A D.C. Council member says promised improvements to better warn drivers about the District's most lucrative stop sign camera have not been delivered, despite what the Department of Transportation said in an email to residents last week.
Records obtained by the News4 I-Team show the camera that monitors the stop sign at the intersection of Kansas Avenue and Buchanan Street in D.C.'s Petworth neighborhood has generated nearly $3.5 million in ticket revenue since it was upgraded last summer. Since the increase began, the camera has averaged roughly 115 tickets per day.
"I don't think that's fair at all, and especially in a pandemic, like people are struggling as it is," said Sara Almgrem, who drives through the area daily to pick up her daughter at Haynes Elementary.
Almgrem told the I-Team she received four tickets in the mail just days apart — and weeks after the violations happened. She said she was not aware that drivers can be ticketed even after making a complete stop if their tires cross the first white line.
In February, the News4 I-Team first exposed the sharp rise in tickets after hearing from drivers in the area. The report documented how the camera flashed at car after car, even when drivers stopped completely. Yet some cars rolled through the intersection without a flash.
Since then, DDOT painted the words "stop ahead" on the pavement. That had already been completed when Council member Mary Cheh visited the intersection in April and asked for a better fix.
Cheh, who chairs the District's Transportation Committee proposed DDOT install signage with an arrow warning drivers where they need to stop to avoid a ticket.
"You want to make sure people are not thinking that this is about money raising, and you also don't want it to be a gotcha situation, an unfair situation," Cheh said at the time.
In an email last week, DDOT told Cheh and residents that improvements had already been made citing the "stop ahead" wording on the roadway and rumble strips in the 4500 block of Kansas Avenue. But the I-Team found those strips are on the opposite side of the street from the camera and lead to a different intersection.
"Give a person some warning, just a little more information or something," said Tawanda Lucas. "There has to be a better way other than writing $100 tickets."
Lucas got one of those tickets in May. She says a sign warning drivers to completely stop before the white line would be helpful.
"I haven't seen anything, any indication of that up here at all. Nothing. No signs, no strips. I mean, you know, you go slow because it's a school and it's a complete stop for a stop sign," Lucas said.
The DDOT email also said the agency added an "additional" photo-enforcement sign, but the I-Team checked multiple blocks leading up to the camera and only counted one. A photo-enforcement sign has been present in that block since at least 2018.
Almgrem questions the camera's sensitivity and told the I-Team she now makes a U-turn to avoid driving through the intersection with the camera.
"How have they warned people? By sending tickets three weeks after and just piling them up on you? That's not making things better; that's setting you up for failure," Almgrem said.
Records provided by DDOT show the ticket numbers from the camera have dropped in the past few months, which a DDOT spokesman said could be due to added awareness from the I-Team's reporting. She said DDOT has not adjusted the camera's sensitivity and that video of each violation is reviewed before tickets are sent.
Reported by Jodie Fleischer, produced by Rick Yarborough, and shot and edited by Jeff Piper and Steve Jones.