It is probably no surprise to anyone who reads my blog that I love to drive. As much as I respect those who chose to leave the smallest carbon footprint in their wake by taking public transit or by cycling, I still love to drive my vehicle whenever and to wherever. Given the demands of my "other" job, I need to stay mobile and simply cannot rely upon any other method transportation, other than my own personal vehicle, which is fine by me...as I love to drive.
So, as much as I love being behind the wheel, I realize that there is (now more than ever) a price to pay for this form of convenience. Owning a vehicle within the City of Chicago is becoming increasingly costly. Think about it. From the moment you purchase the vehicle you are subjected to a ridiculous tax rate (no break if you chose to lease either), the cost of the mandatory city sticker, parking permits (where applicable) as well as the overtaxed price for fuel. It doesn't end there either.
For us who choose to use our own vehicles to navigate the city, we are keenly aware of the cost to park along any major street (along with the ludicrous fines issued for being a minute late on the meter), the ill timed red light cameras that flash even when you are clearly stopped (try and fight that fine) and of course the jacked up insurance rates. So what else can the brains in the city's finance department throw at us drivers?
Speed cameras. Yes, just when you thought that the city couldn't find a way to profit more from us motorists, the Mayor's Office found yet another way to part us from our hard earned money. However, I am not complaining too much about this. You see, unlike the standard response of "It's for our safety" bull that most officials would give (like the excuse given for those pathetic red light cameras), Mayor Emanuel openly admitted to the potential financial gain seen by the city over this plan. Frankly, I respect his openness and candid nature regarding the reasoning behind this proposal.
I have better things to do than hand over my money to cash-strapped municipalities who issue trumped up fines to help fix a hole in the budget due to the mismanagement of funds. Shockingly, in this particular scenario, I don't think the Mayor's speed camera plan is a terrible thing. Putting aside the fact that city can potentially make between $40 million and $60 million (Story and Source) in fines annually, I actually think that these cameras can be beneficial to drivers in an urban setting.
As far as I am concerned, speed cameras in rural area are completely pointless (as are speed limits for that matter) and serve no other purpose than to be a cash cow and ruin your day. However, if you take that same camera and place it in a densely populated area, it begins to make sense to me as a driver. Keeping your vehicle moving at constant speed (as opposed to speeding and stopping hard) is key to better fuel economy and traffic jam reduction. If implemented properly, the cameras combined with the proper timing of traffic lights, could legitimately ease congestion and serve to move traffic along at a more consistent pace.
Fear not loyalists, I am not getting soft or selling out by sympathising with the Mayor's plan to use us drivers as a funding source for the city. In fact, here is a link to the map and list of all speed camera locations throughout the city. Regardless if you agree with my rationale or not, please take a moment and look at the locations of these cameras. You will find that during the initial rollout, these are all located near parks or schools, which unlike the red light cameras, CAN actually make a positive impact on public safety.
I still believe that speeding from point A to B is the most efficient use of one's time behind the wheel, but there proper place for that and a densely populated area is not the place. I also still believe that municipalities should stop exploiting motorists for their own financial gain, but in this rare instance, I truly think that the motorist and the politician can coexist in a somewhat harmonious way. What do you think?
Does driving in Chicago have you down? Then feel free to reach out and vent your frustrations in the comment section below!
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