Supporting a new approach to automated traffic enforcement with DDOT to achieve Vision Zero & bus lanes that work

Photo credit: Cheryl Cort

Supporting a new approach to automated traffic enforcement with DDOT to achieve Vision Zero & bus lanes that work

May 3, 2019

Dear Chairman Mendelson:

We understand that Councilmember Cheh has reservations about transferring automated traffic enforcement from the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) to DC Department of Transportation (DDOT). While DDOT can be frustrating, everyone agrees that photo enforcement is not optimally managed right now. Given that 30+ people die each year on our streets, we should not turn down an opportunity to improve the use of photo enforcement by putting DDOT in charge of it. DDOT is lead on Vision Zero and implementation of dedicated transit lanes (coming to H & I, 16th St & K Street soon). It makes sense to enable DDOT integrate automated traffic enforcement into these programs.

This is how other leading jurisdictions have approached it, such as New York City and Chicago, where their Departments of Transportation are in charge on automated traffic enforcement. See NYC DOT report on automated traffic enforcement here: DDOT’s management of photo enforcement poses not legal issues, as some have claimed. The Mayor currently has authority to use the “photograph” as Prima Facie evidence of a violation. Currently, and whether administered by MPD, DDOT, DPW, or another agency, the use of photographs to detect violations are legally treated as non-moving. The penalty is a fine – no points on the license – it’s all still associated with the registered vehicle, not the driver.

How the D.C. Council can make the most of this opportunity: WABA recommends tying photo enforcement to action by DDOT. DC Council could require DDOT to act to fix problem areas detected by traffic cameras as a part of their management of the cameras program. From WABA’s report:

Fix infrastructure at high revenue traffic safety cameras
The goal of the automated traffic safety camera program is safety, not revenue. In places where an automated traffic camera generates a disproportionate amount of money, the underlying street design should be changed immediately, using the tactical design process described above. Traffic calming techniques should be employed to encourage safe driving through better street design.

Without putting DDOT in charge, we are greatly concerned that developing new applications for photo enforcement, such as bus lane compliance, bike lane compliance, and other new uses, will be slow and ineffective. We need to put DDOT in charge in order to more effectively use this tool. DDOT is the agency that is most focused on and responsible for achieving our city’s transportation system’s efficient use and safety.

We all agree that the goal is compliance with the rules of the road, not ticket and revenue generation. DDOT offers an important opportunity to greatly improve on the use of this powerful tool for safety and manage a more efficient transportation system.

Thank you for your consideration on this issue.


Cheryl Cort

Policy Director, Coalition for Smarter Growth