Saturday, June 29, 2013

Gas Tax Hike, Toll Increases In Effect July 1

The Maryland Transit Authority (MDTA) will be substantially increasing some tolls in the state effective July 1.

Crossing the Bay Bridge will increase from $4 to $6. The Fort McHenry Tunnel, Baltimore Harbor Tunnel, and Francis Scott Key Bridge tolls will increase from $3 to $4.  The Harry W. Nice Bridge toll will increase from $4 to $6.  The John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway at Perryville on Interstate 95 and the Thomas J. Hatem Memorial Bridge on U.S. 40 rise from $6 to $8.  Rates for trucks with more than 2 axles will also be increasing.

In addition, the recently approved gas tax hike will begin to go into effect on Monday, adding a 1% tax onto the existing flat per-gallon tax.  This will be an increase of about four cents per gallon, to start.  The sales tax will increase to 2% on Jan 1 2015, and then additionally rise to 3% on July 1 2015.  The legislation also included a provision to further raise the tax to 4% if the federal government does not impose an internet sales tax by January 2016.  Depending on gas prices and whether all increases are imposed, the total tax increase will likely be between 13 and 20 cents per gallon by 2016.  The flat per-gallon tax has also been indexed to inflation and will rise automatically in future years with no action required by the legislature.

WTOP: Maryland commuters face rising toll prices
CBS News: Gas Tax, Tolls Rising in Maryland Next Week
ABC News: Tolls increasing in Maryland
NBC News: Gas Tax Tolls Increasing in MD Monday
Baltimore Sun: Toll means it'll cost more to get to Ocean City
Gazette: Maryland Fuel Tax Hike to Kick in on Monday

Speed Cameras Getting Slammed In Ohio

An Ohio judge has found the Town of Elmwood place in contempt for continuing to collect revenue from speed cameras the judge had ordered shut down, and has ordered Maryland Based Optotraffic's speed camera equipment seized.

Documents revealed that Optotraffic and the town continued corresponding after the judge ordered the program shut down, and that Optotraffic collected an additional $43,000 in fines after the prior ruling.  The judge ordered all fines collected since the ruling reimbursed.  According to a report on WCPO news Optotraffic had been subpoena'd to a court hearing regarding the claims, but their representative did not appear.

Meanwhile, A bill which would ban most speed and red light camera systems passed the Ohio House of Representatives on Wednesday.  The bill would still need to pass the Ohio senate and be signed by the governor for it to become law.  Read Text of Bill.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Congressman Proposes Federal Ban on DC Speed Cameras

A member of congress is circulating draft legislation which would ban speed cameras in the nation's capital.

Representative Kerry Bentivolio (R, Michigan) stated that the draft bill is not finalized yet but would "protect the people’s rights, not take them away.".

DC cameras brought in $85 million in revenue last year, much of which came from residents of neighboring Maryland and Virginia.

A Detroit News article noted that speed and red light cameras are not currently used in Bentivolio's home state of Michigan, due to an opinion by the state's Attorney General that they are illegal under state law.  The article noted that Bentivolio had not received any tickets from DC speed or red light cameras.  “He is interested in the issue because the public is overwhelmingly against them, they violate people’s rights, and cause accidents" stated  Matt Chisholm, a spokesman for Bentivolio.

Additional Coverage:
WTOP: Congress May consider banning DC speed cameras.
Washington Post: Republican Lawmaker Mullingbill to ban speed, red light cameras from district
NBC: Congress May Consider Banning DC Speed Cameras
CBS: Congress May Propose Ban on Speed Cameras
MyFoxDC: Congress may consider banning red-light, speed cameras in DC

Monday, June 24, 2013

Speed Camera Company Collects Dirt On Competitors

Photo enforcement company American Traffic Solutions has created collections of mainstream news articles regarding two of its competitors

ATS files on Xerox Corp
One collection compiled on ATS's website against competitor Xerox Corporation (formerly ACS) references 36 mainstream news reports regarding the numerous problems with Baltimore City's speed camera program, including discoveries that the cameras had issued erroneous citations to large numbers of innocent motorists.  Many of the articles are from the Baltimore Sun's extensive coverage of the issues.  Reports from WBAL, the Washington Times, Capitol Gazette, WYPR, and Patch are also included.

