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."
Those of you who take a few minutes each month to follow my blogs, or have attended one of my past presentations at transit events, first let me thank you. These blogs and presentations, in combination, have been promoting surface transit standards in a form of a standardized curriculum for over 10 years now. I ask you, are we not long overdue in getting transit specific standards a done deal? By the time of this posting, I would have again stood before a group of transit professionals at a recently attended transit function in Orlando, Fla., speaking on this exact topic.
A final day should mean exactly that, the end — no more — learning opportunities that had been available no longer exist. The clock has run out. Hopefully, there is a final day designated for trainees at your agency, a time where you draw the line and make a decision, because, as we all know, not everyone can operate a bus. For the trainee, the final day is the most pressure-packed day they will spend on the training bus. Any student entering their final day should be well-prepared and fully aware of what they are faced with, as all of the requirements should have been clearly covered as part of their first day orientation. Remember, no surprises!
Physical security surveillance is one of the most vital facets of a transit system’s security plan. In the past, recording was primarily done by analog video cameras, but those systems are now updated with IP cameras that have features like greater data storage and ultra HD imaging. Moreover, today’s surveillance has moved beyond video to audio monitoring. By integrating audio and video, security directors have access to more evidence for reported incidents and accident investigations. Audio also provides accountability for employees, capturing if a train engineer was talking on his cell phone on duty or if a train ticket examiner was providing poor customer service.
I recently had the opportunity to view a video that captured what could have been a fatal pedestrian knockdown if contact had occurred. A bus overtaking another bus positioned in the bus stop zone occurs routinely and usually without incident, but if not performed correctly, this type of situation can end with catastrophic results.
Recent national incidents have put increased attention on safe commuting and what passengers can do to protect themselves during a transit emergency. “The most important tip anyone can follow is to wait for the instructions of the crew,” said Scott Sauer, chief system safety officer for SEPTA. “Crews know the equipment best and have been trained to safely remove passengers from vehicles should the situation warrant evacuation...