Mobile App Helps New Jersey Transit Enhance Incident Management

At last year’s Super Bowl, New Jersey Transit officials evaluated how they could utilize an app to enhance visitor safety and security. Now, the agency is working to perfect that app and expand its use.

by / February 20, 2015

New Jersey Transit is developing a new mobile app that turns smartphones into reporting tools. The goal? To document incidents as they happen and allow officials to act faster to resolve them.

The nation’s third largest statewide public transportation system tested this app during Super Bowl XLVIII, held in 2014 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford. Now, the agency plans to extend the app for daily use among its maintenance, customer service and transit police personnel, giving the agency an on-the-ground perspective. 

“The ability for people to communicate with us quicker, the ability to share more information with us -- including video or pictures -- all of that is extremely valuable,” said Michael Slack, CIO of New Jersey Transit. “We're always very concerned about getting accurate information as quickly as possible. The mobile apps we build will enhance our ability to do that as we move forward.”

The new app combines NICE Situator, a physical security information management software, with the hosted See It Send It mobile app from CloudScann. Field personnel using the app on their smartphones can report incidents, including sending video and photos, to a centralized command center through NICE Situator, which also can push incident alerts, task lists and links to live video feeds to the mobile app. Maintenance staff using the app will be able to view assigned work orders, their location and related video, and report back to the control room when the job is complete.

The test conducted during last year’s Super Bowl allowed New Jersey Transit officials to evaluate how they could utilize an app to enhance visitor safety and security. Slack said the majority of people who attended the Super Bowl stayed in New York City, so the typical travel pattern was from New York to the Secaucus transfer station, and then to MetLife Stadium.

To assist travelers, approximately 1,000 NFL ambassadors were deployed to five major transportation locations: New York Penn, Port Authority bus terminal, Secaucus, New Jersey Penn, and the Meadowlands Stadium station. The ambassadors were armed with smartphones loaded with the app to facilitate communication with New Jersey Transit headquarters from their posted high-traffic locations. 

“Here at headquarters, we had a room we called the Ambassador Control Center,” Slack said, adding that there were four consoles running Situator along with four radio consoles that allowed our workers to have direct communications and the GPS locations of all of the ambassador assets deployed during that time.

"If the ambassadors observed something that they thought was important, for example, a spill on the floor in Secaucus, they had the ability to take a picture of it and report it through the mobile app," Slack added, "so that immediate maintenance could be performed to clean up the spill and prevent a slip-and-fall kind of situation.”

Situator pinpoints the GPS location of the sender’s phone, then sends alerts, tasks lists and finds live video feeds from surveillance cameras in the area. The command center operator immediately sees who's sending the alert, where it originated, what's happening and what actions to take, allowing for faster response time and increased safety for the public. The app is also equipped with a panic button. 

“It was a great way to have direct contact with these ambassadors and for them to be able to share information with us about what they were seeing,” said Slack. “We were then able to take corrective action from this Ambassador Control Center.”

Based on its success with the test, New Jersey Transit is now working to perfect the app and expand its use. Though the agency has some work to do in making the technology better and more responsive, Slack said officials hope to fully deploy the app in about six months.

“We have 4,800 cameras out there and about 1,000 people at New Jersey Transit that use those cameras every day,” he said, noting that some of the work to improve the app was done for the Super Bowl, where the agency replicated storage of its video from the five aforementioned  stations, so in case there was a major event, officials would have the right video to access forensically for investigation.

"We increased our network speeds and upgraded our network equipment. That allowed people to get a better throughput on surveillance and using cameras both in real time and playback," he added. "There's a certain amount of work that we're still doing, but we're focused on delivering a whole series of mobile apps in the next six months.”

Justine Brown Contributing Writer