How to Get the Most Out of Your Video Surveillance Investment
Three agencies have cracked the code
- By Rodell Notbohm
- Sep 01, 2014
Transit systems across the country strive to make the smartest investments
to improve community safety and provide valuable resources
for law enforcement. Mobile video surveillance technology is one investment
that impacts each of these groups in different ways.
Standing as one of the most valuable security investments a
system can make, advanced mobile video software solutions make it possible to
lengthen the life of hardware, reduce training and maintenance costs, and share
resources across agencies—all the while protecting valuable assets and increasing
the safety of operators and riders.
Asheville, N.C. - Taking the Long Road
Asheville Redefines Transit (ART) is a primary link for public transportation in
Asheville, N.C. and the surrounding area of Buncombe County, serving a population
of 229,000. With more than 15 regular routes within the county and an annual
ridership of 1.5 million passengers, in 2005, ART installed its first mobile video
surveillance system to improve passenger safety and video management.
Since then, seamless backwards compatibility between video hardware and software
has become the most important asset of ART’s video surveillance solution.
While new technology continues to be implemented effortlessly, compatibility between
prior versions of DVR equipment and a single video management software
solution has eliminated the need for ART to replace fully functional hardware in
order to maintain compatibility, purchase new software or re-train employees on
a new software platform.
“A backward compatible system saves agency resources,” said Norman Schenck,
general manager of ART. “Software and hardware upgrades will always be compatible
with the original hardware the agency purchased, maximizing our initial
investment and resources.”
The video surveillance solution has also become an unexpected asset to the
agency in other ways. Used as a teaching tool for the ART administrative staff,
Schenck said that managing all on-board video equipment and vehicle activity
through one software solution has eased the training process for new bus operators
and their supervisors, and acts as tool for quality assurance.
“We use video footage constantly in driver training,” Schenck said. “ART
prides itself on the superior customer service its operators provide to Asheville
citizens. Oftentimes, we can pull video of incidents on board a vehicle and use it
as a teaching tool for other operators to introduce new procedures or reinforce
In addition, ART provides video footage from on board its buses and the surrounding
vicinity to law enforcement personnel to aid in incident response and investigations.
ART buses are equipped with multiple cameras positioned to record
video both inside and outside the vehicle: a forward-facing camera for viewing
out the vehicle’s windshield, interior cameras located at the front to monitor the
fare box area, additional interior cameras viewing the front and back doors of the
vehicle, and exterior-mounted cameras for capturing video of activity occurring
outside the vehicles at bus stops and on city streets. Police have used video evidence
from ART cameras to solve crimes and provide answers to investigations that are
unrelated to on-board transit activity.
“ART takes security very seriously,” Schenck said. “We have been able to provide
valuable input for many police investigations, promoting justice for Asheville
citizens and enhancing safety and security in our community.”
As ART considers future upgrades, including wireless capabilities for managing,
viewing and sharing video, this additional functionality will allow law enforcement
and agency supervisors to log in and request specific segments of video
at even faster speeds. Through future upgrades, ART can be confident that its
resources are used to their greatest value with a long-term solution that will evolve
with the transit system as it grows.
Grand Rapids, Mich. - Training With Real Incidents
The Rapid, which serves the Grand Rapids, Mich. metro area, is an essential service
to the community. Committed to providing safe and dependable transportation
options to 10.8 million passengers a year, The Rapid chose a mobile video
surveillance system in 2012 to meet its technical requirements as well as one that
would mature with the agency over time.
With the deployment of a new system, The Rapid hoped to avoid the cost and
inconvenience of continual upgrades when new technologies became available.
Its previous solution required multiple software programs to view recorded video
from various generations of hardware. They chose a new solution that was forward
and backward compatible with multi-generational systems, saving the agency
valuable resources—not only in hardware
replacement costs, but personnel
training and new software deployment
expenses as well.
In addition to sophisticated mobile
video surveillance technology, The
Rapid invested significantly in developing
a safe and secure environment for
its employees and riders—deploying
new vehicles, installing bus shelters and
organizing a safety training program
that instructs all vehicle operators and
supervisors on how to manage incidents
and use implemented technology more
effectively. Brian Pouget, The Rapid’s
chief operating officer, said that managing
all equipment and vehicle activity
through one software solution has
eased the training process for new operators
“We think very highly of our training
program,” Pouget said. “For the
agency, it is as important to educate
operators and managers about preventing
adverse events on a bus as it is to
educate them on how powerful and
useful the video system is for reviewing
incidents. The equipment’s capabilities even help us quickly deliver video clips as
evidence for law enforcement.”
The Rapid uses Vehicle Information Management (ViM) Software, a fleet-wide
management solution with capabilities such as an archive system with short-term
and long-term storage options, event statistics and equipment health reporting
features. The combination of this software and video surveillance hardware allows
management staff to monitor bus activity, automatically download video clips and
request specific portions of video for download on-demand.
The high-capacity hard drives for each DVR have allowed The Rapid to access
footage and respond to customer service concerns up to one month after an event
has occurred. This has allowed Pouget and his operations team ample time to
investigate concerns, complaints and incidents as they have arisen, and eliminates
the need to physically remove hard drives from the system.
One incident involving a suspicious package left on a bus required the local
police department’s bomb squad to use mechanical robots to safely remove the
unknown package. The box was determined to be safe and the video footage from
the on-board cameras allowed the incident to serve as a valuable training tool for
the police department’s approach for investigating similar situations.
