Transportation Management Center Video Recording and Archiving Best General Practices
Chapter 4. Successful Practices for Sharing Real-Time Video Images
Successful practices were identified to mitigate the risks and deal with the constraints associated with sharing real-time video images with other agencies and with the public.
While this chapter focuses on sharing video outside of a roadway agency, it should also be noted that mobile availability within the agency is increasingly used. Not only are operations staff using the images while managing onsite, some agency executives appreciate being able to view key images on tablets during high-profile events.
Examples, such as the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Super Bowl XLVIII in the New York/New Jersey area have been catalysts to expanding sharing of real-time video, overcoming not only technological barriers, but institutional resistance and the need to work out legal issues between agencies as well.
Benefits of Sharing Video
The classic benefits of sharing video are traveler information and enabling traffic management by sharing video information with regional agencies. From the research with the agencies directly, 31 of 32 Transportation Management Centers (TMC) represented in the online inquiry shared live video or snapshots with at least one other entity. They were asked with whom they share, and the results can be found in figure 7.
Figure 7: Chart. Recipients of shared video.
(Source: Parsons Brinckerhoff)
Sharing with the media was a common result, and many agencies have agreements in-place regarding who pays for the communications connectivity, how the video can be used, and how the agency will receive attribution for the video.
Best General Practice
To support Transportation Systems Management and Operations (TSMO) collaboration with local agencies:
- Use recent, local clips in TIM training.
- Offer to share requested clips with local agencies, even if they do not have streaming access.
- Consider including TIM participation as a condition of sharing streaming or recorded video.
It should be noted that sharing with the public on the Internet takes many forms, including streaming video and snapshots (sometimes even within the same agency). Some cameras will stream for a short time and then need to be refreshed. Some agencies only share a subset of their cameras. There are also businesses established that are under contract with agencies to help stream their video over the Internet.
As an example, Houston TranStar, a consortium of governmental agencies serving the Greater Houston Region, provides static images on its traveler information Web site and streaming video to the media, noting, "Offering live video over the Internet from our 600-plus cameras would require tremendous technical resources and diminish the level of service we are able to provide from the rest of our systems. Each media outlet has a single video feed from our system and can typically provide streaming video from only a single camera at a time." (accessed 5/28/15).
Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Traffic Incident Management (TIM) program calls out the importance of sharing video and data among agencies as well as the importance of sharing real-time traveler information with incident-specific information.
In the 2003-2014 TIM self-assessments (SA), there are questions in both of these areas.
- For sharing data and video, the relevant question numbers are 220.127.116.11 in 2003-2008 and 2011-2013 and 18.104.22.168 in 2009-2010.
- For real-time motorist information, the relevant question numbers are 22.214.171.124 in 2003-2008 and 126.96.36.199 in 2009-2013.
These questions do not differentiate between video feeds and other data, though. That aside, there is definitely a trend of increased video and data sharing. Among agencies reporting on their TIM SA there is an average increase in the response value to the video and data sharing question (188.8.131.52) of 138.4 percent and increase in the response value of the motorist information question (184.108.40.206) of 86.6 percent between the baseline and 2013 assessment (2013 Traffic Incident Management National Analysis Report, Executive Summary, FHWA, November 2013).
The 2015 TIM SA has a significantly revised question list and will set a new baseline. There are separate questions for data and video sharing, 48 and 49 respectively. Question 49 focuses on sharing video with other agencies, but also mentions sharing of video that is also available to the public. The full text of question 49 is, "Is TIM video captured via TMCs and/or public safety CAD [computer aided dispatch] systems and is it shared with other disciplines for real-time operational purposes?" Question 49 has the following responses with corresponding scores:
- Score 1 if No TIM video is collected and shared.
- Score 2 if some TIM response agencies can access State Department of Transportation (DOT) video but only via methods available to the public (e.g., 511, Web sites, etc.). No video originating from public safety CAD systems is shared with DOTs or there is strong reluctance to do so.
- Score 3 if TIM-related video is collected by DOT and public safety agencies and is shared by some, but not all, responding agencies. Some agencies are not aware of video sharing capabilities or don’t routinely utilize video for operations.
- Score 4 if TIM-related video is routinely and automatically shared among all responding agencies and is fully integrated into public safety CAD and DOT traffic management systems. Video is routinely used to tailor response and for other operational purposes.
Note that the TIM scores do not mention video recording specifically.
Another benefit of sharing video related to TIM is building relationships with local emergency responders. New Jersey noted offering recorded video of incidents from DOT cameras within their jurisdictions. It is also impactful to start TIM training sessions with recent video of an incident that occurred nearby.
According to the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT), "The sharing of video information enhances the communication of current traffic conditions, thereby aiding travelers in planning their trip times, routes, and travel mode using the latest available information. TDOT will operate and maintain the CCTV system for the purpose of enhancing traffic incident response on the Tennessee roadway system. TDOT wishes to share that traffic information with other transportation operating agencies, incident response agencies and the public." (Access to Live Video Feeds and Information Sharing, undated; see appendix.)
Another benefit of sharing video with the public is showing that State DOT investments are being useful.
Constraints, Risks, and Mitigations of Sharing Video
Best General Practice
For sensitive situations, have the capability to cut feeds to the public/media while preserving them to transportation agencies and emergency responders. If not possible, have a camera use policy which includes not zooming into personally identifiable details.
