Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Metrolink Engineers Sue to Block Camera Surveillance

The union representing Metrolink engineers today filed a federal lawsuit to halt the video-surveillance systems recently installed in all of the commuter rail line’s locomotives.

Metrolink installed cameras as a direct response to the deadly 2008 Metrolink crash in Chatsworth that killed 25 people and apparently involved an engineer who earlier had been text messaging on his cellphone.

Metrolink officials said the purpose of the video recording, which cost $1 million to install in all locomotives, was to ensure that engineers adhered to agency bans on cellphones, text messaging and allowing unauthorized passengers in the cab.

However, Paul T. Sorrow, acting president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, called the cameras an “invasion of privacy" that violated federal law as well as the terms of the union’s contract with Metrolink.

Sorrow said Metrolink could have taken much less intrusive measures, including installing a cellphone-jamming system that blocks all calls and texting.

“Instead of being driven by political expediency, Metrolink needs to consider a realistic solution to the problem that does not rely upon a huge waste of existing limited tax funds," Sorrow said.

A spokeswoman for Metrolink said the agency had not yet been served with the suit.

“Metrolink is disappointed that the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen has taken this action instead of supporting our efforts to advance the safety of passenger train service," said spokeswoman Angela M. Starr. "This program is a vital piece of Metrolink's safety program and was undertaken with the goal of enhancing the safety of our passengers and [the Metrolink agency] and contractors' employees.”

Friday, October 09, 2009

NY to Catch Bus Lane Violators with Cameras

During his first day on the job, new MTA CEO Jay Walder announced a plan to install cameras on the front of city buses to take photos of any vehicles obstructing bus lanes. Like the city's red-light cameras, tickets will be issued automatically. Walder insists the innovation drastically improved the on-time performance of buses in London, where Walder worked before taking over the MTA. In February, the DOT began video surveillance of the "high-visibility" terra cotta-colored express-bus lanes on 34th Streets, but this would be the first time buses were used for enforcement.

In an interview with WCBS Monday, Walder said, "You and I would never think of stopping our car on a train track, but some how the idea of stopping a car in a bus lane seems acceptable. It's not." Absolutely. Now, can we get these cameras for our bicycles to automatically issue tickets to bike lane blockers? Walder plans to implement other new technology in the transit system, including new E-Z swipe cards to ride buses and subways and more countdown clocks to tell you how much longer your beard will grow as you wait for the G.