Homeland Security requesting facial recognition

The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) wants to develop technology that scans the faces of travelers as they enter and leave the U.S. without passengers getting out of their car. In addition, the capability must be able to account for environmental elements such as lighting, windshield tint, vehicle speed and infrastructure. The scanning technology must also account for traffic and occupant behavioral factors such as sun glasses, hats, driver looking away or an obstruction of facial view. Finally, the system must account for diversity in passenger demographics and socioeconomics – access to and use of mobile electronic devices.


DHS has posted a public notice calling on technology companies to submit proposals for the system by January 2018. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is interested in both standalone and multi-configuration integrated system approaches. All proposals should detail the requisite camera parameters and infrastructure requirements, and characterize the impact of technical and operational challenges. The agency is hosting an industry day in Silicon Valley on Nov. 14 to give businesses more information. The directorate anticipates making awards for $50,000 to $200,000 for up to four phases, ranging from proof of concept, prototype, a complex test and a full-fledged pilot.

Aging prison in Wisconsin needs replacing through a partnership

Wisconsin- Wisconsin Rep. David Steffen is interested in a privately built, state-run prison to replace the aging and overcrowded Green Bay Correctional Institution (GBCI). This new prison would improve safety for staff and inmates at the maximum-security prison, provide tax revenue for the host community and put Allouez land back on the tax roll. Because it would be privately-owned, the prison would pay property taxes, saving taxpayers about $150 million over a decade. Wisconsin’s other prisons are not taxable because they are government-owned.
Steffen said a new prison would ultimately need considerably fewer employees than GBCI because it would be more efficiently designed. The proposal calls for a new prison that would house about 1,300 inmates and open by November 2022 at a location in or near Brown County. The Green Bay-Luxemburg corridor could be a good spot because it is near a major highway, State 54/57, and would not need water and sewer lines added. GBCI would be sold to a developer or another interested party by Nov. 1, 2018, then leased back to the state until the new prison is ready. Inmates would remain at GBCI until they could safely be transferred to a new facility. At least 100 beds in the prison would be set aside for overflow inmates from crowded jails in Brown and Kewaunee counties.
Officials in Brown are considering a jail expansion that would likely cost the county more than $10 million. Part of the prison has been designated as a historic place. Steffen said he has met with a local preservation group, and that they would need to be partners in any redevelopment of the site.

Cities spending millions on master plans in hopes of keeping vehicles parked at home

“Share the road,” is a phrase most people have seen on a roadway sign or may have heard in a commercial brought to you by your state’s transportation agency. We all own the road, but are we doing a good job of sharing it with those who drive, walk or pedal their way alongside of us? How much of a wide berth are we giving the vehicle in front of us and the pedestrian or cyclists that we will eventually pass? Even when we do our best driving it still won’t stop a cyclist or pedestrian from darting into traffic or abstaining from the use of reflective gear or lights.  Whether its four wheels, two wheels or no wheels, everyone must do their part to keep down deadly statistics.

According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, 5,376 pedestrians and 818 bicyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles in 2015. This represents the highest number of pedestrians killed in one year since 1996.  Though total traffic fatalities in the United States fell by nearly 18 percent from 2006 to 2015, pedestrian fatalities rose by 12 percent during the same ten-year period.

Walking, bicycling and using public transportation can help your wallet, health and community. Cities are trying to alleviate road congestion by implementing projects or campaigns that may entice drivers to keep their vehicles parked at home.

Bicycling provided a list of the top 50 bike cities for 2016. At the top of the list is Chicago, that added 100 miles of buffered and protected bike lanes in 2015 at a cost of $12 million. When its protected bike lanes are completed in 2017 in conjunction with its Loop Link transit project, Chicago will be the first major U.S. city with a downtown network of protected bike lanes. The city also replaced a 75-year-old walkway with a 620-foot suspension bridge. The 35th Street pedestrian bridge opened in 2016 after two years of construction at a cost of $18 million from the federal government and $5 million from the state of Illinois.

Coming in at a close second is San Francisco with many miles of new and high-quality cycling facilities. The city implemented 800 new bike racks and there are plans to add raised and protected bike lanes on 2nd Street in 2017. San Francisco has one of the nation’s densest bike share networks, with 4,500 bikes in the city itself and more than 7,000 across the region. Portland, Ore. receives third place for their “out of the vehicle” efforts, fourth is New York, N.Y., fifth is Seattle, Wash., sixth is Minneapolis, Minn. and seventh is Austin, Texas.

More and more cities across the state are developing a bike and walk master plan and investing millions of dollars to make the vision a reality. Fresno is doing just that and for good reason. The Federal Highway Traffic Administration lists Fresno as one of the most dangerous cities in the nation for pedestrians and bicyclists. The city’s Active Transportation Plan calls for adding 947 miles of bike facilities and 661 miles of sidewalks throughout Fresno in the years to come, at an estimated cost of $1.3 billion. It also identifies a priority network that could feasibly be built in the next ten years, which includes 28 miles of Class I bike paths and 45 miles of sidewalks, at a cost of$114.7 million.

Cities are creating bikes paths on the east coast too. In November 2016, Rhode Island voters approved a $35 million Green Economy Bond. Ten bikeway projects around the state, totaling $10 million, will create over ten new miles of path and improve safety and connectivity across the state’s bikeway network. There are more than 60 miles of bike path in the state. Bond-funded projects will connect and extend segments of the Blackstone River Bikeway and the South County Bikeway, make the Jamestown Bridge bicycle accessible, establish new bikeways in Westerly and in Newport, and improve on-road connections in Olneyville and other urgent locations. Completion is expected within three years.

