The Most Expensive Bus Surveillance Ever

By Carlton Purvis, Published on Dec 12, 2013

$21,000 per bus surveillance system. This is, by far, the most expensive implementation we have ever seen. The Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority is adding cameras to 200 buses for a whopping $6 million, part of a massive MBTA security undertaking fueled by Homeland Security grants. In this note, we review the project and try to figure out why MBTA paid so much.


The Cost

IPVM obtained a copy of the contract [link no longer available]. Inside is an itemized breakdown of what the agency got from Minuteman Security Technologies. Take a look at line items 3 and 13:



MBTA is paying about $21,000 per bus, multiples more than the average bus project which usually costs a few thousand dollars (e.g. Utah bus project). MBTA can install the system in more buses for $224,000 for every 10 (MBTA has around 1,100 buses). 

This cost is in addition to $376,000 for "Work Stations and GUI" (which we believe includes the Vidsys PSIM), a quarter of a million dollars for storage and a $64,000 for a wireless network in the bus yard. 

Why so expensive? We looked to other documents related to the project and sent requests to the director of security at MBTA to find out. We didn’t get a response, but here is what we know from other records related to the project.

The Equipment

MBTA is putting a  handful of cameras, an NVR, wireless radios, a UPS and a PoE switch onboard. Panasonic and Genetec are reportedly the respective surveillance vendors.

Drawings released along with the original solicitation show cameras will have two configurations. The first configuration uses two 360 degree cameras and one fixed camera:



The second uses six fixed cameras:

The cameras include 3MP vandal outdoor 360 cameras (like the Panasonic we tested) and 720p WDR cameras. Both of those sell for $1,000 or less.

The NVR is a simple, low end Atom processor, 2GB RAM machine with two user removable storage drives.

The NVR, wireless nodes, POE switch, and LTE Gateway will be in a box mounted behind the driver’s seat. A 19-inch LCD monitor will be mounted on the outside of the box. The exact specs of all the components can be found in the scope of work.

Transmitting Video

They system will transmit video to the MBTA operations center via LTE and police near a bus will be able to live-stream footage. Footage will automatically wirelessly upload to a local sever when buses pull into the bus yard.z

Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News
Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News

Storage

Specifications say video will be stored for 60 days, but must be stored on the mobile NVR for a minimum of 170 hours at 8fps (live views will stream at 15fps).

Other Components of the Bus Systems

  • The system is being integrated with MTBA’s existing Vidsys PSIM. MBTA already uses at least five different VMSs including Geutebruck, Genetec, Nice, and Avigilon tied into this PSIM.
  • When the bus drive flips an alarm switch on the dash panel “the video system shall bookmark a video file for download. The video file shall encompass video five minutes prior to the bookmark through five minutes after the bookmark. And when the bus pulls into the yard, it should automatically begin uploading bookmarked clips.
  • The contract includes a year warranty on all work and equipment and requires 4 hour response time and a 24-hour repair time for any issues.

The Integrator

Minuteman has been responsible for much of MBTA’s security upgrades. The company did $1.7 million worth of upgrades of access control and emergency calls stations for MBTA in 2012 and is currently involved in four other projects that add up to another $7 million. This includes a $3.2 million contract to “install IP Video, Access Control, and Emergency call Stations at 3 MBTA Bus Yards,” according to contracting documents.

Why Bus Cameras

At least one reason for the increase in bus cameras is the rising number of assaults on bus drivers. Assaults on bus drivers had surpassed last year’s statistics. In June there had been 50 attacks on drivers compared to 33 in June 2012, reported WBUR. The assaults have included striking or cutting drivers and bodily fluid attacks with urine.

MBTA Grant Money

The MBTA has spent more than $60 million on security in the past decade, including $29 million in Homeland Security Grants in 2009, $6.6 million in 2012 and $3.25 million in 2013. With so much cash, it appears that they have little limits in what they spend or how efficiently they spend it on.

Why So Much?

Even with MP cameras and wireless onboard, it is is hard to determine how the system could be that expensive, especially since the MBTA is spending $1.5 million separately on head end components (GUIs, storage, central wireless etc.). $21,000 per bus for 3 to 6 camera / NVR system, even with wireless is extremely expensive.

Moreover, considering that the average bus system runs a few thousand dollars, it is difficult to determine the benefit of the MBTA spending $15,000 more per bus compared to fully functional production systems.

