Southern Brooklyn

Is Traffic Camera Enforcement About Revenue? Not As Much As You May Think

Source: NYCIBO
Source: NYCIBO

While the news that New York City will expand speed camera enforcement across the five boroughs was met with conspiratorial sneering from local drivers, revenue data suggests that the overall amount of funds collected for traffic fines has declined every year for the past four years despite the expansion of camera-enforcement programs.

That’s not to say there’s not money being made: the city pulled in more than $55 million in fiscal year 2014 (which ended on June 30), and 75 percent of that was from camera-based enforcement. The city budget for 2015 already presumes a jump to $62 million in revenue, with an even larger percentage coming from camera enforcement.

The New York City Independent Budget Office released a new infographic yesterday that charts the amount of revenue collected from traffic fines from 1999 to the present, and also shows the share of those collections that came via police-issued violations, red-light cameras, bus-lane cameras and the newest enforcement tool: speed cameras.

Some of the takeaways?

  • The proportion of revenue generated by cameras has grown from just 38 percent in 1999 to 75 percent in 2014.
  • The amount of revenue in 2014 is nearly double that collected in 1999. (Adjusted for inflation, the jump is less stark; the increase is just under $13 million.)
  • Since 2004, actual revenue from police-issued traffic violations has been on a steady decline, marginally offsetting some of the increases from camera enforcement.
  • Red-light camera revenues are the lowest they’ve been since 2007, the year before a massive expansion of the program, suggesting that camera enforcement won’t drive revenues forever.

There are two big spikes in the graph, one in 2008 and another in 2011.

The first coincided with an increase in the number of red light cameras installed around the city. After the increase, there’s a drop again. That’s probably because once drivers figure out where the cameras are, they make sure to abide by the law.

The 2011 spike came as a result of a ruling that unpaid red light summonses can count towards the threshold needed for the city to tow your car for unpaid tickets. Delinquent motorists who saw their cars impounded had to pay back those fines that year to reclaim their vehicles.

The two newest forms of camera revenue are also seeing pretty rapid growth as drivers have yet to adjust to them. Bus-lane cameras were introduced in 2011 as part of the Select Bus Service program. As that program has steadily expanded across the five boroughs, so has the number of cameras, and thus the number of violations.

Speed cameras were introduced in early 2014, with just 20 in school zones around the city. That led to $2.1 million in fines collected. But the program has been approved for massive expansion, with 120 new cameras on the way.

The city is projecting it will put $7.6 million in city coffers, but if the historical spikes from the expansion of red light cameras are any indication, it’ll probably rake in more than that before falling off over a few years.

So is it about money? It’s anybody’s guess. There’s definitely a historical increase in revenues collected but it’s not as staggering as one would think, given the massive expansion of these programs. And the data here suggests the gains appear short-lived as drivers learn to follow the rules of the road.

Here’s the above chart in an interactive format. Hover over each of the bars to see how much actual revenue was received for each method:

Comment policy


  1. Looks to me like those stats are higher now than in previous years. Plus the cameras are taking over what cops would give out. The problem is they are controlling the people too much by installing these cameras, while cops and other officials get away with more and more. There was a speed camera car parked on nostrand ave yesterday, on a hydrant. I submitted a 311 complained about an illegal parking. complained was fulfilled and I was told no one was there. I checked, car was still there. filed a second complained, mentioned the license plate….same response…..they ticket us more, control us more, limit us more, but do not obey the same rules. Cameras are worse.

  2. we had a car parked next to Ocean Parkway Exit # 7 soon you will have a pole with speed camera on that street….let extortion begin

  3. Why would it matter if cameras are doing the jobs of cops? If we can enforce traffic laws with a camera instead of a cop with an inflated pension, then why not. This frees up cops to do other policing. People need to be controlled otherwise they do stupid things. Also wouldn’t the cameras be a more democratic solution, since they would ticket cops, judges, politicians, heck even Obama equally. Imagine if there was a camera to ticket the speed camera car parked at the hydrant. Wait even that might be too much.

  4. The speed camera is already in place there I believe. Regardless, don’t tell us that placing a speed camera right off a parkway exit ramp isn’t about generating easy revenue off of Brooklyn residents. Disgusting. Can’t even live here anymore. Land of the free my ass.

  5. I don’t think the revenue will be so easy. People around this area generally drive pretty slow and don’t speed much. So I don’t see them getting many tickets with this camera.

  6. Maybe they meant 20 miles radius of a school zone . When it comes to making money for the city, every street will be considered a school zone.

  7. its all bull shit…laws are bunch of scams for most part to harass, control and extort meanwhile the same scumbags impose these laws on us are above the law….some laws I do respect but I am not going into discussion which laws make sense and which not….

    walk to your local police station where all the criminals parked their private cars in order to start so called their work day…you will observe some cops private car’s will have cover over their plates in order to avoid speed/red cameras….and most all have tinted windows which is another violation…I had to remove my light tints in order for them to stop extorting me…I can post pictures here off duty cop private car with cover over their plates

  8. You are responsible for the fines for whomever was driving your car. The City understands you may have not been driving, hence no points, only a fine.

