Integration Keeps Trains on Track
In an era when the threat of terrorism places a premium on securing America’s mass transit but funding waylays progress, Charlotte’s new light rail line launches on the right course. Find out why its sophisticated integrated solution is a model for which other transit agencies to aspire.
“Since 9/11, the federal government has spent over $24 billion on aviation security while it has only allocated $549 million for transit security. Last year’s attacks in Mumbai and the previous attacks in London and Madrid further highlight the need to strengthen security on public transit agencies in the U.S. and to do so without delay.”
That plea was part of an appeal William Millar, president of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), made before the House Committee on Homeland Security regarding the Rail and Public Transportation Act of 2007. He pointed out that transit agencies have identified $6 billion in security needs, and urged Congress to increase federal support for grants to at least $545 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2008, or $290 million more than FY2007.
In February, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced an allocation of $348.6 million. Although that is an almost 27-percent increase, it’s a drop in a bucket for an industry that, according to APTA, transports Americans more than 34 million times each weekday. Those funds must be parceled out among nearly 100 transit agencies across the country; with most of it being awarded to those that put together the most compelling grant application.
“Charlotte just received its first transit security grant,” says James Dougherty, general manager of Safety & Security for the Charlotte (N.C.) Area Transit System (CATS). “We’re moving toward where we want to be, but you have to have the dollars to buy those systems and put them in place, hold the training, and basically get the infrastructure built.”
Fortunately, according to APTA, transit agencies have managed to augment insufficient federal funding with $2.5 billion since 9/11. And at the crossroads of dire need and rigid spending constraints emerges the necessity for due diligence and making the most of precious resources.
“I have to justify what we’re doing. We look at everything as a business case,” says Dougherty. “What are the pros, cons, benefits because there’s an advantage of being under that microscope in that you look at, ‘How is what I’m doing going to be perceived?’ ”
With the recent launch of the first leg of CATS’ new light rail system — the LYNX Blue Line, which travels 9.6 miles in and around downtown Charlotte — that perception is exceptional thanks to the reality of a comprehensive, fully integrated video surveillance, access control, intrusion and fire/life-safety system designed, installed and maintained by SimplexGrinnell.
The LYNX line is a pillar of a multipronged, multibillion-dollar transit initiative that began in 1998 and is scheduled for completion in 2030. In an SSI exclusive, Dougherty reveals the inner workings behind the planning, design and execution of what could serve as both an inspirational and practical model for the next generation of transit safety.
SimplexGrinnell Sales Manager Del Clark and Construction Manager Jeff Poole chime in with additional insights.
New Security Chief Comes to Town
With a current population of nearly 700,000, Charlotte, which lies just north of the South Carolina border, is one of the nation‘s fastest-growing cities. During 2006 alone, some 80,000 transplants began calling the “Queen City” home. Growth of such magnitude demands radical action to facilitate the flow of pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Fortunately, city planners could read the writing on the wall 10 years ago when they adopted an ambitious transit plan that in addition to light rail includes streetcars, buses and commuter rail. However, it was not until 2004, in the shadows of the looming launch of the LYNX line, that a full-time security specialist was brought in to oversee operational safety and security for all of the city’s public transportation.
Dougherty, who had previously concluded a 24-year career with the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority as its manager of safety, faced the challenge of building a system from the ground up. He embraced the mission of fulfilling CATS’ mandate for a user-friendly, fully integrated security solution that maximized both safety and operational efficiencies.
“We didn’t want to have a lot of standalone systems,” he says. “We wanted our video system to interface with our access control system. We wanted our fire system to integrate. We wanted a fully integrated system with our cameras. We wanted to have camera views wherever we can get on the Internet. And, although security was at the forefront, we wanted it to provide a greater benefit across a multitude of ranges.” Integrator, Police Ease Burden.
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