Whether they take a bus to work, ride the train to the airport or travel among the 59 municipalities it serves, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s riders logged nearly 60 million trips a year. The RTA is one of the largest transit systems in the United States. That makes it especially difficult to provide a safe environment for its 4 million riders and 3,000 employees, and protect its many buildings, millions of dollars of physical assets and the more than $30 million it collects in fares every year.

When John K. Joyce, the RTA’s Chief of Police and director of security took his post in 1991, personal safety and protecting assets were long-standing concerns. “Personal crime and safety issues were always number one and two on our surveys back then,” he says. His first step to address the issues was to formulate a plan to integrate the four independent security systems he inherited. Over time he added CCTV in public areas and offices, electronic access control at RTA facilities and voice emergency call boxes for passengers and employees.

After six years of progress, Joyce hired Bernard Buckner in 2000 as security systems manager to upgrade the existing equipment and oversee the integration of the system.

Buckner found that the RTA’s 28 CCTV cameras, 750 controlled doors and between 8,000-10,000 life safety monitoring points were hardwired into a 20-year-old mainframe computer. The system had a number of operational drawbacks. For example, the mainframe was not Y2K compliant, so all 2001 entries had to be dated 1990, the last year that days and dates corresponded to 2001. The CCTV system recorded images on remote VCRs located throughout the RTA’s domain, which posed a logistical problem because tapes had to be manually replaced.

The RTA has the potential for many types of incidents. For example, almost all the money it collects is in small bills and change that is hard to control. To guard against loss or theft, the authority uses CCTV to follow fare boxes from the bus or train to devaulting stations, to an armored car. Also, key control, while much improved over the original master key system, had room for improvement. It was difficult to invalidate keys that were lost or held by former employees, and doors could not be controlled remotely, so security or custodial people often had to travel to a remote site to open doors manually.

Digital CCTV Streamlines Security

Joyce and Buckner began talking to the authority’s long-time system consultant, SimplexGrinnell, about upgrading and integrating the CCTV, access control and life safety systems. Buckner believed the most efficient and economical approach would be an integrated, networked approach that would consolidate control over all three systems.

SimplexGrinnell recommended replacing the hardwired mainframe-based system with Andover Controls’ network-based Continuum system, and the analog CCTV system with a digital system by Integral Technologies, a company owned by Andover Controls.

But first Buckner had to convince the RTA’s IT department to let him switch from his collection of leased and dial-up lines to their system-wide Ethernet network. The Ethernet was used for everything from groupwide communications to time and attendance recording, and went almost everywhere Buckner needed a connection. However, the IT group was concerned about the network resources that the Continuum system would use. “But once we showed them the specs, they realized we’d use very little bandwidth,” Buckner says. The RTA began installing the Continuum system in 2000.

The Integral Technologies digital CCTV system, with its networking support, provides the RTA with real financial and operational benefits. The Integral system streamlines surveillance by enabling departments to access a digital video recorder over the network and view the images on a local PC.

The DVX recorders have more storage capacity than the VCRs. One reason is that the new digital cameras have built-in motion detectors, so nothing is recorded if there is no activity. That boosts the DVX disk’s capacity to more than three times of that of the VCRs—an average of 31/2 months of images compared with one month.

Integrating Access and Safety

While Buckner was upgrading the RTA’s CCTV system, he also had in place a five-year program for upgrading the access control and life safety systems and integrating them with the Continuum system. The RTA controls about 750 doors and many more life safety systems, which includes smoke detection and enunciation devices, duress or “panic” buttons and elevator and escalator monitors. Buckner says one of the biggest benefits of the Continuum system is that the RTA did not have to do anything special to piggyback any of these monitoring points on the network.

Another characteristic of the system, Buckner says, is the fact that its intelligent remote controllers will continue to operate if there is a network failure. “The Andover ACX access controller has all the intelligence needed to keep the local units running and gathering data,” Buckner says. Finally, Buckner praises the Continuum’s ability to create pre-formatted and ad hoc reports quickly and easily. The reporting capability has helped to dramatically reduce the number of security breaches throughout the RTA. Every week, Buckner creates reports of security breaches and e-mails them to the appropriate single access control coordinator (SACC), who controls access in an area. The SACC investigates each breach and corrects its cause. The reports enabled one SACC, who had logged 80 to 90 breaches a week, to reduce them to an average of two.

Data gathered from the integrated system can be tracked and enable the transit police to anticipate needs and determine if their responses affected the number of incidents. Joyce also plans to enable transit police officers to file reports on their own laptop computers and upload them to a central database.