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.