How New Technology Enables Safer Travel – Six Mass Transit Success Stories
Thirty-five million times every weekday, people rely on public transportation to get to work, school, play and home again every day across the United States.
Thirty-five million times every weekday, people rely on public transportation to get to work, school, play and home again every day across the United States. With so many stakeholders in smooth transit operations, city security officials face high expectations for a safe, reliable network of transportation options, and they in turn rely on a variety of security options to ensure those expectations are met as often as possible.
The following are just a few examples of the technology and services in play:
- Unifying Video
- Traffic Controllers
- Crash Gates
- Upgraded Biometrics
- Hand Geometry
- Time and Attendance
In the seven-county metro area between Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., there are 125 bus routes, one light rail and one commuter line – all of which accounted for 81 million trips in 2012 alone. However, the network’s surveillance program was running on eight different video systems overseeing a large network of Park & Ride locations and other transit facilities, making it difficult to train employees to use the disparate systems.
In 2009, the Metro Transit moved to standardize these systems underneath one platform, which also enabled the enterprise to add mobile recording to city buses (which account for 80 percent of public transportation trips in the area), as well as installing a hybrid recorder, which eases the conversion from legacy analog systems to digital – keeping costs low and systems online in locations that have yet to be upgraded, says Brian Weaver, Senior Asset Protection Specialist with the Metro Transit Police Department.
“The biggest difference is the speed of pulling up information,” says Weaver. “We don’t need any more cross-training, and we can add better cameras because of the new software. You couldn’t use megapixel cameras on an analog system,” he adds.
The processing time to search for and pull up video for investigators was cut from two hours to a mere half-hour, Weaver say, and maintenance time is also cut down, as users can see on the network that a system is having issues prior to a failure.
For the most part, the surveillance is used on the bus side of the house, especially in regards to traffic incidents, Weaver adds. His team can use video evidence to sort out claims and solve customer relations issues after an incident of sudden braking, a crash, or a fight, threat or other incident.
“We’re trying to capture forensic-level detail – hats, logos, emblems, tattoos,” says Weaver. “These cameras can actually see a face; we can ID the people involved and use (the video) in prosecutions.”
For example, in 2010 and 2011, after the Metro Transit had deployed license plate recognition software in their Park & Ride lots’ surveillance systems, there was a rash of catalytic converter thefts from automobiles parked in the lots. Police investigators were able to use evidence taken from cameras at several of the facilities to identify a vehicle used by the thieves. Investigators also discovered that these parking lots were not the only locations targeted by the thieves and that they had sold an estimated $10,000-worth of converters for scrap.
The video identification led to the arrest and charging of the suspects on multiple counts of felony theft and aid and abet felony theft.
The addition of bus cameras and stronger parking lot or facility surveillance has also led local partners to request video of property damage or other traffic incidents that might have happened in front of a bus.
For out-of-the-ordinary events, such as sports games, mobile camera units can also be deployed for additional coverage, Weaver says.
Originally used primarily to stop the constant risk of thefts at car rental agencies, bollards, barriers, barricades and crash gates are now common throughout airports, especially after 9/11. Booths were traditionally used for housing guards who collected parking fees. Today, they’re often ballistic rated. From protecting the tarmac to passenger areas, airports today are especially conscious of controlling vehicle access.
As a countermeasure to increased theft of rental cars throughout the nation approximately 15 years ago, many rental car operators began using traffic controllers to disable unauthorized vehicles from entering or leaving their lots. Installation of these units all but eliminates drive or crash out thefts.
More than 120 other car rental lots throughout the U.S. have installed some variety vehicle access control systems. The motorized traffic controllers (the “wrong-way” teeth), warning signs and traffic and surface mounted controllers (i.e. gates) together prevent thefts of rental cars by disabling unauthorized vehicles from entering or leaving the lot.
Almost every airport features parking/cashier booths. Some are fairly basic; others are upgraded. For instance, on the way out of the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport 18 prefabricated parking/cashier booths help handle the airport’s doubled parking capacity of 13,000 spaces. Put in prior to 9/11, these booths are simultaneously aesthetically pleasing and contribute to the overall security of the airport by providing vehicle access control. The rounded corners and custom painted design complement their two nine-level parking structures. Two heaters, double insulation and tinted glass help parking attendants to guard against both the Minnesota winters and sun.
Courtesy of Delta Scientific.
The FAA mandates airports must meet is one that requires securing access points to international freight lines. That includes access to air cargo facilities, where scores of trucks must go in and out on an hourly basis. That was the issue facing Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) for Qantas and Singapore Airlines.
The sliding gate system that is used in such an application must be crash-rated. Clear openings range from 12 to 30 feet. A linear crash gate will withstand the impact of a 15,000-lb vehicle striking the gate at 50 mph. To solve the problem, crash-tested swing gates were installed on the runway that accesses the cargo facilities. These gates provide openings of up to 40 feet, and the gates can be up to nine feet tall. Best of all, no ground tracks are required, keeping installation costs to a minimum while protecting the integrity of the runway. These gates can be seen at LAX on the runway accessing the Singapore Airlines and Qantas Airlines terminals.
