Transit Briefs: SEPTA, MARTA, TTC | So Good News
Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor
Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) Approves ZeroEyes Artificial Intelligence (AI) Weapons Detection Pilot Program. Also, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) is updating the high-capacity transit option for Clayton County from commuter rail to bus rapid transit (BRT); and the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) is rescinding the covid-19 vaccination policy.
SEPTA announced on Nov. 17 that it has selected ZeroEyes, “the creators of the only AI-based gun detection video analytics platform to have a US Department of Homeland Security SAFETY Act Designation,” for a pilot program designed to “reduce the likelihood of gun. -related violence on train platforms.” The implementation will start in approximately two months.
According to SEPTA, the agency is the first major transit system to deploy ZeroEyes’ solution, which is used by the US Department of Defense, public school districts and universities, Fortune 500 corporate campuses and many other organizations in more than 30 states.
Layered on top of SEPTA’s existing security cameras, ZeroEyes’ proprietary software will “identify brandished weapons and alert security personnel and local law enforcement within three to five seconds,” the agency said. Former US military and law enforcement specialists monitor each detection 24/7/365 from the internal ZeroEyes Operations Center (ZOC) to “provide accurate and actionable intelligence on weapons-related incidents, including the gunman’s appearance, clothing, weapon and real-time location.” ZeroEyes ‘ The AI, SEPTA says, does not perform any facial recognition, nor does it receive, record, store or share videos or images of any person.
“We are committed to ensuring the safety of our riders and employees,” SEPTA Chairman Pasquale T. Deon Sr. said. “While serious crimes are rare on SEPTA, evaluation of this technology demonstrates the agency’s proactive approach to safety.”
According to the agency, SEPTA has more than 30,000 cameras throughout the system, adding that this pilot program will use cameras at stations along the Market-Frankford and Broad Street Lines.
“We appreciate the board’s support for this pilot, and it is our hope that this new technology will be another tool we can use to keep our system safe,” said SEPTA General Manager and CEO Leslie S. Richards. “If the program is successful, we will consider deploying ZeroEyes elsewhere in the network.”
Other ongoing efforts to prevent crime on SEPTA include:
- Increasing uniformed police presence on trains.
- Deploy dozens of outreach specialists across the system to engage members of the vulnerable community.
- Create a virtual patrol center to monitor the surveillance camera network.
- Equip wardens with mobile phones to facilitate direct communication with the police.
- Promotion of the Transit Watch app, which allows riders to report concerns anonymously and discreetly.
“The nation’s cities have experienced dramatic increases in violent gun-related crime, and we need more leaders like SEPTA to take proactive measures to protect the public,” said Mike Lahiff, CEO and co-founder of ZeroEyes, which was founded by a group of Navy SEALS who used proprietary imagery to train AI to be “the most comprehensive and superior weapon detection technology on the market.”
“Public transit is a critical lifeline in urban regions, and the millions of people who rely on it have a right to feel safe. SEPTA’s progressive approach to the issue should set the industry standard; we hope to see other public transit providers follow suit in the near future, Lahiff added.
With the “unanimous support” of the Clayton County Board of Commissioners, the city councils of Jonesboro, Forest Park, Lovejoy, Riverdale and Lake City, and the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce, the MARTA Board of Directors Planning and Capital Programs Committee Nov. 17 updated Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) for State Route 54 in Clayton County from commuter rail to BRT.
In 2018, the MARTA board passed a two-part LPA that had commuter rail along the Norfolk Southern (NS) Corridor and BRT in the western part of the county connecting College Park Station to Southlake Mall. In December last year, the board approved a stand-alone LPA for Southlake BRT. Earlier this year, Clayton Southlake BRT advanced to the project development phase of the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Capital Investment Grant program as a small startup project.
According to MARTA, the commuter rail option “faced a number of hurdles with acquisition rights, environmental and historic resource concerns, along with a ballooning cost estimate.” During the years of customer and stakeholder engagement conducted in Clayton County, all-day frequent transit service was preferred, which is “inconsistent with commuter rail service that offers only one-way service during peak commuter times,” MARTA said. In consultation with key stakeholders, BRT emerged as the preferred high-capacity transportation option for State Route 54.
BRT on State Route 54, which is estimated to cost $572 million to build, “requires less right-of-way access, and reduces construction impacts for residents and businesses,” will run for approximately 22 miles, have 17 proposed stops, and connect the East Point train station to Mountain View, Forest Park, Clayton State University, Jonesboro, Clayton County Justice Center and Lovejoy in Clayton, and East Point and Hapeville in Fulton County. The plan is for the State Route 54 BRT to “complement the Southlake BRT to provide a seamless transit connection for people in Clayton while ushering in economic development,” said MARTA, which added that the Route 54 BRT “could be built in half the time of of commuter trains and once completed will operate at a higher frequency, providing service throughout the day rather than just during peak commuter times.”
“We appreciate the flexibility and support of Clayton County leaders to pivot to best meet the transportation needs of the people of Clayton,” said MARTA General Manager and CEO Collie Greenwood. “We recently traveled to Indianapolis with the Clayton delegation and saw firsthand the benefits of BRT and how it makes more sense for this transit corridor and will provide faster and more frequent service at a much lower cost.”
The TTC announced on 17 November that it will lift its mandatory covid-19 vaccination policy on 27 November.
While COVID-19 vaccinations will no longer be required for TTC employees, the agency says it is updating its terms of employment to include compliance with policies of this nature in the future if necessary.
The TTC introduced its vaccine mandate on September 7, 2021, after “consulting with public health authorities and following the best available science at the time.” The policy ensured that employee illnesses were kept to a minimum and allowed the TTC to continue to deliver its essential services throughout the pandemic.
According to the TTC, eligible employees whose employment was terminated due to the policy will be offered the opportunity to be reinstated. They will not, the TTC adds, be eligible for back pay, but their seniority will be preserved.
To date, nearly 15,000 doses of the covid-19 vaccine have been administered on TTC properties, the agency said, adding that the TTC “continues to encourage all of its employees to stay current with their covid-19 vaccinations as this is the best protection against getting very sick.”