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Video Camera Installation Along Caltrain Tracks Gets Underway

Video Camera Installation Along Caltrain Tracks Gets Underway

Work is scheduled to begin this week on the installation of an integrated video system at four Caltrain rail crossings including Palo Alto Avenue, Churchill Avenue, Meadow Drive and Charleston Avenue, as part of the City’s efforts to reduce access to the rail corridor. Last June, the City Council approved a contract with G4S for the camera system, as well as remote monitoring, as a way to deter and detect people along the rail corridor.  

There will be four cameras installed on a single pole at the Churchill, Meadow, and Charleston crossings and two cameras installed on two separate poles at the Palo Alto crossing. The cameras will be a combination of fixed, thermal, and PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom) with the capability of viewing objects up to 1,000 feet down the corridor in variable light and weather conditions. The cameras will include some artificial intelligence to automatically detect certain behaviors and create alerts to law enforcement. The cameras will also provide a live video feed to a remote location that will be monitored by G4S, and off-site operators will have the ability to make live voice announcements or provide direction to people spotted on the tracks or in the immediate area. There will also be additional visual signage at each intersection letting people know that the area is under video surveillance.   

The City piloted an experimental “Intrusion Detection System” in 2016 that was installed at the Meadow crossing using a combination of visible, thermal infrared cameras and other technology. Evaluation of that system has shown camera technology to be superior to human monitors physically on site along the tracks. As part of the FY 2018 budget, the City outlined its intention for the gradual drawn down and reduced budget for track watch guards. As the camera installation and remote monitoring operations are completed, there will be several months of overlap where both the cameras and the guards are still in place. 

The City has coordinated with national experts on suicide prevention as it transitions from human guards to camera installation/monitoring. Both the experts and the international literature on suicide prevention identify cameras on the tracks and additional signage as among the best practices to restrict physical access to the rail tracks. Physical barriers, such as grade separation at crossings that the City is now discussing with the community, provide the most effective deterrent.

Since the first teen suicide cluster in Palo Alto in 2009, the City has taken the lead in implementing measures to restrict physical access to the rail line. This has included funding of the track watch guards, installation of lighting and signage, brush removal along the right-of-way, new fencing on the east side with enhanced climb resistant design and the pilot of the thermal infrared cameras. The FY 2018 budget included $1.7 million for the Track Watch program. The cost of installing cameras at all four Palo Alto crossings is $1.5 million in onetime capital costs, and an ongoing annual cost for remote monitoring and maintenance of $325,000.  

Last Updated: March 19, 2018