Caltrain cameras would aid investigation process

Caltrain is set to install a new set of eyes to keep watch on its tracks, which have been the site of a number of fatalities this year.

The transit agency will soon secure $500,000 in state funds to make locomotives into moving cameras. Caltrain, which transports about 40,000 people each weekday between San Francisco and San Jose, plans to mount 60 cameras, one on each end of all its trains, with lenses facing the tracks.

The new cameras would help the agency’s police identify what happened before trains hit pedestrians and aid with other security issues.

The rail agency has cameras at unnamed stations but not on or inside trains.

As of Monday, there have been six deaths on the tracks this year, following seven in 2007. Three of the six deaths this year have been ruled suicides by the County Coroner’s Office, as have five of last year’s deaths.

Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn said the transit police currently rely on the conductor’s view and firsthand reports when investigating deaths on the tracks.

“We wanted to have more information about what was happening on the [tracks],” Dunn said.

There has been no discussion among Caltrain’s administration and board of directors about installing cameras inside the actual cabins, Dunn added.

Dunn said the agency still has no date or range for installation of the cameras once the funding is secured in June.

Only the agency’s transit police, who are pulled from the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office, will have access to the cameras’ footage. The cameras will stay rolling while the trains are moving and while parked overnight.

Voters approved money for the Caltrain cameras in November 2006 by passing Proposition 1B, a $20 billion bond issue that included $1 billion for public-transit system safety enhancements, California Homeland Security spokesman Jay Alan said.

Caltrain is funding the project entirely from the proposition, which is distributed by the California Governor’s Office of Homeland Security. Caltrain is also set to receive about $440,000 for other security enhancements from the same department.

In addition to the cameras, Caltrain will be receiving money for a rail spur that will allow the Menlo Park Fire Department to transport search and rescue materials by train should bridges or freeways collapse or become unusable during an emergency.

mrosenberg@examiner.com

By the numbers

2 Cameras per train

60 Total cameras for entire fleet

$500,000 Cost for cameras

$939,246 Total Homeland Security grant

Proposition 1B Voter-approved bond measure supplying funds

55 Miles of track the cameras will monitor

6 People fatally struck by Caltrains this year

Source: Caltrain

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