Mar. 28th, 2016

The past decade in Boston transit has seen a massive increase in the number of CCTV cameras deployed around the MBTA system.  Several are seen in most rapid transit stations, newer buses have several apiece (and a video monitor showing you what's being recorded), and the monitoring stations are consciously placed in places like the South Station subway concourse where the general public can see them.  "Sure, Big Brother is watching you," the T says, "but it's for your own safety."

This rubs me the wrong way.

Meanwhile, across the pond, I also read the reports of the British Rail Accident Investigation Branch.  These are fascinating from an engineering point of view because they try to explain and analyse, in plain English, what actually happened and could be improved: maybe a lorry backed into a bridge pushing the 150-year-old brickwork on to the tracks, which a train hit 10 minutes later, but why didn't 999 contact the signaler to have them stop the train, and why was the damaged train allowed to continue at 100 mph after the accident cleanup?

The RAIB reports are also good for including pictures of relevant parts of an incident: here's a picture of the pin assembly on an intermodal flat car, here's what it would look like if it was hanging off the edge of the train, here's the picture of the train platform said pin assembly hit at 60 mph.  Depending on the incident, many of the pictures come from CCTV imagery, including pictures from remotely manually controlled level crossings and station platforms.

This use of CCTV imagery I'm very okay with; but it does actually depend on having cameras in a lot of places so that you can collect together a photographic history of the train.  "We're watching our infrastructure and our trains to make an already safe system safer" seems like a positive message; much better than "we're watching you".



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