Three Miles Of Traffic Cameras Net Washington D.C. $28 Million

The Washington Post reports that one three mile stretch of road in Washington, D.C. has been very profitable:

There are seasons when New York Avenue seems pocked with potholes, but for the District it is paved with gold.

It likely is one of the most lucrative streets in the world when it comes to collecting a hidden toll in traffic tickets, its gantlet of speed and red-light cameras taking in an average of $30,570 a day and a total of more than $28 million since the start of fiscal 2011.

While some drivers bristle at use of the cameras — including many who travel New York Avenue from the Maryland suburbs — an overwhelming number of District residents surveyed are pleased with the citywide deployment of them.

The nine New York Avenue cameras, spread over about three miles between the Washington Times building and Third Street NW, generated 93,313 tickets and almost $11.8 million last year. Five target red-light violators; four go after speeders.

The volume of license plates from Maryland, Virginia and other states on the avenue points to an obvious fact: Many who pony up the money don’t live in the District.

And, of course, the residents of Maryland and Virginia don’t vote in D.C.

FILED UNDER: Open Forum, , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. DC Loser says:

    It’s the commuter tax DC has always wanted. Of course, it can be avoided if people would just drive the speed limit. I encounter the one on I-295 as it crosses the DC line from MD. Almost everybody knows it’s there and slow down accordingly. But sometimes a noob drives by and sets the flasher off in the distance. I just want to not be near them and end up as collateral damage in the picture.

  2. Sam Malone says:

    This is a massive affront to our Constitutional rights.
    Forget the AP….forget that idiot Rosen…forget the IRS.
    These are unmanned drones. It’s big brother in it’s most insidious form.
    Serious issues include the 6th Amendment/Confrontation Clause, self-incrimination, search and seizure, equal protection, and most significantly, due process, by shifting of the burden of proof to the driver to prove non-guilt.
    These cameras are typically installed and maintained by private companies. They have a vested interest in unsafe driving because they take a share of ticket revenues…often more than 60%. It would be interesting to know who got what share of that $28M.
    When it comes to dollars versus the Constitution…dollars always win.

  3. Todd says:

    I like the idea of cameras. I think when it comes to speed limits, we need to either not have them at all, or more strictly enforce the ones we have. This idea that it’s “ok” to go 5, 10, 15 mph over the posted limit, but then get mad if you drive past the wrong police officer, is ludicrous. (I say this not as a “holier than thou” person who never speeds, but as someone who clearly understands exactly who’s at fault if I’m doing it, and get caught).

  4. Todd says:

    Interesting side thought …

    When we get to the point where self-driving cars become ubiquitous, traffic violations should also become pretty much a thing of the past. I wonder how some municipalities will plan to make up for the lost revenue that tickets current bring in?

  5. Vast Variety says:

    The obvious answer is for people to obey the traffic laws.

  6. Franklin says:

    A long time ago now, I accidentally ran a red light in DC. It’s because the red lights along this particular street were in a completely non-standard location (IIRC, only at the corners rather than above the intersection). Does anybody know what I’m talking about, and is this still the case?

  7. Ernieyeball says:

    @Todd: I think when it comes to speed limits, we need to either not have them at all…

    As we all know, speed limits for motorists are just suggestions and not real laws. Kinda’ like the laws against smoking dope.

    “If you’re the guy who insists on driving the speed limit,’re part of the problem.”

  8. Me Me Me says:

    I’ve never understood the opposition to traffic cameras. Where is it written that the only “fair” form of policing the rules of the road is the most inefficient one?

    I was caught by a speeding camera in England once. The penalty notice was accompanied by not just a detailed data printout of the exact date, time, rate of speed and method of capture but also a photo that showed very clearly my car, my number plate, and most damning of all – me, my face clearly visible behind the wheel. Bang to rights, as they say over there. How is that in any way less fair than being pulled over by patrol car?

  9. @Ernieyeball:

    As we all know, speed limits for motorists are just suggestions and not real laws.

    Actually, a lot of speed limits are just suggestions and not actual laws. That is, most states don’t actually follow the legally required procedures in their own laws for setting the posted speed limit on a road (which generally requires an engineering study and monitoring to determine what the average vehicle speed on the road is) and just rely on the fact most people pay the ticket rather than bothering with the hassle of challenging the legitimacy of the sign.

  10. Ernieyeball says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Actually, a lot of speed limits are just suggestions and not actual laws.

    I will be telling the Judge you said this if I ever get another speeding ticket. It would help if I can give him your name and phone number too!

  11. Ernieyeball says:

    Of course you should always slow down at green lights too…or you might crash into a Ford…

    Salamites, then 19, was driving several young friends in his mother’s 1968 Buick LeSabre when a Lincoln Continental limousine shot through a red light at Talcott and Market streets. Salamites couldn’t stop in time, and broadsided the limo. What he saw next will be with him forever, he says.

