Metra issues RFP for surveillance camera network that will work with facial recognition

A commuter rail agency in the Chicago metropolitan area has issued a request for proposals to design, implement and install a surveillance camera system. Metra operates 242 stations on 11 different rail lines and is the fourth busiest commuter rail system in the United States by ridership and the largest and busiest commuter rail system outside the New York City metropolitan area.

The system must be capable of seeing all passenger seating areas and vestibules and at least one camera per train must be capable of capturing images of passengers’ faces clear enough for police to use facial recognition software. Metra is also considering using the cameras to count the numbers of commuters on its trains. A spokesperson told WGN9 that the camera network will be similar to the system used on board Chicago Transit Authority trains.

Metra has $2.5M a year in its capital budget earmarked for the cameras and the total project is not to exceed $15 million.

Despite an adminstration proposal to gut U.S. transit security funding early last year, in August the Department of Homeland Security granted $88M to transit agencies to prevent terrorism and boost resilience of transit infrastructure, with a heavy focus on rail systems. Chicago Transit Authority was allocated $10.7M.

The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit system received $6.8M from the 2018 DHS Transit Security Grant Program and considered deploying facial recognition technology before public concerns about privacy forced them to table the idea. New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority received $18.3M from the TSGP in 2018 and began testing face biometrics technology at the end of September.

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