Office of Operations
21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

Transportation Management Centers: Streaming Video Sharing and Distribution - Final Report

Chapter 1. Purpose

State and local departments of transportation (DOT) continue to invest heavily in the installation of traffic cameras and distribution of live traffic camera video feeds. State and local DOTs, law enforcement, and transit providers across the country have deployed almost half a million cameras to support transportation and public safety. The video streams from these deployments have the potential to be used for situational awareness, assisting in the response to incidents and events, security and infrastructure monitoring applications, data collection, machine vision, device control, traveler information, and more.

There remains a high-demand for access to these video feeds well beyond that of traffic operations. Law enforcement, security, the media, the public, and others routinely request access to State and local DOT cameras. For most agencies, it makes good economic sense to share resources instead of installing multiple cameras. However, each consumer of video has different needs. The media prefers broadcast quality video that can quickly be assessed during traffic reports. Law enforcement desires access to all cameras, usually at the highest resolution and low latency, and they sometimes want control over pan-tilt-zoom functionality. Third party traveler information providers may want access to video to help them produce better reports to be read over the radio, or they may want to redistribute the video feeds on their own websites—driving page views and revenue to their company. The demand for video feeds is so great that many private sector companies have been created that specialize in video redistribution—either as a service to the State and local DOT or as a platform.

Despite the desire, many State and local DOTs often struggle to make their feeds available in the way in which partner agencies and other third parties desire. To make matters worse, there is no uniform guidance for agencies to follow. Agencies and the private sector have not been afforded a platform to openly discuss their approaches, and are not readily sharing lessons learned, business models, processes, contracting strategies, or other solutions. As technologies and markets shift, private sector actors continue to emerge—offering new services, platforms, or other solutions.

Because technologies are changing so quickly, producing a “consumer report” for agencies interested in ranking solutions may not be possible—especially given how much legacy technology (including networks) exists. However, the transportation industry can and should strive to do better—providing guidance for decision makers, legal counsel, network engineers, procurement specialists, systems integrators, and others on how to leverage their existing technologies (at whatever stage they may be). Agencies also need guidance on how to plan for the future when making the business case for sharing video and providing the tools that will enable them to make sharing a reality—regardless of their capability maturity level.

The purpose of this document is to synthesize current practices and recommendations for transportation management agencies to share live, streaming traffic camera video with the public, news media, other agencies, and trusted partners. This document aims to assist transportation management centers (TMC) in planning, implementing, or improving their sharing.

More specifically, this report discusses the different practices that agencies use related to:

  • Technologies used.
  • Policy considerations.
  • Legal issues:
    • Memoranda of understanding (MOUs).
  • Funding/costs.
  • Operational impacts and other considerations.
  • Business practices (fee or free).

The report also synthesizes agencies' experiences, challenges, lessons learned, and recommended practices. The report does NOT cover non-streaming systems (including snapshots or motion jpegs), closed-circuit television video storage, speed enforcement cameras, or red-light running cameras at intersections.

The report further summarize the state of streaming video around the Nation by documenting how many TMCs currently stream their video, to whom, the technologies they use, the differences in approaches and policies, and the reasons why they chose to (or not to) stream. Finally, the report provides guidance on how to work with third parties to enable video stream sharing.

Office of Operations