County loses $1.1m in toll violators' fines

County loses $1.1m in toll violators' fines

Freeloading motorists took a toll on Harris County this summer. Computer hardware problems prevented the Texas county's Toll Road Authority 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 them 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. Compaq officials spent a week working on the system, 'but the data was so corrupted, it couldn't be fixed,' Holbert said.

Engine purrs

Holbert and his team scrapped the Compaq server and bought a Sun Microsystems Solaris system. '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 high number of toll violators, Holbert said. 'We had no idea how many toll violators there were out there, and we had done our homework,' he said. 'We've got 140G of violator data accumulating even as we speak.'

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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