Thursday, December 17, 2015

College Park Speed Camera Ticketed Stopped Bus

College Park issued erroneous speed camera citations, including one issued to a non-moving bus, according to documents obtained from the city under the Public Information Act.

Stopped UMD Shuttle Bus Ticketed By Speed Camera
In a long delayed response to a request for documents pertaining to speed camera errors, college park produced a cache of emails including (heavily redacted) correspondence about a “UM Shuttle” which had been erroneously ticketed by a College Park Speed Camera while it was not moving.  An individual who was apparently manager of the shuttle buses wrote “The photos purportedly show the bus moving at 38mph but it is clearly stopped at the light at Calvert Rd.  The two pictures were taken .5 sec apart and at 38MPH, the bus should have moved a little over 27 feet.”  The buses apparently used a gps fleet management system called “Nextbus”  (something most motorists would not be lucky enough to have data from.  “Nextbus will show a GPS 'ping' periodically during the bus's travel and the closest one to that point shows it approaching the light at Calvert road going 14.9mph.  I ran a report for the entire driver's shift, and he never went over about 32mph which is consistent with that driver.”  The individual referred to the local designee by his first name (Bob).

“This citation will be dismissed” wrote the local designee in response to UM shuttle complaint.

College Park Ticketed Wrong Vehicles
In another case, College Park ticketed a motorist for a vehicle which was not even theirs, according to a heavily redacted letter produced by the city.

Significant portions of the conversation were entirely redacted by College Park from the obtained correspondence.

A report provided by College Park acknowledged that one speed camera issued citations to 23 where "registration plate does NOT match registration plate issued for motor vehicle" (ie the wrong vehicle was cited), while at another camera seven irrefutably erroneous tickets to incorrect vehicles were documented.

College Park “Ombudsman” relied on Optotraffic for Citation Reviews
State law forbids a speed camera contractor from serving the role as “Local designee”, the individual nominally responsible for reviewing citations.    Despite this fact, College Park has relied on their contractor, Optotraffic, to review citations which were claimed to be errors.  In the case above, the citations were forwarded to Optotraffic Employee Anjenette Criner for review.  In this case it was on Optotraffic's acknowledgement of an irrefutable error that resulted in the ticket being confirmed as an error:

College Park received several other complaints about incorrect speed.  However these complaints were not from someone who runs shuttle buses for the University of Maryland or who was on a first name basis with the Local Designee.  Correspondence between College Park and Optotraffic showed that such complaints were routinely referred to Optotraffic for review.

There's no indication that Optotraffic made any effort to verify claims of erroneous speed measurements using citation images or time-distance calculations, relying only on the fact that Optotraffic's proprietary equipment passed their proprietary Optotraffic defined internal checks.

Baltimore City was forced to shut their speed camera down after irrefutable evidence of citations based on erroneous speed measurements became public, and those errors occurred despite the fact that the equipment passed all calibration checks.  Baltimore City's contractors lost a contract worth millions of dollars per year as a result of acknowledging erroneous speed measurements.  Allegations of erroneous speed measurements from College Park cameras were made in the past, and the Town of Cheverly complained of errors produced by Optotraffic cameras including a bicycle photographed at a claimed speed of 57mph.  Optotraffic has in the past denied their equipment has produced erroneous tickets.

Erroneous Tickets Tossed in Court
Several Motorists were successful at disputing erroneous citations in Prince George's District Court.  On September 16, correspondence shows that four tickets were tossed by the court in a single day. In one case it was clear that the cited vehicle did not even belong to the cited driver.
On August 20, two other citations were tossed by the district court.  Under state law, College Park is not required to count tickets tossed by the court as “Erroneous violations”, the city has sole power to decide what is and is not “erroneous”.

Long Delay In Obtaining Records on Speed Camera Errors
Documents pertaining to speed camera errors were initially requested from the City of College Park's “ombudsman” in July of 2015.  On September 18 (almost two months after the original request), we were told by the Local Designee "We are working on compiling the information in response to your request. I should be able to send it to you within the next couple of weeks.",  This did not happen however. So on October 1 we resubmitted our request as a formal Maryland Public Information Act request, citing new provision of the MPIA enacted this year, and asked for additional documents.  Despite being told that our already overdue request would be expedited, it still required an additional 30 days and a demand for a significant fee before the city produced the requested documents.