When it comes to collecting traffic ticket revenue from red light cameras, Culver City has been king in Los Angeles County. The city generated nearly $2 million in photo ticket fines in the last eight months — hundreds of thousands more than Los Angeles, which had cameras at twice as many intersections, according to new government estimates obtained by the L.A. Times. And although Culver City makes money, Los Angeles’ photo enforcement program is running in the red and may never recover about $2 million in construction costs and past deficits, records and interviews show. In addition, Los Angeles officials recently reported that they overpaid their red light camera contractor by more than $500,000.
Critics say that red light cameras — hailed for reducing deadly collisions at the intersections they monitor — have essentially become ATMs for local governments, issuing citations around the clock that can cost up to $400. But a Times review of more than two dozen systems in Los Angeles County found sharply mixed financial results. Some officials also acknowledge that because camera ticket revenue flows through a labyrinth of court and county agencies, it is hard to precisely gauge how much cash their systems generate. Most of the money goes to state and county agencies and the private contractors who install and maintain the systems.