Bus cameras in the picture

Surveillance cameras could be installed on city buses as early as next year, depending on who you ask.

A pilot project is in the works for 2013 and the union is on board, the Sun has learned.

Bus cameras are on the radar of the transit commission and council and will go through deliberations for the city’s next budget.

But according to the city’s communications department, “There are no plans for any pilot project for cameras on buses,” said spokeswoman Jocelyne Turner.

OC Transpo has been looking at installing cameras on buses for years.

Council approved a $250,000 pilot project in 2007.

It was set to begin in 2008 and got yanked due to concerns over maintenance, privacy and the setup cost.

“What we’re told, though, is that the price of these cameras have actually come down significantly,” said transit commission chairwoman Diane Deans.

“Chances are, it’s actually a lot cheaper than it would have been back in 2007.”

Deans said she’s unaware of a pilot project, although she’s expecting a recommendation in time for the 2013 budget.

“(Transpo) said that there’s a range of issues there, and they want to have the time to consult with all affected stakeholders in the development of a report,” said Deans.

Three years ago, the Toronto Transit Commission began using CCTV for a fleet of 2,000 vehicles, including buses, streetcars and Wheel-Trans vehicles.

The price tag: $20 million.

“The experience has been very positive,” said TTC spokesman Brad Ross.

“It’s purely for criminal investigations, because on average, we have about two operators who are assaulted every day on the TTC.”

Signage reminding passengers they’re being filmed is posted on the outside of the bus. Four cameras are on each bus and standard streetcar, while seven cameras are on articulated streetcars.

New subway trains also have cameras.

Footage isn’t used to handle customer service issues, said Ross.

With provincial laws outlining privacy measures, images from TTC buses and streetcars are only stored for 15 hours.

Back in Ottawa, cameras are something the union now supports. With drivers alleging abuse by passengers — there are 120 incident reports in the last two years — Amalgamated Transit Union Local 279 vice-president Mike Aldrich told the Sun last month having cameras “do drop down the amount of assaults.”

Aldrich could not be reached for comment Friday.

kelly.roche@sunmedia.ca

@ottawasunkroche

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