APTA | Passenger Transport
February 19, 2010

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Video Monitoring: A Safety Measure for Md. MTA’s Fleet
BY TAMMI BOLDEN, Manager, System and Equipment, Maryland Transit Administration, Baltimore, MD

The vision here at the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) is to promote safety and security on our multi-modal fleet. We have embarked on a state-of-the-art mobile video monitoring (MVM) program to provide video file downloads and real-time viewing on the fleet.

MTA’s Transit Police Monitoring Facility (PMF) is already the centralized security video monitoring center for cameras at stations, transit depots, and tunnel portals, with the mobile video capability being added incrementally under the MVM program. The distribution of video storage includes servers at stations that record and archive all camera data. Only video of interest—in the form of alarms triggered by intrusion and “left object” analytics—are sent to the PMF servers for attendant disposition. Stations and transit depots typically connect over a fiber-based network.

PMF staff may perform video patrol by direct access to cameras and the stored video files on the remote servers. All administration video is managed by PMF, including any sharing of video with other agencies. This model carries over into the mobile video environment.

MTA has installed cameras in all of its transit revenue modes: four on Baltimore Metro Subway cars, eight on light rail cars, and up to 12 on the newest 60-foot articulated buses.

The cameras connect directly with the vehicle digital video recorder (DVR), which compresses, encodes, and encrypts the camera video into computer files. The DVR also includes ancillary devices such as the driver status display, video tag switch, and external alarm trigger interfaces.

One important feature set of the transit vehicle is the provision of a mobile router along with various wireless modems. The DVR and the mobile router are networked, and the mobile router completely manages the gateway interfaces to multiple wireless networks. We may build our own wireless infrastructures or use carrier service providers. The architecture shows Wi-Fi, mesh, 3G, and 4G networks as possibilities. MTA will initially evaluate MTA-built mesh segments and Wi-Max carrier service in addition to its secure Wi-Fi at transit depots.

As the transit vehicle moves, the various wireless interfaces become successively active or inactive. For example, if the Wi-Fi modem is able to associate with the secured access point (AP) in a depot, the router selects this interface for video transport. When the vehicle travels on revenue routes, the AP is not active, but the MTA mesh segment may be available, so the router would select it. Other interfaces using carrier service providers are likely available when neither the AP nor mesh is active, so the router would choose this active interface for video transport. The mobile router, in conjunction with multiple wireless infrastructure networks, provides a robust and highly available network to support the MVM program objectives.

Our MVM program demonstration includes two primary feature sets:
* Video alarms automatically transmitted from transit vehicles in revenue service over the wireless infrastructure to the PMF for disposition, and
* Video patrol, through which the PMF attendant may select a transit vehicle from the fleet map and have immediate access over the wireless infrastructure for real-time camera viewing. This is strictly an on-demand capability whereas large file downloads would be accomplished in the transit depot mode.

Video distribution technology on the MTA network makes possible real-time viewing of the fleet of equipped transit vehicles at fixed operation control centers and transit police cars anywhere in the wireless infrastructure coverage area.

MTA’s transit depot video file download capability has already shown significant cost savings, reduced labor, and improved response times for requested video supporting criminal investigations and claims mitigation. The agency anticipates that real-time mobile video monitoring will have tremendous benefits for police in terms of incident assessment and operations in terms of service monitoring of vehicles, passengers, and employees.

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