The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) is the nation’s fifth-largest mass transit system in terms of daily ridership and serves a population of 4,667,555. Serving more than 175 cities and towns in a 3,244 square mile area, “the T,” as it is known locally, employs more than 6,000, and is one of only two transportation agencies in the United States that has both light and heavy rail, buses and trolleys.
MBTA maintains 183 bus routes, three rapid transit lines, five streetcar routes (Central Subway/Green Line), four trackless trolley lines and 13 commuter rail routes. Its roster of equipment consists of 987 buses, nearly 1,000 rail vehicles and 298 MBTA-owned specially equipped vans and sedans. The average weekday ridership for the entire system is approximately 1.3 million passenger trips.
Since joining the MBTA in 2009, Randy Clarke, Director of Security Initiatives for the MBTA, has been part of a new way of thinking at the agency, moving from a tactical to a strategic approach. He aimed to eliminate the existing siloed method of managing security systems by establishing a central command platform to manage all situations across the MBTA. In doing so, he streamlined operations to create continuity and increase collaboration throughout the entire organization.
To make his vision a reality, Clarke sought a single solution that would tie all of the T’s physical security devices and systems — including more than 5,000 video cameras, thousands of alarms, sensor points and access control and tunnel intrusion systems. In looking to establish this centralized platform, Clarke aimed to create one view across the agency of all security-related incidents as well as enable interagency collaboration.
After identifying Physical Security Information Management (PSIM) software as the ideal solution for his challenge, Clarke and others at the MBTA conducted an eight-month search, looking at more than six different technology offerings. The message Clarke wanted to convey to all stakeholders at the T was clear and powerful: PSIM would enable security personnel to ensure the right people have the right information at the right time.
Selecting a Platform
The MBTA selected the VidSys PSIM software, which was also being used by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation — making interagency collaboration and sharing of real-time data across different transportation agencies a real possibility in the future.
Because the PSIM system works with any type of physical security device or system, it provides the MBTA with the flexibility to select whatever technology they want, and frees the agency from being married to proprietary solutions. For instance, when faced with the need to upgrade its existing cameras, the MBTA was able to look at numerous solutions across multiple vendors, rather than being wedded to its existing investment with the incumbent vendor. “[The] integrated solution has not only significantly enhanced our physical and technology security, but also the security culture at the MBTA,” Clarke says.
Using the PSIM software, the MBTA was able to create Clarke’s vision of a centralized command center. Because of the system’s web-based architecture, the T is also able to support six additional security hubs, with two operators in each for localized monitoring for any type of safety or security incident — such as objects on tracks, reported thefts, station fires or packages left behind. The software integrates, correlates and analyzes data across disparate security systems and devices to provide MBTA security personnel with the intelligence and appropriate standard operating procedures necessary to resolve situations in real time.
The system enables the MBTA to leverage prior investments, eliminating any need to replace existing cameras and video management systems while maintaining a common user interface for those systems that are elected to be upgraded or replaced. Adding additional systems underneath the PSIM technology requires minimal disruption.
By enabling interagency collaboration, the MBTA is able to work with other agencies in the area, sharing resources beyond video in real time. This enables a more effective, community-wide response, as there is a more complete, singular view of unfolding situations.
This approach represents a new way of thinking for the transit organization. MBTA continues to expand its use of the PSIM software, continually incorporating advanced technologies and allowing MBTA to share resources and information with more agencies and organizations.