    I looked at your link and it left me confused. It said that you don’t have to agree to let the video be shown and if it is not shown you can’t be convicted. Somehow that doesn’t make sense to me. Why would they need or ask your permission to show a video or have to prove you were driving? I thought it was still pictures anyway, not videos.

  9. Absolutely…. this is all done under a false pretense of the safety…Like some people on this blog will agree with them, what a bunch of morons.

  10. Ned, I really don’t understand your headline, that it’s not as much about revenue as you may think. You say revenue has declined for the past four years? Where are you getting that from? After a spike in 2011which you explained, it declined in 2012 and 2013. 2014 is only half over and it doesn’t say “projected”.

    It has only declined for two years, and if 2014 is only for six months of data, it certainly is not a decline. 2015 shows a projected increase. And since 2008 to 2015 far exceeds 1999 to 2007, I would say that your conclusion that it s not about the revenue is way off-base.

  11. It’s Fiscal Year 2014, not real year 2014. Fiscal year 2014 is over. And I didn’t say it wasn’t about revenue, I said it may not be as much about revenue as people think – or perhaps, to put it another way, not as much revenue as people think.

    I acknowledge the increase for next year, and also say that I believe it’ll be higher than that. But then, if what is true for the red-light cameras is true for the other forms of cameras, it could drop off considerably over time. Which doesn’t make it a very reliable revenue stream long-term – but does suggest that it’s causing a behavioral shift… which would be about safety.

    Either way, it’s my reading of the numbers. I’m not making a value judgement about whether cameras are good or bad, just looking to add better context to the conversation.

  12. If you are the one giving testimony, than how does anyone else have a chance to lie. What are “they” lying about?

  13. The tickets that are given to the “class above” everyone else — cops, politicians, judges etc. are thrown out immediately. Don’t be so naive, only the peasants have to pay them.

  14. So your issue is with the traffic courts throwing out tickets given to the “above class”. Even if that is the case aren’t the tickets issued still legitimate? If everyone who breaks the law had to pay their tickets you would you still be so against the cameras.

  15. So you don’t see anything wrong having tickets dismiss for real criminals who run the system but its ok to extort and harass general public……

    honestly as much as I hate speed cameras and a few other bs laws….if cops, judges, law makers and politicians would obey these rules that they apply to us I would be ok with it.

    until then screw them, they are bunch arrogant bastards who make a decent living but want to avoid these kind of fines

    Ned why did you blocked me MyBrooklyn. Thanks

  16. If everyone had to play by the same rules then yes, I wouldn’t be against it. Right now the rules only apply to the regular people, the “ruling class” only chooses to follow the laws they like and ignore the others, then are outraged when other people decide to do the same. Screw them.

  17. You’re assuming that any ticket dismissed was that of a “real” criminal and any ticket paid was not legitimate and some form of extortion. Of course I have a problem with legitimate tickets being dismissed. But you don’t fix the traffic courts by getting rid of all the traffic laws. Well i guess you do. Its ok to hate BS laws, but to hate a traffic camera is stupid. Just say you hate having a limit on speed at all or this particular speed limit. But there needs to be speed limits. Speed cameras are just a form of enforcement. Not sure why you would hate them. And you’re ok with BS laws if they are applied to everyone? Whats up with that?

  18. 120 speed cameras throughout the city are not enough, but at least it’s a start!!! I hope they put some on Ocean Speedway…I mean Parkway !!

  19. Interesting analysis, strongly suggesting that, over time, the speed cameras will have the desired effect of persuading motorists to avoid speeding. Thanks.

    (Most of the other comments are sadly amusing but entirely predictable. Sorry, guys, I know it’s hard to believe, but there really are laws governing driving.)

  20. Per state law, speed cameras can be installed on any street where a school is located within a quarter mile of the school.

  21. It’s a lot more likely that a ticket will stick if it’s issued, with photographic evidence, than if it’s never issued in the first place. (Why do you think the police union was opposed to speed cameras in the first place?)

  22. If we can enforce traffic laws with a camera instead of a cop with an inflated pension, then why not.

    Because you’re conversing with people who don’t believe that traffic laws should be enforced.

    That, of course, is the primary difference between speed enforcement by camera and speed enforcement by cop: the former will catch you speeding while the latter almost certainly will not. That fines collected from red light cameras (at a small fraction of the city’s signalized intersections) are so much greater than the fines collected by police-issued tickets really says it all.

    Anyone who doesn’t want a speed camera ticket or a red light camera ticket can not speed and not run red lights – but for some people, that’s too much to ask.

