TSA gives TriMet okay to release camera records with security sensitive information removed

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Records show 94-99 percent of security camera systems working

In response to media requests, TriMet reached out to the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for direction on federal regulations regarding the release of potentially restricted security information. Working together, TriMet and the TSA were able to balance the transit agency’s commitment to both transparency and security. TriMet is now able to release records pertaining to the agency’s cameras, after TSA redacted information that made the records Sensitive Security Information (SSI). The records show TriMet security cameras are performing well:

–       Bus camera system: 94% operable

–       Light rail vehicle (MAX) camera system: 96% operable

–       Fixed-location (includes MAX platforms): 99% operable

Records initially deemed SSI

KATU submitted a request for, “All maintenance and inspection records for all TriMet security cameras used system-wide for buses, trains, stations, platforms, and other locations from January 1, 2012 to the present, with the location information for the security cameras redacted.” The Oregonian later followed up with the same request.

TriMet sought guidance from TSA regarding this request and was informed that these records contained SSI. TriMet is prohibited by federal law from releasing SSI to unauthorized persons. (SSI is governed by Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), parts 15 and 1520.)

Balance between transparency and safety & security

The safety and security of our riders, employees and the public is paramount. It is our duty to protect that security, and while we value transparency, we will not release information that could be used to compromise persons and the transit system or violate federal law.

TSA provided line-by-line redaction of the sensitive data, allowing the release of TriMet records requested by media.

Security cameras used as a crime deterrent

Security cameras are universally used as a crime deterrent. The mere presence deters crime since an act caught on camera often leads to the identification and capture of the criminal. As such, security cameras are a vital tool in TriMet’s security strategy.

“From daily use of our security camera systems and the images they provide, we know our system is performing well,” said TriMet Executive Director of Safety and Security Harry Saporta. “Statistics based on maintenance and repair records back that up, showing camera systems are working between 94-99 percent of the time.”

The records reflect times when elements of the camera system need repair. “Like anything mechanical, our camera and recording equipment will experience technical issues occasionally,” added Saporta. “This is why we have multiple cameras on every vehicle and platform. In many cases, if one camera is not working the other cameras provide coverage.”

Determining the operability rate of on-board camera systems

TriMet uses a mix of strategies to assure the camera systems are working: Daily use; monitoring equipment on buses and Type 4 light rail vehicles; past performance data, including repair rates; and inspections/scheduled maintenance.

The inspections and preventative maintenance are done on a regular schedule based on a risk-based or predictive strategy. Based on past performance data and manufacturers’ recommendations, TriMet has determined the optimal and most cost-effective schedule to perform inspections, camera checks and preventative maintenance. Learn about TriMet’s maintenance of camera systems.

The records requested by media and redacted by the TSA covered a nearly 28-month period fromJanuary 1, 2012 through April 24, 2014, and showed scheduled inspections, scheduled maintenance and unplanned repairs. To give the public a true sense of the performance of our camera systems, TriMet is providing the facts on the equipment’s performance, including inspections and repairs, and does the math, calculating the actual functionality of the cameras.

The on-board systems include cameras, the video recorder and the removable hard drive (also known as a data pack) to which video is recorded. Each time a hard drive is removed to retrieve video, the video is viewed providing an inspection of the overall system – each camera, recorder, data pack – and any issues are noted and scheduled for repair.

Bus camera system
In the 28-month period referenced above, our cameras and recorders worked more than 99 percent of the time. How did we determine that? TriMet crews performed 4,406 maintenance inspections on bus camera systems. Crews also performed 7,450 hard drive removals, or what we refer to as data pack pulls, and subsequent inspections. That equates to 11,856 inspections. On average there are 4.5 cameras per bus. That means 53,352 individual cameras were inspected.

Bus cameras
Inspections 53,352
Camera repairs 472
% time camera system operational 99.1%

Records show that 472 cameras needed repair. Based on the number of inspections and the number of repairs, bus cameras and recorders were operating more than 99 percent of the time. This means one camera out of 113 may have experienced a problem at any given time. It is important to note that TriMet vehicles contain multiple cameras, so if a single camera has an issue the others may still capture an event.

The hard drives (data packs) are removable devices with moving parts so they experience more issues than the cameras themselves. Despite that, their functionality is good: 94 percent. Unlike camera issues, however, when a data pack fails or becomes corrupt, it impacts video from all the cameras on the bus.

