Canadian Consulting Engineer

Protecting Public Transit

May 1, 2007
By Sophie Kneisel

Following terrorist attacks in Madrid, London and Mumbai, transit authorities in major centres across Canada are upgrading their security systems. They are also having to address concerns about safety...

Following terrorist attacks in Madrid, London and Mumbai, transit authorities in major centres across Canada are upgrading their security systems. They are also having to address concerns about safety and local crime.

“Any terrorist attack on a transit system increases the level of vigilance in all transit systems,” according to Ken Hardie, director of communications for TransLink in Vancouver.

At TransLink, which has been responsible for all public transit serving the Greater Vancouver Area since 1999, improvements to security are mostly to do with passenger and operator safety. However, with the Winter Olympics coming up in 2010, “there is more than a passing interest in terrorism,” says Hardie, adding that safety, security and antiterrorism all “knit together.”

Federal funding of $80 million was announced last fall to provide enhanced security measures at the country’s six largest public transit systems, in Toronto, Ottawa-Gatineau, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton. The funds are part of the government’s 2006 budget commitment to spend $1.4 billion on security.

Much of the money can be expected to be funneled into engineering, equipment and technology. Until now, however, according to Lesley Antoun, ing., Bombardier Transportation’s director of strategy and business development: “The focus of the industry in North America has been more on active detection through training, education, canine squads and policing.”

Antoun also points out that there is a massive difference between the amount spent per passenger in the air travel industry and that spent on transit users, with much more being spent on air, even though it has fewer travellers.

In several cases, the federal funding is being used by transit authorities to carry out risk assessments. Ottawa’s OC-Transpo recently decided to spend $1 million in federal funding on risk assessment, rather than on CCTV cameras for buses as the government expected.

Vancouver’s TransLink has looked at the level of threat by analyzing possible sources of trouble and areas of its operation that are vulnerable. Some federal monies have also gone towards staff training, and Vancouver’s public transit provider says it is now able to deploy technology and human resources based on the assessed risk.

Similarly, the Edmonton Transit System (ETS) has recently adopted a more proactive approach by moving from post patrols using private security staff to an intelligence-led, needs-based model for security. A database of incidents has been analyzed to determine the times and places incidents are most likely to occur. “We can now do more with less,” says ETS’ director of safety and security, Mike Derbyshire. “We get the meager (human) resources we have on the system at the right times and in the right places.” Since March of last year, Edmonton Transit’s “special constables” — authorized to use pepper spray, batons and enforce provincial statutes — have replaced security guards.

Increases not only in the number, but also in the powers given to security personnel are a trend. Since 1997, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) has employed special constables (numbering 87 in 2006), with the power of police officers to enforce Canadian laws on TTC property. If the commission’s current five-year plan is implemented, there will be 174 officers by 2011.

TransLink has gone one step beyond, creating Canada’s first fully sworn transit police force, which is armed with guns. And in the wake of several attacks on bus drivers, additional private security personnel are used to ride with bus operators on routes where they may be at risk.

Hardie says TransLink’s security efforts are directed to four areas: technology, risk assessment, staff training and the transit authority’s relationship with its customers. “The most potent force at our disposal is our customers. Their looking out for each other can keep ‘bad’ influences out,” he says, adding that this is also the most difficult area in which to improve. “We’re trying to develop a ‘community of purpose,’ in which all passengers are vigilant.”

“We know we’re being probed — everyone is — but there isn’t an everyday threat of terrorism,” Hardie says. “The general day-to-day focus is on the comfort and security of passengers.”

Closed circuit television just the beginning

Transit authorities are understandably reticent when discussing their latest upgrades in security technology, but they will talk about closed-circuit television cameras (CCTV), which are seen as one of the best ways to provide the necessary passenger “comfort and security.”

Cameras alone are probably not enough. There are several components to a reliable, layered security operation. The goal of the future is to have different systems and components integrated.

“A lot of transit systems think they can add CCTV and be finished,” Bombardier’s Antoun says. “[But] “I’m not seeing a lot of integration of various elements of security technology into one system.”