This section covers the reasons that limit sharing by some agencies for some purposes. It also discusses risks and potential mitigations. It is recognized that constraints vary by TMC/agency and that some may be outside the control of TMC staff or even the transportation agency.
New York State captures the balance between function and privacy as, "[closed-circuit television (CCTV)] systems are data/information-collecting tools. They must be utilized in a consistent manner that strives to uphold the public's expectation of privacy, while serving their function as a traffic management and traveler information tool." (Policy for the Design and Operation of Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) in Advanced Traffic Management Systems, September 4, 2001.)
Agencies have differing views on the details of privacy, but there are some generally used tactics to protect identifying information of individuals. One technological approach is to only share relatively low-resolution images with the public. One operational method is instructing operators not to zoom into crash sites. There is also the combination technological and operational approach of giving TMC operators the capability to selectively cut feeds to the public when zoomed view is necessary for emergency response, such as zooming in to read a hazardous material placard. Additional detail on addressing privacy concerns is available in chapter 7.
Technical and Communications Issues
Best General Practice
Make sure that your IT department:
- Understands changing needs for traffic video, such as providing secure access to video for the media.
- Knows that equipment, software, and services exist to help with emerging needs.
Digital and Internet Protocol (IP) technologies continue to improve with implementation of newer video compression techniques allowing higher quality video to be distributed and potentially archived with less communications bandwidth. Further, the networks themselves continue to improve allowing for higher bandwidth capability both for video being transmitted to the TMC itself as well as for distribution to other centers, users, or even the public. Again, it is not uncommon for video being shared to the public or other centers to be of lower quality or format to allow more users additional access. Conversion of real-time video for large-scale distribution can be expensive and require considerable information technology (IT) infrastructure.
The IT department in the Tennessee DOT determined that the legacy access provided by the media for streaming video was not secure enough. That need, along with the needs to provide access to local agencies inexpensively and to provide easy video access for senior team members for events, prompted procurement of a new software solution to handle video sharing. It includes modules for media access, emergency responder access, and an executive view portal.
Some agencies, such as the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), use stills for real-time instead of full motion due to bandwidth constraints.
Legal, Policy, and Institutional Issues
Best General Practice
Be clear that the primary purpose of sharing video with law enforcement agencies is to assist with incident management. Additional uses of video by law enforcement agencies and security groups need to conform to applicable laws and policies
Most agencies have policies in-place for sharing images with the public—some written, some institutional. These policies will sometimes be structured around sharing all cameras or just a subset. When sharing with the media or with a privately operated travel information Web site/service there can be legal arrangements with an intermediary (third party). Also, costs typically increase with sharing more cameras, higher frame rates, and higher resolutions. A private hosting and streaming service or next generation video management technology can mitigate costs.
When it comes to sharing images with other agencies, including roadway agencies, law enforcement entities, and other first responders, again, most organizations are willing to work a little harder to resolve any differences to ensure maximum operational sharing—even if it means working out issues such as camera control. Policies also recognize today's TMC operating as a clearinghouse and often address video ownership. For example, the Niagara International Transportation Technology Coalition (NITTEC) is a clearinghouse for images from multiple agencies, including agencies in two countries. Its CCTV policy notes that it does not supersede the policies of individual agencies. For many agencies, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) needs to be executed to share video.
For sharing with agencies and with the public, there can be institutional issues of working through the agency IT department. As one head of intelligent transportation systems (ITS) design once said, "Working with IT is harder than raising the dead." Thankfully, not all agencies have such challenging relationships with their IT groups. However, differences in goals and priorities can lead to stumbling blocks. Also, the ITS systems in some agencies originated outside the purview of IT departments leading to territory issues. IT is essential, though, both for the functioning of the connections and for maintaining network security.
Sharing with Law Enforcement Agencies and Security Groups
Sharing video with law enforcement agencies adds value to incident response. Some cameras are positioned in view of both traffic and infrastructure. Some cameras that don't view traffic, such as under bridges monitoring the piers, also share the same communications network. The potential risks to consider are mainly laws or funding requirements that could separate the functions. Automated enforcement is typically kept completely separate from traffic management since there are privacy concerns and strict evidentiary rules.
However, using traffic video to investigate erratic driving complaints or backup law enforcement reports of drive-offs from traffic stops could be less clear.
New York State DOT (NYSDOT) articulates their take on the shared use of CCTV between traffic management and law enforcement as follows:
"CCTV systems should be designed and used primarily for the traffic management and traveler information purpose for which they were installed and for which the public would reasonably expect. Enforcement agencies play an important public safety role in incident management activities. Accordingly, the Department partners and sometimes colocates at TMCs with enforcement agencies to provide for the best incident management service to the public. As a result, enforcement agencies may have access to CCTV data directly or remotely through TMCs for the purpose of coordinating incident management and incident-related public safety activities, and such is not provided for routine or regular monitoring for enforcement purposes. The ongoing sharing of data with enforcement agencies shall be documented by written agreement containing privacy protection language consistent with statewide regulations and this policy. Enforcement agencies shall be responsible for ensuring that any use of the CCTV systems is done in accordance with statutory authority, appropriate legal process, or emergency circumstances as defined by law." (Policy for the Design and Operation of Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) in Advanced Traffic Management Systems, September 4, 2001.)
New York State's approach highlights the need to discuss and document the sharing of video images used by and for law enforcement.