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21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

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

Chapter 3. The Business Case and Decisionmaking Process for Sharing or Not Sharing

Why Some Agencies Don't Share

The primary reasons why some agencies are not sharing their streaming closed-circuit television (CCTV) include the following:

Cost Concerns: Agencies that are not currently sharing have stated that the expected cost of sharing CCTV has been their largest hurdle. CCTV sharing was not seen as a necessary activity, and agencies expressed concerns that this could divert funds away from other priorities. Agencies that were concerned about cost, however, rarely knew how much other agencies were paying for their streaming solutions and had not costed out their own solutions. Therefore, it is not clear if this is an actual issue or if it is simply a perception.

Lack of Technical Capacity: Many agencies, such as State and local departments of transportation (DOTs) and law enforcement, lack the technical expertise to develop or implement streaming video solutions on their own. Streaming video requires a mix of expertise and knowledge of agency networks, firewalls, communication protocols, streaming equipment, camera technologies, and more. Even writing an effective request for proposal to bring in a consultant can seem like a daunting task for some agencies.

Dated Cameras and/or Networks: As will be described later, the types of camera technologies deployed and the agency's own communications networks can have a financial impact on streaming solutions. Agencies with older or outdated camera technologies, limited bandwidth, etc. seem less likely to be sharing their videos with the public, third parties, etc. If they are sharing, they are the ones more likely to be charging for access to their video streams.

Competing Priorities: State and local DOTs are facing many challenges associated with shrinking budgets and smaller staff. As resources become scarcer, CCTV sharing can be easily thrown to the bottom of an individual's (or agency's) to-do list.

Lack of Reciprocity: At least one agency noted that while they were willing to share with agency partners, these potential partners were not as enthusiastic about sharing with them. Reciprocal sharing was a key motivator for this particular agency, and the unwillingness of the partner to share was a setback. While this did not outright kill the agency's sharing initiative, it took well over a year to resolve and realize the benefits of sharing.

Political and Legal Roadblocks: Other agencies have stated that they are struggling with internal roadblocks, including:

  • Lack of management support.
  • Legal concerns or overly complicated memoranda of understanding (MOUs) that tend to deter rather than facilitating third-party access.
  • Fear of retribution if the system isn't up 100 percent of the time, and legal concerns if the streams become unavailable when they are needed the most during the management of a critical incident.
  • Fear that some (or all) of the agency's CCTV streams could be used against them or be a security risk if terrorists or criminals were to gain access.
  • Fear of losing control of the agency's CCTV assets if another agency with a higher political standing were to realize what the State and local DOT's capabilities were.
  • Fear over the sharing of personally identifiable/sensitive information when operators need to zoom in to crash scenes.

Why Most Agencies Share

As documented in chapter 2 of this report, many agencies are either already sharing their CCTV streams or desire to do so in the near future. Each agency has made its own business case for doing so, but the most common business justifications include:

Incident Response: Police, fire, hazardous material remediation, other emergency services, and even towing and recovery are all part of a team of professionals working together to respond to incidents. A key goal of the State and local DOT is to safely and quickly clear incidents from the roadway. The majority of State and local DOTs sharing video today noted that it was important to provide responders with critical information about the nature of the incident before they arrived on the scene. Sharing video with other first responders (including towing and recovery) aided in the response effort as they had a better understanding of what they were going to be dealing with before rolling up on scene.

Reciprocal Sharing: Several State and local DOTs noted that they had a strong desire to gain access to cameras owned by other agencies (police or local DOTs), and they were able to get access to these additional video feeds only after they offered up their own CCTV assets to those reciprocal agencies. The act of sharing encouraged others to share, which increased the State and local DOT's overall situational awareness and coverage area.

Improved Relationships: Many State and local DOTs noted that the very act of sharing their video streams with other agencies has dramatically improved interagency coordination. By providing video, other agencies have become more receptive to sharing other pieces of information, which has led to greater overall coordination and cooperation.

Winter Weather Coordination: Several State and local DOTs noted that they leverage CCTV sharing technologies to help communicate amongst one another during winter weather operations. Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Virginia, for example, use CCTV video to assess each other's road networks and to ensure each agency is using the same language to communicate with one another and with the media. Figure 2 was developed by the Metropolitan Area Transportation Operations Coordination (MATOC) member agencies. Each State and local DOT and public safety agency in the region uses this chart along with live CCTV streams to determine how to communicate with the public and one another when describing their road conditions before, during, and after winter weather events. Without access to each other's video streams, the agencies would not be able to communicate as effectively with each other and the media.

