As anyone who has ever flown on a commercial airline since 2001 knows, security measures at airports are well enforced and the emphasis on traveller safety is all around the airport and its grounds.

Mass transportation, meanwhile, presents a special but not any less significant challenge when it comes to determining security issues. These facilities need to develop the means to protect a constantly changing and large population of passengers. And unlike airports these facilities often have hundreds of points of entry and exit on multiple modes—buses, subways, light rail, commuter trains, even ferries.

About 2 million Americans will use the nation’s airways on a given work day, while 35 million people will board some form of public transportation. In fact, statistics have shown that nearly 11 billion trips are taken on public transportation every year. In some large metropolitan areas in North America where mass transit is well established, more than 20 percent of the area’s inhabitants get around via public transportation.About 2 million Americans will use the nation’s airways on a given work day, while 35 million people will board some form of public transportation

Solving mass transit security

For transportation officials and their security providers, solving the mass transit security issue begins with determining the key concerns and then creating the proper responses via security systems, policies and procedures to mitigate the risks.

Although vandalism and graffiti are very visible signs of criminal behaviour in mass transit settings such as bus stops and subway stations, this is not where transportation officials typically focus their energy. Fences and gates can secure out-of-service buses and train cars, as can remote surveillance methods to keep such vandalism at a minimum.

Instead, it is the day-to-day safety and security of transit riders and employees that should become the highest priority. This begins with creating the safest environment possible that is highlighted with appropriate signage and, when necessary, audible warnings, and supporting that with technology, such as surveillance cameras, that will document what has happened if an incident occurs.Analytics can also be useful in alerting security about other suspicious behaviours at a transit stop, such as an untended bag or package

Crime prevention in transportation

Analytics can also be useful in alerting security about other suspicious behaviours at a transit stop, such as an untended bag or package Incidents of concern within a transit setting can take several forms, ranging from legitimate accidents or crimes to false claims such as faked fall down the stairs to potential and actual suicides. Bus and subway stations also have become magnets for homeless people who may put themselves and others in harm’s way by trying to access less secure public areas within a station as temporary shelters.

If someone is injured on a subway platform and the transit provider is held liable, it could be on the hook for hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars. Suicides are a major concern for operators, with personnel now being trained to look for individuals who seem distressed, are loitering in the area or are intentionally putting themselves in a dangerous situation, such as standing too close to the edge of a platform.

The deployment of video analytics, which can be programmed to send alerts when certain pre-set actions occur, can help determine when such dangerous behaviours come into play. Analytics can also be useful in alerting security about other suspicious behaviours at a transit stop, such as an untended bag or package or a person going into a restricted area.

Whether it is on the bus, train or ferry or at the stops themselves, cameras and intuitive video management systems are the key to both active and forensic transit security.

 typical 30-foot bus often has six cameras—one each at the front and middle doors, two more within the bus and then one looking forward and another looking behind the bus
Some cities use buses that are up to 60 feet long and those can be equipped with up to a dozen cameras

Train security and safety

By using the proper cameras and recording systems in a transit environment, quick-acting personnel can locate a person of interest who boarded a train at one station, follow him during his trip and produce a crisp, clear identifiable image at the end. Those setting up the system thus should keep in mind proper camera positioning, resolution and motion-based changes to framerates or other compression settings.

A typical 30-foot bus often has six cameras—one each at the front and middle doors, two more within the bus and then one looking forward and another looking behind the bus. The latter two are important in the event of accidents to verify liability. Some cities use buses that are up to 60 feet long and those can be equipped with up to a dozen cameras.Train stations often deploy high-definition cameras to better support facial recognition software to get that actionable image

Train cars are similarly equipped with two to four cameras to view activity down the centre aisle. Within the stations themselves, there can be from 15 to 30 or more cameras capturing wide-angle shots. Train stations, which have a restricted point of egress, often deploy high-definition cameras to better support facial recognition software to get that actionable image.

