15% of Metro bus cameras don’t work, study finds

SEATTLE- The surveillance cameras on King County Metro Transit buses are there for a reason.

“It gives you a sense of security that if something happens to you, there’s going to be someone held accountable eventually,” said passenger Steven Ackley.

metrobusesAfter a violent passenger shot one bus driver and was then killed by police on another bus in August, we found out neither of those cameras were recording as they should have been.

“In the case of both of the cameras in the shooting incident it was the hard drives that failed,” said King County Metro Director Kevin Desmond.

We asked for records on all Metro bus surveillance systems and here’s what we found.  Right now 40%, or 525 buses in the fleet, have cameras.  Of those, 76 or 15% weren’t working when they were inspected.  Some had bad wiring or hard drives, some cameras and recorders were broken, others had no audio.

Here is the breakdown of what inspectors found:

  • 24 of the DVR’s were inoperable and needed replacement
  • 35 of the hard drives were inoperable and needed replacement
  • 36 of the cameras were inoperable and needed replacement
  • 72 of the systems were missing one or more of the mounting screws
  • 27 had audio capability missing or faulty

We asked the company that sold the systems to metro for comment after the shooting incident.  Apollo Video Technology in Bothell says they told the county to update the software every three years.  They also told us it had been six years, and updates had never been done.

“That’s not accurate,” said Desmond.  “After the incident we spoke to Apollo and we are in discussions with them now about where they see the proper maintenance of the different components.  We did not get any fast and hard advice from Apollo on when we should be repairing or replacing equipment.”

Desmond says the cameras will now be checked during a routine 6,000 mile maintenance review of each bus.  Ideally, he says he would like some sort of remote diagnostic review but said that would be expensive and would have to consider budget impacts.

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