Artificial intelligence enhancements to video surveillance and a greater number of peacekeepers are among the security measures proposed to improve Calgary’s transit systems in a post-pandemic rebuild.
The city’s community development committee on Friday received a report prepared by the administration outlining plans to renovate and improve the transit system after it was overwhelmed by work from home and other public safety measures introduced to contain the spread of COVID-19. . The committee heard about a number of initiatives to ensure passengers feel safe and to improve ridership, the rider experience, and infrastructure proposed in the Calgary Transit recovery plan, which the department will focus on in 2022-23. .
“Customer perceptions of road safety will play an important role in influencing whether customers return to transit,” said Sharon Fleming, director of Calgary Transit. “As things reopen, Calgary Transit is committing to providing a safe and clean system for all Calgarians.”
Traffic safety has been a talking point for many councilors in recent months as Calgary Police have issued multiple statements and updates regarding violence at or near various transit stations. Wing 13 Count. Dan McLean urged the city to look into implementing a “closed” system where only paying passengers can access the platforms, while a group of councilors raised concerns earlier this year that led to a temporary increase in police patrols around transit services. .
Fleming said that as Calgary Transit continues to recover from the pandemic, it will look to train additional security guards and update CCTV cameras.
“What the updates are for the CCTV system is providing behind-the-scenes artificial intelligence to enhance activities that may not be appropriate and allow us to direct these peace officers exactly where they need to be before something happens,” Fleming said.
Wing 5 Count. Raj Dhaliwal raised concerns about spending money on CCTV rather than directing more funds into uniformed security around platforms, saying people want to know they are safe if problems occur.
“CCTV cameras will only allow security after the fact, when something happens and a peace officer comes to help them. So I would recommend that we look at an option of not having CCTV updates, but investing that money in people who are wearing uniforms,” Dhaliwal said.
The committee, however, heard that it would be too expensive to have a uniformed police officer on every VLT car or bus. There are approximately 120 peacekeepers deployed to ensure road safety 24 hours a day in various shifts. These members are supported by off-duty police teams.
“It’s a pretty substantial increase. If you consider that we probably have eight to 10 (officers) on all shifts at any given time,” Fleming said in response to a question about what it would take to have an officer at each station.
Calgary Transit is also proposing increases in lighting at stations, which research shows would help make women feel safer during transit. The service is also suggesting that the city hire a third-party consultant to look into the feasibility of implementing a closed light rail system, which would see turnstiles or other mechanisms implemented at some stations to prohibit people from accessing stations without paying.
These systems are in place in some of North America’s major urban centers, including subway stations in Toronto and New York.
Fleming said any costs associated with consultations would be kept below $100,000.
Passenger numbers on Calgary Transit are currently around 59% of what they were before the pandemic, while services are at approximately 85% of where they were in early 2020. This level of service is expected to grow to 90% by September and 300 operators are expected to be contracted by the end of 2022.