Friday, July 29, 2011

Washington Metro Bus Cameras Lead to 20 Firings and 222 Suspensions of Drivers

Drivers nailed for talking on cell phones, running red lights
Metro has fired 20 bus drivers in the past five months after new cameras filmed them using cell phones while behind the wheel.

The Metrobus cameras have caught bus drivers misbehaving 1,173 times in that period, prompting 222 suspensions for various infractions as well as the 20 firings.

Aimed at the driver's seat, the cameras are intended to help train Metro's bus operators how to better navigate the region's traffic-filled streets. But they also are catching drivers speeding, driving without seat belts and chatting on forbidden cell phones. The most common violation has been running red lights.

From Feb. 28 through July 22, Metro has ...

• Taken 1,173 disciplinary actions against Metrobus drivers, 222 of which were suspensions.
• Fired 20 drivers for using cell phones.

The $3 million addition of the cameras in the fall has even caused the agency to take the blame more often for bus crashes. Previously about 35 percent of all Metrobus accidents were deemed "preventable," the agency's way of saying the driver was at least partly to blame for the crash, Metro Assistant General Manager of Bus Service Jack Requa said. Since the cameras were added, the rate has crept up to 40 percent because the agency is seeing things it couldn't before. Metro says drivers could have prevented 351 of the 883 crashes that occurred March through June.

Not all are happy about the repercussions of the new technology, including Jackie Jeter, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 that represents most of the agency's more than 2,400 bus operators.

"It's amazing. When they convinced us to accept the cameras, they lied," she said. "They said it was a training tool."

The cameras constantly film the drivers yet preserve the recordings only when the vehicle makes an unusual move, such as braking too hard, accelerating too quickly or hitting something. The cameras capture the eight seconds before the event that triggers it, then four seconds after, Requa said.

Similar cameras have been used on MetroAccess vehicles for several years. Those have caught 87 MetroAccess operators falling asleep while driving in the past three years, as The Washington Examiner reported in June.

Metro finished installing the cameras on all Metrobuses in November. Officials gave drivers an amnesty period through February before beginning any disciplinary action.

Some drivers tried to turn the cameras away at first, Requa said. But that activated them and caught them in the act.

Since the discipline began, the cameras have been triggered about 5,000 times, according to Requa. But about 80 percent of the time, the driver wasn't doing anything wrong -- and sometimes was doing something right.

Requa said one driver was captured on camera swerving the bus, sending some riders flying. But the driver had been trying to dodge a 4-year-old child who ran across four lanes of traffic to get from one parent to another. The child was not hurt and the driver was praised for doing the right thing.

Still, with 1,173 disciplinary actions made from those images, that means nearly half of all drivers would have been disciplined if every driver had received just one violation in five months. Some drivers are repeat offenders, though.

Drivers also got caught through other means. The agency suspended drivers 548 times and fired 33 drivers for offenses not caught on video during the same period, according to agency statistics. But the cameras have increased the numbers.

"The majority of the operators do not come back for the same thing," Requa said. "We believe their driving habits are getting better."

The cameras are being activated less often, he said, a sign that the coaching provided by the images appears to be helping.

Read more at the Washington Examiner:

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

New Bus Camera Law Takes Effect in WA

A new law that took effect last Friday authorizes the use of automated school-bus safety cameras.

This law adds school-bus camera violations to the list of parking infractions that can hold up renewal of a vehicle registration.

The reason for adding this type of violation is to increase public awareness of our responsibility to help keep children safe while they are exiting, entering or walking near school buses. More than 24 million children ride school buses every day in the U.S. and each year about 27 children are fatally injured while near a bus.

To reduce risk near school buses, safety cameras on school buses will shoot photos of a vehicle and its license plate while an infraction is occurring. If a vehicle owner receives two or more parking violations for the same vehicle, the vehicle record is flagged, and the registration cannot be renewed.

Drivers must stop for a school bus that is stopped with its red lights flashing – no matter which side of the road it’s on.

