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2/5/2008
Virginia: Fully Automated Parking Tickets Being Mailed
Fredericksburg, Virginia claims to be the first US city to mail fully automated parking tickets.

AutoChalk
A Virginia city founded nearly sixty years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence claims to be "the first locality in the nation" to operate a fully automated parking ticket camera system. Fredericksburg began mailing parking tickets in August 2007 using a mobile van festooned with computer-controlled cameras, laser scanners and a GPS device.

"The deployment of autoChalk offers considerable time-saving benefits as the system only takes about twenty minutes to cover an area downtown," Police Chief David Nye said in a statement. "This will allow the police department to enforce parking restrictions in other under-served locations in the city."

The program succeeded in boosting the number of parking tickets written last year by 19 percent. It works by using a specially equipped van to drive slowly through the downtown area and store precise time, date, license plate and location information for every car it passes on a given street. After making a second pass along the same route, software installed on a laptop computer checks whether any cars have "overstayed" in a space by as little as one second. If so, the van driver does not even leave to place a citation on the alleged violator's windshield -- the software will automatically cause a ticket to be sent to the vehicle's registered owner in the mail.

This results in fewer challenges because most motorists will not be able to remember the circumstances of the citation that arrives weeks later in the mail. It also gives the police department access to a log of the whereabouts of any motorist who may have parked in the historic downtown area.

For now, Fredericksburg is giving only warning notices to first-time violators while residents become accustomed to the idea of automated ticketing. Between August and November last year, one van issued 1889 citations -- equal to the total number issued by human meter maids in the same period. Even with the warnings, the city will easily recover from ticket revenue the $77,600 it spent on the no-bid contract for the autoChalk equipment from Tannery Creek Systems, a Canadian company.

San Francisco, California began mounting automated parking ticket cameras on city buses earlier this year. Parking ticket cameras are now common in the UK.



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