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24 CHAPTER THREE HOW TRANSIT AGENCIES USE VIDEO SURVEILLANCE INTRODUCTION available, and a large, multimodal agency on the East Coast, declined to participate owing to ongoing litigation involving The number of passenger rail transit systems has increased its surveillance system provider. considerably within the past decade as new systems, particu- larly light rail operations, have initiated service in a number The questionnaire responses were tabulated by the of cities. Today, passenger rail covers a wide range of agen- study's authors and reviewed with transit specialists. Any cies, from those operating fewer than a dozen streetcars dur- discrepancies or apparent misunderstandings were resolved ing the morning and evening rush hours to those running through telephone calls or emails to the agency representa- hundreds of trains for 20 or more hours a day. In addition to tive who completed the survey. Each of the agencies that the number of vehicles and distances traveled, the systems responded used electronic video surveillance in some way. differ in their operating environments and in their organiza- Agencies that did not employ surveillance could complete tional and jurisdictional arrangements. the questionnaire; none did. The agencies that declined to cooperate also use video surveillance. Yet, because not all To undertake a comprehensive study, it is important to agencies responded, the study cannot state without ques- survey as many agencies as possible that operate a passen- tion that all transit agencies use some form of video sur- ger rail system so that all systems, regardless of size and veillance. Although there seems to be overwhelming use complexity, may use the experiences of others to help them of it, how extensive the use might be continues to be open make decisions that fit their needs and pocketbooks. In an to question. ideal world, everyone can learn from everyone else, but a new southwestern light rail system would learn fewer les- The period of initial introduction of video surveillance sons from a northeastern heavy or commuter rail system capabilities stretched from the 1970s to within the past few than from another light rail system regardless of location. years. This also reflects the differing ages of the transit agen- cies themselves. A number of newer systems have included To reach the largest possible number of transit agencies, video surveillance in their operations since the introduction a one-page letter from TRB and a four-page survey instru- of revenue service. The agencies that replied each used video ment were emailed to 58 agencies (a copy is provided as surveillance for a variety of functions. Agencies were pro- appendix A). Information was received from 43 agencies vided ten common areas where video surveillance is most (listed in appendix B). In addition to reflecting a high rate of often employed; all correctly understood this to mean loca- return for the survey questionnaire (73%), the agencies were tions on which cameras were focused. located in all parts of the United States. They reflected all modes of passenger transit service (heavy, commuter, and Regardless of when it was installed, agencies use sur- light rail) and included old and new transit systems, includ- veillance for many purposes and in many areas. The larg- ing those that do not anticipate entering revenue service for est number of agencies (40) employed electronic video at least another year or two. The findings may, therefore, be surveillance in stations, and on station platforms and shel- considered to embody both agency practices and those of the ters, followed by passenger areas onboard railcars (33). nation's passenger rail systems. Table 1 indicates where agencies are using video surveil- lance cameras. Several large transit systems were sent a single question- naire, even though they are multimodal agencies that operate Note that as with all synthesis tables, not all agen- two or more transit modes. Although each agency was asked cies answered all questions; for this reason, actual num- to identify itself and to include the name and title of the per- bers rather than percentages are provided. Because not all son who completed the questionnaire, each was promised responders interpreted all questions identically, there are anonymity unless it granted permission to be named; hence a small number of discrepancies in some totals. Owing to statistical information does not identify the agencies. Even the number of respondents, none of these inconsistencies with this promise, one agency refused to participate based were considered to have skewed the data and therefore were on its belief that the information was too sensitive to make retained as submitted.