Big Turnout At Pre-Bid Meeting For Speed Camera Contract
All the big names were there.
Redflex, RedSpeed, Gatso USA, American Traffic Solutions, Optotraffic–and other heavy hitters of the automated traffic enforcement industry–were sitting quietly in Conference Room B waiting for the meeting to begin.
About 50 people representing these, and other potential subcontractors considering a bid to become a vendor for Chicago’s speed camera enforcement program, showed up on the 4th floor of City Hall Tuesday morning to get more information about the contract.
In a nearly packed room, the meeting began with some clarifying words from Joseph Chan from the Department of Procurement and Contracts and then some background on the speed camera plan by Larry McPhillip from the Chicago Department of Transportation.
“Child safety is our primary goal,” said McPhillip before giving attendees the Cliff’s Notes version of the city’s vision for their speed camera program, state law and the city’s municipal code.
Lots Of Questions, Some Answers
A question and answer period followed but got off to a slow start. After a few seconds of uncomfortable silence reminiscent of the first day of high school, one or two brave souls got the ball rolling with a question or three. Once the tension in the room broke, a flurry of queries from attendees began peppering the representatives from CDOT and Procurement who were on hand for about an hour.
Questions covering the gamut of subjects related to this multi-million dollar contract with potentially 300 enforcement locations around schools and parks, included such scintillating topics such as signage requirements, pavement striping, permitting, wireless connectivity and enforcement technology preferences.
More interestingly, questions surrounding the “short list” provision of the bid specifications were answered by CDOT’s Scott Kubly. He explained that once the bids were submitted, a few of the leading vendors would be asked to pilot their technology at up to two locations to see how their equipment performs over a 30 day trial period before a final vendor was selected.
School Zone Confusion
But a good portion of the discussion centered around the potentially sticky area of issuing violations for school zone violations.
In a marked school zone, drivers must slow down to 20 mph during the hours school is in session and when children are present.
The normal speed limit of 30 mph is enforced until a child becomes present within the zone, where the speed limit, according to the law, immediately drops to 20 mph.
But what is the definition of “present” mean? Does the school zone speed limit apply when school is out? How will the vendor know when school is out or in? Does the speed limit drop around parks or just around schools?
What is the definition of a “child” for the purposes of enforcement?
According to CDOT’s David Zavattero, “a school age child is general someone under 18 years old.”
Challenging Technological, Legal Issues Pop Up
So how will the vendor, using only video, distinguish between youthful adults who look like children and mature looking children who appear to be adults?
“Because judgment is involved, this is a grey area,” answered Zavattero. “It is up to the vendor to identify whether someone may be school age. Ultimately it will be up to a hearing officer (to make that determination if the violation is contested.)”
“The ordinance certainly has some challenges when it comes to enforcing the law,” says Charles Territo, Vice President of Communications for American Traffic Solutions. “There are several issues we have to work through. This is one of the issues the Chicago Police Department and presumably the Attorney General will have to provide guidance on.”
But Territo, who’s firm operates over 300 automated traffic enforcement programs nationwide, sees the real burden of determining whether a child is present in or near the intersection for the purposes of issuing a violation falling on the shoulders of local law enforcement.
That’s because, according to state law and city municipal code, after the vendor identifies a potential violation, a Chicago Police officer will then review video before a violation is issued.
“The ultimate review will be by the police department and they’ll be responsible for determining whether a violation occurred,” explained Territo.”
Will Clout Cloud Bidding Process?
Earlier in the year, when details regarding Chicago’s speed camera enforcement program were being revealed, there was some worry that Greg Goldner, a political ally of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and who’s consulting firm lists Redflex Traffic Systems as a client, would use his relationship with Emanuel to give his client a leg up in the bidding for the speed cam contract.
Seemingly, based on Tuesday’s turnout, Goldner’s relationship with Emanuel has done nothing to deter other potential vendors from participating in the bid process.
Kubly was impressed with the attendance.
“There’s a lot of excitement about this within the industry,” said Kubly. “It’s a program that will have a lot of attention focused on it.”
“I think the process has been very fair, very transparent–we as a company are looking forward to the opportunity to participate,” said Territo. “The city sees how important it is to have an open process. The testament to that is the number of people who have attended the meeting. If that perception was different, you’d have a much different turnout.”
Final bids for Chicago’s speed camera enforcement program are due on August 9th.