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."
The RMS occurred last month in Albany, N.Y. and it was a truly remarkable learning experience for those in attendance. The RMS serves as a one-of-a-kind event that brings together transit risk management professionals from all across the country to focus on key topics related to safety, risk management, planning and prevention.
I recently attended, and had the opportunity to be part of a panel of speakers, at the NYC MTA Bus Safety Symposium. A variety of topics were discussed regarding bus and pedestrian safety issues. What was obvious is we all have a common goal to provide the safest transit systems possible, in spite of the possibility of increasing bus/pedestrian and bus/cyclist collisions.
I have had it with the never-ending meeting of the minds on the predominant causes of left-turn bus-pedestrian collisions. This whole issue is getting obscured with presentations that slice and dice every possible cause of these incidents into a collection of symbols, numbers and formulas. Please stop.
Statistics show that for many people, sleep can be a matter of life or death. This may sound overly dramatic, but let’s consider that in 2005 the NHTSA conservatively estimated that drowsy driving was responsible for at least 100,000 automobile crashes, 71,000 injuries, and 1,550 fatalities annually.¹ More recently, the NHSTA estimated at least 846 people died in 2014 due to the effects of drowsy driving.
Nowadays, there’s an app for everything. Very few of those apps can turn an everyday transit rider into a hero who summons help for a person in distress. A routine ride on your transit system can be suddenly disrupted if you witness an assault, a crime in progress or a medical emergency. That is why apps designed for public safety must take all imaginable scenarios into consideration.