City launches income-based traffic fine pilot, cutting fees for low-income residents in half – Streetsblog Chicago

One of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s promises when campaigning for mayor of Chicago in the last election was to reign in the city’s reliance on fines and fees. To be fair, every candidate for mayor of Chicago at the time supported ticket reform.

A 2018 ProPublica Survey found that traffic tickets in Chicago had a disproportionate impact on low-income black residents. Lightfoot’s position included an idea to forgive compliance tickets (city sticker or license plate expiration tickets) for motorists once drivers have brought themselves into compliance with the law. Earlier this month, the Lightfoot administration launched the Clear Path Relief pilot program, an initiative to help low-income Chicagoans with debt associated with moving traffic tickets.

It could be argued that Lightfoot’s track record on fines and costs is mixed. There have been moderate reforms, which sSome defenders said they didn’t go far enough. On the other hand, last year the city lowered the threshold for speed camera tickets from 10 mph to 6 mph, which seems to have been very effective in encouraging safer speedsbut also resulted in more quotes. Despite some ticketing reforms, according to ProPublica, the outstanding debt owed for city tickets continues to grow, from about $1.45 billion in February 2018 to more than $1.8 billion in 2021. .

The Clear Path pilot will last until December 23, 2023. Residents earning less than 300% of the federal poverty level (about $41,000 for a single person), will be able to pay half the rate of traffic fines issued by the city for tickets without a parking meter. Eligible residents can eliminate any debt by repaying the original fine on traffic tickets received in the past three years. To successfully complete the program, participants must complete their payment plan and pay their meter tickets or enroll in a meter ticket payment plan. Any new eligible tickets issued within 365 days of the date of registration and paid on time will be discounted by 50%. New eligible unpaid tickets will not be penalized until December 31, 2023. You can find more information and application on the city ​​of chicago website.

We are delighted that this program is providing relief to those in need,” said Active Transportation Alliance spokesperson Kyle Whitehead. “Traffic enforcement should never be about increasing city revenue or putting people in debt. “[Traffic enforcement] must aim to create safer streets for all who use them. Chicago should combine this program with major investments in the redesign of these high-speed streets, which are disproportionately located in predominantly black, brown and low-income neighborhoods.

“We live in a punitive society, and those who are punished the most are the racially marginalized and the poor,” said Oboi Reed, head of the nonprofit organization Equitity. “We support efforts to align the mayor’s public commitment to equity with his policies. Regressive fine structures are contrary to racial equity. Moving the government towards a more progressive fines structure is to be applauded. I would like to see the mayor do more and go further in decriminalizing poverty. For the poor, all debts should be canceled 100%.

Reed’s statement reminds me of the saying, “If the penalty for a crime is a fine, then that law only exists for the lower class.” I imagine that in Reed’s vision of a city that doesn’t rely on fines for traffic enforcement, we’d have roads designed to force drivers to drive slowly and in a way that doesn’t get in the way. endanger other road users. I agree with Reed’s general point that there is still work to be done to bring racial equity into the city’s transportation policies.

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