Bootleg traffic signal changers targeted by Opticom upgrade

The in basket: For a couple of decades, Kitsap Transit buses and police and other emergency vehicles have had the capacity to change red lights to green in Bremerton and around the county as they approach.

But some private citizens have acquired equipment online or otherwise that enables them to do the same thing, though they aren’t supposed to and it’s probably illegal.

Tom Baker of the city of Bremerton electronics shop, told me, “There are emitters available on eBay that will work with the Opticom. I have seen signals pre-empted with no bus near by, so there are non-authorized users out there.”

If you are one of them, you may find yourself frustrated in Bremerton, where new digital controls have been substituted for the old ones this year, intended to prevent unauthorized use of bootleg emitters.

I learned this was afoot from Mike Singson of Advanced Traffic Products, which sold the old Opticom equipment back when it was first installed and was still around to help with the update. I encountered him at a big electronics convention at Sea-Tac in February.

The out basket: Wendy Clark-Getzin, Kitsap Transit’s capital development director (for another week or so) says it kicked in $31,000 to go with in-kind labor and services from the city to go with federal money that added up to the $200,000 project cost. It was finished April 30, she said.

In addition to ending unauthorized use of the signal changing equipment, it will reduce maintenance costs and replace some aging controller equipment,” she said.

She credited Jeff Collins of the city electronics shop with making the money stretch as far as it went, and former city engineer Mike Mecham for getting the money in the first place.

The work stops short of modernizing Opticom to the max, says Mike Singson. It’s capable of using GPS to track the buses and keep track of whether they are on time, taking changing of the lights out of the hands of the bus drivers, he said. They’re not supposed to use Opticom if they aren’t behind schedule.

Kitsap’s system won’t be using GPS any time soon and those behind the wheel of the buses still will be able to change the light to green.

You may wonder why Wendy will remain capital development director for only a short time. She will leave to become general manager of Clallam County Transit July 1, she tells me.

9 thoughts on “Bootleg traffic signal changers targeted by Opticom upgrade

  1. “They’re not supposed to use Opticom if they aren’t behind schedule.”

    Really? How is that tracked? What assurance do we have that the buses are not using Opticom whenever the the driver feels the need? I never supported the idea of buses changing the lights. I fully support police and emergency services use the system, but buses seem to cause more traffic issues than what little savings might be found. Anyway, with Kitsap Commuter Transit cutting back routes and service time, why not save money and get rid of the Opticom system too?

    1. It’s all computerized. The driver has no control of the system and for the record, transit does not get high priority Opticoms…they use the 592T emitters. the difference is a low priority flash (10khz). It will keep a green light stay green longer, not drop it to a green light like a fire truck.

  2. $200,000 would have been better spent on properly adjusting and coordinating Bremerton’s traffic signal timing. FACT: Adjusting the yellow light time reduces redlight running so why does Bremerton refuse to properly adjust the yellow timing? Add into the mix, all the buses, cops and bootleggers that are changing the signals and what you have is a complete mess. So $200,000 spent to get rid of the bootleg Opticon light switchers is going to solve the problem? Will this new system allow Jeff Collins to dial up the traffic Control box and finally make adjustments to the yellow light timing (in order to reduce red light running)? Will Jeff Collins ever give a reasonable answer as to why a company that profits on Red light running is providing the actual red light bulb to the city of Bremerton? Is that red light bulb itself remote control? I know that technology exists and now we all know the tech existed for anyone to switch the traffic lights.
    What a complete mess of a city.

  3. The buses use it when leaving the transfer station off of Wheaton Way. How could they possibly be late if I just saw them sitting in the parking lot for 10 minutes? Go stake that out for an hour Travis, it is possible that Kitsap Tansit management is misleading you.

  4. “But some private citizens have acquired equipment online or otherwise that enables them to do the same thing, though they aren’t supposed to and it’s probably illegal.”

    Allegedly, and with NO offer of PROOF, with corroborating statistics!
    This isn’t about road safety, it’s about getting the government to pay for upgrades for the FOR PROFIT Red Light Cameras.

    I’ll bet there was an email BOLO from Opticon and Redflex on how to get federal grant money to do this. I can think of better things to apply for, grant wise, like CROSSWALK PAINTING!!

    Public Works is MORE about grant writing to enrich the employees, rather than to help the safety of the Bremerton residents.

    $200K should have been spent on CROSSWALK PAINTING!!

    Opticon

  5. “They’re not supposed to use Opticom if they aren’t behind schedule.”

    Well there must be a heck of a lot of buses behind schedule as they are entering and leaving the transfer complex on Auto Center Way. It is easy to watch all of this play out as I am sitting in the back up at the exit light at the end of the southbound ramp trying to make a left onto Kitsap Way around 4:50 in the afternoon. Several times a month the back up from the lights being out of rotation from the buses has traffic backed up onto the shoulder of the highway making for very unsafe traffic conditions. But hey all of those buses with their “out of service” lights on don’t have to wait for the light, right?

  6. “The buses use it when leaving the transfer station off of Wheaton Way.”
    Think about it, if the bus on Sylvan switches the red light to green, that in turn would turn the green light on Wheaton to RED! Use your brains people, The Opticon is interrupting the scheduled timing and would prematurely switch a green light to RED.
    Let’s say your driving north on Wheaton and you see at Sylvan the light is red but turns green, as you approach the intersection a bus switches the Opticon, the light turns yellow only after the green was lit for a 15 seconds, you can’t safely stop so you continue thru and are caught in the intersection by 27/100th of second. Redflex sends you a ticket from Arizona. The green was only lit for 15seconds but that does not show on their video. Redflex also switched the in street traffic actuators with their own which magnetically switches the light prematurely to Red as you enter the intersection. (the yellow is timed at the lowest level allowed by law, 3.5 seconds but there is an auxiliary time of 3.0 seconds for a reward or punishment)
    So really Wheaton and Sylvan is a prime example of a poorly thought out intersection which plays right into the profitability of Redflex Inc. They (Redflex not the city) personally chose that intersection as a “problem” intersection and the City has made absolutely no effort to use the traditional engineering methods to solve the SAFETY problems as evident by Redflex’s own data (increasing the yellow time for proper reaction time and decreased red light running)
    I believe the bus drivers are contributing to the red light running by using their opticon
    because they are prematurely changing the timing cycle. Combine that with a company that profits off of RedLight running and a city that refuses to implement proven SAFETY solutions and you have a situation that is unsafe to drivers.
    Jeff Collins, Mayor Lent, Chai Martin, Roger Lubovich and Mike Mecham should be held accountable for their lack of action.

  7. A year later and Wheaton and Sylvan is still a chaotic mess. $200,000 spent to weed out a couple bootleggers but not one finger lifted to adjust the signal timing. How much money did you all pay your mayor Lent, Jeff Collins, Roger Lubovich and Chal Martin in that time and what have the people of Bremerton gotten in exchange?
    Are your streets any more user friendly because of that $200,000 spent to upgrade the opticom code?

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