Flawed school zone ticket data used in city committee report, CBC News finds

CBC News has found that a report on school zone photo enforcement provided to a city hall committee was based on faulty ticket data provided by Winnipeg police.

City and police working to fix errors and issue a new report in the coming months

A study on photo enforcement in school zones by the city's Public Works department has been scrapped, after it was discovered that conclusions were made using faulty data provided by the Winnipeg police. (Brett Purdy/CBC)

The City of Winnipeg says it is scrapping a recently released study on photo radar enforcement in school zones that was presented to a group of city councillors last week.

The news comes days after CBC News brought a series of flaws in the report to the public service's attention.

The study, presented to the East Kildonan-Transcona community committee on May 12, drew conclusions that relied heavily on faulty mobile ticket data provided by the Winnipeg Police Service.

The report authored by city engineer David Patman concluded that in 2018, 379 tickets were issued in school zones in the entire northeast sector of the city with only three of them originating from 30 km/h reduced school zones.

CBC News independently ran the numbers and found the figures in the report were not only inaccurate, but also established findings that were opposite from what the correct data suggests.

The correct numbers show that nearly 11,000 tickets were issued in that area in 2018, with 95 per cent of them originating in reduced-speed school zones.

The study was intended to provide a snapshot of photo enforcement in the East Kildonan-Transcona community committee region for the year 2018. (Jacques Marcoux/CBC News)

In addition, dozens of school zones were omitted from the report and even a playground was incorrectly classified as a school.

Transcona Coun. Shawn Nason, who originally requested the report back in June of 2019 to better understand the performance and future of school zone enforcement in his ward, was surprised by the error.

"I've been told time and time again to have trust, blind trust, in the work of the public service, and I know there's many of them that do great work, but it's in situations like this that do raise an eyebrow," he says.

Councillor Shawn Nason says the errors make him question the value of the advice he received from the public service. (John Einarson/CBC )

He questions how an error can filter through the city unchecked.

"That is a question I'll definitely be asking when this report comes back. How do we get an error of this magnitude? Is it the only one? Have there been other issues of this type where haven't got quite the most accurate information?" says Nason.

Nason questions the quality of the reporting coming out of the public service, pointing out that just last March, the University of Manitoba student union caught a $4-million error in the city's math on expected savings from a plan to kill the U-Pass.

Critics see safety through better design, signs

Long-time photo-enforcement critic Todd Dube says he was initially baffled by the report's figures, but believed that the number was far higher than reported.

Dube, who heads up local advocacy group Wise Up Winnipeg, is opposed to the expansion of reduced-speed zones and believes the manner in the which enforcement is rolled out in the city is designed to generate revenue.

"Talk to any [person who gets a ticket], these are inadvertent, unintentional violations and they were as surprised as anybody to get that in the mail. They don't remember speeding anywhere," he says.

Rather than more enforcement, Dube says he would like to see better signage and lighting to bring down ticket numbers.

"I can tell you, their violations numbers would plummet literally overnight," he said.

Todd Dube , founder of Wise Up Winnipeg, says rather than issue more tickets, he would like to see the city provide better signage so motorists aren't caught off-guard by artificially low speed limits. (Travis Golby/CBC)

Chris Sweryda, another local photo-enforcement critic, has closely monitored the issue of missing school zones signs for years, often flagging them to the city. He estimates there are over 170 missing school zone warning signs, that get knocked down by snow plows or are not replaced after road work.

"I know of a handful that I just regularly keep an eye on to get a sense of if they're actually fixing anything and so far those signs have stayed down and missing for years on end," he says.

The city does not have a system to track its sign inventory.

Similar to Dube, Sweryda would like to see these issues addressed first before moving forward with more enforcement.

The city declined an interview, but says it is working with Winnipeg police to fix the errors and plans to provide a new version of the report in the coming months.


Jacques Marcoux

Data journalist

Jacques Marcoux is a former CBC News investigative reporter specializing in data analysis. He continues to contribute to CBC News.