Planning for Safety, Security in Public Transport

Posted on October 16, 2019 by Laura Minns, AICP

Most public transportation systems rely on a mix of security staffing sources to cover their systems.
Dennis Lee
Most public transportation systems rely on a mix of security staffing sources to cover their systems.Dennis Lee
As domestic and international transportation venues experience crime and terrorism, concern for transportation security is growing across transportation and rail providers and stakeholders. To operate safely and securely, transit agencies must consider how these security threats and vulnerabilities manifest locally on the system. This article examines what practices are being used today in the industry that enhance the security of transit systems and the people who interface with those systems.

Safety and security can be broken down into the following categories of best practices:

1. Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED)
2. Technology
3. Security staffing
4. Procedures and training

Because of the nature of public transit, most efforts surrounding safety and security center around customer service; eliminating and discouraging quality of life crimes such as graffiti, thefts, and panhandling; and putting policies and procedures in place to prevent safety and security breaches from happening.

■ CPTED, described in more detail in side bar, is primarily based upon the theory of designing out crime, in other words, preventing and reducing the perception of crime in public spaces. CPTED techniques use the natural and built environment to encourage desired behaviors, i.e. using public spaces as intended, and discourage unwanted/unsafe behaviors.

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design

Crime Prevention through Environmental Design, or CPTED (Sep-Ted), is an approach to safety and security based on the theory that proper design and effective use of the built environment can lead to a reduction in the fear and incidence of crime, as well as an improvement in the quality of life. It is a multi-disciplined approach leveraging the skills of design professionals and the knowledge base of security experts. With respect to transit and other public spaces where people are expected to interact with each other and their surroundings, whether it’s window shopping on main street, or waiting on a train platform, CPTED focuses on strategic use of the natural environment to prevent crime and modify behavior which in turn creates safe and inviting public spaces.

A more passive approach to safety and security, CPTED is more user-friendly and customer-service oriented than the traditional target hardening approach. Since providing safe, convenient transportation facilities is crucial to maintaining ridership, this approach improves quality of life and ultimately contributes to the success of the transit service for all types of users, both the transit dependent, the aspirational user that wants to make a difference, and the choice rider.

There are four key principles of CPTED that should be considered when designing and/or retrofitting facilities:

1. Natural Access Control – use of natural features, fencing, landscaping, etc. to help guide passengers on where to enter/exit a facility.

2. Natural Surveillance – the ability to monitor a public space, more eyes on the space or at least a perception that one is seen. Landscaping and the built environment is designed in such a way that blind spots are eliminated, windows and fencing is transparent, and landscaping is maintained such that it provides a clear view into and out of a public space.

3. Territorial Reinforcement – defines the ownership of a space and delineates the public and private realm, as well as help define the transition between public and private. In transit facilities, it’s defining the point where one is "on the system" and where one is using public space to access the system.

4. Maintenance – demonstrates ownership and that the owner (community) cares about the space and makes the facility more inviting to the types of users that use the facility as intended while at the same time discouraging the use of the facility by those with bad intentions.

By using the behavior of people, a knowledge of crime generators, the physical environment, and the space of an area, CPTED can provide benefits of safety and security if applied in the conceptual, design, and planning stages of a project. The concepts and strategies of CPTED have been applied for years and incorporated into the designs of public facilities not related to transit. By creating an improved sense of safety and security through the use of CPTED principles, it may be possible for transit agencies to increase ridership and build community support for the system.

In conjunction with SOPs, passenger codes of conduct are often used to control the safety, security, and quality of life of people while utilizing the transit system.
In conjunction with SOPs, passenger codes of conduct are often used to control the safety, security, and quality of life of people while utilizing the transit system.WSP USA

■ Technology for securing public transit systems fall into two broad categories: technology that affects security but with a different primary purpose (e.g., Ticket Vending Machines TVMs), and technology specifically designed for one or more components of security (e.g., CCTV). Advancements in technology have also assisted transit safety and security practitioners in areas such as facial recognition, surveillance, and in solving crimes. Technology, such as CCTV and High Definition (HD) imagery has made it possible for transit agencies to monitor their systems remotely and more effectively without discouraging use of the system by passengers.

CCTV and related technology are necessary in today’s society and for dealing with transit security. Camera, recording, and system design technology is ever changing. Agencies must be proactive with proper education, reference material, ethical venders, and technology staff. Agencies must also keep up with future additions and technology updates to the system. CCTV access should be shared with the proper law enforcement agency that works in conjunction with the transit agency's security office. There should be command and control over who has access to recorded and live video. Live video viewing from platforms, station and passenger vehicles is a positive customer service tool and a presence that is valuable because of the cost and randomness of security patrols.

The transit agency should have a policy for video viewing, hard-copy sharing, and retention. Video for police investigations should have a strict chain of custody to insure the integrity of any prosecution. Other technology and equipment to be incorporated into a transit agency’s safety and security planning are radios to maintain real-time communication between security and law enforcement agencies; body cameras to protect security and law enforcement officers and improved training, ticket vending machines and validators for fare enforcement; and passenger assistance and emergency telephone equipment for passengers on the system.

