Security on Board
Utah Transit saves time, money with IP video software
- By Courtney Pedersen
- Jul 01, 2015
Until recently, the Utah Transit Authority’s (UTA) video security
system was limited by the capacities of its servers. In 2013, it had
reached the maximum of 500 cameras operating on three servers—
one for management, two for recording—which made it impossible
to expand the system by bringing additional cameras online.
In addition, UTA was in the midst of building a new line out to the airport, and
was eager to display an improved surveillance system to state dignitaries. What UTA
needed was a much larger video surveillance system that would also be more efficient.
UTA enlisted Stone Security to help choose a security system that best met its
specifications. Together, they determined that Milestone XProtect video management
software (VMS) best suited the UTA’s needs. In 2010, Stone Security was
named the Milestone Systems Installation Partner of the Year. In 2013, in addition
to being named Regional Partner of the Year, it also became the world’s first
Milestone Diamond Reseller. As a Utah-based company, Stone Security had the
advantage of being intimately familiar with UTA’s structure and requirements.
Earlier this year, UTA has deployed more than 1,000 cameras from a mix of
vendors: Axis, Panasonic, IQEye and Digital Watchdog. The system runs on nine
HP servers provided by BCDVideo (eight for recording and one for management).
With this system in place, UTA can expand to 2,000 cameras or more. The security
cameras are accessible by dispatch, commuter and rail control centers, and other
As an organization committed to providing passengers with an optimal riding
experience, switching VMS providers helped put more cameras on platforms while
centralizing the control system. Milestone reduces the time spent by UTA employees
attending to security issues without burdening riders. In addition, the significant
improvement in video quality makes it easier to monitor and investigate incidents.
Big City Needs
UTA employs 2,200 staff members and moves approximately 120,000 passengers
daily. It services Salt Lake Valley, Park City, Provo and Brigham City with 90 miles
of commuter rail and 50 miles of light rail. It uses transportation modes consisting
of fixed route buses, commuter rail trains, light rail trains, paratransit buses and
vanpool services (rideshare).
Open Platform and Flexible Storage
Translates to a Better System
Brent Edmunds, co-founder and president of Stone Security, knew that Lamount
Worthy envisioned UTA operating a robust security system that was both easy to
operate and flexible. Taking those priorities into consideration, he determined that
this technology would best fit UTA’s needs.
“UTA doesn’t have cameras everywhere,” Edmunds said. “Instead, it deploys
them in key locations, like facilities, onboard buses and rail stations. The system
supports many different kinds of cameras. Milestone marries two critical components
for them: a centralized system and a lot of diversity in its deployment.”
Worthy is the video security administrator for UTA. He was impressed by the
open platform, which allows a “best of breed” software integration model. In addition,
the open platform ensures UTA’s system isn’t tied down to any one technology.
At the same time, it accommodates future growth and expansion. The flexible
storage options made possible by the Milestone technology allow UTA to change
its server options at any time.
Saving Money and Lives
This VMS technology is having an immediate positive
financial impact for UTA. UTA gate arms frequently
get damaged or broken off by a truck or passenger vehicles.
Prior to Milestone installation, these incidents
would not only be costly but would often go unresolved.
“We were looking at two or three damaged gate
arms a week,” Worthy said. “It’s usually around a thousand
dollars per gate to repair. Now, the new camera
deployments give us the means to recover those costs.
Utah police can follow up and interview persons of interest,
and attorneys can choose which of these cases to
pursue. I would say that this year alone we have already
saved tens of thousands of dollars.”
Other savings are more difficult to quantify, but no
less important. Worthy says the Milestone system is
one of the key components in resolving several serious
crimes that local police agencies investigate.
“Our cameras have captured crimes that occurred
off UTA property, and these videos were provided to
local police to assist with their investigations,” Worthy
said. “Without our new video deployment, who
knows how many man-hours might have been spent
on these cases. We’re talking about lives in some of
these cases—and you can’t put a price on that.”
Better Public Transit Lures
Utah grew twice as fast as the rest of the country in
2014. The state is currently home to 3 million people,
a number that is expected to double by 2050. However,
more than 80 percent of the population is concentrated
in a 90-mile strip between Ogden and Provo.
This kind of concentrated growth highlights the need
for a reliable, secure transit system.
Worthy believes that investing in UTA is tantamount
to investing in the local economy. Twitter
moved its data center to the Salt Lake area in 2010,
for example, and eBay opened up a 24,000 square foot
facility in Draper across the street from a commuter
rail station in 2013. Worthy knows that a top-notch
public transit system makes the region more desirable
to businesses that are considering relocating.
