Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Seon Releases Bus Fleet Tracking and Live Pics

Stop Arm School Bus Cameras a Go in Dallas

GRT Bus Cameras Rolling

WATERLOO REGION — When you board a bus in the region from now on, be sure to look up . . . and smile. Grand River Transit switched on surveillance cameras aboard 190 of its buses this week in a bid to boost drivers’ safety while attempting to respect the privacy of riders. Use of the onboard camera systems will be governed by a Mobile Systems Surveillance Policy, passed by regional council in September, 2011. The policy ensures that cameras will not be continuously monitored by staff and recordings cannot be used to assess drivers’ performance. “That’s not the intention of the equipment,” said GRT director of transit Eric Gillespie. “It’s really very specific purposes — so if we’re looking to detect or deter or investigate unlawful activity, to resolve employee discipline proceedings, or to investigate personal injury claims.” The cameras record for 72 hours and then overwrite themselves. If police or a select few GRT staff authorized to view the footage do not specifically request to see it within that time, the footage is erased completely. No onboard camera placed in any GRT bus will be pointed at the driver. “Not having a camera on the driver is going to cause some problems,” said Tim Mollison of the Tri-Cities Transport Action Group. “This isn’t like we’re asking the drivers to put a security camera in their home. We’re asking them to put a security camera in their place of work.” Critics say that not using this new system to watch drivers on the job represents a missed opportunity, especially in light of widely publicized incidents of drivers taking unscheduled breaks or texting on buses in other Ontario cities. The camera systems do include a microphone placed near the driver’s seat. Gillespie said this could be used if GRT needed to resolve a dispute between a rider and a driver. “If a customer called in to say that a driver was operating a cellphone while they were driving, that would be a significant safety issue for us and it would be something that we would be following up on.” Even so, the fact that drivers will not be visible in most of the footage recorded by the onboard cameras irks Mollison. “It’s frustrating that we’re not going to be able to use (cameras) in any way to improve GRT’s customer service.” Others, like frequent passenger Kate Daley, applaud the lengths GRT staff and regional councillors went to preserve the privacy of customers. “I think now what I’m looking for is to make sure that those approved safeguards are followed.” Even students boarding special GRT high school buses will be filmed. “Their privacy is protected the same as all of our transit customers,” Gillespie said. “For me it really doesn’t make a difference because I’m not out to get (GRT bus drivers),” student Marylin Girimonte said while waiting for a bus at the Charles Street terminal. The policy governing use of cameras will come up for review in two years time. When light rail transit service comes online, sometime in 2016-2017, the camera policy “will have to be revisited” again as it is not “a blanket policy” and won’t cover trains, according to Gillespie.