Video Surveillance Increases Security and Decreases Liability


The American Public Transportation Authority (APTA) estimates that more than 14 million people use public transportation each weekday. State and local transit authorities around the country are investing in technologies that ensure smooth operation of these highly traveled systems while minimizing disruption in service and protecting people, property and assets.

Video surveillance is an example of a technology that is capturing the attention of transit authorities because of its effectiveness is helping to proactively address potential security threats, promote optimal response in emergency situation and mitigate the risk of liability claims through more comprehensive incident investigation.

Although transit authorities faced some initial resistance to video surveillance from labor unions and others, the positive benefits of technology have had a significant impact on operation efficiency, employee safety and rider experience.

The Emergence of Video Surveillance in Transit

In the early 1990’s the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) introduce the Advanced Public Transportation Systems (APTS) program to encourage the development and deployment of innovative technologies and strategies that would improve public transportation. APTS made funding available to state and local government for deployment of state-of-the-art transit technologies including geographic information systems, automated passenger counting technologies and on-board video surveillance equipment. The FTA allocated funds to the program in an effort to encourage transit authorities around the country to discover new methods of integrating technologies that provide a safer more reliable and more efficient mass transit system.

Thanks to the funding provided by APTS, transit authorities quickly realized the benefits of linking GPS based location technologies with audio/visual announcement systems to provide more accurate arrival and departure information. Automated passenger counting systems were installed to trace peak ridership times, allowing for more efficient allocating of resources during the busiest times of the day. All of these technologies were welcomed by passengers, operators and management alike for improvements in efficiency, reliability and passenger experience they provided. However, video surveillance could provide a more comprehensive view into trait operation than any other technology.

Managed Liability: A Valuable Proposition

Transit authority management quickly realized the potential benefits of video surveillance technology for liability and risk mitigation. The visibility provided by onboard cameras gave transit authority management actionable intelligence required to ensure proper operation of the vehicles and confirmation that policies and procedures were being followed. In addition management now had an unbiased “witness” to capture any incidents that occurred in or around the vehicle. This evidence aided in administrative investigation and helped protect the transit authority from false claims of liability.

Funding made available by the APTS program covered a large portion of the costs associated with installation of video surveillance cameras and digital video recorders (DVRs), which meant that both large metropolitan areas and smaller rural transit systems could gain access to technology. Integration of video surveillance systems with other APTS-funded solutions such as GPS location technology and wireless networking equipment was also typically specified in transit RFPs.

Following the evening of September 11, transit security became a top priority among state and local government officials. Transit authority directors were immediately called upon to develop security policies and procedures to reduce significantly the risks presented by a rapidly expanding and diverse set of threats. Transit security managers were charged with allocating limited resources and technologies to support the effective execution of these security policies. As a result, mobile video surveillance technology rose to the top.

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