Installing the right technology for the solution

Although bandwidth and storage can be a concern, with motion-based recording, the resolution can be bumped up during event, resulting in a 1-megapixel stream jumping to 4 or even 8mbps when needed. By changing the resolution on demand, end users can cut their storage needs significantly.

Transportation settings often rely on the same technology used in other security installations, primarily mini dome cameras, although there are some mini transit domes built specifically for the environment with the proper aesthetics. Because of vandalism threats, transit typically avoids pendant mounts, which can be more easily grabbed and damaged. Temperature ratings for cameras also come into play in cold climates with cameras often getting outdoor exposure.Today’s new buses and trains are constructed with the cameras onboard and newer stations also take security into consideration at the earliest design stage

As trains and buses move along their routes, especially those that service outlying areas, Internet connectivity becomes an issue as well. Because it may be difficult for video to be sent in transit, security bus barns are equipped with Wi-Fi so video from onboard cameras can be downloaded at the end of the day. And the use of hardened recorders at the stations allows security personnel to retrieve recorded video.

Transit security with modern technology

Today’s new buses and trains are constructed with the cameras onboard and newer stations also take security into consideration at the earliest design stage. Older infrastructure from long-standing subway and bus terminals can prove to be a challenge when adding security, but these issues aren’t insurmountable.

Often the solution is to add more cameras to cover the same square footage because of less-than-ideal sight lines and to place conduit wherever it works best, which may mean positioning it under platforms or in other out-of-the-way places within older stations.

Looking ahead, transit security will continue to evolve, not only as new stations and modes of transportation are added to the system, but in terms of communicating with commuters. People can expect to get mass notification alerts on their mobile devices, and those same devices can provide vital data to transportation entities to better develop their overall systems.

Download PDF version

Author profile

J. Matthew Ladd President & COO, The Protection Bureau

J. Matthew Ladd is a member of Security-Net, a network of independent security systems integrators providing global support to customers.

In case you missed it

What are the obstacles to adoption of mobile credentials for access control?
What are the obstacles to adoption of mobile credentials for access control?

Using a smart phone as an access control credential is an idea whose time has come – or has it? The flexible uses of smart phones are transforming our lives in multiple ways, and the devices are replacing everything from our alarm clocks to our wallets to our televisions. However, the transformation from using a card to using a mobile credential for access control is far from a no-brainer for many organisations, which obstacles to a fast or easy transition. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: When will mobile credentials dominate access control, and what are the obstacles to greater adoption?

How to choose the right security entrance for effective customer security
How to choose the right security entrance for effective customer security