Comments (4) : Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

Costar Technologies / Arecont H1 2020 Financials Examined on Sep 16, 2020
Costar's financial results have been hit by the coronavirus with the company...
CDW Sells School District 36 Low-Res, No Blackbody Hikvision Fever Cameras With Federal Funds on Oct 01, 2020
Mega IT distributor CDW sold low-resolution Hikvision fever cameras with no...
2020 Mid Year Video Surveillance Industry Guide on Jul 27, 2020
The first half of 2020 has been shocking, for the world generally, and for...
Nokia Fever Screening Claims To "Advance Fight Against COVID-19" on Oct 22, 2020
First IBM, then briefly Clorox, and now Nokia becomes the latest Fortune 500...
VSaaS Will Hurt Integrators on Aug 06, 2020
VSaaS will hurt integrators, there is no question about that. How much...
Cisco Video Surveillance Is Dead, Long Live Cisco Meraki Video Surveillance on Feb 11, 2020
A dozen years ago much of the industry thought that Cisco was destined to...
Video Surveillance History on May 06, 2020
The video surveillance market has changed significantly since 2000, going...
Micron 1 TB SD Cards Aim To Eliminate NVRs on Apr 08, 2020
Micron has boldly proclaimed their latest 1TB microSD "eliminates the need...
Ava / Vaion Releases Cloud Connected IP Cameras, Verkada Competitor on Oct 01, 2020
Ava (formerly Vaion) announced its new direct-to-cloud AVA Aware IP cameras...
Worst NVR / VMS Manufacturers 2020 on Feb 10, 2020
For the second time in a row, a global manufacturer has been selected by...
Avigilon Announces 10K / 61MP H5 Pro Camera on Oct 05, 2020
Avigilon announced its 10K / 61MP H5 Pro camera at the 2020 IPVM Fall New...
Directory of 97 Video Surveillance Startups on May 20, 2020
This directory provides a list of video surveillance startups to help you see...
Anyvision Presents AI Facial Recognition and Mask Detection on Jun 08, 2020
AnyVision presented its AI facial recognition and mask detection at the May...
Converged vs Dedicated Networks For Surveillance Tutorial on Feb 12, 2020
Use the existing network or deploy a new one? This is a critical choice in...
Favorite Access Control Manufacturers 2020 on Sep 28, 2020
200+ Integrators told IPVM "What is your favorite access control management...

Recent Reports

VICE Investigates Verkada's Harassing "RawVerkadawgz" on Oct 26, 2020
This month, IPVM investigated Verkada's sexism, discrimination, and cultural...
Six Flags' FDA Violating Outdoor Dahua Fever Cameras on Oct 26, 2020
As Six Flags scrambled to reopen parks amid plummeting revenues caused by the...
ISC Brasil Digital Experience 2020 Report on Oct 23, 2020
ISC Brasil 2020 rebranded itself to ISC Digital Experience and, like its...
Top Video Surveillance Service Call Problems 2020 on Oct 23, 2020
3 primary and 4 secondary issues stood out as causing the most problems when...
GDPR Impact On Temperature / Fever Screening Explained on Oct 22, 2020
What impact does GDPR have on temperature screening? Do you risk a GDPR fine...
Security And Safety Things (S&ST) Tested on Oct 22, 2020
S&ST, a Bosch spinout, is spending tens of millions of dollars aiming to...
Nokia Fever Screening Claims To "Advance Fight Against COVID-19" on Oct 22, 2020
First IBM, then briefly Clorox, and now Nokia becomes the latest Fortune 500...
Deceptive Meridian Temperature Tablets Endanger Public Safety on Oct 21, 2020
IPVM's testing of and investigation into Meridian Kiosk's temperature...
Honeywell 30 Series and Vivotek NVRs Tested on Oct 21, 2020
The NDAA ban has driven many users to look for low-cost NVRs not made by...
Ubiquiti Access Control Tested on Oct 21, 2020
Ubiquiti has become one of the most widely used wireless and switch providers...
Avigilon Aggressive Trade-In Program Takes Aim At Competitors on Oct 20, 2020
Avigilon has launched one of the most aggressive trade-in programs the video...
Mexico Video Surveillance Market Overview 2020 on Oct 20, 2020
Despite being neighbors, there are key differences between the U.S. and...
Dahua Revenue Grows But Profits Down, Cause Unclear on Oct 20, 2020
While Dahua's overall revenue was up more than 12% in Q3 2020, a significant...
Illegal Hikvision Fever Screening Touted In Australia, Government Investigating, Temperature References Deleted on Oct 20, 2020
The Australian government told IPVM that they are investigating a Hikvision...
Panasonic Presents i-PRO Cameras and Video Analytics on Oct 19, 2020
Panasonic i-PRO presented its X-Series cameras and AI video analytics at the...