News Shorts

Market for Red-Light-Running Systems Speeds Up

Washington, D.C., just inked a $28 million deal with Lockheed Martin IMS to install cameras and imaging systems at 40 city intersections in the nation's capital to deter motorists from charging through red lights. The deal is the latest in a rash of contracts designed to catch motorists running red lights.

Lockheed and Electronic Data Systems Corp., which has similar deals with New York City and several Maryland jurisdictions, have emerged as two giants in a small group of companies selling systems to crack down on light-runners. That market has heated up as more states have passed legislation to allow the devices. Eight states are using the technology, and about six are looking to pass laws to do so this year. Delaware is even considering rolling out a statewide system.

Because photo enforcement involves no first-hand witness of a traffic violation by a police officer, states must enact legislation to allow police departments to use the technology. Also, law enforcement agencies do not issue citations to drivers who are caught by the imaging system. Instead, a "notice of liability," which is not reported to insurance companies, is sent to the owner of a vehicle that is shown-in freeze-frame images-to have run a red light.

"The goal here is to reduce traffic risks and modify behavior to get folks to act responsibly at intersections," said Jack Fleming, director of public safety programs at EDS' Government Industry Group. Once the target of privacy rights controversy, red-light-running technology has a 70 percent acceptance rate in recent polls completed by insurance companies, he said.

However, motorists draw the line at similar technology to enforce speed limits. "There is now the ability to use photo radar speed enforcement, but people just don't accept that idea," Fleming said. "The fact is that most everybody speeds, but most people don't blow through red lights."

- Jennifer Jones


Service Gives City Cable a Face Lift

Cities wanting to jazz up their government-access cable TV channels may want to check out a new service from Salt Lake City-based FrameRate Corp. Its Instant CityGraphics Service takes e-mailed text from cities and turns it into multimedia programming with video clips and animation.

The service is designed for cities that actively use their government-access channel to deliver information to residents but don't have the budget to pay for the hardware and staff to update and enhance the information. For a base fee of $1,000 per month, cities submit messages and information to FrameRate via e-mail or fax. The company then takes the content, enhances it with its Millennium software suite and sends the files within 24 hours to the origination point of the city's channel.

At its basic level, the service gives cities a way to outsource their videotext bulletin boards. But the company's software also can gather timely information from the World Wide Web, such as weather radar reports and satellite graphics, that can be incorporated into programming. "This service really shows the community what the government is doing for them," said James Harvey, FrameRate's president. "Without it, residents don't know that the library has new hours, about new volunteer opportunities or new government projects."

TV station KCRT in Richmond, Calif., is the first user of the Instant CityGraphics service. KCRT, which reaches more than 70,000 cable subscribers is using the service to enhance its on-air look. But larger cities, including San Diego and Beverly Hills, Calif., have their own version of FrameRate's Millennium suite at a cost of $10,000 to $40,000.

Harvey said he hopes that this outsourcing service will be popular with small and midsize cities and has begun marketing it to city council members nationwide.

- Meg Misenti


Colorado County Shares Wireless

Cities and agencies in Larimer County, Colo., will put Motorola Inc.'s "shared system" wireless solution to the test next month to handle radio communications. Motorola will install and operate the digital radio system, and county agencies will pay monthly fees based on the number of mobile radios used on the system.

The Loveland Police Department and the Poudre School District financed the network infrastructure for the deal and will begin using the network in July. Other agencies who join the network simply will pay a monthly user fee to Motorola.

Loveland Police Capt. John Walker said a 1997 flood emphasized the need for a common communications systems to support a coordinated response from several agencies. "While we understand our communications needs for county interoperability, none of the agencies in the county could afford to finance or manage a wide-area radio system," Walker said.

"There is a lot of interest in shared services through joint agreements where [agencies] share services and costs," said Jim Osborne, Motorola's marketing director. "We believe this is the first of many opportunities where multiple agencies will work together on shared private networks."

The Astro SmartZone system will replace systems in the Loveland police and fire departments, the Poudre School District in Fort Collins, the Loveland Rural Fire Protection District and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. While users will share the infrastructure, each agency will have its own private communications system, and during emergencies, agencies can communicate.

- Meg Misenti

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