Tuesday, November 27, 2012

State Audit Finds Flaws In SHA Speed Camera Program

An audit of the Maryland State Highway Administration by the Maryland Department of Legislative Services found that there were significant flaws in the implementation of Maryland SafeZones speed camera program, in the way the program's contract was bid and how equipment certified and tested.

The DLS report found that "SHA awarded a contract for operating the current Maryland SafeZones Program, even though the contractor’s proposal was not in compliance with certain RFP requirements"
Of particular significance, the report noted that the proposal from the state's selected contractor for the program (ACS, now part of Xerox Corp) did not meet two significant RFP requirements.  First, the report noted that equipment had not been approved by the International Association of Chiefs of Police
"At the time of the contract award and as of April 2012, the specific speed detection equipment (scanning LIDAR, a laser system) listed in the contractor’s proposal, and ultimately used, was not reported by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) as conforming to its guidelines, as required by the RFP. The contract required that all equipment conform with IACP’s speed detection equipment standards to provide assurance of its calibration and functionality. "  
The report also noted the RFP did not meet the requirement for testing of equipment:
"Prior to awarding the contract, SHA used a consulting firm to conduct a system accuracy test of the contractor’s proposed equipment in an active highway work zone. However, the consulting firm deviated from SHA’s testing instructions and therefore, the basis for the conclusion that the equipment met performance requirements is questionable. For example, SHA directed the consulting firm to have test vehicles perform 40 test runs in which the contractor’s speed measuring equipment would be compared to two independent radars, one which was inside and one which was outside the vehicle. However, the consulting firm only conducted 18 test runs and only reported the results of 8 of those runs. Moreover, five of those eight reported runs were made using vehicles lacking independent interior radar, so the results could only be measured against one independent radar, rather than two as planned. Nevertheless, the consulting firm stated that the observed results fell within acceptable standards, and SHA’s technical evaluation team gave an overall “good” ranking of the contractor for the applicable bid evaluation attribute. SHA could not provide a reasonable explanation or documentation regarding why the tests were considered sufficient."

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Baltimore Courts Exonerated Some Drivers of Erroneous Tickets

More drivers and companies have stepped forwards about speed camera citations issued by the City of Baltimore based on erroneous speed measurements, and some of the drivers have been exonerated in court.

The Baltimore Sun did an extensive report on problems with the city's speed camera program, including information that citations had been issued based on what appear to have been erroneous speed readings.

Excerpts from the Baltimore Sun story:
The tractor-trailer hit 70 mph as it passed the Poly-Western high school campus on Cold Spring Lane, barreling down a turn lane at twice the legal speed limit. Or so the $40 citation claimed. Just before Falls Road, a pole-mounted speed camera clocked the truck with radar and snapped some pictures. A ticket soon went out in the mail. 
On paper it seemed like just the kind of blatant, dangerous school-zone speeding violation that the ubiquitous enforcement cameras are designed to catch and deter.
Except the truck wasn't going 70 mph that September morning — or even fast enough to get a ticket, The Baltimore Sun determined after examining the camera's time-stamped photos and measuring how far the vehicle traveled. Simple math proves the automated camera was off the mark.
The camera had been misfiring for months, in fact. And city officials knew it.
Going back to last winter, the truck's owner got three other tickets from the same camera, and in each case the camera's own photos show the citations were wrong. Other truck companies report similar complaints: Same camera, same issue.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Baltimore Dumps Xerox

Baltimore City has dumped speed camera contractor ACS(now a division of Xerox Corporation), awarding its speed camera contract to competitor Brekford Corporation.

Brekford was one of two companies competing against incumbent Xerox Corp.  The other, Redflex, has run into troubles of its own elsewhere when it was recently barred from bidding on the city of Chicago's speed camera contract after ethics charges emerged.

City officials stated that Xerox's bid for a renewed contract was "technically deficient", according to the Sun.  Xerox Corp was displeased with the decision:  
"If you don't like my client, do it the right way," said Robert Dashiell, an attorney for Xerox State & Local Solutions Inc., formerly called ACS State & Local Solutions, the longtime operator. "Don't came up with this fictitious argument that somehow we aren't responsive."
Brekford has up til now been servicing programs in smaller jurisdictions including Laurel.  Brekford took over Cheverly's speed camera program from Optotraffic after that town complained of camera errors.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Baltimore Saw Previous Problem With Cold Spring Lane Speed Camera

Baltimore has released an email in response to a Public Information Act request by StopBigBrotherMD.org showing that the city had experienced, and confirmed a previous problem with a speed camera at 1300 West Cold Spring Lane, which caused it to cite a vehicle for a speed it was not traveling.  This is at the same location where we recently reported about apparently erroneous speed camera citations which had been issued to trucks.

The email originated on February 7, 2012 from the safety manager for a well known food products company which operates a fleet of delivery vehicles.  (We have redacted the company's name and the name of a city employee from the email)

"Citation Number [redacted]
 Location 1300 block of W coldspring lane
 The video shows him not going fast.  Please review and consider citation.  Also, please request a calibration from the private company that owns the speed camera."

An engineer in the Baltimore Department of Transportation reported the problem to ACS State and Local Solutions (a part of Xerox Corporation).  Two days later ACS's product manager Donovan Wilson replied
"I reviewed this citation and it seems that the vehicle was not traveling 47 mph.  Should I request a void for this citation?"

On March 5 the Baltimore City employee followed up on the situation "Has the citation been voided?  Also, has the issue with the camera been rectified?"

Mr. Wilson replied for ACS on March 7 "The void request for this citation and te citations for The Alameda were sent to Parking Fines yesterday evening."

The final email response from ACS never stated the cause of the problem or whether the issue was "rectified".  We at StopBigBrotherMD believe it was NOT corrected.

In addition to the company who we previously reported had complained about erroneous speed readings being issued to their trucks, another company has also contacted StopBigBrotherMD.org, claiming they have evidence that citations which they received from 1300 Cold Spring Lane, as well as another camera of apparently the same type at 3800 GreenSpring Avenue, were in error.  They are contesting those citations.  This means at least 3 companies have separately complained about the accuracy of the cameras on Coldspring lane this year.

StopBigBrotherMD.org tried to contact the Baltimore DOT, department of Finance, and Police on October 18, asking for the citations mentioned in our original story to be re-reviewed, and for the names of the officers who reviewed the citations.  We have not received any reply to that request after 19 days, even after we tried to follow up several times, and even though the city was capable of providing an immediate response.