This lack of integration is also seen as a problem by Mike Derbyshire of Edmonton Transit. He would like to see the many elements that go into Edmonton’s “smart bus” — five cameras, GPS and radio — linked together into one intelligent system. He sees a potential for incorporating road sensors that could record road temperature information useful for traffic engineers, and internal sensors for such things as oil condition and engine health for proactive bus maintenance.

In pursuing more systems integration, Bombardier and March Networks of Ottawa have worked together to develop “Sekurflo.” It consists of a network of components that is built into the train car and is integrated with the train control management system. The equipment includes GPS, on-board CCTV recording, and live video with intelligent analytics that can detect unusual movements in the car and can even detect left baggage. According to Antoun, the system also can detect noises such as gunshots and trigger an alarm. By 2009, 190 new trains on London’s Underground will be operating with this system.

Eyes Everywhere

* Edmonton Transit System is adding to the almost 600 CCTVs it has trained on all major transfer points, such as bus and LRT stations.And it will be retrofitting its 231 new buses with no fewer than five cameras each (four on board, one filming out in front) before they hit the road in the next 18 months.

* The Toronto Transit Commission has 1,000 cameras, mostly installed around its 69 subway stations. Plans to add cameras to trains and 1,500 buses are on hold, pending more funding from Ottawa.

* TransLink’s LRT system in Vancouver has 900 cameras for “stationaries,” such as platforms and ticket vending areas, and will be adding cameras on the rail cars. Buses are being equipped with a new radio system with GPS capabilities.

* Socit de transport de Montral has 531 CCTV cameras, and plans to have 1,200 in place by June 2007.


Security measures on the TTC

John Sepulis, P.Eng., head of engineering and construction at the Toronto Transit Commission, explains some of the measures taken to enhance security in the 69 stations. (The TTC is about to renovate several aging stations, including the main hub at Union Station).

Designated waiting areas on the platforms provide sanctuary for passengers in trouble, and there are emergency phones at the ends of the platforms. The stations are not fire sprinklered, Sepulis says, the logic being that the structures are not built of combustible material. No garbage containers are allowed on the platform level, but they are in the upper levels. There are no gas sensors.

In designing the station layouts, maintaining sightlines is important. “We try to eliminate all nooks and crannies,” says Sepulis. Stainless steel mirrors give travellers views round hidden corners. Elevators have glass walls. Lighting i
s boosted in high-risk areas from the standard 15-20 foot candles. To deter loiterers at one Scarborough station where there has been violence, the TTC plays classical music over the sound system.

The TTC is slowly installing more surveillance cameras in its stations. When asked how they decide where to strategically locate those watchful camera eyes, Sepulis answers “I’d rather not say.” — BP

Design Guidance

A document entitled Transit Security Design Considerations, Final Report was issued in November 2004 by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Volpe National Transportation Systems Center. The 340-page report outlines every facet of transit station security, from station design to emergency power, mechanical systems, communications systems, and vehicles. Following are two excerpts:

* Section 6.2.3, Structural Engineering, Blast Mitigation

“The best method of protecting a building from blast damage are effective access management techniques and appropriate standoff distances. Since no security system is foolproof, however, structural engineers need to anticipate that buildings may be subjected to blast forces …

“Agencies should consider designing buildings to sustain localized damage, including the total loss of multiple structural members, and still remain standing.”

* Section Security Systems

“Security systems include CCTV, remote surveillance devices, video recorders, intrusion and motion detectors, tamper detectors, smoke or chemical detectors, and alarms. … Where possible, additional mechanisms, such as secondary locks or barriers, high-pitched alarms or pepper spray, should be used to thwart an attacker, to provide time for a response team to arrive and intercede.”

“Sending feeds to a central, off-site location is preferable to on-site monitors. While some agencies prefer cameras and monitors to be available to on-site staff, remote monitoring can be more effective in the event of an evacuation. Agencies should consider how emergency responders can plug in locally to video feeds for on-site cameras.” — BP


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