Photo courtesy City of Miami

Photo courtesy City of Miami

Over the years, mobile surveillance systems, which often include onboard cameras, digital video recorders (DVR), and software to track and monitor the information, have made significant gains in both quality and functionality. Today, many solutions offer Wi-Fi upload capabilities and some systems are even moving toward incorporating cellular network access, so clients can get information from a vehicle any time it’s operational.   

METRO Magazine spoke to a few public transportation systems that have recently implemented or upgraded mobile surveillance systems to find out what they are using them for, what their experience has been and how they have been able to increase operational efficiencies.   

Photo courtesy REI

Photo courtesy REI

Agency: City of Miami
Companies: Safety Vision (cameras, DVRs); REI (software)
Reasons for installing: When Miami’s rubber tire trolley system launched in February 2012, its fleet was equipped with Safety Vision cameras and DVRs to insure driver and passenger safety, as well as to ascertain fault in the case of an accident.

“The trolleys are on the road for up to 17 hours a day, and the laws of probability say there will be incidents, here or there,” says Thomas Rodrigues, transportation analyst for the City of Miami. “To be able to have video monitoring is tremendously beneficial to review what happened and determining fault. Without the system, we would be stuck in a he said/she said situation.”

Approximately six months ago, the City contracted with REI to provide its AVL/GPS tracking solution, powered by A.R.M.O.R.-AVL, to help maintain consistent headways.

System performance: The Safety Vision cameras have paid off, in terms of ensuring safety as well as protecting the agency when incidents both on the road and inside the trolley occur.

Additionally, the REI system has increased the trolley system’s performance, which doesn’t operate on a printed time schedule, but instead, is based on frequency.

“The system REI put together for us is great,” says Rodrigues. “It tracks the estimated time of arrival based on the vehicle’s current location and creates predictive models on how long it takes each trolley to get from stop to stop. It will even tell us, if the trolleys look like they are relatively close or far apart, how much of an ETA spacing we have between vehicles, allowing us to proactively look at bunching and contact dispatch so they can contact drivers and space the trolleys more effectively.”

Working with companies: Rodrigues says both companies have been great, with the City having to interact a bit more with REI since it launched a new route in October and only began using the system less than a year ago.

“Not only did they install the GPS tracking equipment on the vehicles, but they met with us numerous times and drove the routes to understand how the system works as well as all of the quirks of each different route,” says Rodrigues. “They have really been involved every single day. We’ll call them if we see something that is changing the ETAs, and if there’s some type of anomaly, they will go in and recalculate and recalibrate the algorithm for that specific route.”

What’s next: Rodrigues said the City’s next goal is to find a way to interact more efficiently with Miami-Dade Transit’s bus and rail systems, so passengers can better plan their complete trips. The City is also looking into installing monitors to display ETAs at stops, utilizing the GPS info it already makes available to customers online and via a smart phone app.

Photo courtesy CCTA

Photo courtesy CCTA

Agency: Chittenden County Transportation Authority (CCTA), Burlington, Vt.
Company: Seon (cameras, DVR, software)
Reasons for installing: “We installed the cameras as an upgrade to our previous surveillance camera system,” explains Timothy Bradshaw, director, operations. “The previous system worked off a VCR recording system. That system was both unreliable and prone to tape jams and was limited in surveillance and storage capability.”

System performance: The new Seon camera system provides enhanced audio, video and storage capabilities, explains Bradshaw. The Seon system has provided sophisticated hard drive storage with remote desktop access for the agency, enabling operations staff to cue up a video, and when the bus returns to base, the video is automatically downloaded to the desktop for review.

Benefits to agency: “Surveillance video has been extremely helpful in complaint and accident resolution,” says Bradshaw. “It has also been a valuable tool for local authorities in criminal investigations.”

Bradshaw adds that the video collected has exonerated its drivers of any wrongdoing, in some situations. It has also reduced the agency’s risk related to insurance claims and has served as a great crime prevention tool.

Additional enhancement: Bradshaw says CCTA discovered the system has enhanced audio at different camera locations on the bus, while additional camera features on the newer Seon camera system provides multiple camera angles previously not available.

“Seon also continues to work with us to upgrade and improve technology,” he adds. “Their customer support staff is excellent.”

Photo courtesy Waukesha Metro

Photo courtesy Waukesha Metro

Agency: Waukesha Metro, Waukesha, Wis.
Company: AngelTrax (cameras, DVR, software)
Reasons for installing: Waukesha Metro first had cameras installed on its vehicles in 2004. In 2009, the agency began to install AngelTrax’s cameras, which are now on all 33 of Waukesha’s transit vehicles. Jason Zachow, maintenance director for the agency, says the primary purpose of the cameras is to look out for the best interests of its drivers and passengers.