Utah politicians often point to UTA as a major
selling point in their pitch to new businesses. Utah in
winter can get some chilly temperatures, lots of snow
and little wind, which at times can act like a lid holding
on the air. Worthy says the region is committed
to better air quality, which would also attract more
businesses. Since Milestone helps make UTA a safer,
more efficient transit system, this can contribute to a
higher volume of riders and fewer cars on the road to
add to pollution levels.
“UTA means business,” Worthy said. “It meansgoing from point A to get to who and
what is important to you. In addition,
the fastest and most productive way
to improve poor air quality is to have
a robust transit system. Milestone is a
critical part of that equation.”
UTA’s mission statement says it
best: “Utah Transit Authority strengthens
and connects communities enabling
individuals to pursue a fuller life with
greater ease and convenience by leading
through partnering, planning and wise
investment of physical, economic and
A More Secure Transit System
One of the most important features of
the software system is Evidence Lock,
a new function that secures select video
recordings for investigations. Evidence
Lock allows Milestone clients to extend
the retention time for video recordings
from selected cameras in a set time interval
by overriding normal video retention
“The encryption and protection
Milestone places on its exported video
is a key factor of its ability to be presented
in court,” Worthy says. “If I have
to authenticate a video, I can say with
full confidence that this footage has not
been tampered with.”
Unlike an audio video interleave
(AVI) file, video footage has authenticated
time stamps. Worthy says altering
video from the VMS would take
an extraordinary amount of time and
effort. In addition, the sequence explorer
function allows UTA to easily sift
through videos to review and determine
the appropriate actions to take.
“The evidence lock is another way
Milestone helps UTA move into the future,
delivering to our customers what
we promise, which is a safe and secure
riding experience,” Worthy said.
Before They Happen
Another benefit to the Milestone system
is that it acts as an early warning
system. UTA has cameras stationed at
some of its bus garages. Worthy says
these cameras can zoom in to focus
on substances pooling on bus floors to
quickly detect if one of the buses has
The video system has also been
used to prevent more serious incidents.
When UTA had a truck stalled on a
train track, the truck driver did not call
in to report the incident as he was supposed
to. However, a camera caught the
incident, and a technician called Union
Pacific to let them know what was happening.
UTA operates in a rail corridor
adjacent to a freight line. Once a freight
train conductor sees potential danger, he
has a limited window to stop the train.
In this instance, the software helped
avert a potentially serious accident.
A User Friendly System
Makes Everyone’s Job Easier
User-friendliness was important to
Worthy. As opposed to being bombarded
with complicated new technology,
Worthy says he was able to navigate the
new system with ease.
“It’s basically point and click, with
very clear guiding tabs,” Worthy says.
“There is a tab for playback, and clocks
and icons that logically guide you depending
on how you want to manage it.
You can train someone in minutes.”
The system, camera and server upgrades
are done late at night when commuter
traffic is minimal. Otherwise,
the cameras are always running, which
Worthy knows is important to the
control center employees. Worthy says
UTA’s more than 1,000 cameras are
upgraded with no hassle. The situation
is a win-win: Worthy gets new system
perks but his employees don’t need to
“After the first time I use a feature, I
almost always ask, ‘How did I ever live
without this?’” Worthy said. “It’s a living,
evolving system. It used to be that
you’d buy a system and when it no longer
met your needs you had to start over.”
A Server-Based System
Saves Time and Energy
UTA has equipped its system with
monitoring alarms in 19 different locations,
mostly in remote bungalows that
require navigating through difficult terrain.
Before implementing the VMS, an
alarm meant that a UTA tech employee
had to drive to the location to check the
cause. If the employee was based in Salt
Lake City heading to a remote place, it
could take a half hour each way, which
meant UTA had to pay overtime. This
VMS system lets staff access the video
remotely; if someone determines the
alarm isn’t serious, he does not have to
make the trip, which saves time, money
UTA is considering incorporating
Milestone Interconnect, a unique system
concept that allows all Milestone
products to be interconnected through
the premium software, Milestone
XProtect Corporate. Milestone Interconnect
provides a cost-efficient and
flexible way to gain central surveillance
operation across geographically dispersed
sites, no matter which Milestone
VMS is used in each.
“Milestone Interconnect would allow
us to link disparate nodes of the
network together,” Worthy said. “This
would give police centers the ability to
share camera feeds.”
Worthy learned about Milestone Interconnect
by attending the 2015 Milestone
Integration Platform Symposium
(MIPS). When traveling, Worthy is
able to access a virtual private network
(VPN) and log into the video system to
check on its status.
“My boss feels confident letting me
attend conferences and seminars across
the country because they help me ensure
we have the best possible system,”
Worthy said. “The ability to be thousands
of miles away and still easily
access the system is
This article originally appeared in the July 2015 issue of Security Today.