Big Brother to take a seat on MARTA buses

Wave to the camera. The Mountain Area Regional Transit Authority will soon have a new set of eyes to protect the safety of drivers and passengers.

MARTA provides public transportation service around Big Bear Valley and to Running Springs, Crestline, Lake Arrowhead and San Bernardino. The agency is in the process of determining how many cameras will be installed on each bus. Cameras will feature an Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) system, which provides satellite communication via bus to a home base computer.

State transit assistance funds in the amount of $81,000 were reallocated to purchase the cameras. The MARTA board approved the decision at the Oct. 19 meeting. Preliminary planning has begun and officials hope to install cameras on all the buses by February 2010.

“We are creating a request for proposal,” said Kathy Hawksford, MARTA general manager. “Then we will go from there.”

MARTA is working with an outside source to help coordinate the new technology. “We don’t want to over-purchase,” Hawksford said about looking for the most efficient system.

“Security cameras are pretty much a standard on buses,” Hawksford said of the installation push. While no documented incident provoked the need for enhanced security, the cameras serve several purposes. MARTA buses transport passengers on long commutes where radio communication may be unavailable. “With the AVL system, the cameras will let us know where the buses are and if there is a major route delay.”

“I would feel a whole lot safer with cameras,” said dispatcher and driver Susie White. While White said she never felt threatened or unsafe in the past, she believes the cameras are a positive addition.

“In case anything ever were to happen, it would be all on tape,” White said. Interior vandalism on the buses has been a problem in the past and White hopes the cameras will prevent it from continuing.

The cameras will help with liability issues that may transpire on the bus. “If there is a dispute between a passenger and driver, in a he-said, she-said situation, cameras can satisfy this question,” Hawksford said. “They enhance our ability to better deal with issues that may arise.”

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