Tuesday, November 23, 2010

London, ON Transit to Put Cameras on 200 Buses

Almost to a person they say they’ve have been afraid of violent passengers on London Transit buses and all applaud plans to add security cameras next year.

Patricia Sturgeon says she’s gotten off a London Transit bus before her intended stop a few times because she feared for her safety.

It’s not just one sort of passenger who becomes aggressive, she said.

“I even witnessed an elderly woman try to hit a driver with her cane,” Sturgeon said as she waited for a bus near the Central Library on Dundas Street.

London Transit will install four security cameras in each of its 200 buses by March at a cost of about $1.1 million.

While there was some discussion at LTC about privacy concerns, some of their regular customers say that is not an issue, especially when downtown London itself is chock full of surveillance cameras.

“There are cameras everywhere,” said Rob Weatherstone, who commutes daily to the courthouse where he has learned more than a little about security cameras — he’s a security officer.

Weatherstone says he twice had to help bus drivers escort out a rider who was abusive and threatening.

He’s also seen one passenger assault another — something Transit officials hope will be curbed by the cameras.

Transit officials also hope cameras curb liability claims made by passengers, claims that led London Transit to pay $1.5 million in insurance deductibles the past three years.

The union that represents 370 bus drivers says it’s been pushing for cameras since a survey 10 years ago found one-third of drivers in seven cities were subjected to violence or harassment over the previous two years.

Their call attracted public attention during and after a 29-day transit strike late last year — women bus drivers went to city hall to complain of being slapped, sworn at and spat upon.

London will join a growing line of transit systems that have cameras in their buses, a list that includes Edmonton, Winnipeg, Guelph, St. Catharines, Toronto and Halifax.

London Transit is also examining whether to install a barrier between drivers and passengers, something that would cost about $400,000. But transit management and drivers say the barriers don’t come without challenges and they want to study the options further.

London taxis already have security cameras, not video cameras, a requirement that took effect Jan. 31.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Seattle Bus Video Shows Attack on Disabled Passenger


Friday, November 12, 2010

New York MTA Promotes Bus Lane Cameras

After a long legislative battle, the MTA wants you to know about the automated enforcement that will be keeping Select Bus Service lanes clear of traffic.

“Good News,” trumpets an e-mail blast sent out by the MTA yesterday. “New York City and the MTA have teamed up to use cameras to strictly enforce designated bus-only lanes and help speed trips for bus riders.” The message went out to what appears to be a broad e-mail list; at least one recipient we spoke with doesn’t recall having ever received other e-mails from the MTA.

The MTA is also advertising online. “Riding the bus costs $2.25,” reads a banner ad spotted at the top of the NY1 website. “Driving in the bus lane costs $115. Bus lanes will now be camera-enforced.” Both the e-mail and the ad send you to this page on the MTA’s website, which concisely explains the need for bus lane enforcement and Select Bus Service more broadly.

You can imagine that the MTA and NYC DOT are excited to finally be able to have this important enforcement tool at their disposal. Bus riders and transit advocates also have reason to celebrate. Camera enforcement has been a long time coming. Two years ago, legislation to authorize the MTA to use bus lane cameras was smothered in the Assembly Transportation Committee. The Assembly allowed bus cams to pass this year in what was reportedly a deal with the MTA, when the transit agency folded on its request for state support for student MetroCards.

Though the state legislature okayed the use of cameras to enforce SBS lanes in June, enforcement wasn’t slated to start until this month. The timing was designed to give drivers on First and Second Avenue a short grace period to get used to the new bus lanes on those streets.

In London, a similar automated enforcement system is credited with improving bus speeds 12.6 percent. We’ll be checking in with the MTA and the city DOT to see how effective the cameras turn out to be.

MTA Website PR re: Bus Lane Enforcement

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Assault Caught on Bus Camera - Pittsburgh

Port Authority police handled more than 50 violent incidents involving transit drivers and passengers over the past five years, and records show drivers were the alleged victims in almost all cases.