Security and systems integrators across the nation are recommending and providing long-term security solutions to their customers. But when it comes to physical security entrances, integrators can easily fall into the trap of simply fulfilling an end user’s exact request without much pushback. Why? We believe the complexity and variety of entrances available makes it difficult to consult on the best solution, but also because there are a lot of assumptions at play. 1) Ask questions to determine the correct security entrance solution There is confusion in the security industry on the meaning of the word, “turnstile.” End users, when requesting a solution, tend to use the word “turnstile” to describe anything from an old fashioned, 3-arm turnstile to a high-tech optical turnstile to a security revolving door. We encourage security integrators to ask questions to discover how their clients want to mitigate the risk of unauthorised entry or “tailgating.” This can help determine the correct security entrance solution to meet the end user’s goal and budget. By asking the right questions and offering true solutions, you can enhance a relationship built on trust and consultation leading to potential repeat business. Below are four physical security goals—crowd, deterrence, detection, and prevention—accompanied by the type of “turnstile” and its capabilities. This breakdown can help the integrator to confidently address an end user’s request for a “turnstile,” and then recommend a solution that truly fulfills their security goals. 2) Explore options for crowd control Typically seen in stadiums, amusement parks, universities, and fitness centres, tripod turnstiles are considered a low security solution for crowd management. Designed for counting employees or slowing down high traffic volume to collect tickets or payments, tripod turnstiles are built to withstand the most abusive of conditions. Here’s what security integrators should know about tripod turnstiles: Low capital cost, but high annual operating cost due to needed 24/7 guard supervision Lack of sensors can lead to defeat – turnstiles can be crawled under or jumped over without alarm/notification to guard staff Little to no metrics capabilities available – no sensors or alarms if defeated High throughput, handling 30 persons per minute in one direction Full height turnstiles are a tall, robust solution for perimeter fence lines, metro stations or parking garages 3) Choose an effective deterrent A physical deterrent to infiltration, full height turnstiles are a tall, robust solution for perimeter fence lines, metro stations or parking garages. While full height turnstiles do physically stop tailgating (an unauthorised person following someone in the next compartment), they have no means to prevent piggybacking. Two people in collusion can gain access through the full height turnstile by badging once and then squeezing into the same compartment. Here are some other things to note about full height turnstiles: Low capital cost, low annual operating cost Guard supervision is up to the user Little to no metrics capabilities available – no sensors or alarms if defeated Moderate throughput, handling 18 persons per minute in one direction 4) Ensure your chosen turnstile can detect tailgating A staple in lobby security to accommodate visitors, optical turnstiles utilise complex sensors to detect a tailgating attempt. Most models available today offer sliding or swinging barriers. A very common assumption in the security industry is that optical turnstiles prevent unauthorised entry, which isn’t true. In fact, once the barriers are open, a second user can slip through. Or, in the case of a wide lane for disabled use, two people can walk through side by side. In either case, an alarm is generated and supervision is therefore essential in order to respond swiftly. The cost of 24/7 supervision must be factored into the security budget. Here are some other points to make note of: Moderate capital cost, but high annual operating cost due to need for 24/7 guard supervision Sensors detect tailgating and sound an alarm for post-tailgating reaction, but turnstiles can still be defeated Moderate metrics capabilities available (for example, # times tailgating occurred, passback rejection) High throughput, handling up to 30 persons per minute in one direction 5) Determine prevention tactics for staff and visitor safety The entry solution of choice for Fortune 1000 companies, security revolving doors and mantrap portals completely prevent tailgating due to their working principle, ensuring the safety and security of staff and visitors. Commonly used at employee-only entrances, security doors are an unmanned entrance solution that cannot be defeated; sensors in the ceiling prevent tailgating (following in a trailing compartment). Optional piggybacking detection systems are also available (preventing two people in the same compartment from entering). The benefits of utilising a truly unmanned door are unparalleled: guard staff can be reduced or reallocated, and this entrance offers an ROI of just 1-2 years. Here’s more information security integrators should know about security revolving doors and portals: High capital cost, low annual operating cost due to no required guard supervision Sophisticated metrics capabilities available, allowing the end user to prove the value of their security investment Security revolving doors = 20 persons per minute, simultaneously in two directions; Security portals = 6 persons per minute in one direction Biometric devices and bullet-resistant glass can be incorporated for an even higher level of security As we’ve demonstrated here, “turnstile,” in the eyes of an end user, is a complex term that can range from a low security, crowd control solution to a high security, tailgating prevention entrance. Security integrators need to first accurately determine the security goals of their customers and then break down the “turnstile” barrier of confusion to recommend the best solution for fulfilling those goals.

Why customers should buy products and services from SMBs
Why customers should buy products and services from SMBs

