The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) pegs annual bus ridership in the U.S. and Canada at around 5.4 billion. It goes without saying that transit agencies strive to keep passengers safe and secure, but with large fleets to manage and millions of annual riders things can and do go wrong.
That’s why onboard video surveillance is so essential. In addition to deterring crime, video is an invaluable tool for investigating vandalism, fights, robberies and assaults, as well as for refuting costly liability claims from “slip and falls” and other passenger incidents. To put this in perspective, one big city transit operator I’m familiar with conducts 30 to 40 video investigations a day.
Most transit agencies use mobile DVRs to record video on their bus fleets. These systems typically record anywhere from four to 12 analog cameras on a mobile-rated storage device that’s kept onboard the bus. One problem with this approach is that it makes it hard to conduct timely and efficient video investigations. If the transit operator needs to retrieve video for an investigation, they need to literally send an employee out into the field to remove the hard drives or DVRs from the bus.
So, how can transit operators buck the mobile DVR status quo, save time and boost investigative efficiency?
An innovative new video recording and investigation technology for bus fleets may well hold the answer. This type of solution could be implemented on a myriad of ruggedized mobile DVR hardware platforms, allowing video recordings to be remotely and securely downloaded, and delivered right to an investigator’s desktop.
Here’s how it works. Let’s say a passenger is assaulted and robbed on a bus. The bus driver radios the incident into the command center. Back at the command center, the investigator keys in a download task to retrieve the specific video segments. When the bus reaches the depot, the video is securely and wirelessly transferred to a server and then uploaded to a case management file for the investigator to view.
Now let’s take this example one step further. Let’s say that the video shows the suspect leaving the bus with the woman’s purse in hand, but without a clear view of his face. This is where it gets even better. From the same system, the investigator is also able to pull up video recordings from several fixed cameras where the suspect disembarked from the bus and entered a bus station. These recordings clearly show the suspect’s face.
The investigator is then able to drop these recordings into an incident timeline along with the mobile video recordings and relevant voice recordings, append his report to the case file and electronically send the entire contents to appropriate law enforcement authorities. The suspect is identified, arrested and prosecuted in record time.
One thing is certain: Through its ability to streamline and automate investigations, this new technology has the potential to put mobile video surveillance in the fast lane. That’s good news for an industry where budgets are stagnating, but ridership is not. This new technology will enable operators to ensure the highest levels of safety and security while squeezing out every ounce of operational efficiency.
In case you missed it...
Read our METRO blog, "New tech puts mobile surveillance in the fast lane."
Today I’d like to mention a few effective policies that were routinely utilized in the past, which were (and for the few agencies that still practice them) very effective in producing safe bus operators, including covering your right, terminal checks and company vehicles.
Operating a fixed-route bus in today’s distracted world requires high levels of focus and concentration. The brain must continually sift through loads of information during bus operation to determine what things can be ignored and what things pose a potential threat to our safety and well-being. Once the brain detects a potential hazard or threat, a specific response must occur to keep us from harm’s way. When our brains are forced to sustain this level of effort for long periods of time a great deal of energy is required.
It’s no secret that I am a firm believer in bus simulator training. I enjoyed the benefits of utilizing simulators as a supplemental training tool during my days at New York City Transit. The simulators helped us produce outstanding results by targeting specific outcomes. If your simulator training is not producing what you expected it to deliver, the answer is plain and simple: something is wrong!
One agency decided to conduct a “safety blitz” to determine whether mirrors were being set correctly and discovered, much to their surprise, that a growing number of operators were leaving the yard in a mad rush to avoid being late — deciding to adjust their mirrors at their first available opportunity. What they learned was that many of these operators left the yard with every intention of setting their mirrors correctly. However, once these operators began servicing their routes — the task appeared to "slip their minds."
In most organizations, 80% to 95% of all bus operators are found to be safe, reliable and courteous, but often, they don’t know it because nobody tells them. If safe bus operation represents a core value for your property, what are you leaders doing to encourage and reinforce the desired behaviors among your bus operators?