EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) -- Lane Transit District is responding to a recent wave of online questions and criticism from a technology article about video and audio recording systems on bus systems.
Two publications including Wired Magazine and TheDaily.com recently featured LTD as one of several U.S. transit systems that are installing new video and audio systems on buses.
The articles question the level of privacy on bus systems with the new surveillance systems. LTD's request for a five camera, five microphone recording system was quoted in both articles.
LTD has been recording video and audio on buses for more than 10 years. Each bus also has posted noticed that riders are being recorded as well. l-t-d has been recording video and audio for more than ten years. According to LTD, recordings are only reviewed or saved if an incident happens.
"We want them (riders) to keep their personal privacy. Again, this is incident driven so, if nothing happens on the bus, you can be assured that nobody's going to look at those audio or video recordings. And in fact, the way that the system works, it's saved to a hard drive on the bus so if we don't pull any of the video from today, that's going to be recorded over and lost forever,” says Andy Vobora, a spokesman for LTD.
Vobora says bus camera and audio systems have also helped protect some major services from fraudulent litigation. In mid October 2012, eight people were arrested in Philadelphia after attempting to make false medical bill claims against the local bus system after a crash. (Read more at the following link: http://articles.philly.com/2012-10-12/news/34413745_1_bus-cameras-insurance-fraud-minor-bus-accident.)
While the recording systems are newer in many busses, LTD says the vendor couldn't actually meet all of the specifications it asked for in the request for proposals, so the quality isn't all that much more than it has been in the past.
LTD has 103 buses in its active fleet. According to the service about 25% of the busses in the fleet have an ability to stream video to a computer. LTD says the video and audio systems continue to only be used for incident review.
Here is a copy of LTD's response on its Facebook page:
The safety and security of our customers and employees is our top priority. Lane Transit District believes the investment in monitoring equipment has proven to be effective and efficient in maintaining an environment that provides a quality of service that is appreciated by our customers.
The benefits of having this capability include:
• Customer assistance – Customers face racial threats and physical assaults. The video allows us to assist law enforcement personnel in pursuing the assailant.
• Review of assaults – LTD employees are assaulted by customers and video/audio recordings allow the District to pursue those involved.
• Review of customer complaints – Often complaints come down to "he said, she said" statements. The video allows LTD to establish what was said and determine if employee retraining or disciplinary action is needed. It also allows the District to determine unsubstantiated complaints.
• Review of accidents – the video is able to establish who had the right of way and assists in establishing fault. Many times LTD video captures accidents involving other vehicles and this video is instrumental in sorting out cause in these cases as well.
• Review of accidents inside the bus – A number of times each year people are injured inside the bus. This may be from a slip and fall or sudden stop. In many cases LTD is able to identify whether a claim of injury actually occurred or whether the individual is attempting to process a fraudulent claim.
• Law enforcement assistance – Lost individuals to location of suspects following an incident.
• Employee performance – There are many safety, training, and financial control procedures LTD requires, along with federal laws that are put in place to protect the riding public. In the event of an incident, transit districts rely on video to review these incidents and determine cause.
• Emergency situations – microphones can be turned on in the driver compartment area to allow dispatch to hear what is occurring. This could pertain to a medical situation or a hostage situation.
• LTD buses have had video capability for over a decade. The buses have signs posted inside the buses that disclose this to customers, so there is no “spying.”
• The expenditure is made when bus specifications are written and new buses come with the technology. Upgrades are made to existing systems as systems age and become ineffective.
• Recordings are only kept in the case of an incident that needs to be reviewed. These files are downloaded by supervisory staff and reviewed by LTD staff, law enforcement personnel, or insurance company staff as required.
• The quote cited is language from a request for proposal. The intent is to improve sound quality for the incident videos captured for follow-up. This particular specification has not been met.