Friday, December 30, 2016

Red Light Camera Company Settles Bribery Case With Feds

Red Light Camera Company Redflex has reached a settlement in a bribery case with the US Department of Justice.  

Under the terms of the agreement, Redflex must pay the city of Columbus Ohio a fine of $100,000 and whatever amount a Chicago judge decides, where Redflex is facing a $382 million suit.  Redflex must also cooperate with the Justice Department in any investigation into Redflex activities in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Tennessee, Virginia, where the company's former executive vice president admitted he bribed public officials.  Redflex must also cooperate with Australian authorities investigating the company's activities. 

By agreeing to the deal, Redflex avoids being criminally prosecuted for bribery actions in Chicago and Columbus.  

The bribery case had already resulted in criminal prosecutions.  Former Redflex CEO Karen Finley was convicted for bribes paid to elected officials in an attempt to win or expand contracts with Chicago and Columbus.  Finley was sentenced to 30 months in jail,  but won a reprieve after claiming she was suffering from medial issues.  The investigations also resulted in the convictions of John Bills, a former Chicago assistant transportation commissioner, who was convicted of accepting cash and benefits from Redflex.  Lobbyist John Raphael plead guilty to extorting cash from Redflex to pass on as bribes to elected officials in Ohio.

Monday, December 26, 2016

PG County Speed Camera Involved in "Life Threatening" Collision

A speed camera in Upper Marlboro was hit in a collision which resulted in serious injury, according to a report on Patch.com.

According to the report, Prince George's County Fire/EMS reported on 12/19/2016 that rescue personnel responded too a crash where the "vehicle hit [a] speed camera in front of Riverdale Baptist Church", located at 1177 Largo Road in Upper Marlboro.


One person was trapped in the vehicle and needed to be extracted, and was transported to a trauma center with life-threatening injuries.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Hogan Spars With Democrats Over Transportation Law

Governor Larry has stated his "top priority" next year will be to seek the repeal of legislation which he says will require him to stop work on dozens of transportation projects in Maryland.

In a statement, Governor Hogan stated that he would submit "emergency legislation" repeal the bill passed by the 2016 General Assembly over Hogan's Veto which requires him to "rank" all transportation projects in the state.  “It will wreak havoc on the entire state transportation system and usurp important authority away from local governments and away from the executive branch of state government, giving authority instead to lobbyists and special interest groups."

The legislation, which Hogan described as a "Road Kill" law, created a "scoring system" for transportation projects and required the State to rank all transportation projects according to that system.  "Under the legislatively mandated scoring system, 66 out of 73 transportation projects are fully canceled"

Democratic lawmakers have argued that the bill does not kill any projects and that the final decision as to what is funded is with the Governor.  Democratic leadership have stated that the purpose of the legislation is to bring more transparency to the process of deciding which state transportation projects receive funding.   Sen. Roger Manno,  (D-Montgomery), argued that "We're just trying to get this done," "I'm from Montgomery County — we can accept it if we don't get a project we want," he said. "We just want to know why."

Hogan and Republican legislators have charged that the law was intended to tie the governor's hands by forcing him to subject each project to the scoring system, and to justify funding for any project that didn't score at the top of the formula.  Republican lawmakers and representatives of some rural counties have claimed that the scoring system is weighted toward mass-transit projects and against projects located in rural areas outside major urban centers.  "The bill says mass transit only," State Sen. Andrew Serafini (R-Washington County) argued "It's messing with all but two jurisdictions. My push is we gotta repeal."

The rankings include factors such as whether projects enhances existing community assets and increase accessibility to jobs.  Speaker of the House Michael Busch argued "The people of Maryland want a transparent government where they understand how politicians are spending their money. The law requires the Governor to simply explain his spending decisions, not hide behind them.

In a letter to the Baltimore Sun, incoming GOP chairman Dick Haire criticized the legislation as "Partisan Overreach", and pointed out that of the 31 "goals and measures" the MDOT was required to use to rank projects "none of those 31 factors is to reduce traffic congestion.", stating "Maryland's new law doesn't even use the term "congestion."

