A Safe Route

Long Beach Transit official go shopping for a feature-rich, user-friendly digital recording system for the city's buses

Founded in 1963, Long Beach Transit (LBT) has long enjoyed an excellent reputation for its on-time record, passenger and public safety, and the cleanliness and reliability of its fleet. It even claims popular bus operators among its successes.

Over its 40-plus years of existence, LBT has tripled the number of riders without missing a single day of service. Throughout that time, and with the continued leadership and guidance of its board of directors, LBT has upheld its tradition of responsiveness to its riders and the community.

In keeping with its safety goals, LBT recently implemented GE's MobileView digital recording system throughout its fleet. MobileView is an on-board wireless video surveillance system that enables the city to further secure its buses and provides instant feedback if an incident should occur.

As in other locations -- Buffalo, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, Phoenix, Reno and other cities throughout the nation -- the on-board system helps transit agencies save money by deterring crime and vandalism, as well as helping to rapidly resolve false and misleading claims. By showcasing a safer riding experience, this security system helps increase passenger volumes, which in turn increases transit agency revenues.

Paying for Itself
LBT has installed 162 MobileView units to date. About 25 incidents a day are recorded on the buses that are currently being monitored. Incidents range from drivers reporting the dangerous driving of other road users, to elderly passengers tripping and falling, to car crashes and warning lights coming on the bus.

Already, the system is reducing false claims. After an incident, security personnel can access stored video footage from the bus and clarify who was at fault. According to LBT officials, the system has already paid for itself in terms of claims that have been avoided.

The system also is expected to cut down on vandalism, which can be a major expense for any transit agency. Experience elsewhere has shown that once the graffiti artists are aware that they're under surveillance, they're less likely to perform acts of vandalism.

In another instance, the video system has already helped in apprehending a passenger that had assaulted another passenger, and LBT officials believe that bus operators are increasingly encouraging their drivers to follow city policies more closely. They also expect the MobileView system to reduce the number of disciplinary actions or traffic violations by drivers. Next year, they hope to be able to use some of the captured footage to assist in driver training.

How it Works
Each bus is equipped with a MobileView III DVR that has six cameras attached to it, along with a Cisco 1310 wireless router. The digital recording system captures from 1 to 30 fps, with the hard drive being capable of storing up to 11 weeks of color images (or up to 20 weeks of black and white images, depending on configuration). The typical system consists of up to eight cameras, DVR, keypad, panic button/status lights, docking station and PC loaded with MobileView WaveReaderTM software.

Used in conjunction with a wireless transmission system, images can be captured, stored locally and then transmitted to a central monitoring station, which can directly access the bus system and request images at any time. The system can be configured so that the central station automatically begins receiving direct transmissions from the vehicle whenever an alarm or trigger is activated. Images triggered by impact sensors or by drivers hitting the panic button are saved in a special file format with a time and date stamp to simplify retrieval. In addition, these images also are protected from automatic overwriting.

Here's how it works: If the driver calls in an incident, the system automatically tags the video. It does this by placing a marker three minutes ahead of the call and then a second marker five minutes after the handset is replaced. When the bus returns to the depot, the video is transferred via the wireless network and stored onto the server area network (SAN) for LBT employees to process. The wireless offloading starts automatically as the bus comes within range of the depot wireless network.

LBT also is using the wireless system to remotely retrieve maintenance information from the MobileView systems. Using a feature called Clipfind, LBT employees can request information on how the surveillance system is working for specific dates, times and buses. As these buses return to the depot, the information is retrieved automatically and stored onto the SAN.

LBT also has equipped a transit police vehicle that can be used to pursue a bus if problems develop onboard. The vehicle is fitted with a mobile access point configured and designed by GE's wireless integration partner, NextPhase Wireless. This device allows the pursuit vehicle to discreetly access the bus' MobileView system and monitor events in real time from a safe distance.

LBT has two main depots, capable of holding 230 buses in total. With so many buses, it became imperative for LBT to have the wireless download capability. With the last mile access feature, automatic video upload starts as buses enter the depot's wireless coverage area, giving LBT personnel access to live video data as the buses approach the depot.

Also, the wireless download capability allows for hands free information retrieval. In earlier installations that did not include this feature, transit authority employees had to locate each bus, physically extract the hard drive containing the data and then replace it with a fresh drive. This process was then repeated for each bus.

An Easy-to-Use System
When LBT officials went shopping for a digital recording system for their city's buses, they wanted a system that was robust, feature-rich and user-friendly, as well as provided high-quality images. The city had never used a video recording system on its buses before.

The MobileView system from GE has already met and exceeded those goals, according to the transit agency. In fact, they noted, the system was only implemented in June 2005 and has already paid for itself.

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