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MBTA onboard video surveillance


The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, often referred to as the MBTA, operates a massive fleet of vehicles in the greater Boston area. Recently, the MBTA extended surveillance onboard its buses using the Security Center Omnicast™ system to keep passengers and drivers safer.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, often referred to as the MBTA, operates a massive fleet of sophisticated vehicles including buses, subways, commuter rails, and ferries in the greater Boston, Massachusetts area. The entire mass transit system accommodates over 1.3 million passengers each weekday, ranking the MBTA as the nation’s 5th largest mass transit system. Recently, the MBTA secured a Department of Homeland Security grant to improve the security on its fleet.

The company

The MBTA began its first-phase upgrade for video surveillance technology onboard 225 of over 1100 buses, which serve 180 routes throughout the city. The existing video surveillance systems onboard MBTA buses were much older and offered limited video quality. Accessing video also required analysts to physically retrieve a bus’ hard drive and download video, which was described by Kenneth Sprague, Deputy Chief, MBTA Investigative Services Division, to be: “time consuming and inconvenient.”

The challenge

“Omnicast has provided impressive capabilities for MBTA to respond in real-time while providing video to various stakeholders. Customer and driver feedback shows that they feel safer,”

Adam Peters, Transit Security Projects Administrator, MBTA


The Omnicast video solution has been installed on 220 buses. On each bus, a monitor displays a live camera feed to passengers on the bus, acting both as a public advisory of video monitoring as well as an added deterrent against criminal activities. The MBTA has also leveraged the security technology to promote an interactive public advisory forum, displaying a message “See something? Say something.”, alongside a phone number for the MBTA police.

The OCC operations and the MBTA police dispatch have live system access from their own control rooms. With the onboard surveillance system, there are multiple ways in which they can access the video. “We do a significant amount of forensic video analysis for other agencies and pull events that happen at intersections or anywhere around the buses. It's really a benefit to the whole metropolitan Boston area,” said Jonathan Wing, Video Analyst.

The solution

Real-time video monitoring

In the event of an incident, dispatchers and analysts can view video from the bus through a cellular Verizon 4G LTE connection, facilitating both real-time emergencies and investigations.

Centralized evidence storage

Operators can request video from the Omnicast system. Once the bus at the terminal, the system automatically transfers the video to the central archiver and notifies the user via email.

GPS bus location

A GPS integration is linked to the master OCC system and Google maps, letting operators know exactly where buses are within the city.

Prepared police response

In the event of an emergency, officers in police cruisers can also find buses and pull video from mobile data terminals.