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CTA Has Paid More Than $300K For Bus Drivers Who Blow Through Red Lights

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The Chicago Transit Authority is defending its policy of paying the $100 fine when a bus driver gets nailed at a "photo-enforced" red light intersection.

How much is that costing the cash-strapped CTA?  The answer might surprise you, CBS 2's Mike Parker reports.

The amount: $340,000. That's what the CTA has paid to cover bus drivers who blow through red lights at one of those intersections where the cameras lie in wait.

New figures from the CTA tell the story. There were 1,313 violations in 2008; 1,222 in 2009 and down to 875 last year.

The head of the Amalgamated Transit Union that represents the drivers, Darrell Jefferson, defends the payouts.

"If I was in my personal car, I would have to pay. But I'm bonded by the CTA. I work for the CTA," he says.

CTA President Richard Rodriguez says the decline in red-light tickets in 2010 is because of a safety crackdown.

"The driver understands that if they obtain a red-light ticket, they will be disciplined (with a) safety violation," he says. "And that it counts toward their potential termination. I think that carries as much weight as would an actual their having to pay a fine."

If a driver gets four red-light tickets within a two-year period, the driver is fired. So far, it's happened to three CTA bus operators.

The money to cover the fines is taken out of the new higher fares dropped by passengers into the fare box.

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