Utah Transit Authority (UTA) employs 2,200 staff and moves approximately 120,000 passengers daily. It services Salt Lake Valley, Park City, Provo and Brigham City with 90 miles of commuter rail and 50 miles of light rail, utilizing transportation modes consisting of fixed route buses, commuter rail trains, light rail trains, paratransit buses and vanpool services (rideshare).
The previous video security system at UTA was limited by the capacities of its servers. In 2013, it had reached the maximum of 500 cameras operating on three servers (one for management, two for recording), which made it impossible to expand the system by bringing additional cameras online. In addition, UTA was in the midst of building a new line out to the airport, and was eager to display an improved surveillance system to state dignitaries. What UTA needed was a much larger, more efficient video surveillance system.
UTA enlisted Stone Security to help choose a security system that best met its specifications. Brent Edmunds, co-founder and president of Stone Security, knew that UTA envisioned a robust security system that was both easy to operate and flexible. Taking those priorities into consideration, he determined that Milestone technology would best fit UTA’s needs.
As of early 2015 UTA has deployed over 1,000 cameras across Salt Lake Valley, Park City, Provo and Brigham City.
“UTA doesn’t have cameras everywhere,” Edmunds says. “Instead, it deploys them in key locations, like facilities, onboard buses and rail stations. The system supports many different kinds of cameras. Milestone marries two critical components for them: a centralized system and a lot of diversity in its deployment.”
One of the biggest draws of the Milestone system was its user-friendliness. As opposed to being bombarded with complicated new technology, operators are able to navigate the new system with ease.
“It’s basically point and click, with very clear guiding tabs,” says Lamount Worthy, Video Security Administrator for UTA. “There is a tab for playback, and clocks and icons that logically guide you depending on how you want to manage it. You can train someone in minutes. Everyone who uses Milestone loves it because it makes their job easier.”
The system, camera and server upgrades are done late at night when commuter traffic is minimal. Otherwise, the cameras are always running, which Worthy knows is important to the control center employees. Worthy says UTA’s more than 1,000 cameras are upgraded with no hassle. The situation is a win-win: Worthy gets new system perks but his employees don’t need to be retrained.
The new technology is having an immediate positive financial impact for UTA. UTA gate arms frequently get damaged or broken off by trucks or passenger vehicles. Prior to Milestone installation, these incidents would not only be costly but would often go unresolved.
“We were looking at two or three damaged gate arms a week,” says Worthy. “It’s usually around a thousand dollars per gate to repair. Now, the new camera deployments give us the means to recover those costs. Utah police can follow up and interview persons of interest, and attorneys can choose which of these cases to pursue. I would say that this year alone Milestone has already saved us tens of thousands of dollars. We are moving to a time where the system will actually pay for itself.”
Worthy knows that passengers put a premium on safe public transit. If something does happen, UTA has the means to officially capture the incident. One of the most important features of the Milestone system is Evidence Lock, a new function that secures select video recordings for investigations. Evidence Lock allows clients to extend the retention time for video recordings from selected cameras in a set time interval by overriding normal video retention policies.
“The encryption and protection Milestone places on its exported video is a key factor of its ability to be presented in court,” Worthy says. “If I have to authenticate a video, I can say with full confidence that this footage has not been tampered with.” Unlike an audio video interleave (AVI) file, video footage from Milestone has authenticated time stamps. Evidence lock also allows UTA to easily sift through videos to review and determine the appropriate actions to take.
Another benefit to the Milestone system is that it acts as an early warning system. UTA has cameras stationed at some of its bus garages. Worthy says these cameras can zoom in to focus on substances pooling on bus floors to quickly detect if one of the buses has a leak. The video system has also been used to prevent more serious incidents. When UTA had a truck stalled on a train track, the truck driver did not call in to report the incident as he was supposed to. However, a camera caught the incident, and a technician called Union Pacific to let them know what was happening. Worthy also notes that the system is one of the key components in resolving several serious crimes that local police agencies investigate. Cameras have captured crimes that have occurred off UTA property, and the videos have provided local police with assistance in multiple investigations.
UTA has equipped its system with monitoring alarms in 19 different locations, mostly in remote bungalows that require navigating through difficult terrain. Before implementing Milestone, an alarm meant that a UTA tech employee had to drive to the location to check the cause. If the employee was based in Salt Lake City and heading to a remote place the trip could take a half hour each way. The Milestone system lets staff access the video remotely; if someone determines the alarm isn’t serious, he does not have to make the trip, which saves time, money and manpower.
The full security system for UTA runs on nine HP servers provided by BCDVideo (eight for recording and one for management). As of early 2015 UTA has deployed over 1,000 cameras from a mix of vendors: Axis, Panasonic, IQEye and Digital Watchdog.