Drivers must yield to any bus that has signaled and is pulling back onto the roadway.

Drivers are not required to stop for a school bus with red lights flashing when the stopped school bus is traveling in the opposite direction and the roadway has three or more marked traffic lanes, is separated by a median, or is separated by a physical barrier

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mobile Camera Car Issues 813 Parking Tickets

A CONTROVERSIAL camera car has snared 813 motors parked illegally in just eight weeks – including four council vehicles.

Hartlepool Borough Council launched its £40,000 camera car in May in an effort to improve road safety.

It has already handed out fines which could net the authority £56,910.

The scheme has sparked a barrage of criticism from drivers who have been snapped dropping people off in bus stops, pulling onto double yellow lines to drop goods off in charity shops and even on mounted kerbs outside their own homes.

It has emerged that four of those tickets were sent to council workers who had parked local authority-branded vehicles illegally.

Since being launched on May 9, 848 penalty charge notices have been issued though that figure does not include any fines which have been issued in the last few days and have not yet been received by offenders.

Of that figure, 115 appeals were lodged with the council which resulted in 35 being cancelled.

The fines, which are fixed at £35 if paid early rising up to £70 after 21 days, could see the council rake in £56,910 in the first two months of the operation being launched.

Many irate motorists have claimed the vehicle is being used as a “cash-cow” at a time when the council is looking to save money at every opportunity, though bosses insist that is not the case and say the reduction in the number of tickets being issued proves drivers are not taking as many risks on the road.

Phil Hepburn, Hartlepool Council’s parking services manager, said: “We are aware of the criticism the camera car has had, and it was not entirely unexpected.

“We have had various road safety initiatives in the past which have not had the desired effect.

“Now, when a fine lands on the doormat, people know we are serious about this.

“We want to stop cars parking or pulling on zig-zag lines near schools, in loading bays, cycle lanes or bus stops.

“In the first six weeks the car was in use, we averaged around 120 tickets per week. A fortnight ago, that figure was down to 62, and then last week a total of 31 tickets were sent out.

“The system is ongoing, so many drivers who have been recorded will not yet have received their ticket. But all in all the drop in figures shows the car is making an impact and maybe drivers are not taking the risks they have done in the past.

“Drivers are changing their habits.”

He added: “Of the vehicles which have been fined, four of them are council vehicles so that shows we are not being selective with what we are taking pictures of.

“Those vehicles were dealt with in exactly the same way as any other. The vehicle would be traced back to whatever department it belonged to, the logs would show who the driver was, and that driver would be liable for the fine. This was not a case of the council fining the council, the driver would be liable.”

It comes after Callum Laws was snapped in a bus stop no longer in use opposite The Royal pub, in Church Street, Hartlepool, as he dropped off a pal on May 31 and was fined £70.

Gillian Hartill was was stunned when she received the £70 fixed penalty after she was snapped parked at a bus stop outside St Patrick’s shops in Owton Manor Lane, Hartlepool.

But at 9.41am on Thursday, June 9, when the ticket says she was nabbed, she claims she was frantically rushing her injured pet shar pei dog, Bailey, for treatment at Vets4Pets, in Belle Vue Way.

The Mail also reported how more than a dozen fines were dished out to residents parking outside their own homes in a stretch of Catcote Road, Hartlepool.

Among those fined were mum-of-four Michelle Clements, 44, and Harry James, 67, who had been given two tickets.

And Paul Robinson, 50, was also given a ticket after stopping at a bus stop in Wynyard Road, in Hartlepool, “for seconds”.

SINCE the camera car was launched, the Mail has been inundated with calls from motorists who have slammed the way the vehicle is operating.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

OCTA Selects March Networks for $6.2 Million Mobile Surveillance Project

March Networks, a global provider of intelligent IP video solutions, announced two separate contract wins totaling $6.2 million with the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA). The contracts include a $2.6 million deal to equip more than 200 buses with its Mobile Solution, as well as a five-year, $3.6 million Managed Services contract to provide OCTA with video system health monitoring services across its entire 850-bus fleet. All video equipment is expected to be deployed by the end of October.