Security staffing
■ Staffing security for public transportation systems requires understanding the needs of the system, establishing clear roles and responsibilities across various security staffing types, and supporting open communication and collaboration. Most public transportation systems rely on a mix of security staffing sources to cover their systems.

The simplest approach to determine staffing for any security or police uses a relief factor to identify the appropriate number of staff per shift or assignment. This is calculated through the following steps:

1. Determine amount of post coverage needed: How many hours of staffing does one post require for each year?

2. Calculate amount of available staff time: How much time is available for working, after subtracting time off for weekends, vacation, sick leave, and training?

a) How many hours per year is an employee scheduled to work?

b) How many hours per year, on average, is an employee absent from work for vacation, sick leave, and training?
c) Subtract (b) from (a) to determine number of hours an employee is available to work.

3. Calculate number of full-time equivalents (FTEs) required to cover one post: Divide post coverage hours (1) by the number of hours an employee is available to work (2).

The resulting relief factor translates to the estimated staff FTEs needed for each post and typically averages between 1.4 and 1.7 (Local Government Performance Center 2012).

Another staffing tool is the Security Manpower Planning Model, developed by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA 2008). The model requires the user to insert all security staff (internal security and external police) and to choose the number of staff hours needed to work, including training and vacation hours. The model breaks down locations for types of coverage, such as rail fixed locations and trips, and can also be used for fare enforcement and bus and facility locations. This allows the user not only to see staffing needs but also assist in cost effectiveness. Agencies have used this tool in conjunction with staffing and budgeting, and for hours of coverage.

Sacramento Employs 'Voice of God' to Deter Bad Behavior

In December 2017, the Sacramento Regional Transit District (SacRT), implemented a public address (P.A.) system as a security enhancement tool, which also has the added advantage of significantly improving customer service. When passengers violate basic station rules like no smoking or drinking alcohol, SacRT security staff uses the P.A. system to communicate with the rulebreaker. The novelty is that SacRT security staff is miles away, remotely monitoring surveillance cameras from the Security Operations Center (SOC) in downtown Sacramento.

It’s an effective solution to an ongoing transit challenge, as it sends a loud and clear message that light rail stations are under constant surveillance and the rules are being enforced, according to the agency.

Once security personnel identify a problem, they will issue a simple and direct statement such as: “Excuse me, to the man wearing a red baseball cap, there is no smoking allowed at the light rail station. Please extinguish the cigarette immediately.” If passengers do not acquiesce, a sworn officer or transit agent will be dispatched to the station to issue a citation.

It is imperative that positive working relationships are established among the transit agency, its internal and contracted security, and the police jurisdictions in which it operates.
Laura Minns
It is imperative that positive working relationships are established among the transit agency, its internal and contracted security, and the police jurisdictions in which it operates.Laura Minns

Procedures and Training
■ All transit agencies inherently operate within and travel though one or more jurisdictions. It is imperative that positive working relationships are established among the transit agency, its internal and contracted security, and the police jurisdictions in which it operates. Establishing security plans that lay out roles and responsibilities, appropriate staffing, and collaborative meetings facilitate the formation of positive relationships around a common goal.

Best practices for policing public transportation systems emphasize community policing, which is distinct from the traditional enforcement-based police department approach to crime.

  • Community policing is proactive and focuses on developing and maintaining relationships between officers and riders to build mutual trust and respect.
  • When police and communities collaborate to address crime, they more effectively address underlying issues and change negative behavior on public transportation systems.
  • Community policing often requires discrete transit-specific procedures and training for police and security staff.

Security plans should address Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that outline the relationships, roles, and responsibilities of the participating law enforcement agencies, contracted security personnel, and transit agency staff assigned to safety and security.

In conjunction with SOPs, passenger codes of conduct are often used to control the safety, security, and quality of life of people while utilizing the transit system.

  • They should be posted on system vehicles, trains, stops, platforms, and public buildings.
  • Posting codes of conduct helps deter negative behavior and communicate to each customer what is expected of them while using the system. These can be enforced by a civil penalty or arrest.
  • Most agencies have similar baseline rules plus whatever specific rules required for that system, such as tunnel trespassing or ferry operations.

When it comes to planning for safety and security, transit systems should focus on their customers and the mission of their agency to provide safe and efficient transportation for the public.

Plans should outline relationships, technology and how it’s intended to be used, operating procedures, passenger codes of conduct, and design requirements that support and enhance passenger safety and system security. These plans should be updated on a regular basis to identify changing conditions, new facilities, lessons learned since plans were adopted, and incorporate new safety and security requirements and regulations.

Laura Minns, AICP, is Sr. Transportation Planner at WSP USA.

(This story originally appeared in December 2018)

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