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Security Cameras / Security Systems
Fact Sheet: Transit Overview

Technology Overview

Use Security Cameras to:

  • Monitor safety and security on transit vehicles and at facilities
  • In conjunction with other technologies, provide incident response
  • Combat fare evasion
  • Contest fraudulent claims

Security systems incorporate technologies that enhance the security, and possibly the safety, of transit customers, personnel, equipment, and facilities. Technologies include radio communications, silent alarms, covert microphones, closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras (also known as video surveillance), automatic vehicle location (AVL) and other equipment that assist transit agencies in monitoring and responding to situations onboard vehicles, along the routes, and at transit facilities.

All modes of public transportation systems, whether urban or rural, bus, rail, or ferry, can benefit from the implementation of a security system. CCTV cameras, the most basic Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) technologies used for security systems, can be used on both large and small transit systems to monitor the safety and security of passengers, employees, equipment, and materials. These security systems can be used to track the operating status of the transit and transportation networks, alerting officials to possible delays or closures. They can also warn officials of possible intentional acts of crime or violence.

Common Combinations

Security systems are the combination and integration of a number of components. The most basic and widely used equipment is the CCTV camera. Security cameras can assist transit agencies in monitoring and knowing how to respond to situations onboard vehicles and at transit facilities; they can also be used in incident response. Agencies can choose between analog and IP digital camera technology. The primary benefits of the IP camera are high resolution and an open system. Additional cameras can be added to an IP system with ease. If building a new system, IP cameras are recommended, but for existing analog camera systems replacement/upgrade should not be undertaken until the analog camera breaks. IP and analog cameras can operate on the same network.

Typical Security Camera System
Typical Security Camera System

CCTV cameras are usually paired with many other technologies to create an effective security system. These technologies include radio communications, silent alarms, covert microphones, and AVL. The use of digital video technology enables greater combination and integration opportunities with other technologies to create an expanded security system.

Onboard Surveillance

Photo of cameras factory installed on the roof of a bus.
Cameras factory installed on the roof of a bus are
included as an option in the purchase of new buses.

On-vehicle video surveillance can be used to observe suspicious or criminal activity, increasing the chances of arrest and conviction if a crime has taken place on a transit vehicle. Complex remote monitoring on transit vehicles can include the use of silent alarms that can be turned on by either the vehicle operator or by remote monitoring personnel, GPS or other AVL systems to pinpoint exactly where an incident has occurred, and Mobile Data Terminals (MDTs) that provide the driver non-verbal communication options.

Station and Facility Surveillance

CCTV can be used as a safety and security precaution to monitor transit stations and facilities. Combined with other passive (perimeter fencing) and active (motion detectors) security devices, CCTV cameras can be used to determine the level of any real-time threat (e.g., was an alert from a facility fence an actual security breach or simply an animal setting off the alarm?). Use of digital security cameras transmitting over a communications network allows images from multiple locations to be transmitted to a central location for monitoring and video storage. More sophisticated transit security systems have moved past motion detection on cameras. Using behavioral analytics, camera systems use self- learning algorithms to determine anomalies within a system, such as when someone is running in a station rather than walking.

Incident Response

Metro Transit Rail Control Center in Minneapolis
Metro Transit Rail Control Center in Minneapolis
Richard Sennott, Star Tribune

Security cameras and the communication system can provide a critical early information source for the transit operations center and enhance the connection between the transit agency and the responding public safety personnel. A remote view of the post-incident scene by the security cameras can assist transit management’s decisions on whether the structure or vehicle is usable. This decision process can be improved through the use of the computer-aided dispatch and scheduling (CADS) system, AVL technologies, and transit communications with dispatchers, supervisors, and drivers to determine how to best resume the transit schedule to the affected locations.

Transit agencies will be required to set policy regarding videorecording cameras, accessing the recorded images and how long to archive camera images. All of this needs to be considered when determining the system requirements and cost estimates.

Traveler Information

Transit agency monitoring of the CCTV camera feeds can be instrumental in identifying occurrences that may impact transit operations. When such an incident occurs, it is advantageous for a transit agency to provide modified traveler schedules as quickly as possible. The traveler information infrastructure is the best method to reach the widest audience of travelers and alert them to the disruption or modification of any transit service. Customer satisfaction is dependent upon timely notification.

Security systems, especially CCTV cameras, are in operation by a wide range of transit agencies. Smaller agencies must determine if their security will truly be improved through the deployment of various security and safety technologies and if they have staff trained to utilize these systems. Internal staff also need to be capable of responding to incidents identified by these security technologies. Before installing CCTV cameras and other security system components, planning, implementation, and integration should be considered so the technology can be used to ensure adequate security and safety coverage from the deployments.


