Saturday, October 13, 2007

Metro Transit Wants Digital Video Security Cameras on all Buses by 2010

Madison Metro Transit plans to put security cameras on half of its buses by the end of 2008 and all buses by the end of 2010.

According to George Twigg, spokesperson for Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, the mayor supports the plan as a way to prevent bad behavior and as a way for police to gather evidence and identify suspects.

“Originally, public funding had been made available for Metro in case they felt the need to put officers on buses. Metro felt that actually having cameras would be a better use of those resources,” Twigg said.

Julie Maryott-Walsh, Metro Transit spokesperson, said currently 20 of the city’s 204 buses have cameras.
Maryott-Walsh said the cameras record 20 hours of video and are subsequently taped over if Metro Transit does not receive complaints from drivers, customers or police.

“They have proven to be valuable assets to us,” she said.

Maryott-Walsh said the cameras also act as a deterrent.

“I think that when people are aware of the fact that there are cameras on the buses, that they could be recorded and their picture could end up in the paper, I think that is a detraction,” she said.
Maryott-Walsh said when cameras were initially put on buses several years ago privacy issues were a concern, but no issues have come up since then.

Rob Kennedy, a manager for UW-Madison Transportation Services, is in charge of the SAFE program, and said SAFE and Transportation Services support putting cameras on the buses.

“We obviously have buses that run at night that are very important to people on this campus,” Kennedy said. “We think this can only help keep people safe.”
Twigg said the intent of the program is to improve safety, not punish students for underage drinking who are using SAFE bus or any of the buses.

“The idea of the cameras is really to be used in case there is violence or theft or something like that. Hopefully [students] won’t be discouraged [from riding the buses],” he said. “We hope that it will help improve public safety and encourage people to ride buses even late at night or other times when they might be concerned, knowing that there is this added level of security available.”

Kennedy said intoxicated students do not prove to be an issue on the SAFE buses.
“Most of the students and people that get on the bus are acting responsibly, and if they’ve had a bit to drink, they are not drinking on the bus,” he said.