There are ways to reduce costs. Some transit companies opt for fewer cameras per bus. Instead of six cameras, they may use three or four. This is a matter of preference and available monies. It is possible to cover the entire interior of the bus with as little as four cameras, but keep in mind, with less cameras come less detailed camera angles. Still, four cameras are definitely better than none.
Also, as I mentioned earlier, most, if not all camera systems are available with options, and just like when purchasing a new vehicle the more options that are included, the more the price goes up. Therefore, limiting options to only what is necessary will save money.
We have decided to do our own installation on any units that we purchase in the future as a way to save money. Our vendor has indicated that it would be willing to work with us when we install our first system at Waukesha Metro, and would continue to support us as our service technicians install any remaining systems. By installing the systems ourselves, we’re told we can anticipate a savings of approximately 10 to 15 percent per bus off the normal cost of installation. Unfortunately, this scenario may not be possible for all transit agencies. In part it will depend on how many camera systems are being purchased, as well as whether or not the time and personnel required are available to devote to this type of campaign.
I mentioned maintenance costs as another consideration for overall costs. So far, maintenance costs on our system at Waukesha Metro have been minimal. Our pilot system has been in operation for a relatively short time (about 14 months). As one would expect, we shouldn’t be experiencing many problems with a system this new.
Low maintenance costs can also be attributed to the fact that the system has very few moving parts, and the entire unit (components and wiring) is secured inside the vehicle, thus eliminating exposure to the outside elements. The durability of these units now means more reliability and less maintenance.
There is not a recommended scheduled maintenance program for these systems per se, however, like any computer, fragmentation may occur over time making the recorder work harder to write the drive. Cleaning this up may be necessary from time to time.
Operational costs on the other hand can add up quickly depending upon circumstances. Searching hard drives for incidents can be tedious and time consuming. On average, a person can expect to spend a minimum of 30 minutes removing the hard drive, searching, locating and viewing the desired footage on a computer, and finally, saving the material properly. Depending upon the circumstances surrounding the incident, this time could increase dramatically if copies are needed for insurance agencies or police departments, or if the exact date and time of the incident that is being searched for is not known.
Donald Jans, director of operations at Waukesha Metro agrees that it can be time consuming and tedious when searching and viewing digital recordings but also believes that it is worth the time and effort based on the benefits of reducing or eliminating fraudulent claims and criminal behavior on public transportation. “Obviously, searching for an incident on the hard drive is easier when the exact date and time of the incident is known. If an incident has been marked — that is, if the operator pushed the incident button, the footage will be automatically saved and locked five minutes prior to and five minutes after,” states Jans.
Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. There can be times for instance, when a passenger calls in a day or two after the fact. He or she may claim an injury while riding a bus, due to a slip or fall. Most times it will be blamed on the operator for taking off too fast, stopping too hard or perhaps turning too sharply. Rarely will the passenger know the exact time and sometimes they’re even unsure of the date. It’s in these cases when searching footage becomes time consuming. “I am able to speed up the viewing speed, but if I go too fast, I run the risk of missing the incident entirely,” explains Jans. “Generally, I’ll view the video at two to three times the speed of the actual video.” This means if it is necessary to view four hours of footage, approximately one and a half to two hours will need to be allotted for watching the video.