But authority police say driver Anthony DiDolce, 47, of Coraopolis was the aggressor in a fight on a bus about 9:30 p.m. Friday in the North Side. It was at least the second incident this year in which police charged a driver with assaulting a rider.

"This is not normal," said Port Authority spokesman Jim Ritchie. "This is an unusual incident that's very concerning to us."

Video captured on a bus camera shows DiDolce shoved rider John Donahue, 28, of Garfield before punching him seven times and kicking him six times in a span of 2 minutes, 20 seconds, authority police said. The authority did not release copies of the video.

Police said Donahue was seated when the altercation began; he was in a fetal position on the bus floor when it ended. He never got to his feet.

What set off DiDolce?

"I pulled to the bus shelter (in Allegheny Center) and looked in my mirror and saw (Donahue) sleeping at the back of the bus. I then went back to wake him up and he jumped from the seat and charged at me while cussing," DiDolce told authority officers, according to a criminal complaint filed to support charges against him.

The account from Donahue, who told police he was drinking earlier: "I am not sure (what happened). I don't even remember getting on the bus."

DiDolce, who could not be reached for comment, was arrested Monday by authority police on charges of aggravated assault, unlawful restraint, harassment and making false reports to police. He was released after posting $15,000 bond.

Donahue was treated at a Veterans Affairs hospital after the altercation. He could not be reached Tuesday.

Ritchie said DiDolce, an authority driver since 2003, is suspended with pay during an administrative investigation.

Police last filed assault charges against a driver in February. Thomas Jett III, 43, of Verona allegedly fought with a rider who spit in his face after refusing to pay a fare. Prosecutors agreed to drop charges of simple assault and disorderly conduct if Jett completed an anger-management course. The rider, Samon Bradley, then 20, of Braddock pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct.

Patrick McMahon, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85, did not return calls seeking comment.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Free School Bus Camera Systems Offered

WESTERLY - A new school bus camera system could reduce the number of motorists who pass buses illegally at stops - and bring the town as much as $129,600 in estimated revenue, if installed on eight buses.

Representatives of SmartBus Live, a Providence-based private surveillance firm, offered their no-cost services to the Westerly School Committee on Wednesday night. The cameras are already used by four Rhode Island school districts.

Alfred A. Cardi, the company's president and general manager, said the externally mounted cameras generate a live feed monitored by Smart- Bus Live employees in Providence. A 2008 law allows for surveillance cameras to be mounted on school buses for the purpose of traffic management, he said.

"We have a panoramic, 180-degree view on the left side of the bus," Cardi told the school committee. "There are 7 cameras equipped on the outside of the bus - two of them just get the panoramic view, and five of them are zoomed-in on lanes of traffic and can actually read plates of cars driving 35 to 40 mph."

If a car passes a bus collecting students, company employees can date stamp the footage and generate an evidence package that's handed over to local police. Used to create a traffic citation, the package typically includes footage of the violation and a signed affidavit by the employee who witnessed it.

"In essence, we're the vendor," Cardi said. "We don't issue tickets, we just provide evidence to law enforcement ... We monitor live. These are not still photos. These are actually people witnessing [it], similar to a peace officer saying, "I witnessed this occurrence live."

At present, school bus drivers must note a car's description and its license plate number, and fill-out a lengthy report in order for a citation to be generated.

"Bus drivers love it," Cardi said of the camera system. "We took a big responsibility off of them having to, besides watch traffic, actually catch violators."

The cameras would be installed and maintained free of charge for the school district.

"We're able to provide all the equipment at no cost," Cardi said. "We service it, we maintain it, we adjust it, we do our own road analysis ... [There's] really no effort on the part of the school system other than the approval to go forward."

Seventy-five percent of revenues from a typical, $300 civil fine would go to the company, while 12.5 percent would go to the state and 12.5 percent would go to the town of Westerly - not the school district.

"I'm sure the Town Council would appreciate it, but I don't see the benefit financially for us to do it," remarked school committee member Louis Sposato Jr.

In 2007, Cardi said 131 bus-passing violations were issued in Rhode Island that generated $15,481 in revenue for the state. In 2009, after the law change, the company issued 2,187 violations from 25 buses using SmartBus Live and generated net revenues of $164,025, he said.

