Last year, CATA began ordering surveillance equipment on its new buses, and two new additions are being prepared for service.
It’s a part of the transit authority’s long-term technology plan, Marketing Manager Jacqueline Sheader said.
“More than anything, it adds to the safety aspect of our service. It also provides us with the ability to review customer interactions and comments, those kind of things,” Sheader said.
Centre Area Transportation Authority buses with the equipment each have eight audio/visual cameras, Sheader said, with five interior and three exterior devices. Cameras have low light recording capabilities, she said.
The audio component of the system is provided by two microphones, which are located at both the front and rear of the vehicle to better capture driver/rider interactions, Sheader said.
Footage is saved for two to three weeks, Sheader said, though drivers can mark portions of the recordings to be saved as long as CATA would need it. CATA’s most heavily-used routes, including the White Loop and the Blue Loop, are serviced by buses with surveillance equipment, she said.
Cameras do not come standard on the buses from the factory and cost an additional $8,000 to $10,000 per vehicle, Sheader said.
The added cost of cameras is unrelated to the agency’s fare increase to $1.75, she said. The costs of vehicles are capital costs and the fare increase will go toward operating costs, Sheader said.
While not standard from the manufacturer, the use of surveillance equipment is standard and commonplace in the transit industry, Sheader said. Other transportation agencies in Pennsylvania also utilize surveillance equipment.
Jim Ritchie, communications officer with the Port Authority of Allegheny County, said via email the authority has surveillance equipment on its vehicles. Footage has been used to identify and apprehend suspects in crimes, he said.
SEPTA, the transportation authority that serves Philadelphia and four surrounding counties, currently has around 1,400 buses, SEPTA spokesman Andrew Busch said. Of these, all but around 155 buses have video-only cameras installed on them, Busch said. The ones without cameras are older models and will be replaced with buses that have surveillance equipment.
SEPTA began installing cameras on its buses around six years ago, Busch said, and cited safety as the primary reason for their installation. The cameras have also assisted with accident and injury claim investigations, Busch said.
“They do have a multitude of purposes that we use the technology for,” Busch said.
There are currently 68 buses in the CATA fleet with 66 in use, Sheader said. The two others are new and being prepared to enter service, she said. These buses will replace two older models, so the total will remain at 66.
The new buses that have surveillance equipment and cameras will be included on all future purchases, Sheader said.
“Ultimately, all of our buses will have them,” Sheader said.