Texas cities have collected more than $103 million in fines since a revised red-light camera law took effect in 2007. Houston has collected the largest chunk: some $24 million through May, state figures show.
Cities insist the cameras have cut intersection accidents and saved lives. But the rising revenue totals have fueled a public backlash and reinforced perceptions that their main impetus is money.
Lawmakers in Maine, Mississippi and Montana banned red-light cameras last year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Six other states recently considered similar proposals.
In Texas, College Station voters last fall forced their city to take down its cameras. Houston opponents say they have enough petition signatures to put the cameras to a vote this fall. And the Texas House of Representatives last year passed a measure that would have phased out the cameras. Though it failed in the Senate, camera opponents say they plan to try again.
“There is a backlash, for sure,” said state Rep. Solomon Ortiz Jr., D-Corpus Christi, who co-sponsored the anti-camera push. “City budgeters are counting on these fines as a revenue stream and simply using the argument of safety as cover.”