Photo by mdmarkus66 on Flickr.

WAMU Politics Hour co-host, NBC 4 reporter, and Dream City co-author Tom Sherwood defended the District’s speed camera enforcement program during a brief exchange with host Kojo Nnamdi on last Friday’s show.

Sherwood said he felt “irritated” by the May 29 Washington Post article by Ashley Halsey III on speed cameras. That story led off with the fact that one camera in the K Street underpass below Washington Circle wrote $8.1 million in tickets in 7 months.

The story did not talk about the effect of speeding on residents of Foggy Bottom, including seniors and families, or people walking to or from GW hospital, Sherwood said. From the Politics Hour transcript:

Kojo Nnamdi: Speaking of crowds, there seem to be a lot of crowds driving down K Street Northwest at rapid speeds or going through traffic lights because one camera on K Street Northwest has brought in more than $8 million into the District of Columbia’s coffers during the course of the current fiscal year.

There was a camera on New York Avenue that used to come in first, but apparently, that has been surpassed by the camera on K Street. But we have to say that the District of Columbia government said, “This is not about the revenue. This is not about the money. This is about controlling traffic. The money means nothing to us.”

Tom Sherwood: You know, I hear the skepticism in your voice. I hear the derision, the…

Kojo Nnamdi: Nothing.

Tom Sherwood: Well, let me say this, that’s — the Post story — I was irritated by the Post story. I think there’s a story there about how the city is doing camera money, but to say that the city is getting a windfall from that one camera, ... [crosstalk deleted]

I was irritated the way other people play this story. On that K Street, the 2200 block or whatever it is, the cameras there, about 32,000 cars, vehicles go through there each day. The camera gives out about 300 tickets. Now, just math-wise, I think that’s maybe 1 percent of the cars. The amount of money the city gets from ticket revenue is one-half of 1 percent of the city’s entire budget.

And the Post story also didn’t point out that since the city has been using speed cameras because citizens who live there, there’s a hospital over there, there are senior citizens, there are families with children, they don’t want those commuters rushing to get up onto the freeway going over into Virginia or in coming back. Since 2001, fatalities on the streets of the city from vehicular accidents has dropped 76 percent in part, Chief Lanier says, because we have speed cameras. Now, I can go on, but I think the point is made. There’s ...

Kojo Nnamdi: Mayor Sherwood has spoken.

Tom Sherwood: So, yes, you know, if — I don’t know that 25 miles an hour is the right speed limit for that tunnel. I think probably it sounds low. But if you move it up to 30 or 35, then you can only write a ticket for someone going 45, and then you’re getting up close to 50. So, anyway, that’s the issue. It’s more than just the city taking in money. It’s not raking in money. It’s not squeezing people unfairly. No one says the cameras don’t operate correctly. And as Chief Lanier always says, you can’t get a ticket if you’re not speeding.

[Crosstalk deleted]

Kojo Nnamdi: It’s just that to the average person, $8 million does seem like a lot of money. But moving on…

Tom Sherwood: Maybe.

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.