New surveillance to beef up security on city buses

Calgary Transit now has an electronic eye out for the safety of its drivers and for law-abiding riders.

Footage of a vicious cutoff by a truck and assault threats to a bus driver captured and shown by Calgary Transit cameras yesterday demonstrated the benefits of a new program to install 400 cameras in city buses by the end of this year.

DriveCam, about the size of a compact disc case, is mounted on the front of the bus and can not only capture what is going on inside the bus, but also what is going on in front of the bus.


What started as a yearlong pilot project with 35 buses has turned into a full-fledged retrofit for the city’s 750 buses — though only 400 will be fitted in the near term.

“We’ve seen that the results (of the pilot project) have been so successful, that we want to start expanding it to the rest of our fleet,” said Bill Thompson, operations manager for Calgary Transit.

The camera is always running, however, it only records when activated by the driver, or by sudden swerving or braking that elevates the G-forces exerted on the camera. It then saves the 10 seconds before the activation and the 10 seconds after.

“What that does is it gives our operators a level of security, so that if it looks like a passenger interaction is going to go south, they can activate (the camera).

Whenever a bus returns to the yard, the information from the camera is downloaded to a server, at which time J.P. Boyes, training co-ordinator for Calgary Transit, takes a look at the footage to determine the nature of the event.

The footage can then be used as a training tool for drivers, or it can be used for legal reasons, such as revealing images of suspects of driver assault cases, viewing the traffic situation around a bus in the event of a collision or other offences and capturing passenger scuffles.

Incidents of assault, both verbal and physical against Calgary Transit bus drivers, have nearly doubled in the past four years, jumping from 30 in 2004, to 57 in 2007.

“If people are aware this is on the bus it may detract them from getting into an altercation with our operator,” said Thompson.

First in Canada

  • Calgary is the first city in Canada to incorporate the cameras on its buses, and LRT riders could also see cameras installed in the future.

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