Table shows common language used to describe transportation system status levels by agencies in the National Capital Region. Figure 2. Illustration. Common language used to describe transportation system status levels by agencies in the National Capital Region.
Source: University of Maryland Center for Advanced Transportation Technology, MATOC Program

Traveler Information: A better informed public can make better decisions. If you can get people to make better travel decisions (like avoiding certain roads, changing departure times, etc.) then you can reduce congestion and reduce secondary incidents. Good traveler information can save lives, and providing video of incidents to the public (either directly or through the media) is a key component of that—especially given how impactful video can be on public perception. A video showing a four-car pileup and incredible traffic queues is far more impactful than a map showing a simple incident icon and a red-colored road.

Good Will/Public Trust: State and local DOTs are frequently looking for ways to show the public and legislators the value of operations and traffic management. Free and open access to streaming video from transportation management centers has been seen by some State and local DOTs as an important part of communicating the value of transportation management centers (TMC) and in gaining public trust in the important work that is being done to make roads safe and efficient.

Public Assets: Many State and local DOTs felt that taxpayers had already funded the purchase and deployment of the CCTV cameras, and that there was a sense of duty to provide live video back to the public as a way to show additional return on investment.

Public Expectation: The public can now easily stream live video from just about any mobile device to their own web pages, to YouTube Live, through Facebook, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, screen-sharing apps, etc. With the explosion of live video sharing/streaming technologies and solutions available to the public, there is a general expectation from the younger generation that streaming video is the norm rather than the exception. With this growing expectation, many State and local DOTs simply feel pressure to share because "everybody else is doing it." There is a sense of embarrassment among some State and local DOTs that were not previously sharing their video streams.

Supporting Business: Several State and local DOTs noted that the sharing of CCTV streams played a small role in economic development and job creation, and that, overall, providing CCTV streams supported businesses. This is due to the fact that many traveler-information businesses (including television and radio media companies) derive revenue from advertisers and others through traffic reporting and access to CCTV streams. While it may seem small, free and open access to CCTV streams helps with local economies, job creation, etc. Most State and local DOT personnel interviewed shared a common view of CCTV streaming, and provided quotes similar to the quotes below:

"As we worked towards the sharing of our (and other) video streams, we found it important to worry less about what we are going to get out of the sharing of video streams, and instead focus on how video (and other information) sharing will benefit everyone—first responders, the public, etc. We are all part of the same team—trying to make the roads safer and more efficient."
~Maryland Official
"Our video streaming solution gives TDOT [Tennessee Department of Transportation] so much more flexibility in managing and sharing realtime video with partner agencies and the public. Having realtime video available on virtually any device is a significant enhancement for TDOT's video infrastructure and highway event management capabilities."
~Michael Nichols, Sr. Project Manager | Tennessee Department of Transportation
"Our video sharing solution has already had a large positive impact on the situational awareness of our Traffic Management Unit. Management and users alike are very pleased with the product."
~Scott Hoffman, Manager of Network Operations | Pennsylvania Department of Transportation

Ad Hoc vs. Systematic Sharing

For agencies that do share their video streams, each had to make a business decision about how to share its video. While the specifics of these decisions are discussed in latter chapters, they generally fall into two categories of sharing: ad-hoc vs. systematic.

Ad-hoc sharing means that the agency does not have a direct plan for sharing its video data or a specific system developed to allow for scalable video distribution. Instead, the agency waits for a third party to request video, and then they work with that party to determine how to share that video. The way in which such agencies share their video may vary greatly from one party to another. With this style of video sharing, agencies may frequently encounter redundant sets of hardware, network connections, etc. within a State and local DOT's operations center—each potentially taking up a lot of space and drawing a lot of power.

Systematic sharing, however, is very different. Agencies that share their video systematically have set up rules or a dedicated technical solution for sharing video streams. When any third party comes to the State and local DOT asking for access to video, the State and local DOT is ready with an existing solution for sharing—thus standardizing technologies, networking requirements, etc.

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