All of the traffic violations are handled administratively by the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal. The company currently sees about 1.2 tickets per bus per day, while about 2 to 3 percent of cases generated by SmartBus Live are dismissed, Cardi noted.

"Many people have lost their licenses as a result of it," he added. "There have been some repeat offenders. They've lost their licenses for 90 days, and some of them were fined a little more heavily."

Motorists who receive violations would also have access to the footage collected by bus cameras.

"The person getting the citation actually has a link to our website where they can go in with their registration and actually see their vehicle passing the school bus, and they can determine if they want to contest that or if they want to pay the fine," Cardi said.

Cardi said internal cameras could also be placed on buses for school officials to monitor via a customized website, though officials said 36 of 40 district-owned school buses already have them. Footage recorded by SmartBus Live, however, is archived for later review.

While no votes were taken Wednesday night, Westerly Public School Superintendent Roy Seitsinger said he plans to bring a recommendation on SmartBus Live to the school committee.

Three new school committee members, elected Tuesday, are scheduled to be sworn-in Nov. 15 at Town Hall at 7 p.m.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Mass Transit Security Gets Real

The Mumbai Metro is deploying a realtime, mobile wireless video surveillance network, the first transit agency in India to do so. The network will broadcast text messages and provide onboard video surveillance to passenger information displays.

Currently under construction, the three-line, high-capacity rapid transit system will span 40 miles in Mumbai, the financial capital of India. The first phase of the metro is scheduled to be completed in 2010. Thales Portugal has been tapped to provide the required communication systems, which will include wireless infrastructure mesh technology. The evaluation and field testing period was extensive.

To build a real-time video surveillance network, wireless mesh nodes will be placed on the trains, as well as along the tracks at intervals of 500 meters. The system will allow 10 MBps speed between the train and ground nodes at all points of the track at a speed of 50 mph.

Eighty-eight percent of the Mumbai population takes public transportation. In recent years, the city’s popular Mumbai Suburban Railway has become a magnet for terrorist attacks, hence the Mumbai Metro designers’ desire to protect the passengers, identify culprits in real time and ensure the fastest possible response should man-made or natural disasters occur.

Since 2003, Mumbai Suburban Railway has suffered eight blasts and at least 318 people are believed to have died as a result:

•March 14, 2003: A bomb went off on a train in Mulund, killing 10.
•July 11, 2006: A series of seven bombs went off on trains, killing 207.
•Nov. 26, 2008: Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus was attacked, killing at least 10 people.
Potential terrorism aside, the system also will support day-to-day operations of the metro and will discourage vandalism, tagging and other undesirable behavior on the trains.

Seoul Subway: a Pioneer in Wireless Mobile Video
After 198 people perished in the Daegu, Korea, subway fire of 2003 -- when an arsonist set fire to a car train stopped at the Jungangho station and the blaze spread to a second train -- officials began investigating real-time wireless video surveillance systems as a means to help protect subway riders and transit workers against potential fires, accidents, thefts and other harmful incidents.

Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit Corp. wanted a system that provided train operators live video of station entrances. That way, a driver could decide not to enter a station in case of accidents or other problems such as a person on the track.

The ability to stream video from a station’s cameras to a monitor on a train moving at speeds of 50 mph was critical. Wireless mesh technology was the only option to transmit video to and from subway cars, as it provided seamless hands off and roaming along the fixed wireless infrastructure.

SMRT’s planned network will provide video surveillance from the inside of passenger trains to a monitoring center video streaming of public announcements and commercial advertisements onto passenger train monitors. A total of 1,000 mesh nodes are being deployed for all four of SMRT’s subway lines, along with 350 cameras in the stations and 300 in the trains. The wireless infrastructure delivers 20 MBps of capacity, enabling real-time streaming video to and from the trains moving at 50 mph.