Bus data packs  
Inspections 53,352
Data pack repairs 601
Avg cameras on camera-equipped buses x 4.5
Camera video unviewable 2,705
% time data pack operational 94%

The number of inspections for data packs is the same as cameras because every camera inspection includes a check of the data pack and vice versa. To calculate the performance of the data packs, we multiplied the number of data pack repairs in the 28-month period, 601, times 4.5, which is the average number of cameras on our buses that are equipped with cameras. This equates to video from 2,705 cameras being unviewable. So, on average, camera images captured on data packs were viewable 94 percent of the time. This means that potentially one out of 20 data packs may have had an issue at any given time during the 28-month period.

Light rail vehicle camera system
The camera system on our light rail vehicles (MAX) system operates the same as with the camera system on our buses.

Light rail vehicle cameras
Inspections 15,920
Camera repairs 84
% time camera system operational 99.5%

In the 28-month period referenced above, the cameras and recorders were operating more than 99 percent of the time. During that time, TriMet crews performed 433 inspections on light rail vehicle camera systems and performed 3,547 data pack pulls and subsequent inspections. That equals 3,980 total inspections. With our light rail vehicles having an average of 4 cameras that means 15,920 individual cameras were inspected. During that same time, 84 cameras needed repair.

Light rail vehicle data packs  
Inspections 15,920
Data pack repairs 123
Avg cameras on LRV x 4
Cameras unviewable 492
% time data pack operational 96.9%

This means one camera out of 190 may have experienced a failure at any given time. Again, TriMet’s vehicles contain multiple cameras, so if a single camera has an issue the others may still capture an incident.

Data packs on light rail vehicles functioned correctly nearly 97 percent of the time, according to inspection and repair records. To calculate that, we multiplied the number of data pack repairs, 123, by the average number of cameras on a light rail vehicle – 4. That number, 492, divided by the number of cameras inspected, shows that on average camera images captured on data packs were viewable nearly 97 percent of the time. Potentially one out of 32 data packs may have had an issue at any given time during the 28-month period.

Monitoring the “health” of cameras/data packs

TriMet’s buses and the newest light rail vehicles, the Type 4s, have “health” monitoring equipment. These check the status of the cameras, recorder and data pack, and indicate any error. The health monitors on buses are checked by TriMet workers at least once a day. On the Type 4s, the alert shows on the dashboard and the operator calls it into the Operations Control Center.

Upcoming improvements to TriMet’s security camera system include installing a new health monitoring system. On buses, the new health monitor will automatically send information about the camera system to our dispatchers. Health monitors will also be installed on light rail vehicles during the next few years.

Changing data pack procedures

After TriMet experienced an increase in data pack issues a few years ago, we re-trained workers on best practices when removing the data packs, lessening the number of issues. This includes making sure the data pack stops before it is ejected or removed from the recorder. As TriMet is focused on continuous improvement, we are also evaluating what other steps can be taken to reduce the number of data pack issues. One of those steps is moving to either a solid state drive or one that is more durable than our existing data packs.

Determining the operability of fixed-location camera systems

TriMet has some 1100 fixed-location cameras. These are on our MAX platforms, transit centers, park and rides, and facilities. These are networked cameras that feed back into computer servers and function correctly more than 99 percent of the time.

Fixed-location camera system
Inspections 29,624
Camera repairs 215
% time camera system operational 99.3%

Records from the same 28-month time period referenced above show 1,624 on-site inspections. TriMet personnel also conducted monthly remote inspections by pulling up cameras on monitors to assure views and functionality. That equates to 29,624 inspections. During that time, crews made 215 repairs. That means, on average, more than 99 percent of the cameras were operating correctly. As with our vehicles, our platforms and most other fixed-locations have multiple cameras.

Providing a safe and secure system

TriMet’s security cameras are just one component of the agency’s overall security strategy. Our Transit Police Division officers provide a daily visible presence, patrolling the transit system, conducting missions and enforcing TriMet Code. The officers work in partnership with other police agencies who also respond to calls on the TriMet system. We also have   contracted security personnel, as well as TriMet field supervisors, providing a presence and watching for any wrongdoing. Our bus and MAX operators call in emergencies and incidents on their vehicles to our Operations Control Center, which has a direct line to 9-1-1.

Reported crime dropped 25 percent on the TriMet system in 2013 over the prior year, which shows our security efforts are keeping crime on the system low, and we are providing our riders and employees a safe and secure transit system.

View the records

Bus Camera – PM/Repairs PART1 – 2012-4/24/14

Bus Camera – PM/Repairs PART2 – 2012-4/24/14

Light Rail Vehicle Cameras only – PM/Repairs – 2012-4/24/2014

Light Rail Vehicle Data Packs only – PM/Repairs – 2012-4/24/2014

Fixed-Location Cameras – PM/Repairs – 2012-4/24/14