CHICAGO — The world’s largest copier manufacturer will now oversee the nation’s largest red light-camera program, the City of Chicago confirmed Friday.
The Chicago Department of Transportation announced it has finalized the $44 million contract with Xerox to run the cameras for the next five years. There are options to renew it three times at two years per extension.
Xerox will move immediately to take over the management of the red-light camera program from Redflex Traffic Systems, according to CDOT.
Under the new contract, Xerox will charge the city $1,819 per camera per month, which is substantially less than the $4,300 per month Redflex has been charging under the current contract, CDOT said. Officials said the new contract will save $50 million over the next five years.
“Automated red-light enforcement changes drivers’ behavior to reduce the number of crashes and increase the level of safety for everyone,” said CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein. “We plan to continue this important program with a new management team that will both improve the technology and efficiency of the program while saving operating expenses.”
Xerox takes over from Redflex, which helped launch the city’s program in 2003 and has held the contract for the last decade.
Xerox was able to move into the position as the city’s vendor after controversy engulfed Redflex last fall, when a series of Tribune stories revealed a company representative had improperly paid for luxury hotel accommodations, travel and tickets to sporting events for former CDOT Deputy Commissioner John Bills, who oversaw the program.
Bills has denied the allegations.
Ultimately, Mayor Rahm Emanuel banned Redflex from bidding on the city’s speed camera and red-light camera programs.
The current contract, which originally expired Jan. 31, was extended twice as the city went through the bidding process and the contract with Xerox was negotiated.
Xerox officials were not immediately available to comment Friday.
The company is no stranger to controversy in its administration of traffic cameras, however.
It was accused by the City of Baltimore of not fulfilling its obligation to defend several thousand contested speed camera and red-light camera tickets after it lost its contract at the end of 2012. This forced Baltimore to dismiss 6,000 tickets worth $300,000 in fines. Baltimore then refused to pay Xerox for the last three months of invoices.
In addition, a handful of Xerox cameras were taken offline in Baltimore in 2012 after producing a high percentage of erroneous tickets.
The new vendor told the Baltimore Sun that Xerox did not share its software, which subsequently forced the city to temporarily shut down its entire speed camera system, but a Xerox official told the paper they were cooperating.
Xerox spokesman Carl Langsenkamp, contacted in late August, declined to discuss the situation in Baltimore.
But Maurie Nelson, a 15-year veteran of the automated traffic camera industry, said Xerox was a good choice for the new contract.
“I have to applaud Chicago,” said Nelson. “I think Xerox learned [from Baltimore] the lesson of what happens when you don’t take care of your customers. If I’m Chicago, Xerox is a pretty safe bet because they are incentivized to be the best provider they can be.”
But while Chicago officials chose Xerox partially because they were impressed with the detail of their proposed transition plan, Nelson warned that there are always glitches when moving from one vendor to another.
“Its easy to put together documents and transition plans,” said Nelson. “What they say and what they do could be two different things. I can’t think of one transition that was as smooth as it could have been. In order to do a transition of that size [in Chicago] they will need a lot of resources and effort. If they can do it, God bless them.”
Although Redflex soon will be losing its largest single contract, the company promised it would do everything possible to make the transition to Xerox as smooth as possible.
“We want to support the city to the very end, to the very last day,” said Jody Ryan, a spokeswoman for Redflex. “We worked with the city for 10 years and want to work with them to make the transition as easy as possible. We’re proud of the work we’ve done with Chicago and want to finish strong.”
The city operates 384 red-light cameras at 191 intersections and has generated more than $375 million since 2003. The city recently announced it will shut down 36 cameras at 18 locations by the end of January.