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."
When official-plated transit authority vehicles were scarce and basically reserved for those in upper management to go about their daily business to and from meetings, etc..., road control would be the responsibility of the “fixed-post foot dispatcher.” Not all of these positions have been eliminated, but I wonder if any readers remember the stability and sense of control that was present while the foot dispatcher was on post?
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."
Bus operators are not blindfolded. Operators are trained and required to identify potential hazards, based on their forward planning skills. With regard to left turns, these so called “blind spots” are really areas behind the left A-pillar/mirror that are “temporarily” obstructed to the operator, not blind to the operator. The key here is for the operators to utilize their observation and forward planning skills to minimize the time that their vision is temporarily obstructed. The pedestrian that regrettably becomes a victim of bus contact should be in the clear view of the operator long before arriving at the location where the contact occurred. Pedestrians are not “coming out of nowhere!"
The world is a very busy place. We rely on our eyes to provide us with information that will keep us from harm as we operate our vehicles. It is difficult to over-emphasize the importance of effective scanning in order to recognize potential hazards early enough so appropriate action can be taken to avoid conflict. As a result, we spend a lot of time advising operators how often they should scan their mirrors, where to look for hazards, and how to bring objects into view that may be temporarily obstructed, and so on.
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.