OCTA serves approximately 50 million passengers annually. The authority has relied on March Networks for onboard bus surveillance for more than five years, and will be completely standardized on the mobile solution once the current project is complete. The comprehensive software and systems enable OCTA to provide a greater level of safety and security to its passengers, better defend itself against false liability claims, and quickly access high-quality video evidence to support investigations and prosecutions when an incident occurs. In one such incident on an OCTA bus last year, video from solution led to the speedy arrest of a suspect. (Watch the video).

Each OCTA bus is equipped with a ruggedized Mobile Digital Video Recorder (MDVR) capturing video from up to 10 March Networks mobile cameras, as well as synchronized audio from two microphones. The onboard MDVR includes an internal 802.11 wireless card that enables it to download video wirelessly when a bus approaches a depot with wireless connectivity, rather than staff having to remove the bus from service and physically pull the video data. If an incident occurs, the bus operator can push a button to dynamically flag that moment in the video for rapid retrieval and viewing. In addition, the solution provides authorized staff with on-demand wireless remote streaming video, which is often a key requirement for Homeland Security funding.

The Mobile Managed Service offering includes a range of service options – from the health monitoring of cameras, MDVRs and other components to system audits and training. It also incorporates ongoing software maintenance and scheduled updates, which provides OCTA with the latest functionality available in the company's portfolio.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

New York MTA To Install Surveillance Cameras On 341 City Buses

Metropolitan Transportation Authority bus drivers say that given the latest assault on one of their own just three weeks ago, they're breathing a little easier knowing that the MTA is installing surveillance cameras on hundreds more buses.

“The program will keep us safe,” said Willie Rivera, Brooklyn’s union bus chair.

MTA officials say cameras are already in operation on 85 buses, mostly on routes through high crime neighborhoods. Now it's putting them on 341 more.

“It will give drivers a sense of security, knowing that the entire time they're on the bus, there is a witness to all activity,” said Ed Kenny of NYCT Bus Operations.

In fact, six cameras will be mounted on each bus. Five cover the interior and one points straight ahead. None of the cameras are focused on the driver.

The recording device is triggered by movement. It starts the moment someone walks on the bus and stops five minutes after the last person gets off.

MTA officials say the cameras will not feed images back to its command center in real time. Instead, they'll be stored on each camera's hard drive for about a month. The video will be looked at only if there's an incident aboard a bus.

The 341 buses will have their cameras installed by the end of April at a cost of $10 million.

Agency officials say the MTA will decide within a month whether to outfit about 1,100 more buses at a cost of $18,000 each.

“Unfortunately, our streets can be kind of rough, but we’ve been testing this system for over a year now, and so far it's stood up to the rigors of bus service,” said Kenny.

Some drivers and riders were concerned about their privacy, but Kenny said that won't be a problem.

“The footage is not going to be appear on YouTube,” said Kenny. “It's only used internally, used by the police department if there is an incident.”

Representatives of the drivers union say they’re behind the program

“They need to advance it, but it's a good first step,” said Rivera.

The MTA agrees that it's a priority, and one well worth focusing on.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Bus Hitting Bus Crash On Camera

CA: BART's Surveillance Captured 'Partial View' of Fatal Shooting

"It will be a strong tool in the investigation," said BART police Deputy Chief Daniel Hartwig, who said he had not seen the footage himself and could not discuss it in detail.

BART, San Francisco police and the San Francisco district attorney are investigating the Sunday night shooting on the platform of the Civic Center Station. The man who was shot has been identified, but his name was not released Tuesday because the San Francisco medical examiner was unable to reach his relatives.

According to the transit agency, two officers responded to a report of a man in a tie-dye T-shirt and military-style fatigue pants with an open bottle of alcohol at 9:34 p.m. Sunday.