Courtesy of Delta Scientific.
The Port of Antwerp is Europe’s second largest port, while Zeebrugge is the central port for Europe's automotive industry and has the largest liquefied natural gas terminal complex in Europe. The ports are now in the process of enrolling 17,000 truck drivers and 10,000 longshoremen at the two ports on a new multispectral imaging fingerprint reader system, replacing older biometric systems.
A major access control function at the port facilities is the unique identification of individuals in a more efficient manner, especially for those who travel between multiple port facilities. The solution is a single ID card that covers all facilities rather than a different entrance card for each company at the port. Therefore, visitors to both Belgian ports carry a smart card which includes the visitor’s biometric template. When reading the card, each individual facility has the option of also verifying the fingerprint stored on the card. By checking and verifying the fingerprint, facility personnel can assure that the card is being presented by its rightful owner.
“We have been using biometrics since 2005 but we needed a better solution to provide increased security that is easier for port visitors to use,” explains Piet Hadermann, Alfapass (the project’s security integrator) operations manager. “Our former technology could not differentiate one person from another at the level of certainty and security we require. The false acceptance rate was much too high. Plus, some people, especially infrequent visitors, would forget how to use it from visit to visit… Visitors intuitively put their fingers on the illuminated blue light, even when using self-service units.”
All port visitors are now being enrolled – from longshoremen to ship’s chaplains – with the fingerprint readers. The biometric readers are placed and used at port registration offices and administrative kiosks located at the “gate in” for truck drivers and elsewhere a card can be used. Alfapass enrolls user cards with two fingerprints, assuring that if there is a problem with the primary finger, the user can simply sign in with the alternate finger. The kiosk or access control device can also ask for the second finger.
Using the system, when a card is lost or stolen, or the person no longer works for the company, the card is automatically blocked at all participating facilities. No longer can the ex-employee or person who stole or found the card get into the ports. Only card holders that also pass the biometric check-in are able to enter, which helps to mitigate the risk of fraud.
Courtesy of Lumidigm.
Since 1991, San Francisco International (SFO), the United States’ fifth busiest airport, has employed biometric hand geometry readers to secure its aircraft operations area (AOA), allowing access to authorized individuals only. The 300 hand readers span the entire airport, securing doors and verifying the identity of more than 18,000 employees. The use of biometrics at San Francisco is airport-wide and fully integrated into the primary access control system. This is not limited to airports in the transportation industry.
“We feel that hand geometry is the best and most reliable biometric technology available," says Yeager Airport (Charleston, WV) Director Rick Atkinson. "We have never had any problems with the hand readers since installing them in December of 2001. They work fine and are easy to administer.”
At Yeager Airport, hand readers restrict access to the control tower, which is located in the airport terminal and also to the HVAC system and other sensitive equipment. The control tower doors are opened about every five minutes around the clock. The hand readers are all networked to the airport's central security system computer. One of the hand readers is used as the master for enrollment purposes.
"It has been the consensus since 9/11 that using biometrics as an access control validation is the way to go," adds Atkinson.
What can be done to increase passenger convenience? One leading airport’s award-winning biometric system has reduced waiting times at security checkpoints from hours to just seconds. The program handles a large percent of its passengers. Travelers go through an extensive background check to first insure they are a “low risk” traveler. To reach the boarding areas, passengers use an automated inspection identification kiosk. The user selects one of his credit cards. When entered, the credit card provides an identifying ID number to the system. Then, upon placing his or her hand on the hand reader, the biometric information is compared to the security database. If the information matches, the system prints a receipt and the traveler proceeds through a system-controlled gate. If the system denies passage, it sends an alert message, and the traveler is referred to an immigration inspector.
Courtesy of Ingersoll Rand.
Covenant Aviation Security, a private company that was awarded a Transportation Security Administration contract to protect SFO from terrorism, is using hand readers to verify employee identities before granting them access to their work areas.
“After Covenant Aviation Security was awarded the TSA's private passenger screening contract at San Francisco International Airport, it was crucial to have a system in place that accurately and consistently identified our more than 1,200 employees arriving and departing work every day,” says Tom Long, Executive Vice President of Covenant.
Biometrics are often the front ends for time and attendance systems in all types of industries, including transportation venues. Contrary to using badges, sign-ins or other ways of tracking employees, a biometric reader assures that no employee can punch in for another, eliminating time fraud and reducing payroll costs. That’s why so many companies now employ biometrics.
A biometric time clock provides a quick, accurate, and reliable way to record In and Out punches for each employee. It ensures payroll accuracy by simply requiring each employee to be present; no cards or other credentials are needed. Losses due to “buddy punching” are eliminated. As a result, some organizations report savings of up to five percent of total payroll cost. Using scheduling restrictions, unauthorized Early-In punches and Late-Out punches are eliminated. Best of all, the hardware is typically less than ten percent of the overall cost for a time and attendance system. As a result, biometric readers can be affordably placed in multiple locations.
Courtesy of Ingersoll Rand.