Large School Bus Camera Deployment

By Carlton Purvis, Published Oct 17, 2013, 12:00am EDT

Surveillance cameras are increasingly becoming ubiquitous in buses, including school buses where bullying is a regular problem. In this note, we examine one school's district selection, pricing and decision process.

Background 

Alpine School district in Utah has started adding cameras to its bus fleet as part of a half million dollar project to equip its entire school bus fleet with surveillance cameras. School officials say bullying had been a growing problem on the buses over the last few years and the cameras are one of many parts of a larger anti-bullying campaign [link no longer available]. Read the full contract here

The school put out and RFP for the project earlier this year. The requirements below:

Four vendors submitted bids. Alpine did a test run of each system before it deciding on a solution. 

What The School Got

Gatekeeper Systems Inc. [link no longer available], who specializes in transportation surveillance deployments,  won the contract. The school is paying around $1900 per bus. So far, 68 buses have been fitted with surveillance, with a goal to outfit all 265 buses within five years. One camera watches the outside of the bus and people going in and out while the other three would be focused on the interior. Some buses will be fitted with six. Here is a breakdown of the costs:

  • 1 DVR, 32GB SD card, and four S350 WDR Cameras [link no longer available] for $1519 per set.
  • Installation at $350 per bus

The contract included an option for a wireless access point for downloading footage automatically as buses parked, but the school district opted for SD cards instead. The cards overwrite after footage is three weeks old. The footage is not live-viewed but pulled after receiving a tip from a school administrator, parent or student. The cost will be ~$1860 for each additional bus, but the terms of the contract can be negotiated each year. The optional features were:

  • 5GHz antenna (one needed per bus) $299
  • 1 5GHz access point and installation for $2839 ($1200 of that would be installation)

"We didn't feel that wireless necessary quite yet," said the district’s transportation specialist Shaun Adams said. "In my opinion, it's just not as dependable. It's a lot more dependable to just pull out an SD card and know that the footage is on there. I was worried that sometimes with power outages or Wifi issues, that different things could cause problems."

In the future the school hopes to also add cameras to catch licence plates of cars ignore bus stop sign arms, but they are still working to coordinate that with law enforcement.

Competitive Project

Over five years (or however long it takes the school system to equip all of its buses) this will amount to a ~$500,000 contract as the school continues to outfit its buses. These kinds of projects are highly desired among integrators. A lot of people are likely to bid aggressively for a contract like this, which is shown by the number of non-local bidders. 

SD Storage Over Wireless Upload

There is a limited amount of storage on an SD card.  Additionally, in order to get three weeks of footage from four cameras on one SD card the frame rate is most likely low and the video quality poor. The school says the cameras are recording at 30 fps

Ease of Use/Repair Helped Win Contract

"We like that idea that the company has a local office so if we have any questions or concerns they can get right on top of it," Adams said. Of the four companies, only Gatekeeper Systems had a local office.  The school is responsible for maintenance, but having a local office makes warranty repair turnarounds faster. During the vendor testing phase Adams say Gatekeeper also had the easiest interface to navigate for people with no experience operating or pulling video from surveillance systems. 

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