Within one minute of arriving, Hartwig said, one of the officers fired after he was "confronted by an aggressive suspect who was holding a bottle and a knife." Hartwig said he did not know whether the officer - who gave a statement to investigators soon after the shooting - reported fearing for his own life or the life of a BART patron.

One of the two officers suffered a minor cut to his arm in the incident, officials said. Three shell casings were recovered from the officer's pistol.

Harry Stern, an attorney representing the two officers, said Tuesday that the man who was shot had first thrown the liquor bottle at the officers. "It's my understanding that he then advanced on them with a knife, which was recovered, and that he looked like he was winding up to throw the knife at them," Stern said.

BART did not identify the two officers, one a six-year veteran of the force and the other a BART officer for a little more than a year. Both have been placed on routine administrative leave.

The incident marked the sixth time a BART officer has shot a person in the 40 years since the agency formed a police force.

The most widely known of those shootings - the killing of unarmed train rider Oscar Grant at an Oakland station on Jan. 1, 2009 - was missed by the agency's surveillance cameras, which were pointed in other directions, but was filmed by passengers.

Hartwig urged anyone who witnessed Sunday's shooting or has information about it to call BART police at 510 464-7040. San Francisco police asked anyone with information to call 415 575-4444.

"The surveillance camera footage "will be a strong tool in the investigation." "

Daniel Hartwig, BART police deputy chief

By Demian Bulwa, Chronicle Staff Writer, The San Francisco Chronicle (California)

Friday, July 01, 2011

Tuscon AZ Schools Approve $625K for Bus Cameras

TUSD students who ride school buses will now have an extra set of eyes watching them after the district's Governing Board approved the installation of video cameras in the vehicles.

The Tucson Unified School District expects the 300 cameras, which come with a price tag of more than $625,000, will reduce student disruptions, negative behavior and vandalism on buses. Tuesday's board vote was unanimous.

Nikki Frett has driven TUSD school buses for 10 years and has seen it all - students throwing things at cars, yelling obscenities, horseplay and full-fledged fistfights. She believes the bus cameras could help curb some of that behavior, but only if there are consequences for students.

"Knowing that they are being watched isn't enough if nothing comes of it," she said.

The cameras are part of the district's effort to improve transportation and services, said Candy Egbert, TUSD's interim chief operations officer.

There have been a few trial runs of video cameras on TUSD buses in the past, but they never remained a permanent fixture, Egbert said.

In 2008, a management audit recommended that TUSD reduce bus monitors by 10 percent and install cameras on buses without monitors. Such a move could have saved the district nearly $500,000 a year. While the district moved forward with cutting monitors, it did not install cameras.

The current effort isn't an attempt to reduce bus monitors, Egbert said.

"We will continue to need monitors to support student needs and to assist with wheelchairs, transfer transitions and other student needs," Egbert said. "Monitors are of tremendous importance."

Last school year TUSD spent about $2.7 million in wages and benefits for about 130 bus monitors.

The plan for video cameras is not only supported by the administration but also by most of the bus drivers, said Brenda Lambach, chair of the TUSD division of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Not only is it a way to monitor student behavior, but it also serves as protection for drivers, she said.

"When kids don't like a driver because they're too strict or they won't let them eat on the bus, all it takes is one to make an accusation and others will back them up," said Lambach, a former bus driver. "The cameras will show what really does go on."

Video-camera footage will not be monitored regularly and will be reviewed only if there is a concern by a driver, student or parent.

Egbert could not provide information on the number or types of incidents that occur on school buses, but she said the district spends a lot of time restoring seats that have been vandalized by students.

"We know that these things happen, and it's not in the best interest of the kids or the drivers," Egbert said. "It's important for us to do all we can to support drivers and our families so the ride is a positive one for everybody."

Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at or 573-4175.

Read more:

Lane Transit Bus Caught Running Red Light From Dashboard Cam