Paper-based ticketing is slowing becoming a practice of the past, so Cook County, Ill., is launching an effort to make e-ticketing the common practice of the future for traffic citations.

Four of the county’s villages are piloting an integrated e-ticketing system for traffic violations in an attempt to steer away from traditional paper-based ticketing. Dorothy Brown, clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, announced the pilot last week.

The four villages are Bellwood, Crestwood, Matteson and South Barrington. Another 18 communities are slated to join the project before the end of the year. The clerk’s office hopes the system will eventually be rolled out to every municipality in Illinois — perhaps even Chicago someday.

When a police officer issues a traffic citation through the system, instead of writing out a paper ticket the ticket details are inputted into a Web application on a computer in the officer’s squad car, Brown said. A printer that’s installed in the car then prints out a receipt for the driver.

After the officer inputs and submits the data into e-ticketing platform, the information is sent to that corresponding police agency, said Bridget Dancy, the clerk office’s CIO.

Within one business day, the ticket information as well as the image of the ticket are sent to Brown’s office — where it’s accessible through a Web application and then kept on record, Dancy said.

While handheld devices aren’t being used to issue the e-tickets for the pilot, Brown would like to see them adopted in the future.  Handheld devices would print tickets that look like a cash register receipt. “But right now in Cook County we have a requirement of a certain style and type of ticket, and those have to come out of the small printers in the squad cars,” she said.

Prior to the launch, the county only used paper tickets, which took anywhere from five to 10 days to process. Filling out the paper tickets could take more than 10 minutes, whereas the electronic system only takes a few minutes to complete.

Once the system is fully implemented the clerk’s office is projected to nearly $200,000 each year in printing costs and $438,000 in data entry costs. The system cost $900,000 and the clerk’s office expects to see a return on investment after 18 months.

The clerk’s office purchased an enterprise application license to implement the countywide e-citation system, and municipalities don’t have to pay for the license. The agencies and the clerk’s office are partnering with Deerfield Beach, Fla.-based vendor Advanced Public Safety and private equity firm Clarity Partners.

Cook County’s e-ticketing pilot is one of several in progress across the nation. One is in California, where the Highway Patrol is testing e-ticketing through handheld devices with hopes of rolling out a statewide implementation by over the next few years.

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.