11 Investigates is getting answers about a school bus safety program that Pittsburgh Public Schools and the district’s school police profit off of. We first told you about BusPatrol in November, when our viewers began reaching out telling us they believed their tickets showed they didn’t violate the law.
Since then, 11 Investigates has been digging into the program, asking for the school district’s contract with BusPatrol, how many citations have been issued and how much PPS is making off this program. The district redacted the entire financial agreement they have with BusPatrol. Thursday, at a press conference, the district revealed how much revenue has been generated from these automatic school bus cameras.
When asked if it is fair for PPS and school police to profit off of these tickets, the Chief Operations Officer for PPS says he stands by BusPatrol and its mission to keep kids safe.
“Let’s be clear, this is not about the money, at all,” McNamara tells 11 Investigates.
The district says over 9,000 violations were captured in a six-month period; but, after review by school police, roughly 5,000 citations were actually mailed out with a $300 price tag.
“From July to December, the total ticket revenue collected was $858,559,” McNamara said.
Of each ticket:
$50 goes to the state’s ‘School Bus Safety Grant Program’
$25 goes to Pittsburgh Public School police
The rest of the revenue is split 50/50 between the school district and BusPatrol.
PPS says it pays $125 per month - per each of its buses - to BusPatrol to maintain the cameras.
“To date, after all required disbursements, the district has received $194,236 from this program,” McNamara added.
Some of our viewers reached out to us concerned about why they have to pay their tickets to a P.O. Box in Boston. Some folks tell 11 Investigates when they saw this, they thought their ticket was a scam and threw it out. You can also pay a citation online through AlertBus. When we pulled the business filing, it shows it’s an expired trademark out of someone’s house in Louisiana.
We asked BusPatrol spokesperson Jason Elan where the money actually goes.
“I’d be happy to look into that for you further,” Elan said. “I don’t have the information.”
And after dozens of viewers told us their tickets were dropped in court, I asked BusPatrol about their error rate. They were not able to provide that number either.
But the most heated moment of the press conference came from a school board member after our questions about where the money is going. She raised her voice and said the following in part:
“Sitting here worrying about where the money is going, we wouldn’t be having this if people were doing what they’re supposed to do,” Sylvia Wilson said. “What is really bothering me, sitting here, all these (inaudible) little questions about what’s going on and where the tickets are going and all of that.”
We also asked the COO about people who win in court. He said they are getting their money back. We asked how many people have received reimbursements. He was not able to answer the question.
BusPatrol did follow up with 11Investigates about our questions regarding payment options. They included the following statement in full:
“Our collections system ensures top-notch quality in every aspect of the safety program. This utilizes best-in-class payment processing -- both physically through our banking partner Bank of America and using Alertbus electronically through Stripe — to optimize speed, quality, accuracy, and security of payments and personal information.
The Boston address is the regional lockbox processing center with Bank of America that scans all mailed checks that are received. Bank of America has four of these locations across the country and Boston is the nearest one to Pennsylvania. To be clear, this is done to ensure the highest security possible, enable fraud prevention, and timely payment processing. As is customary in municipal and school photo enforcement programs around the country, we offer violators several options to make a payment, utilize a globally recognized payment processor to do so, and provide a toll-free number for them to speak with a customer service representative, ” a BusPatrol spokesperson said.
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