Several Finalists for Baltimore’s Soon-to-be-Resurrected Traffic Camera Program Linked to Legal Disputes

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Yesterday afternoon, Mayor Catherine Pugh’s office named the six companies it’s considering to run the city’s soon-to-be re-launched traffic program. A quick dig online shows most of those companies have run into legal troubles or complaints in other parts of the country.

Spokesman Anthony McCarthy wrote in a release that normally, the city wouldn’t divulge the names of companies selected as finalists.

“The release of such information could conceivably cause competitive harm particularly if the City needs to re-issue the RFP due to an error or for other reasons,” McCarthy wrote.

However, in this case, the city’s legal team has determined there’s no competitive harm involved in releasing the names.

With that in mind, here they are:

  • American Traffic Solutions, based in Arizona
  • GATSO USA, based in Massachusetts
  • Optotraffic, LLC, based in Maryland
  • Redflex Traffic Systems, based in Australia
  • SENSYS America, based in Florida
  • Conduent Incorporated, based in New Jersey

Traffic cameras have been shown in certain cases to benefit municipalities, creating new revenue streams targeting law breakers and reducing more injurious types of crashes (albeit while increasing the likelihood of fender benders). However, they’ve also been shown in many cases to be ineffective or, worse, prone to issuing citations on infractions that were never committed, as in Baltimore.

Traffic cams are also magnets for legal disputes.

The Orlando Sun-Sentinel reports American Traffic Solutions is tied to an enduring legal dispute in Florida in which a state appeals court ruled in 2014 that the program was illegal due to having too much policing power. In 2015, plaintiffs sued cities and counties in Florida that used the cameras, arguing governments should pay back more than $200 million in fines because the program was deemed illegal. (Those cities and counties are trying to get the case thrown out, but are having some trouble.)

GATSO USA has been named as a party in multiple class-action lawsuits in Iowa, which were notably later dismissed in court. In one case, the plaintiffs sued, arguing they were fined after state transportation officials ordered two of GATSO’s interstate cameras be moved and two others turned off for not complying with updated state traffic camera laws. In another case, plaintiffs argued the company and the City of Cedar Rapids were being “unfairly enriched” at plaintiffs’ expense, according to language used by The Des Moines Register. (A judge tossed that case in June 2016).

Optotraffic’s cameras are tied to a case in an Ohio town in which a local judge has ruled the government must refund $3 million in fines issued to speeding drivers, the Dayton Daily News reports. The ruling came after the judge determined the Town of New Miami’s speed-camera ordinance itself was unconstitutional.

Redflex has agreed to pay $20 million to the City of Chicago in a settlement reached after one of its former executives was found guilty of participating in a bribery scheme with city officials. A Chicago Tribune investigation found the program had been poorly managed, lacked proper oversight and hadn’t produced much in terms of safety benefits.

(The Sun’s Luke Broadwater reports Redflex has been pushing to get Baltimore’s contract to restart the city’s cancelled traffic camera program for years, arguing the Chicago scandal shouldn’t be considered as context.)

Sensys America’s red-light cameras have been shut down in a Florida town after years of operating there, following a prolonged push by local residents and officials to stop the program. The company recently reached a settlement with the town in a legal dispute about when exactly it would turn off the cameras, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Conduent Inc. doesn’t appear to be tied up in any legal disputes, though the company is owned by Xerox, which operated Baltimore’s infamously error-prone traffic camera system that was shut down in 2013.

Whichever company wins the contract will have a sizable new revenue stream. The city plans to install 10 fixed-speed cameras, 10 portable speed cameras, 10 red-light cameras and six other cameras to catch truck drivers illegally traveling on certain roads.

Pugh’s proposed budget sets aside nearly $8 million to implement the program.

Ethan McLeod
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