Implementation: Installation and implementation of the cameras went smoothly thanks to a good working relationship with AngelTrax, Zachow explains, but adds that at first there was a blowback from the agency’s drivers.

“At first the drivers were hesitant because they thought ‘Big Brother’ was watching,” he says. “When we didn’t have the cameras and there was an issue, we would have to take the customer’s word over theirs. Over time, after experiencing issues that we were able to review, the drivers realized the cameras were helping them.”

Although AngelTrax’s system accommodates up to eight cameras, Waukesha has six cameras installed on their vehicles, including over the wheelchair positions in the front, the farebox, outside the vehicle and pointing toward the rear of the bus.

“We discovered the troublemakers tend to sit in the back, so we wanted a camera pointed at the back seats so we could get a facial view of them and always see what they are up to,” Zachow says.

System Performance: The camera system has had the desired effect for Waukesha, including being able to identify possible suspects on film they can then share with local police and exonerating drivers of wrongdoing when incidents are reported.

“It really functions as a deterrent in many ways,” Zachow adds. “People see the sign saying they are under surveillance and often act accordingly.”

Waukesha will also use footage as a training tool for drivers on matters such as how to or not to secure wheelchair passengers or driving habits.
Overall, Zachow says the agency has been pleased with both the technology and the company.

“The experience has been nothing but good,” he explains, “We have nothing negative to say about the whole experience.”

Latest Solutions

Offers a new line of onboard interior and exterior high-definition quality cameras, at 800 TV lines of resolution, in a lineup featuring fields of view up to 120 degrees with Smart Infrared technology, digital demist and digital slow shutter — all housed in IP68 waterproof casings.

Omni-directional, noise-gated microphones filter distractions for clear audio. The Hybrid Vault mobile DVR securely stores the high quality audio and video. Recording eight channels of audio and video, with events marked automatically or with the driver-operated panic button. Storage capacity can be doubled to 2TB with a quick component change.

Apollo Video Technology
Designed specifically for transit and rail applications, the RoadRunner Mobile Digital Video Recording System is Mil-Spec and SAE-rated for durability and reliability in harsh mobile environments. Recording up to 16 cameras, the RoadRunner system provides a fleet-wide solution and full video and audio coverage of all vehicle types. With advanced compression optimized for network performance, the system provides fast recording rates and high resolution. Optional ViM Software provides fleet-wide management; automatic uploading of video clips and advanced health reporting to increase accessibility, reduce maintenance and operating costs, improve efficiency, and mitigate risk and liability.

Radio Engineering Industries
REI’s AVL/GPS Tracking Solution, powered by A.R.M.O.R.-AVL, is a fleet management solution that provides a quantifiable return on investment, reduces risky driving behavior and can drastically improve operating efficiencies. The system also provides fleet operators the tools they need to reduce costs and improve fleet operations. Add individual modules, and/or customizations for a comprehensive transportation solution. The company also offers several camera options and DVRs capable of supporting up to eight channels.

Rosco Inc.
By adding a third camera, Dual-Vision XC now becomes a more powerful recording device that can capture passenger, operational and other mission-critical information. Easily positioned on the interior windshield with minimal visual obstruction, it records audio and video in a 310-degree range and shares alerts with drivers in real time, such as when speed limits are surpassed. The cameras pair with Rosco’s DV-Pro fleet management database system, making it easy to view or transfer recorded data, locate specific events on footage, archive or discard content, and compile reports or email files.

Safety Vision
Safety Vision’s SVC-2200 series high definition IP cameras enable dual streaming capabilities utilizing the latest H.264 compression schemes, seamless networking and superior low light performance. The RoadRecorder 7006 network video recorder (NVR) captures high-definition video and audio from up to six IP cameras. The solid-state NVR features multiple serial interfaces, dual USB ports, HDMI video output, GPS input and several remote connectivity options. Meanwhile, Safety Vision’s vehicle tracking software and central management system provide wireless download of data, real-time live look-in, system health status, GPS, metadata and customized alerts from the NVR.

Seon recently introduced the Explorer DX-HD, which can simultaneously record 30 frames-per-second at 720 x 480 resolution on 12 channels with audio, plus one high-definition channel at 1280 x 720 resolution, and can be paired with the company’s CHW HD bus camera. Seon’s vMax Commander video management software enables users to efficiently manage all of their on-board video surveillance systems through a single Web-based application. A convenient, user-friendly dashboard gives users at-a-glance views of all video-related activities, including alarms and video downloads. When combined with Smart-Reach industrial wireless, video with marked events can be automatically downloaded from a bus as it enters the yard.