It will take a lot longer than three years to complete the East Coast Greenway, which was conceived in 1991. It’s the nation’s most ambitious long-distance urban bicycle and walking route. The route connects existing and planned shared-use trails and will stretch 3,000 miles from Maine to Florida. A linear park, the East Coast Greenway is planned almost entirely on public right-of-ways, incorporating waterfront esplanades, park paths, abandoned railroad corridors, canal towpaths and pathways along highway corridors.  Roughly 30 percent of the route is completed on off-road sections.

Bike station with tools connected to wires and an air pump. Photo courtesy of Paul Niedermeyer.

What happens if your bike breaks down? Cities are now implementing bicycle repair stations that provide basic bicycle repair capability to business districts and corridors that cater to bicyclists. Repair stations feature a stand to mount a bicycle and contain the basic tools needed to perform do-it-yourself bicycle repairs including screwdrivers, wrenches and hex tools. Repair stations also feature a heavy duty bicycle pump and connect users to detailed instructions for a wide variety of bicycle repairs-just a smart phone scan away.

In 2014, Los Angeles launched its repair station pilot program with the purchase of 11 Fixit stations. Purchase of the repair stations was made possible through a public-private partnership which included the city, a maintenance sponsor and a local business that had the station on their street.

What about storage for your mode of transportation? More and more cities are now passing zoning laws requiring the addition of bike rooms in apartment buildings. They want to see support for their investment in bike lanes around town. Architects are creating bike rooms that are not only equipped with convenient,  bike racks, but also with amenities such as showers, lockers, bike repair stations, bike washing stations and air pumps.

The state-of-the-art spaces often have their own entrances, saving wear-and-tear on the lobby and passenger elevators. They also offer their own gear by way of pumps and repair stands, and, sometimes, homey touches like hooks for hanging helmets. In the fancier buildings, porters and door attendants act as bike valets. Bike rooms in buildings coming to market now are being tricked out with compression air pumps, of the sort found in bike shops and gas stations, and work stands to which one can clamp a bike while oiling a chain or fixing a flat. Tools are often on hand, and sometimes there’s a hose for washing bikes down after a muddy ride.

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Ensuring safety on college campuses – becoming more difficult each day

Campus safety has never been easy or simple. Now, the responsibility is truly awesome.

In the last few years, there have been dozens of horrific incidents and now that a number of states allow guns on campus, the job of providing for campus safety has become increasingly more difficult and complicated.

Most universities have focused on incident prevention and quick response.  Many have gone through extensive planning sessions to find ways to ensure safety, but it would be hard to find a university official anywhere who feels confident that security and safety are under control. Perhaps the greatest impediment to ensuring a safe campus environment is a lack of adequate funding.
In spite of funding issues, physical security has definitely been improved. Most new buildings have access systems that provide officers the ability to centrally lock down facilities if there is an active shooter incident. Surveillance camera technology also continually searches for abnormal activities that could pose a threat. Other emerging technologies have also made inroads on college campuses.

Most campuses have invested in walkway lighting and “blue light” emergency call boxes. Outreach programs aimed at informing and educating students and faculty of what they can do to protect themselves have been implemented.

Taxpayers care about the campus safety issue and they are involved. Voters approved a $14.5 million bond issue in December to improve safety and security measures at Iowa Western Community College. The bond package that was approved will fund new cameras, secure doors, enhanced locks and other security improvements.

Kansas State University (KSU) is installing upgrades to security systems. The additional investment in security is in response to a new Kansas law allowing for concealed handguns on university campuses. If an exemption for public universities is not granted by the legislature, KSU is considering the use of wands and portable metal detectors for events. The new security measures are expected to cost more than $1 million.

Voters approved a measure late in 2016 to provide the Southwestern Community College District $400 million for campus facility improvements. A new building will be constructed to house all campus Security and Risk Management functions.  Other security enhancements will also be implemented.

In January 2017, the Atlanta University Center Consortium announced that it will team with the Atlanta Police Department to implement security measures to prevent and reduce crime at its four member institutions – Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine and Spelman College. The $700,000 project will include the installation of 35 new security cameras and the utilization of five license plate readers. The camera feeds will be monitored 24/7 by campus police and at the Atlanta Police Department’s video integration center.

Officials at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash., have proposed the replacement and expansion of the university’s access control system. The project will convert all existing access-controlled doors to a new system and expand electronic control to major academic buildings. The system will also be able to provide centralized lockdown functionality in response to active shooter incidents, which are increasing on university campuses at an alarming rate. This $7.2 million project is expected to beginning with the 2018 school year.

Virginia State University (VSU) hopes to spend $3.26 million in campus-wide safety and security improvements. After a series of events involving VSU students, the university hired a security consultant to perform a campus evaluation and make recommendations for improvements. If funded by the Virginia Legislature, the project will install new LED lighting at educational and general-use buildings, parking lots and sidewalks/paths. The university will also install a new traffic/security gate to curtail campus access. Additionally, the university has plans to provide electronic card access at all academic and administrative buildings. The funding of these projects is currently scheduled for 2018.

It’s a new world – and a more dangerous world.  More resources and funding are critically needed to ensure campus safety for students, instructors and visitors.