HD Video Pulls Into the Calgary Light Rail Transit Station

Ensuring the safe passage of commuters has gained urgency as a focal point for transit bureaus throughout the world. Calgary’s light rail demonstrates how advanced high definition video surveillance enables agencies to better manage and secure their lines.

<p>The solution includes a 10Gbps IP Cisco backbone network extending to 27 LRT stations, Calgary City Hall and Victoria Park Operations Control Center. Above, a CONTAVA technician configures a Cisco switch.</p>Cameras were mounted in three general configurations: standard building surface mounts using off-the-shelf Panasonic and Pelco adapters and brackets; custom-engineered and manufactured poles for “yellow line” cameras; and custom-engineered and manufactured mounts for unique camera positioning (e.g. tunnels).

“Video analytics were enabled on all cameras, but kept to basic motion functionality in order to better manage long-term storage and reduce bandwidth demands,” says CONTAVA Director of Operations David Sime. &#
8220;With HD video streams peaking at nearly 7Mbps on large amounts of motion, and limited storage capacity, the system reduces bitrates during times of low or no motion.”

Omnicast was also integrated with escalators, elevators and assistance phones on the station platforms. This fulfilled the life-safety requirement that operators view live video of the scene before mechanical devices are activated.

“The integration was achieved via bi-directional R232 to IP conversion of the control protocols on the SCADA system, followed by parsing of the data stream and custom developed code to react to various events received,” adds Sime.

Two further interesting aspects of the project: the 10Gbps IP backbone included data backhaul for station messaging systems, ticket vending machines and other services; while single mode fiber was available between most of the stations across Calgary, CONTAVA supplemented it to support the network installation and 200+ cameras.

Setting Standards Straight

The nature and scope of the Calgary LRT project – which called for CONTAVA to log some 9,410 man-hours – necessitated adhering to numerous policies and ensuring compliance was met all along the way.

Following is a sampling of the requirements to which the integrator had to comply, plus some notes of explanation:

  • City of Calgary Information Technology standards (adhered to through design and consultation with the city’s IT department)
  • City of Calgary Recording Requirements
  • Canada Privacy Act (adhered to by securing network, operating system and VMS access; operator account ability to export video was disabled)
  • Transport Canada Closed Circuit Television Reference Manual for Security Applications
  • Guide to Using Surveillance Cameras in Public Areas (Alberta Government)
  • Canadian Standards Association (CSA)
  • City of Calgary LRT Design Guidelines
  • UL
  • Institute of Electrical & Electronic Engineers (IEEE)
  • International Standards Organization (ISO)
  • National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA)

Project Kept on Track, Time

Given that shutting down commuter rail service was not a viable option, from the end user’s vantage point the project was especially vexing. The undertaking presented Calgary LRT with some logistical obstacles that summoned creative maneuvering.

<p>Cameras were mounted in three general configurations: standard building surface mounts using off-the-shelf Panasonic and Pelco adapters and brackets; custom-engineered and manufactured poles for “yellow line” cameras; and custom-engineered and manufactured mounts for unique camera positioning (e.g. tunnels). Above, three HD dome cameras mounted on a custom-fabricated pole and installed at a train station platform.</p>“Coordinating all of the work was challenging as there were over 30 sites where conduit and wiring had to be run, cameras replaced and new cameras installed,” says Hansen. “Most of the installation work occurred while CTrain service continued to operate, which presented safety challenges. There were also some security concerns due to potential camera outages during the replacement project, but they were largely mitigated by working closely with CONTAVA staff.”

From CONTAVA’s side of the proceedings, access to install cameras and structured cable in a live transit environment was fraught with hurdles interfering with effective deployment. Enright details several measures the integrator put into action to mitigate safety risks for its employees and the public.

“At all times, CONTAVA employed both a flagman for the trains and a spotter when accessing or nearing the tracks,” he says. “Barriers and watchmen were employed to keep public access from overhead or dangerous work. And off-peak hours and after-hours deployment of our resources and subcontractors reduced delays and risks.”

Since CONTAVA did not have the luxury of dealing with new construction, issues arose regarding documentation and existing infrastructure. Some of the stations are 30 years old and as a result drawings showing locations of key items were not always available. Furthermore, some of the station infrastructure needed to be reviewed to determine if it would support the new cameras, communications and power requirements.

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About the Author


Scott Goldfine is Editor-in-Chief and Associate Publisher of Security Sales & Integration. Well-versed in the technical and business aspects of electronic security (video surveillance, access control, systems integration, intrusion detection, fire/life safety), Goldfine is nationally recognized as an industry expert and speaker. Goldfine is involved in several security events and organizations, including the Electronic Security Association (ESA), Security Industry Association (SIA), Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), False Alarm Reduction Association (FARA), ASIS Int'l and more. Goldfine also serves on several boards, including the SIA Marketing Committee, CSAA Marketing and Communications Committee, PSA Cybersecurity Advisory Council and Robolliance. He is a certified alarm technician, former cable-TV tech, audio company entrepreneur, and lifelong electronics and computers enthusiast. Goldfine joined Security Sales & Integration in 1998.

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