  23. And what do think will happen if fewer people speed as they pass they cameras and revenue starts to fall? The fines will all be doubled in three years or so, so that the revenue keeps going up. Because its all about the revenue. Increased safety where there will be cameras is just a byproduct of the real goal, more revenue.

  24. And people will continue to speed because 25 mph for any major arterial is just ridiculous, no matter what you claim.

  25. A school zone should be the immediate blocks around the school. Now with all charter schools, like half the city is a quarter mile from a school. I see so many school Xing signs and wonder where the school is because it is not obvious any more.

    How is someone even to know he is in a school zone and needs to slow down to 20 mph?

  26. This is just another tax on motorists to make money. It does not slow drivers down .”SPEED BUMPS” do work Unfortunately the city does not make money on the speed bumps.

  27. Where does this insight come from? How do you know this is about revenue and not about enhancing safety?

  28. BrooklynBus I was hoping for someone to say that….man you are truly a great person with common sense….most people are narrow minded…people are willing to kiss ass of pig and law makers/politicians. I wanted it to say that but I did not because if people can’t realize pigs lie on many occasion then nothing will change their stupid minds….I wish people like you or someone with more common sense will run this city but I guess that will never happen…..because when person takes such positions within a few years they become scumbags

  29. You continue to live in a bubble. If someone wants to speed they are going to speed. It doesn’t matter what the law dictates. You personally seem to be unwilling or unable to grasp that concept. The real problems on the street don’t give two craps about the law. These speed cameras will generally only punishes everyday people who want to get from A to B. They are revenue generators pure and simple.

  30. Lincoln is nearly right there along with an Intermediate school. But yes, pretty sure you’re correct. That was the announcement made.

  31. It’s from living in New York for your entire life and not being a “twenty is plenty” staycationer. Don’t be no naive friend. It’s ALWAYS more about MONEY and DOLLAR SIGNS then anything else.

  32. So asking for evidence makes you a “twenty is plenty” staycationer, whatever the hell that means? Interesting.

  33. A school zone should be the immediate blocks around the school.

    I’m sorry you don’t see the need to protect children approaching a school from five blocks away (not to mention all other pedestrians, of all ages and with all destinations, in the city).

    How is someone even to know he is in a school zone and needs to slow down to 20 mph?

    Pardon? 20 mph? The default speed limit is currently 30 mph and will soon be 25 mph; any speed limit higher or lower is posted explicitly. If the speed limit is 20, it will be posted as such, but normally it isn’t.

  34. And what do think will happen if fewer people speed as they pass they cameras and revenue starts to fall? The fines will all be doubled in three years or so, so that the revenue keeps going up.

    Was the fine for red light cameras doubled three years into the red light camera program?

  35. Correct. Glad to see that some people still know how to read.

    Allan: Arterial streets like Ocean Parkway account for a highly disproportionate share of pedestrian fatalities – about 60% of pedestrian fatalities despite being only 15% of the total road network. If the goal is to reduce pedestrian fatalities, we can’t afford to ignore driving speeds on arterials. Relying on drivers to determine, based on their gut feeling, a speed that they perceive as safe for themselves isn’t going to cut it. All I ask is that drivers abide by the laws that are already in place.

  36. I wanted it to say that but I did not because if people can’t realize pigs lie on many occasion then nothing will change their stupid minds….

    Cameras, on the other hand, don’t lie. If you don’t want to be fined for speeding, then don’t speed. If you don’t speed, you won’t be fined for speeding. It really is that simple.

  37. Thanks for making my case. Without enforcement, drivers feel entitled to do whatever the hell they want, wherever the hell they want, whenever the hell they want. Consider yourself exhibit A.

    If you don’t want a ticket for speeding, then don’t speed.

  38. Hi, guest. Born-and-bred New Yorker here. I’m sick and tired of the many pedestrian fatalities in our city caused by drivers who think they’re above the law. The dangerous, lawless driving culture so prevalent in New York won’t vanish on its own. I wish it weren’t necessary, but we need real enforcement for a change.

  39. Speed cameras only ticket drivers who are speeding. If speed bumps were effective in keeping drivers from speeding, then the cameras wouldn’t issue many tickets, and you presumably wouldn’t object to cameras anymore.

    So would you agree that speed cameras are fine as long as they’re implemented in conjunction with speed bumps?

    Now, I’m not sure that speed bumps are practical everywhere. (Speed bumps on Ocean Parkway?) Nor am I as confident as you that they would actually keep speeds down in general.

    One thing is very clear, however. Speed cameras don’t collect a penny from drivers who don’t speed, or even from drivers who speed by less than 10 mph. So if you don’t want to pay any speed camera fines, make sure you don’t speed, or at the very least make sure you don’t exceed the speed limit by more than 10 mph.

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  41. They are lying about traffic cameras being installed to improve safety. That is not why they installed cameras.


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