How much would you pay for a green light?


The nation is blossoming red light cameras that shoot pictures of drivers that disregard the law while passing through the intersections. For many cities, the technology is a god-send, and not just for the traffic control. The fines collected from drivers who are mailed a snapshot of their transgression along with a ticket are like almost- free money.

Unfortunately, for the city of Dallas, the cameras are working too well. It budgeted for revenues of $14.8 million from these cameras in 2007-08, but compliant drivers have resulted in an estimated $4 million plus shortfall. According to the Dallas Morning News, the city pays the vendor that supplies this technology $3,799 per working camera per month. Ironically, one of the cost-saving measures under consideration is turning the cameras off at least part of the time, since the monthly fee for idle cameras is less.

One solution to this dilemma I've suggested, that could solve many city and state's budget problems, is to sell green light privileges. Drivers could bid on the right to control the light at approaching intersections -- the high bidder gets the green, the rest wait. This could be done on a monthly basis, or, if the technology was sophisticated enough, in real time. Imagine you are driving down Main Street, in a bidding war with other cars approaching the intersection ahead for the green light. Imagine the revenue that would bring!

It would made the red light camera look like chump change. And those intersections would be quite an adventure, one that we'd be glad to have cameras to record.