District records passengers, drivers with CCTV
The North County Transit District (NCTD) has installed closed-circuit television (CCTV) systems on buses and commuter vans. The video cameras are helping the transit district, which covers 1,000 square miles of north San Diego County, document driver and passenger behavior as well as cut liability claims.
Two years ago, the NCTD was experiencing a high rate of vandalism on its fleet of 160 buses. However, drivers and staff members had difficulty determining which riders were responsible for the damage because, by the time the damage was discovered, the passengers had left the vehicles.
In fall 2000, the NCTD replaced 53 of its aging and damaged buses with new 40-foot, low-floor buses from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada-based New Flyer. Before the buses were put into circulation, the district installed on-board CCTV systems from Austin, Texas-based GE Interlogix.
Each bus was equipped with color MobileView cameras, mounted inside the vehicle in low-profile, vandal-resistant housings. In addition to recording passenger behavior, the cameras record video of traffic incidents. “We have six cameras, covering the windshield forward, windshield back, front door, mid-ship forward, rear door and behind rear door,” explains Darryl Czajkowski, accident investigator for the NCTD Risk Department. “We especially appreciate the windshield forward facing camera since it helps us dispute prospective accident claims.”
When a driver starts a vehicle equipped with the CCTV system, cameras begin recording events automatically. Images are stored in the system’s mobile digital video recording device, which has 120 gigabytes of fixed data memory. With the six-camera configuration on each bus, the recording device can store 96 hours of video.
When vandalism or an accident occurs, supervisors can remove the recording device from the vehicle involved and view video of the incident on a desktop computer. They can then save the video onto a compact disc for use in court or for the district’s own records.
Images from the video cameras can be used to help the district defend itself in traffic accidents. “The CCTV system has produced positive results,” Czajkowski says. “The resulting video shows exactly what happened. For instance, if the bus is involved in an accident but the other party is at fault, in a high percentage of circumstances, the video has captured and recorded that fact. Such evidence saves our district money.”
Additionally, the cameras capture passenger behavior and can be used to find vandals or dispute injury claims. “Recently, a lady claimed that the bus departed before she was seated, knocking her into the seat and causing injury,” Czajkowski says. “Though she had tripped, the video did not support her contention that bus movement was the cause. Even after her fall, she was shown walking normally with no type of injury. With video documentation, the district was able to prove it was not liable.”
In July 2002, the NCTD began installing the CCTV systems on 12 new commuter vans. As the district replaces more buses and vans, it plans to install the systems on the replacement vehicles.
“I’m really pleased with the CCTV system,” Czajkowski says. “If budgets allow, I’d like to add a seventh camera to the systems we already have. I’d put it on the exterior right side, above the front door to cover the areas of the front and rear doors of the bus. This would give us another outside view that could help us limit liability issues for the district.”