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MARTA may start photographing drivers, car tags as part of parking system upgrade

North Springs Station MARTA's North Springs Station is among those where a license plate recognition system may be installed. Credit: walshgroup.com

By David Pendered

MARTA is upgrading its paid parking system and wants to know its options for taking pictures of each driver and license plate as vehicles enter and exit a MARTA parking facility.

North Springs Station

MARTA’s North Springs Station is among those where a license plate recognition system may be installed. Credit: walshgroup.com

In addition, MARTA’s police department may want the ability to interface this system into national law enforcement databases, according to a request for proposals MARTA has issued.

MARTA may not purchase the license plate recognition system now. But it has asked contractors to provide the option to integrate a license plate recognition system into the planned automated parking revenue system.

The proposed security system is part of MARTA’s much broader effort to automate its parking system.

MARTA’s board likely will vote later this year on whether to include the license plate reader system into the planned upgrade of the automated parking system. Feb. 15 was the deadline to submit a proposal for the overall project.

Parking is a significant issue for MARTA.

MARTA’s Transformation Initiative makes two points about parking. First, a good parking program can enhance a rider’s experience by “providing customer friendly parking services.” Second, parking fees generate revenue.

Parking fees amounted to $2.7 million in Fiscal Year 2015 at 10 stations for which MARTA provided financial statements in the RFP. FY 2015 ended June 30 of last year. Parking fees are rebounding after dropping from the $2.5 million collected in FY 2011.

license plate recognition

Once linked into national police data bases, a license recognition system can check if vehicles may be linked to any reported crime in the country. Credit: epcupdates.org

A license plate recognition system would provide MARTA with a great amount of flexibility to manage its parking system in the future, according to marketing information provided by a number of companies in the business.

The following examples are not part of MARTA’s RFP. But they suggest the possibilities that a license plate recognition system enables.

TitanHZ describes its cash-less vending system that allows drivers to pay with a mobile device.

Genetec says its system increases compliance with parking fees and decreases the number of parking ticket disputes. Its software records license plate characters, vehicle images, time stamps and GPS coordinates.

3M has partnered with the International Association of Chiefs of Police to establish the Beyond the License Plate Program. It recognizes officers who apprehend a suspect by using license plate recognition.

The winner of 3M’s award in 2014 was driving his police cruiser in Chandler, Az. when his vehicle’s license plate reader received a hit on a stolen vehicle. The suspect was apprehended and the FBI has linked both suspect and vehicle to a homicide. The investigation is ongoing, according to 3M.

license plate recognition cameras

This illustration, by a company in Hong Kong, shows how cameras can be oriented to photograph a driver and vehicle tag. Credit: aceautomatic.com

Here are the specific requirements for the security system, as outlined in the RFP MARTA has issued:

  • “The automated collection of vehicle license plate images and data upon entry and exit;
  • “License plate tracking for use in resolving disputes precipitated by lost tickets or fraudulent activities;
  • “Generation and storage of high-resolution vehicle images;
  • “If possible, images of the driver, license plate, and vehicle indexed with a specific vehicular entry or exit;
  • “The time, date, location and license plate associated with each of the other forms of collected information, creating a basis for fee calculation and support of interlocking evidence of events;
  • “The Contractor shall provide a technical description, support requirements and pricing for [license plate recognition] system. MARTA will determine if this option will be executed. In addition, it may be the intent of the MARTA Police Department to use the LPR system to interface into a national law enforcement database.”
David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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  1. Stunned February 24, 2016 8:55 am

    That is insane and a waste of money. This is all about faux security and tracking people. The police state rolls on. Ridiculous.Report

  2. jay444 February 26, 2016 9:47 am

    This is so over the top ridiculous and crazy and unnecessary, treating everyone like a potential criminal.  Why don’t they actually focus on improving their parking facilities.  Why the hell are they trying to charge at Lindbergh for example?  99% of people that park there take MARTA and don’t have to pay for parking.  But they have to go through an insane system where they have to get a ticket, get it validated and feed it to the machine when they leave.  I wish it were that simple.  Validation machines are breaking down, gates don’t work, intercoms to call for help don’t work.  And MARTA doesn’t give a damn, leaving everyone trapped in the garage going crazy.  Why the hell doesn’t MARTA focus on fixing the parking facilities instead of turning it into a Police State?  Just another way Republicans are screwing up the whole city.Report

  3. Burroughston Broch February 28, 2016 9:22 pm

    @jay444  You think MARTA is run by Republicans? Boy, you are confused!
    By the way. MARTA has never gotten the payment system for Medical Center station working, so the smart park for free.Report


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