local governments collecting more than $113.2 million in 2018 compared with $53.5 million in 2008.
Red-light camera revenue outside Chicago city limits drove almost all of that increase, with $56.6 million generated in 2018 compared with $5.4 million in 2008.
These collection figures generally reflect what motorists paid in fines, as local governments reported red-light camera revenue before subtracting payments to companies that operate those cameras, with some slight reporting differences.