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AISD to begin video ticketing

Monday, October 5, 2015 by Courtney Griffin

During a quick approval of Monday’s consent agenda, the Austin Independent School District board of trustees unanimously OK’d the use of camera-based ticketing to help curb drivers’ illegal passing of stopped school buses.

AISD entered into a one-year renewable contract with Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions Inc. for a School Bus Safety Stop-Arm Camera System. ATS will begin installing cameras on an estimated 300 buses throughout the district – about 60 percent of its fleet. Locally, ATS has worked with the Georgetown Independent School District to implement a similar system.

The system will be fairly comparable to many other cities’ (somewhat controversial) red-light camera systems, except AISD’s citations will not be processed through municipal courts. Instead, officers with AISD will issue the citations. Any sort of appeal process will also be handled by the district, but the specifics of that appeal process have yet to be decided.

“When the bus stops to load and unload students, the bus stop-arm is deployed,” said AISD media coordinator Jacob Barrett. “A camera will capture the video of the vehicle’s license plate passing the school bus. After processing is completed by the vendor, video will be reviewed by the AISD police officer, who will give the approval for the citation to be mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle.”

The camera-based ticketing service will come at no cost to the district. Instead, violators will be footing the bill. The district is paying for the service based on deliverables rather than paying a one-time contracted fee. ATS will receive about 60 percent of the ticketed revenue while AISD receives an estimated 40 percent. However, that agreement is subject to change after the two parties work out implementation details, such as the final number of systems to be installed and which party is responsible for steps throughout the ticketing process.

According to board documents, AISD had potential contractors run a pilot program in April before entering into an agreement for services. ATS; Dallas County Schools, which operate a transportation services company under the name Texserve; and Arizona-based Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. all ran separate pilot programs for six months, installing cameras on 10 buses each. Brooks said the pilot programs found an average of 60 violations per day.

An evaluation committee made up of the AISD chief of police, director of transportation, director of contract and procurement and administrative supervisor of school turnaround gave ATS’ proposal, systems and services the highest ranking based on the value provided to the district, AISD documents said.

The city of Austin recently approved a city ordinance that created a camera-enforced civil offense for illegally passing school buses. Fines issued to violators will be about $300, Brooks said. However, he added, the district does not have a start date for the system, as it is still working out process details.

AISD did not respond to questions regarding how the revenue from fines would be spent.

Photo by Gerry Dincher made available through a Creative Commons License.

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