  • Develop a well-structured procurement plan with performance-oriented requirements.
  • Create thorough specifications that include opportunities for system expansion and multi-agency integration.
  • Involve staff from various departments and outside stakeholders such as contractors.
  • Visit peers at other transit agencies to determine full security needs.
  • Identify vehicle capacity for additional wiring and discuss impact to available passenger space.
Security Camera/Security System
Core Technology by Transit Mode
  Fixed Route Bus Demand Response Rural Transit Human Services Transit Rail Transit Ferry Boat
Large Agency check mark
Security System: CCTV, AVL, silent alarms, wireless communications
Vehicle safety enhancements (rear view cameras) more important than safety technologies check mark If security system is deployed, low cost equipment focusing on external vehicle cameras First priority – CCTV cameras at stations and stops
check mark
over cameras in vehicles
If security system is deployed, initial installation for CCTV cameras at dock and land-side facilities
Medium Agency Utilize voice communi-cations for incident response
Small Agency check mark
CCTV for events recording


  • The implementation process, from planning to having an operational system, can take two to three years for large agencies and less than a year for small agencies.
  • Train security personnel, drivers, and dispatchers on how to utilize the security equipment.
  • Hire new staff as needed to benefit from an enhanced security system.
  • Test and troubleshoot to ensure that equipment is performing as desired, including checking for camera blind spots and other coverage issues.


  • Achieve interoperability with existing and planned ITS technologies (avoid proprietary interfaces between vehicle and dispatch-center components; look for open standards).
  • Ensure flexibility for changes in fleet size and facility modifications.
  • Update other technologies, such as Global Positioning Systems (GPS) or communications, as needed. This includes providing adequate bandwidth to transmit video to a central location that oversees safety and security.
Consider integration and multi-use of security systems with other ITS capabilities and functions, including traveler information systems and scheduling systems.

Benefits and Costs

Security Systems are deployed to:

  • Reduce vulnerabilities
  • Detect and deter potential attacks or criminal acts
  • Respond to an incident or emergency
  • Mitigate the consequences of an incident or emergency
  • Enforce rider regulations
  • Enhance passenger safety


  • Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) equipped four of its buses with a surveillance and monitoring system that uses digital video. This resulted in a 32% reduction in insurance claims and a $15 million decrease in annual payouts.
  • All Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) stations have at least eight strategically placed CCTV cameras performing constant surveillance, which has led to a decrease in crime rates.
  • Other benefits include reductions in fare evasion and assaults on transit-agency property. Transit users report feeling safer with the presence of security cameras in stations.


Onboard security packages that include multiple CCTV cameras, digital video recorders, silent alarms, and covert microphones, now range from $5,000 to $10,000 per vehicle. External CCTV cameras cost more to install due to pole and foundation installation costs and the need for field hardened equipment. Security systems reported full deployment costs ranging from $10,000 for a single CCTV camera installation to over $5 million for an advanced bus surveillance system utilizing wireless technology for live video transmission to an operations/security center. The median security system deployment cost falls between $1,000,000 and $3,000,000 per agency.

City of Ottawa SmartBus
Copyright 2006, Steve Lassey, City of Ottawa
  • Stand-alone cameras may not be as cost-effective as cameras integrated into a larger security system.
  • Integrating a security system with other technology could prove expensive.

Operations and Maintenance (O&M)

Yearly O&M costs for the various security components are generally running up to 10% of the original capital cost.

  • Staffing needs for monitoring the CCTV camera feeds may increase
  • On-site security personnel needs may be reduced.
  • Additional storage equipment must be purchased to store and archive data.


Incorporate security technologies into ongoing security training for select transit agency personnel.

Agency Deployments

Agency Contact Information Number of Vehicles Context / Success of Deployment

Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA)

1234 Market St., 4th floor
Philadelphia, PA 19107

1,388 buses
1,190 rail cars

Cameras installed on 4 buses: Accident and injury claims reduced by 32%.

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA)

600 Fifth St., NW
Washington, DC 20001

640 buses (1,443 buses in fleet)

Cameras installed on 640 buses.

Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART)

1401 Pacific Ave.
Dallas, TX 75202

68 (of 673) buses
115 light rail cars
17 CR cars

Cameras installed on 68 buses: Insurance claims (from accidents and injuries) reduced by 35%.

Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA)

3201 Scherer Drive
St. Petersburg, FL 33716

16 buses (208 buses in fleet)

In-vehicle Surveillance System: Per bus, installed 5 CCTV cameras, video recorder, covert microphone

Metro Transit Rail

560 Sixth Avenue North
Minneapolis, MN 55411

885 buses

All buses in the Metro Transit fleet have multiple digital onboard cameras to help transit police identify and prosecute criminals.

Additional Resources


Jonathan Walker, P.E., Ph.D.
Chief Policy, Architecture, and Knowledge Transfer, ITS Joint Program Office
U.S. Department of Transportation
(202) 366-2199

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