Wireless Ad-hoc Video
Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, the fifth-busiest transit system in the United States, transporting nearly 1.2 million passengers daily, implemented a wireless surveillance system combining on-board cameras and video recorders with wireless mesh networking for real-time ad-hoc connectivity. The $1.4 million project, partially funded by a Department of Homeland Security grant, called for the installation of onboard surveillance systems on 155 new buses.

The solution enables transmission of live video feeds to laptops in MBTA police officers’ networked vehicles, allowing first responders to view an onboard incident as it unfolds, in real time. Responders can now plan and execute tactics faster and smarter, enhancing the safety and security of passengers, officers and transit staff alike.

The MBTA busses are equipped with eight cameras: four inside and four outside. Inside each bus, two cameras are mounted near the ceiling at each end of the aisle and look down the aisle. The other two cameras watch the two doors and record people getting onto the bus. Outside the bus, one camera looks straight ahead to capture accidents that may occur.

On the curbside of the bus, a camera watches people getting on and off. A roadside camera looks for accidents, and, finally, a camera on the rear of the bus monitors the back.

The wireless video network operates in the 4.9 GHz spectrum, which is designated by the FCC for public safety and provides secure connectivity for first responders.

Technology Behind Real-time Mobile Video
Real-time video is what a lot of transit agencies and industrial companies are looking for because it allows officials to view a situation as it unfolds to know what’s ahead. Mobile real-time video is the wave of the future -- for city-wide public safety and industrial, campus, mining and transportation applications.

Wireless mesh maintains real-time connections between fixed and mobile nodes moving at high speeds -- without dropping packets and introducing latency or jitter. Additionally, mesh supports real-time video streaming and VoIP for infrastructure mobility and challenging environments, unlike Wi-Fi, which supports only low-bandwidth data.

Similarly, users cannot truly implement mobility with point-to-multipoint equipment because of the central command- and-control architecture, which does not allow for roaming. Mesh, with its distributed architecture and intelligence, can support mobility within the mesh, and even roaming across multiple meshes.

Real-time Video, New Trend in Transit?
So is this a trend for transit security? Transit agencies are not only deploying cameras on trains and busses, but also implementing real-time video streaming to and from moving trains, buses and shuttles.

There are interesting parallels between the Seoul and Mumbai rail system deployments. Rail systems have the necessary right-of-way for the deployment of fixed infrastructure. Both systems have fiber along the tracks, so engineering and cost-justifying the systems is easier, as they “only” need to deliver the “meshing” capability between the fixed infrastructure and the mobile mesh nodes.

Apart from security and safety, the traveling public today expects more than a comfortable ride. It expects to stay connected while on board trains and busses. Wireless access solutions can bring Wi-Fi connectivity to passengers. The same infrastructure deployed for video can serve double duty and provide the backbone for Wi-Fi traffic, which tends to have much lower bandwidth requirements compared to video and does not require real-time connectivity in most cases. Once passengers have access to Wi-Fi, they may want to conduct Skype VoIP calls or conduct video conferencing on their smart phones.

It’s not surprising that the first realtime video surveillance deployments are being rolled out in subway and light rail systems. The Seoul subway system takes advantage of the existing fiber assets to place the fixed mesh nodes so that the wireless connection is dedicated to transmitting a wireless signal between the fixed and mobile nodes.

In contrast, a real-time video system on busses requires deploying mesh infrastructure along the bus routes, which establishes the wireless backbone for communicating the signal coming from the bus back to the command center. Eventually, as wireless technology advances, these projects will become feasible to transit agencies outside of major metropolitan centers.

Transit agencies do not have to wait for grants to deploy a full-fledged, mobile- to-fixed real-time video infrastructure for wireless capabilities. Using the inherent capability of wireless mesh to establish ad-hoc self-forming connections, as illustrated in the MBTA application, agencies can simplify retrieval of recorded video when busses pull into the depot.

The system provides fast and secure data download when busses arrive to the depot. Communications provide trip data including distance and G-force data -- breaking, turning, starting forces -- as well as video surveillance recordings.

When implemented as a peer-to-peer mesh network, the system supports not only data transfer from busses, but data transfer in the other direction, from the depot to the bus.

Author: Ksenia Coffman, Firetide