Albemarle’s Red Light Camera Income Ledger

It’s been tough to understand how things are going, financially, for Albemarle County’s red light camera at the Rio/29 intersection, because the stories have conflicted. In September, CBS-19’s Rachel Ryan reported that it wasn’t making any money:

“It’s not a revenue maker for us,” [Sgt. Darrell Byers] explained. “It’s actually about safe driving habits. That’s what we’re out there for, that’s what the cameras are out there for and that’s what we want to see.”

That’s good because Byers says revenue from ticketing has yet to match the $10,000 monthly cost of operating the cameras.

But then, last week, NBC-29’s Henry Graff reported that the county is making lots of money off of the outsourced justice system:

New numbers show that the controversial red light cameras in Albemarle County are keeping drivers safe. Those same numbers also reveal that the project is a cash cow for a county strapped for dough.

Police and county supervisors point out the cameras are to make the intersection of Rio Road and Route 29 safe. That’s priority one, but the extra $82,000 – to date – is pretty nice as well.

So, which is it? To clear things up, I asked Albemarle County Community Relations Director Lee Catlin to send me the data. This is a PDF of the helpful document that she sent me, and here it is boiled down to the basics of the number of citations, estimated income (based on the number of citations), and net income, by month:

Month # Est $ Net $
Dec 322 $16,100 $0*
Jan 574 $28,700 $0*
Feb 484 $24,200 $1,390
Mar 588 $29,400 $12,314
Apr 637 $31,850 $8,643
May 711 $35,550 $12,505
Jun 558 $27,900 $10,692
Jul 562 $28,100 $9,759
Aug 542 $27,100 $13,492
Sep 383 $19,150 $13,992
Oct 217 $10,850 $0***

* Not enough fines collected to reach RedFlex’s $10,000 threshold.
** Redflex advises the month of September figures were higher than normal due to more fees collected from delinquent accounts.
*** System down because of damage to sensors due to VDOT repaving. Only $8,167.67 in fines were collected, which was not enough to cover the monthly payment. That payment will roll over until enough fines are collected to make up the difference. The county is not responsible for paying the difference.

So that’s $82,769 that Albemarle County has made to date, with the remainder of the money—the $10,000 monthly fee—going to RedFlex, the Australian company that owns the cameras. That’s the source of the gap between the gross and the net. (You can read the county’s contract with RedFlex, if you’re interested about the specifics of the agreement.)

I don’t know what was up with CBS-19’s story—whether Ryan just got the story wrong or Sgt. Byers was giving her bad information—but it sure looks like Graff got this one right.

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