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8/11/2007
Illinois: Motorist Ticketing Balances Chicago Budget
Car seizures and traffic tickets provide $210 million in annual revenue to Chicago, Illinois.

Chicago police. Photo: Diana Connolly/Flickr
Chicago, Illinois is dependent on traffic tickets, parking citations and automobile seizures for balancing the city budget. A combination of $90 red light camera tickets, $160 towing fees and various forms of speeding and parking tickets generated $210 million in 2006 -- just enough to cover the city's budget deficit, which is projected to grow to $217 million next year.

"Mussolini would be proud of Chicago's parking system," towing victim David Gorodess, 35, told the Chicago Tribune. "Even when you are parking legally, you just can't park downtown. Somebody is making a lot of money."

Gorodess had his car towed in a zone where parking was prohibited from 4pm to 6pm. Gorodess was not parked in the spot during that time. By offering the wrongly ticketed very little recourse, the city collected $160.3 million last year in parking violations alone. Speeding tickets generated an additional $4.4 million. Some 55,000 motorists had their automobiles booted to generate $5.5 million. Red light cameras trapped 300,000 motorists who entered an intersection a split-second after the light turned red, brightening the city budget by $20 million. An extra 20 automated ticketing locations will boost the camera haul to $37.5 million a year by 2008.

The city also plans to massively expand the number of parking and towing citations by sending out twenty-six license plate scanning vans that will record the identity and location of vehicles throughout the city. Other cities have used the technique to generate millions in revenue by towing cars listed in a computer database as having as little as $85 in unpaid parking tickets or a few overdue library books.

Source: City rakes in revenue from tickets (Chicago Tribune, 8/11/2007)

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