Harris County loses $1.1 million in toll violators’ fees

Harris County loses $1.1 million in toll violators’ fees

Hardware problems prevented the Toll Road Authority in Harris County, Texas, from collecting $1.1 million in fines this year.

The authority’s violation enforcement system digitally captured license plates of scofflaws who ran through the county’s toll road lanes without paying. The $3 million system tracked down the violators’ addresses and mailed out invoices.

The Unix system ran on a Compaq ES 20 server with a RAID storage cabinet that turned out to be flawed, said Kevin Holbert, information systems manager for the authority. Compaq officials spent a week trying to fix the system, Holbert said. “But the data was so corrupted, it couldn’t be fixed,” he said.

Holbert and his team scrapped the Compaq server and bought a Sun Solaris system instead. “We basically went from a Cadillac to a Porsche,” he said. Since the new hardware was installed, the system has been running smoothly, he said.

The frustrating thing about the system failure was that “the system works so well when it works,” Holbert said. “We were catching so many violators.”

The real loss was in evidence, Holbert said. “We had a lot of cases pending to go to court. All those cases had to be thrown out of court because of lost evidence.”

Toll Authority officials were amazed by the sheer volume of toll violators, Holbert said. “We had no idea how many toll violators there were out there. And we had done our homework. We had all kinds of studies done that estimated the number of toll scofflaws. But there are just too many out there. We’ve got 140G of violator data accumulating even as we speak,” he said.

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