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| Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn

After CSX took an important step last month of installing inside-facing video cameras into the cabins of some of its trains, it appears that other train operators are following suit. Late last month the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority revealed that it would be installing thousands of audio and video recorders in its trains.

The MTA says that its move follows safety recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board. The NTSB announced that the surveillance was necessary due to a series of derailments that took place last year. The MTA says that intends to implement the majority of the recommendations put forward by the NTSB.

So far, those in the know say that rather than watching over passengers, the audio and video recording devices will instead target train conductors and other employees of the New York MTA. The surveillance system will be used to monitor staff behavior and ensure that conductors follow safety guidelines.

The MTA says it hopes that the surveillance works in several ways to encourage safety. First, by dissuading conductors and other staff members from breaking rules when they know they are being watched. Second, if a mistake is made the surveillance will then be useful to NTSB investigators and others who try and reconstruct what may have gone wrong to cause the accident.

The MTA joins a list of other transportation agencies placing cameras and audio recorders to monitor the actions of their employees. Baltimore recently began installing devices to record the conversations of its bus drivers while San Francisco put live cameras on more than 350 of its buses.

Though the MTA says its actions are simply designed to increase rider safety and comply with NTSB guidelines, others have noted how little attention the MTA has paid to the condition of its deteriorating tracks and other rail technology. While conductors must endure increasing scrutiny of every aspect of their jobs, the train operators have invested woefully little time and money upgrading existing tracks and other safety systems that could go a long way to improving safety for everyone.


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