“The seamless software and hardware compatibility are exactly what we asked
for,” Pouget said. “Together, the tools have become a crucial component for executing
the organization’s operation and safety initiative. We are able to save valuable
time and money across the agency.”
The Rapid has enhanced and added to its video surveillance system since the
initial installation, and the recent addition of wireless connectivity now allows
Pouget, transit supervisors, law enforcement personnel and other first responders
to have access to real-time video footage out in the field.
“The wireless connectivity on The Rapid vehicles greatly improved our accessibility
to video,” Pouget said. “The entire agency and our partners throughout
the municipality enjoy this streamlined approach and more convenient access to
wirelessly downloaded video.”
Activity on and around The Rapid vehicles is captured through six interior- and
two exterior-mounted cameras. If a vehicle is involved in any abnormal event, such
as a collision that triggers an on-board accelerometer, and if a transit supervisor or
police vehicle is in range, the wireless technology allows first responders to monitor
and download video remotely.
This case demonstrates the way many transit agencies are procuring state-ofthe-
art technology. By extending the technical capabilities on board The Rapid
vehicles, the agency is increasing safety, improving efficiency and saving money. As
this agency’s fleet continues to mature, the system will continue to provide seamless,
on-board video surveillance and new fleet management tools as technology
advances and new features become available.
Springfield, Mo. - Maintaining an Always-On Approach
City Utilities Transit Services (CU Transit) has operated the public transit system
for the city of Springfield since 1945 and provides approximately 1.5 million rides
per year. The transit system consists of 14 fixed day routes and four evening routes,
covering more than 170 miles. In addition, City Utilities offers a paratransit service
that provides rides to passengers who require additional resources to facilitate
their bus travel.
CU Transit is setting expectations and paving the way for technology adoption
among transit agencies within the state of Missouri, across the country and worldwide.
It follows a policy for ensuring the technology on board any vehicle within
its fleet functions properly before it takes to the roads of Springfield.
In 2010, CU Transit deployed their state-of-the-art video surveillance system
with back-end solutions on board its public transportation fleet. Adhering to their
policy, CU Transit uses a direct communication link between its staff, DVRs, cameras
and hard drives on board each bus. The wireless information confirms to the
agency that the equipment is working at an optimum level and notifies operators
of any system errors.
Furthermore, CU’s fixed-route and paratransit buses are equipped with seven
to eight interior and exterior cameras along with wireless networking equipment.
The agency, desiring additional data and reports from each bus, added the ViM
Software as part of a later installation
phase, leveraging the existing wireless
LAN networking equipment.
“The ability to communicate to
the technology on board each vehicle
through the ViM Software has provided
a great time-saving benefit to
our operations,” said Carol Cruise,
director-transit of City Utilities Transit
Services. “Our goal is to protect
employees and riders, and the software
provides us with accurate information
which allows us to resolve any conflict
and return the vehicle to its route.”
For example, through a vehicle
health report, transit supervisors can
monitor if an on-board camera has been
vandalized or if its view has been obstructed.
The maintenance department
is notified of any issues and crews are
dispatched to the vehicle with the appropriate
repair or replacement equipment,
quickly resolving any issues. The
use of wireless fleet management software
solutions reduces exploratory and
maintenance costs, minimizes video
failure, provides automatic fleet reports
and, most importantly, protects both
riders and transit employees.
“We continue to enhance our system
because this solution gives City Utilities
the intelligence every day to understand
how the equipment is operating,” said
Cruise. “Safely getting our passengers
from point A to point B is our drivers’
A dependable surveillance solution
is critical for CU Transit. After an incident,
video evidence can be the determining
factor for uncovering who or
what may be at fault—a bus, driver, passenger
or even another vehicle. Stability
and reliability in mobile video equipment
significantly decreases City Utilities’
liability. In addition, CU Transit’s
use of the ViM Software mitigates the
risk of video loss and increases accessibility
to video surveillance data.
With City Utilities’ investment in
the solution, the local police department
and first responders benefit from
improved access to critical information
during traffic accidents and criminal
investigations as well. City Utilities
may choose to upgrade the system at
any time to feature capabilities such
as 4G wireless connectivity with live
video streaming, an archive system
with short-term and long-term storage
options and event statistics (route, bus,
driver and GPS information).
Soon, no bus will enter the roadway
with so much as a dirty lens or a camera
view out of alignment. Proactive health
checks will become routine for any
transit agency dedicated to increasing
safety, improving efficiency, reducing
liability and saving money. City Utilities
is setting the industry standard and
creating a benchmark for other transit
agencies to ensure safety, security
and optimal technology performance
through strategic investments such as
video management software.
Getting Maximum Value
Out of Your Investment
The increasing need for the safety of operators and
passengers is a primary concern for transit agencies.
However, instead of asking, “How important is video
surveillance on board our busses?” agencies are now
asking, “How do we maintain a proactive, real-time
and flexible solution for ensuring the value of our
video surveillance system?”
With a longer, flexible lifespan of hardware, advancements
and scalability with software, transit
agencies can realize a reduction in resources and expenses
for training and maintenance, allowing continued
enhancement in ridership safety and greater
protection of valuable assets. It is no secret that
software is transforming the way transit agencies
think about fleet management, public safety, maintenance
and overall operational efficiencies. A robust
software component is the crux of any high-quality,
mobile, video surveillance system
and the deciding factor for agencies
looking to get the most return on
This article originally appeared in the September 2014 issue of Security Today.