MBTA Installs Panasonic Security Cameras to Protect 1.3 Million Passengers

Buses equipped with cameras
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Panasonic WV-SW155M camera on an MBTA bus

Serving the greater Boston area, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) is the fifth largest transit system in the United States with an average of about 1.3 million passenger trips each weekday. Supporting such an enormous ridership based makes it imperative to have a comprehensive security system in place to protect passengers and employees on all forms of transportation.

“The transit environment is one of the most complicated security environments you could have because of the unbelievably high volume of customers, the complexity of trains and track, and…hundreds of staircases and escalators and elevators,” said Randy Clarke, director of security and emergency management at MBTA, as discussed with ASIS International’s Security Management Magazine. “All of these things could be places where a security issue could come up or an emergency response or fire emergency. Slip, trip, and fall–these things happen all day, every day.”

Last year, MBTA expanded its video surveillance program, equipping each of its 1,100+ buses with six cameras, two 360-degree cameras, as well as one interior fixed high-definition camera and three external 720p high-definition cameras, from Panasonic. These new cameras enable MBTA to achieve real-time surveillance, which is critical for rider safety. In order to benefit from a total security solution, MBTA knew it needed to upgrade its outdated system which took time out of workers’ daily operations because surveillance video could not be transferred over a network.

“You’d have to go get the bus, take the bus out of service, pull the hard drive, hope the hard drive actually works, put it in a hard-drive reader, replace it with another one, and there will be impacts to the bus operations because you either have to hold the bus and do this operation out in the street impacting customers, or take the bus out of service,” said Clarke.

Now, surveillance video is continuously recorded and stored on each of the buses network video recorders which automatically downloads to a central server over Wi-Fi when a bus returns to the depot. Live video can even be shared while the bus is still moving if an incident occurs. Transit officials have the ability to sign-in and watch the live-streams of video from inside a bus at any time from places as far away as China according to Clarke. The new system also gives police officer data access to nearby bus systems via cruiser mobile terminals.

The cameras’ anti-vibration features protect the hardware and surveillance footage when buses encounter bumps or potholes on the road. There is also a screen installed inside the bus which shows the camera video feed so passengers can see themselves and others on video. Additionally, each transit security squad car is equipped with a mobile data terminal which allows officers to see real-time video surveillance from MBTA buses via a Wi-Fi connection.

“We might not see the actual crime take place, but there is usually activity that leads up to a crime,” Kenneth Sprague, deputy chief of the MBTA’s Investigative Services Division, said to Boston Magazine. “Whether it’s identifying a car in the vicinity or verifying a suspect’s alibi, we have the ability to view, validate and retrieve information in a timely manner. That’s a huge asset for our team’s ability to gather video for forensic evidence and keep this city safe.”

By investing in high-quality HD security cameras, transit agencies can better protect riders and transit operators, protect against costly property damage and arm themselves with valuable, courtroom-ready evidence.

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