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Hudson Valley News

Metro-North Tests Cameras On Its Trains

Bebeto Matthews

Metro-North has begun a pilot program with security cameras in both cabs and passenger cars. The railroad plans to install cameras in all its trains by September.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority Spokesman Aaron Donovan says the pilot program began a few days ago in one passenger car each on the Hudson and Harlem lines of Metro-North.

“Out of all of the hundreds of cars, the pilot involves two cars for now. We do expect to add three cars to the New Haven line next and then pilot some of the diesel-hauled coaches as well,” says Donovan. “So we’re going to get a sense of the electric fleet on the Harlem and Hudson line and then the New Haven line and then the diesel fleet as well.”

Metro-North trains generally have 10-to-12 cars. Donovan says passengers will know if they are in a car with a camera.

“Each car is clearly marked with decals at both ends of the test cars that say that the, well, that say, for the safety of the passengers, the cars are being recorded,” says Donovan.

Donovan says the cameras record only video, not audio. He says cameras for passenger cars are intended to deter crime and provide video to aid in police investigations. The pilot program also places cameras in engineer cabs, a move that stems from a recommendation from the National Transportation Safety Board following the December 2013 fatal Metro-North derailment in the Bronx neighborhood of Spuyten Duyvil. In 2014, the NTSB announced that the train engineer falling asleep and hitting a curve with a 30 mph speed limit at 82 mph was the probable cause of the derailment. Again, Donovan.

“The NTSB safety recommendations actually focused on the cameras in the cabs," Donovan says. "There are cameras facing the engineer, so pointed inward toward the engineer, and then there’s a camera facing outward pointed toward the oncoming tracks so if there’s any kind of incident showing, if there’s somebody on the tracks or a car or something like that it would be in the video.”

The NTSB in February 2014 recommended installing inward- and outward-facing cameras in train cabs, and MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast directed the MTA’s commuter railroads to begin the design, engineering, fabrication, delivery and installation of on-board cameras. Following the test period, Metro-North will finalize the camera design for the remaining fleet and anticipates installation starting in the third quarter this year. Democratic Westchester Assemblyman Tom Abinanti has been a sponsor and co-sponsor of bills to improve rail safety.

“These are good first steps,” Abinanti says. “Hopefully the MTA will continue to move forward to use modern technology to enhance the safety of our passengers. We need similar types of technology at railroad crossings.”

In June, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders announced an agreement to improve rail safety measures across the state. It did not include legislation calling for the installation of cameras at rail crossings. In addition, the governor has not signed a bill the legislature passed that requires the Department of Transportation to study all railroad crossings in the state. Again, Abinanti.

“Anything that we can do to improve the safety of our passengers is welcome but we should not allow these small steps to prevent us from taking the big step that is really needed which is an overall review of all railroad crossings in the state of New York to indentify the deficiencies that exist," says Abinanti.

Abinanti sponsored the bill in the Assembly and has been pushing for rail crossing safety measures following a fatal crash in his district. In February 2015, a Metro-North commuter train crashed into an SUV that was stopped on the tracks at a crossing in Valhalla, killing five people on the train. The car’s driver also was killed.

Meanwhile, Donovan says money to fund the cameras comes from the MTA capital plan. He says the pilot program will begin on the Long Island Railroad in the months ahead.  

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