Secretary of Transportation Pete Rahn stated "The one-size-fits-all ranking system mandated by this law is wrong for Maryland drivers, wrong for employers relying on needed improvements to local roads and bridges, wrong for tourists and visitors traveling to our state, and wrong for Maryland taxpayers who expect their dollars to be spent in an fair and equitable manner on projects that will improve their daily lives”.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Montgomery County Shuts Off Red Light Camera Over Yellow Light Timing Issue

UPDATED 1/26/2017: With respect to the creation date of the SHA's yellow light timing policy, we previously stated the policy was implemented in 2015, based on statements made to us by the Montgomery County Government.  The SHA has informed us that their policy on setting a minimum yellow light time of 3.5 seconds was created in 2003, 12 years earlier than Montgomery County claimed.
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The Montgomery County Automated Traffic Enforcement Unit has temporarily turned off a red light camera located at Georgia Avenue at Seminary Road after it was revealed that the timing does not meet the current SHA yellow light timing standard, according to a report by WJLA.

Concerns were first raised after a motorist discovered a ticket she received from the camera, a fraction of a second after the light changed, showed a yellow light time of "2.9s".  The minimum yellow light timing permitted by ANY yellow light anywhere is 3 seconds.  The yellow light in question claimed to have been timed at 3 seconds, according to the Montgomery County.  Nevertheless both the Maryland Drivers Alliance and WJLA independently timed the light at slightly less than 3 seconds.




Yellow lights are supposed to be timed according to a formula based on traffic speed.  For a 35mph road, the formula would normally give duration of 3.5s.  However the Montgomery County DOT claims that it is acceptable to use a slower speed than the speed limit due to the fact that the light in question was a left turn signal.  But even using the DOT's stated speed of 27mph, the computed speed based on the ITE formula is still greater than 3 seconds, and the DOT rounded the time down when configuring the yellow light.

But more significantly, in May of 2015 the Maryland SHA increased the minimum yellow light time for all yellow lights to 3.5 seconds.
Excerpt from the Maryland Signal Timing Manual

The traffic light in question is located on a state highway.   Montgomery County failed to increase the yellow light duration for the subsequent 18 months.

Yellow light timing formulas are supposed to take into account the time for humans to perceive and respond to a the signal change and bring a vehicle to a complete stop.  Yellow lights which are too short create a "dilemma zone" where some motorists can neither safely stop nor safely proceed.   The Federal Highway Administration has stated "There is a correlation between the duration of the yellow interval and red light running events. Van der Horst observed a substantial reduction in the number of red-light running events after increasing the duration of the yellow interval from 3 to 4 seconds (in urban areas) and from 4 to 5 seconds (in rural areas).  A small adjustment was observed in the drivers' stopping behavior, which was attributed to the relatively low increase in the duration of the yellow interval."  Some jurisdictions in California which increased yellow light times saw violations drop over 75%.

The Montgomery County Government has defended their right to issue red light camera citations just 0.1 second after a light turns red, making short reductions in yellow light times HIGHLY relevant to the number of potential violations.

WJLA asked several Montgomery County agencies for comment, but no county representative would speak about the matter on camera.  Montgomery County defended the timing of the light by email, claiming it is correctly and legally timed. The county decided to switch the camera off after the media started asking questions until the yellow light is increased to comply with the SHA standard, but no tickets have been refunded.

While the county claims 3 seconds is the correct duration for a left turn signal, it turns out that the left turn signal on Seminary Road at Georgia Avenue, at the same intersection but perpendicular to this yellow light, is set to 4 seconds not 3.  The red light camera only enforces the left turn from Georgia Avenue with a 3(ish) second yellow light, but not the left turn from Seminary road with a 4 second yellow.

The Maryland Drivers Alliance has attempted to conduct our own investigation of the impact of this yellow light duration on red light camera violations.  However Montgomery County denied a Maryland Public Information Act request for the yellow light times their system records for individual violations.  When we requested that they instead provide the portion of the database containing these records, Montgomery County demanded fee of over $19,000 to let us see the records.

(Update 1/26/2017)
We asked the SHA for a copy of their yellow light timing policy and were given a document dated in 2003 stating that the minimum time any yellow light should be set to is 3.5 seconds.  We asked the SHA to explain why this was provided when we had asked for a policy Which Montgomery County told us was implemented in 2015 and the SHA responded: "Our policy states that a 3.5 second was established in 2003. If you have any further questions, please reach out to the County."


Documents provided to us by the Montgomery County DOT shows that some traffic lights with only 3 second yellows had been set after 2003.