Peekaboo, MBTA Transit Police Can See You

The new camera systems installed on 60 T buses hitting the streets soon are equipped with a "Live Look In" feature. Smile.

Photo by Olga Khvan

Photo by Olga Khvan

The first of 60 brand-new MBTA hybrid buses will hit the streets on Wednesday from Haymarket station, but energy efficiency and noise reduction capabilities aren’t the only upgrades to the commuter vehicles that officials are excited about.

The 40-foot buses, which are powered by clean diesel-electric hybrid drives and manufactured by New Flyer Industries, Inc., will be equipped with high-tech on-board video recording and surveillance systems including a feature called “Live Look In,” which allows MBTA Transit Police officers to watch activity on the vehicles from a remote location in real-time.

“It’s about officer safety—that’s first and foremost,” said MBTA Deputy Chief of Investigative Services Kenneth Sprague. “Some of the calls we get are in regards to a person with a gun or a knife, or a fight in progress on the bus. This technology will allow officers to see what they’re getting themselves involved in before boarding the vehicle.”

According to Sprague, officers will have the ability to view what’s happening on the new buses from “mobile data terminals” that are installed in their patrol cars. Police will also be able to tap into the cameras on the buses, in real-time, from the agency’s headquarters on Southampton Street in Boston.

“This is the newest technology out there, as far as being able to access the cameras on the bus,” he said. “[Officers] can punch up the cameras, and then actually see what’s going on.”

Sprague said Transit Police hope having the new system on the buses will help deter crime. “I think it certainly benefits the public, because for most people if they were going to commit a crime on a bus with cameras, we would hope they would think twice about that,” he said.

The new camera systems and live-action feature will only be on the 60 buses being introduced to the fleet. The buses will also have screens at the fronts of the vehicles where riders will be able to see what’s being captured by the cameras.

In May, the MBTA announced that they would be replacing 40 old buses from their fleet with new and improved diesel-electric hybrids to ship passengers around. Three months later, the T said that they added 20 more vehicles to that total. The vehicles were purchased through an existing agreement New Flyer Industries, Inc., has with Connecticut officials. By exercising options within that contract, the MBTA was able to buy the new buses at a reduced cost, with most of the money coming from federal grants, according to T officials.

The new buses also feature low emission, fuel-saving systems, and more space for riders due to a revised seating layout. By adding the new vehicles to the line-up, the T can retire older buses that they purchased in 1994 and 1995.

Bus manufacturing began during the summer, the transit agency said. After the first one starts picking up passengers on Wednesday, 29 more will become part of the system by the end of the year. The last 30 buses will hit the roadways by March 2015.