In 1973, a brilliant economist named E.F. Schumacher wrote a seminal book titled ‘Small Is Beautiful:’ taking an opposing stance to the emergence of globalisation and “bigger is better” industrialism. He described the advantages of smaller companies and smaller scales of production, highlighting the benefits of building our economies around the needs of communities, not corporations. In almost every industry or market that exists in the world today, you're likely to find a difference in size between companies. Whether it’s a global retail chain versus a small family-owned store, a corporate restaurant chain versus a mom-and-pop diner or a small bed and breakfast versus a large hotel chain — each side of the coin presents unique characteristics and advantages in a number of areas. Disparity in physical security industry Customers are drawn to products and services from large enterprises as the big names typically imply stability This disparity very clearly exists in the physical security industry, and differences in the sizes of product manufacturers and service providers could have important implications for the quality and type of the products and services offered. All too often, customers are drawn to products and services from large enterprises, as the big names typically imply stability, extensive product offerings and global reach. And that's not to say that these considerations are unwarranted; one could argue that larger companies have more resources for product development and likely possess the combined expertise and experience to provide a wide range of products and services. But the value that a company’s products and services can bring isn’t necessarily directly related to or dependent on its size. In an age where the common wisdom is to scale up to be more efficient and profitable, it’s interesting to pause and think about some of the possible advantages of small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Typically, “small” companies are defined as those with less than 100 employees and “medium” with less than 500. Providing social mobility  Schumacher argued that smaller companies are important engines of economic growth. Indeed, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a group of 36 member countries that promotes policies for economic and social well-being, SMBs account for 60 to 70 percent of jobs in most OECD countries. Importantly, SMBs provide resilience in that there are often large economic and social impacts when big companies fail. Smaller companies are better for regional economies in general, as earnings stay more local compared to big businesses, which in turn generates additional economic activity. SMBs are also better at providing social mobility for disadvantaged groups by giving them opportunities and enabling them to realise their potential. Smaller companies are often more innovative, bringing to the market novel technologies and solutions such as Cloud, analytics, AI, and IoT New companies introduce new technologies There's no denying the role of start-ups when it comes to innovation. In the security industry, many new technologies (e.g. Cloud, analytics, AI, IoT) are first brought to the market by newer companies. In general, smaller companies’ products and services often have to be as good or better than others to be competitive in the marketplace. They are therefore often more innovative, bringing to the market novel technologies and solutions. And these companies are also more willing to try out other new B2B solutions, while larger companies tend to be more risk-averse. Customer service Aside from the quality of products and services, arguably one of the most important components of a security company’s success is its ability to interact with and provide customers the support that they deserve. Smaller companies are able to excel and stand out to their customers in a number of ways: Customer service. Customers’ perceptions of a product’s quality are influenced by the quality of support, and smaller manufacturers often possess a strong, motivated customer service team that can be relatively more responsive to customers of all sizes, not just the large ones. A superior level of support generally translates into high marks on customer satisfaction, since customers’ issues with products can be resolved promptly. Flexibility. SMBs have a greater capacity to detect and satisfy small market niches. While large companies generally create products and services for large markets, smaller companies deal more directly with their customers, enabling them to meet their needs and offer customised products and services. And this translates to adaptability, as SMBs become responsive to new market trends. By having a pulse on the market, smaller companies have much more flexibility in their supply chain and can adjust much faster in response to changing demand. Decision-making. Smaller companies are much more agile in decision-making, while larger enterprises often suffer from complex, tedious and lengthy decision-making processes. Communication is easier throughout SMBs, as smaller teams enable new ideas to flow and can solve problems faster. Job satisfaction Employees working for SMBs connect more directly with the company's goals and objectives, which in turn increases motivation and job satisfaction Employees working for SMBs connect more directly with the company's goals and objectives, which in turn increases motivation and job satisfaction. SMBs are also generally more connected to local communities and participation in community activities leads to a greater sense of purpose. Additionally, SMBs have a much smaller impact on the environment, which is increasingly becoming an important consideration for today’s employees and customers. Though Schumacher's book takes a much deeper dive into the large global effects of scale on people and profitability, the general impact of a company’s size on its products and services is clear. It’s important for all players in the security industry to remember that the commitment and dedication to product quality can be found in businesses of all sizes. Ensuring safety of people, property and assets Large manufacturers may catch your eye, but small business shouldn’t be forgotten, as they can offer end users a robust set of attributes and benefits. While all security companies are aiming to achieve a common goal of providing safety for people, property and assets, smaller businesses can provide extensive value when it comes to driving the economy, innovating in the industry, providing quality employment and offering superior customer service.