Bus travel: optimizing the safety and perceptions of passengers and drivers

In Sweden, Skånetrafiken, the traffic authority for public transport within the city of Malmö, has been testing a network camera system that provides real-time monitoring to optimize safety in public transport.

Initially using network cameras onboard two bus routes in the city, the test began at the start of 2022. As a result of its success, 1,500 live video network cameras have now been rolled out on buses across Malmö, increasing safety on 45 million bus trips per year. Malmö is the first city in the country to make this commitment.

The cameras’ real-time monitoring capability is significant. Analog cameras have historically been used to provide evidence following an event. They can offer an element of deterrence to criminal or anti-social activity, but as these cameras are not typically connected to a network remotely that enables live viewing, their use is unable to action an immediate response.

Alternatively, cameras connected to an IP network with a gateway enable live monitoring and an instant response to any developing situation.  With this capability, camera operators monitoring the cameras on a bus can direct security personnel to intervene onboard, or at following bus stops.

Not only can a live network camera enable an effective response, but crucially, it can create a much stronger deterrence, helping to prevent crime or anti-social activity from developing in the first place. So, as well as increasing safety for passengers and drivers, this technology can improve the perception of safety for bus travel too.

Increasing safety in public transport

According to the International Association of Public Transport (UITP), anti-social behavior, as well as verbal aggression towards staff, continue to feature in the top five threats reported daily. This data comes from 27 public transport operators from around the world, as part of the organization’s most recent Threat Monitor Survey.

As a typical European city, Malmö faced similar challenges. Yet, after the trial of live network cameras, spanning 30 buses running over two routes, 90% of travelers reported that they felt “safe” or “partially safer”. And, in response to the survey question, “How safe do you feel?”, the median average passenger response was 9 out of a maximum of 10. What’s more, with live network cameras, drivers also responded positively. 75% said they felt “safe” or “partially safer” since the system was installed.

While real-time monitoring can make bus travel safer for existing users, improvement in the perception of safety can also encourage greater bus ridership, especially for routes perceived as less safe, as well as bus travel in hours of darkness. As live camera monitoring can also increase driver safety and their perceptions, this benefit is valuable to assist in driver recruitment and retention, an industrywide challenge across many regions.

Achieving real-time monitoring

The crucial component of a real-time monitoring video solution for vehicles lies in low latency streaming. Moreover, the camera network needs to operate seamlessly within environments prone to fluctuating connectivity. The connection must be robust enough to maintain a steady stream of high-quality video data, despite the challenges of transitioning between zones with varying levels of network availability.

Based on IP cameras and wireless connectivity, Observit provides remote access to vehicles. This service employs advanced algorithms to minimize latency and optimize data transmission in real-time, ensuring that video feeds are not only consistent but also reliable and timely. This is paramount for critical decision making and operational efficiency in mobile environments. The ability to adapt to changing network conditions without significant loss in video quality or transmission speed is what sets apart superior vehicle monitoring solutions. This makes them invaluable assets in ensuring safety and operational effectiveness on the move.

For effective live monitoring, video quality must also enable accurate analysis of events. This is essential if the stream has the potential to serve as evidence in a legal proceeding. To achieve this, network cameras specifically designed for use onboard buses can provide high resolution images up to 12 megapixels. The delivery of clear video in dark or low light is also important, and the cameras also have to be able to deal with strong light contrast, present on bright, sunny days.

Dome cameras, specifically designed for surveillance onboard buses, equipped with a fisheye lens are ideal as they can provide up to 360 degrees view. A dome camera’s broad viewing capability also improves cost effectiveness as it reduces the volume of cameras – and cabling – required, as well as decreasing the resources necessary for installation and maintenance.

Cameras installed onboard a bus also need to be highly durable. They must continually cope with the vibration of a moving vehicle, and, deployed to prevent anti-social behavior, their construction needs to be able to withstand potential impacts and vandalism.

Improving the bus service

Back in Malmö, the use of network cameras onboard has now extended across the city’s 250 buses. With their real-time monitoring capability, IP cameras designed specifically for use onboard buses can not only increase safety for passengers and drivers, but they can improve the safety perception too.

With limited hardware installation required to achieve the real-time monitoring capability, this cost-effective investment is balanced by the potential for an increase in bus passenger numbers. This not only presents a lower total cost of ownership, but gives public transport operators the opportunity to add value to urban mobility.

Read more about the Axis real-time camera monitoring for buses.

Public transport