Some thoughts on the Axsis of Evil

The Shitty— I mean, City of Miami has been going positively ape for these giant piles of turd as of late. This is an American Traffic Solutions RLC-300 red light extortion camera. When it detects someone entering an intersection on a red light, it shoots two still images and one video clip, and the violator receives a bill for around $160. The appeals process is completely rigged and if you lose, you pay $300. Cute little scam, right?

The City of Miami has been installing these on almost every intersection with traffic lights and has even put in signals at intersections that didn’t have them before to open up the gates for even more camera revenue. Foul.

So here’s what you’re facing when you approach the intersection. First, you will see a fairly standard sign. They’re not stealth, in fact I’ve seen at least one that has a warning light above it.

figia12_longdescThe camera installation itself varies. Some installations are the original Axsis RLC-100 setup and will have a TON of cameras aimed at the intersection – a little tree of video cameras is aimed down at the stop line, with one looking over the intersection itself. A second pole holds a high resolution DSLR in a box sort of thing and a control unit, and a strobe is either mounted on that or on a third pole. The newer Axsis RLC-300 is usually on a single pole with the video and still camera in one box, a radar sensor, and a strobe.

imageThis one pictured is at the intersection of Coral Way and 27th Avenue in the City of Miami. This intersection has VERY long queues approaching it, unusually short yellow lights (I haven’t timed them to see if they’re in compliance with Florida state law, but they’re definitely on the lower end of the allowable spectrum if they are) and a severe visibility problem, in which someone following a tall truck is very likely to hit a red light without even seeing it.

image

 

The camera’s control unit has a pair of antennas on top of it. I’ve seen rumors floating around that this is a WiFi based system of some sort. I have no idea what they speak on newer cameras but my BlackBerry used to be able to detect a nonsense SSID being beaconed by the old RLC-100 installations. Using a wifi card in rfmon mode and KisMAC or similar tools will probably reveal more interesting info. There seems to be a limit as to how many lanes of traffic the RLC-300 can handle, as I’ve seen installations up in Broward County with two or more of them aimed across wide intersections.

At the top of the pole is a radar sensor. The RLC-300’s logic appears to be this: If the light is red AND a magnetic loop at the intersection’s stop line changes state AND motion is detected by the radar, then a recording cycle begins. I used to be able to regularly false trigger the RLC-100 series cameras in the City of Miami Gardens by pulling up rapidly then stopping just before the stop bar, since they had their magnetic loops installed all wrong. Some peon sitting in an office somewhere had to sift through the resulting videos and enjoy a daily video of me NOT committing a red light violation. I like to stick it to The Man, but the RLC-300 is too smart to record if no violation actually occurred. In fact, it is smart enough to abort a recording cycle already in progress and can the data if it sees that nothing interesting happened. Poo. 😛

The newest installations, called AutoPatrol RLSC-3D, also feature a radar sensor on the opposite corner of the intersection; this is used to track the oncoming traffic and improve the reliability of violation detection.


AutoPatrol_3D_HowitWorks
Now if you find this post because you’re curious as to how to fight a ticket — I have no clue but I’ve heard it’s nearly impossible. Consult an attorney to see if you have a chance, but be warned, you’re probably just going to pay more in fees. In Florida, the red light camera tickets do not count as points against your license but they are available as public record; I recall someone using them as a mudpie in a recent bout of political mudslinging. Good times. I don’t know if insurance companies receive that data as well or use it against their clients.

 

The way to deal with these cameras is to avoid them. Waze and Trapster will provide advance warning, though the signs aren’t exactly inconspicuous. The key though is to be ready to stop early, especially in wet or slippery weather, and don’t follow tall trucks closely. Take a momentary glance at the pedestrian crosswalk signals at the sides of the intersection – if the white WALK indicator’s up, you’re pretty well safe to cross, but a blinking STOP indication means the money-grubbing cycle is about to commence. The signals with an LED countdown timer are especially handy here, and they seem to be present on almost all the intersections that also have cameras, just as a matter of ongoing modernizations. Just watch out, I have seen some intersections within the City of Miami set to have as little as a 2 second yellow offering almost no chance to stop safely from normal traffic speeds (US1 and 32nd Avenue is a common offender here).

The State of Florida is currently considering banning the cameras. I can’t say I’d miss them. They have actually made intersections MORE dangerous, as there is a mad dash to stop or to beat the quickly changing light on the approach. I’ve seen several T-bone type crashes at over 80 mph in areas with a 45 mph speed limit that occurred from someone trying to beat a light. Please… don’t speed.