Original link to ATS website:
*Archived Copy In Case They Remove It*

Xerox Corp's contract with Baltimore city was terminated at the end of last year, but problems continued with the program under the new contract with Brekford Corp including an additional case where hundreds of erroneous citations in early 2013, resulting in the temporary shut down of the city's speed and red light camera system.

ATS Files on Redflex
A second collection compiled against competitor Redflex includes 21 mainstream press reports covering that company's role in a $2million bribery scandal in the city of Chicago.  Redflex was barred from re-competing for the city's contract over the issue.  The file contains 21 mainstream news articles from the Chicago Tribune, FOX, the Daily Herald, the Chicago Business Journal, and other sources.

Original link to ATS website:
*Archived Copy In Case They Remove It*

The files appear to be designed to help ATS gain advantage over their competitors in contract bids.  Most of the articles in the files are contained in their entirety, creating a 'ready to deliver' package which could be provided any state or local government which is considering speed cameras.

If you won't take our word for it when we say photo enforcement is corrupt scam, then take the word of a speed camera company.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Prince George's Parking Officer Accused of Writing False Tickets

A Prince George's County parking enforcement officer has been indicted on charges related to writing $2,600 worth of falsified parking tickets, according to the Washington Times

The Times reports that Antoine Budd was terminated from his position in the Prince George's County Revenue Authority after 10 motorists complained that they had received $200 apiece tickets for parking violations they did not commit.  Prosecutors say that plate numbers on the tickets did not match the make and model of the vehicles were registered to, according to the Times.  Mr Budd faces 14 criminal counts including perjury, forgery and counterfeiting, and issuing false documents, misconduct in office.

The Times reports that a source close to the investigation stated Mr. Budd may have issued the tickets in order to meet unofficial agency quotas, but County officials have denied any quotas exist and stated Budd was possibly "trying to cover up a lack of work". 

In addition to Parking enforcement, the Prince George's County Revenue Authority is also involved in overseeing speed and red light camera programs.

Complete Coverage
Washington Times:  P.G. parking officer charged with issuing $2,600 worth of false tickets
WJLA: Antoine Budd indicted on charges of falsifying parking tickets
Washington Post: Pr. George’s parking enforcement officer falsified tickets
WTOP: Prince George's ticket writer accused of issuing fake citations

Friday, June 7, 2013

SHA Cameras Spread To Maryland Panhandle

The SHA will begin deploying speed cameras on I-68 in Cumberland in an area east of Kelly Road.  The cameras will ticket motorists in a highway workzone on the interstate highway "regardless of whether workers are present" according to the wording of state law.  I-68 is a major interstate route between Maryland and points west including West Virginia.  This marks the farthest point west where the SHA has deployed speed cameras.  It is now safe to say that speed cameras are being used in almost every corner of the state.

 The SafeZones program was criticized last year in a scathing audit by the department of Legislative Services which cited issues with the calibration procedures and testing of equipment, violations of procurement policies, and high rates of discarded citations due to hardware problems.

The SHA and Maryland State Police run the SafeZones program under a contract with Xerox Corporation (formerly known as ACS State and Local Solutions).  This is the same contractor who formerly ran Baltimore City's program which was discovered last year to have systematically issued erroneous citations to innocent motoristsincluding even completely stationary vehicles (Baltimore has since changed contractors).  Unlike Baltimore City, citations images from the SafeZones program have timestamps that are rounded off to the nearest second, ensuring that it is impossible for anyone to perform the type of photographic analysis on citations necessary to prove speed measurement errors after the fact as was done in Baltimore.  The SHA claims such verification is unnecessary in their case because their speed cameras are certified every year by the same company which certified Baltimore City's faulty speed cameras to be accurate.