  12. @Ernieyeball:

    1. Well, the reality is that traffic court judges routinely ignore what the law says, so even if you’re legally right it may not make any difference.

    2. I don’t know what the law is where you are, but in my state we have:

    § 212.108. Speed limits. (b) Engineering and traffic studies. Speed limits established in accordance with 75 Pa.C.S. § 3363 may be established in multiples of 5 miles per hour up to the maximum lawful speed. The speed limit should be within 5 miles per hour of the average 85th percentile speed or the safe-running speed on the section of highway, except the speed limit may be reduced up to 10 miles per hour below either of these values if one or more of the following conditions are satisfied:

    (1) A major portion of the highway has insufficient stopping sight distance if traveling at the 85th percentile speed or the safe-running speed.

    (2) The available corner sight distance on side roads is less than the necessary stopping sight distance values for through vehicles.

    (3) The majority of crashes are related to excessive speed and the crash rate during a minimum 12-month period is greater than the applicable rate in the most recent high-crash rate or high-crash severity rate table included in the appendix of Official Traffic-Control Devices (Department Publication 212). Crashes related to excessive speed include those crashes with causation factors of driving too fast for conditions, turning without clearance or failing to yield right-of-way.

    So if the commonwealth can’t produce either that 85% percentile study or the report that led to one of the exceptions, they can’t prove there is actually a speed limit on the road in question. In a lot of cases, the study was never actually performed for funding reasons, which means the posted speed limit isn’t an actual speed limit in the eyes of the law.

  13. matt says:

    @Todd: Part of the problem is that speed limits tend to be set too low intentionally. They also tend to reduce the length of the yellow light after installing cameras. Of course accidents increase as a result but who cares when there’s money to be made…

    @Vast Variety: I know a person that got a ticket at a red light camera because she didn’t wait 5 seconds before turning right. She only waited 3 seconds and according to the police that was insufficient

    @Stormy Dragon: Indeed like what I said earlier in this post.

  14. Ernieyeball says:

    @matt: @Todd: Part of the problem is that speed limits tend to be set too low intentionally.

    So if speed limits are set high enough no one will speed?

  15. Ernieyeball says:

    @Stormy Dragon: …which means the posted speed limit isn’t an actual speed limit in the eyes of the law.

    Whose eyes are those?

  16. Todd says:


    @matt: @Todd: Part of the problem is that speed limits tend to be set too low intentionally.

    So if speed limits are set high enough no one will speed?

    LOL, yea I’m gonna call BS on that one too. We’ve got a road here in Texas with a posted speed limit of 85 mph. I’ve driven on it quite a few times, going the speed limit, and there are always cars passing me.

  17. @Todd:

    If you set it at the 85%, that implies there will still be 15% speeders. But you won’t get those highways where everyone is going 20 over the speed limit, and someone going the posted speed is actually creating a road hazard.

  18. @Ernieyeball:

    As I said, traffic court judges tend to ignore what the law actually says and just do whatever the hell they feel like.

  19. Ernieyeball says:

    @Todd: I have seriously considered making the trip from my house to Georgetown TX (800 miles more or less) so I can jump on the TX 130 Toll Road and make the trip to Seguin. My understanding is that only the stretch between Mustang Ridge and Seguin is posted 85 MPH.
    My new 2013 Ford Fusion just got it’s first oil change at 5000 miles and should be broken in. But my true motivation is that I have read that the new speedway is hurtin’ for business and I want to help.

  20. Ernieyeball says:

    @Vast Variety: The obvious answer is for people to obey the traffic laws.

    You must be from Mars…That’s never going to happen.

  21. Vast Variety says:

    @matt: I think it’s been proven multiple times that no mater what you set the speed limit at people will drive anywhere from 5 to 15 mph over it. It’s become part of our American culture.

    Your friend does know that in most jurisdictions you can go to court and challenge these tickets right? And I’m sure that those 2 seconds that your friend didn’t wait were so important that it required them to break the law.

    As a side note… I’ll be 41 this August… I was 18 the last time I received a ticket for a moving violation. Obeying traffic laws isn’t that difficult.

  22. Ernieyeball says:

    I got my drivers license when I was 17. I drove for 25 years before I ever got a ticket. It was for speeding. If you think that means I never exceeded the speed limit in all that time, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.
    It will help you get across the new canals that NASA is building on Mars.

  23. matt says:

    @Todd: The pickle parkway. Yes I’m aware of it and it’s not one of those cases. The speed limit there is quite reasonable. I’m talking about areas in Chicago and other cities I’ve lived in that had areas set low.

    One town near my hometown was legendary as a speed trap. Probably still is.

    @Vast Variety: Where at?