One other hilarious thing I discovered: As of 2008, ATS, like many other business ventures that subsist by nickel and diming the American middle and working class out of existence, is now under the portfolio of GoldBallsacks… I mean, Goldman Sachs.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.--(Business Wire)--
American Traffic Solutions ("ATS") announced today that Goldman
Sachs has become its first institutional investor. Goldman Sachs was
invited to invest in ATS as a minority shareholder to support the
explosive growth in the company's photo traffic safety enforcement and
electronic toll payment businesses, according to Jim Tuton, president
and CEO of ATS. ATS is the largest independent, privately held company
providing photo traffic enforcement services in North America. The
company's 2007-08 quarterly compound revenue growth rate exceeded 80
percent.

   Terms of the sale were not disclosed, but Tuton reported that
Goldman Sachs will be represented on ATS' board of directors.

   Jim Tuton founded the American photo traffic enforcement industry
in 1987 when he introduced "photo radar" to the small community of
Paradise Valley, Arizona, in the Phoenix area. Photo traffic
enforcement is now used in approximately 300 communities in 25
American states and the District of Columbia. ATS currently serves
more than 125 municipalities in 18 states, the District of Columbia
and the Province of Alberta, Canada. New York City, Philadelphia,
Washington, D.C., Houston, Fort Worth, Phoenix, St. Louis, Seattle and
San Diego are all ATS customers.

   Budget-constrained communities across the country are turning to
photo safety enforcement because it improves public safety at no cost
to the local police departments, explained Tuton. According to a 2007
study by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (www.iihs.org),
red-light cameras reduced violations by as much as 96 percent in
Philadelphia. St. Louis experienced a 49 percent decrease in
violations. And from 1994-2005, red-light-running violations decreased
73 percent in New York City.

   "Cash-strapped cities are finding it more and more difficult to
deploy adequate police resources to fight serious crime," said Tuton.
"Our cameras handle the routine traffic enforcement duties so officers
can spend more time in their communities. We help cities improve
public safety by providing solutions that also generate needed revenue
by shifting the financial burden from the taxpayers to the violators."

   "Goldman Sachs was attracted to the industry and then identified
ATS as a leader with tremendous growth potential, an exemplary track
record and a high-quality management team," said Raheel Zia, vice
president in the principal investment area at Goldman Sachs. "ATS has
been at the forefront of the photo traffic safety enforcement industry
with the company's speed and red-light camera programs. The company's
worldwide expansion into electronic toll collection and
transportation-related commercial services present attractive growth
opportunities."

   "We have grown ATS from a small, single-client company in 1987 to
a company with more than 125 customers," explained Tuton. "We have
been profitable every year since we started the business. This was
accomplished with a national team of 425 employees and managers and
without any private equity investment." Tuton noted that the company's
client base grew by nearly 100 percent in 2007.

   "Our relationship with Goldman Sachs will provide a strong
platform and access to capital resources that will enable ATS to
continue on our amazing growth trajectory," Tuton continued. "Goldman
Sachs is one of the largest and most prestigious investment companies
in the world. They are a terrific fit for ATS because they share our
culture and mission of serving state and local governments with needed
operational and financial services."

   About ATS:

   American Traffic Solutions (ATS) is a leading provider of
technology and business solutions for traffic safety and electronic
toll collection programs worldwide, including PlatePass(R), which is
an automated electronic toll payment service that enables Avis, Budget
and Hertz customers to use high speed, cashless electronic toll lanes.
ATS is a private corporation, which serves more than 125
municipalities and government agencies. ATS is the largest provider of
photo traffic enforcement programs to America's big cities with active
programs in New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., St. Louis,
San Diego and Seattle; Houston, Fort Worth, Irving and Arlington,
Texas; New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Phoenix, Tucson,
Mesa, Glendale and Scottsdale, Arizona. ATS also serves Canada's
largest digital red-light camera and speed enforcement program in
Calgary, Alberta. The company is headquartered in Scottsdale, Ariz.
For additional information visit: www.redlightcamera.com or
www.atsol.com.

   About Goldman Sachs:

   Goldman Sachs is a leading global investment banking, securities
and investment management firm that provides a wide range of services
worldwide to a substantial and diversified client base that includes
corporations, financial institutions, governments and high net worth
individuals. Founded in 1869, it is one of the oldest and largest
investment banking firms. The firm is headquartered in New York and
maintains offices in London, Frankfurt, Tokyo, Hong Kong and other
major financial centers around the world.

American Traffic Solutions
Josh Weiss
Director of Communications and Public Affairs
480-596-4613
josh.weiss@atsol.com
or
Goldman, Sachs & Co.
Andrea Raphael
Vice President, Media Relations
212-357-0025

Copyright Business Wire 2008

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