For six weeks, Orange County Transit District vehicle No. 3010 has been something of a magic bus.
Despite traversing routes notorious for graffiti artists and vandals, old No. 3010 has gone unpainted and undamaged for six weeks. No mirrors behind this trick--just four prominent security cameras affixed to the ceiling of the bus.
"It's a test we began (six weeks ago) to try to reduce the amount of damage to the windows, which are expensive to replace," said Robert Mitchell, maintenance manager for the Orange County Transportation Authority. "And in those weeks there has not been one single incident. None at all. (The cameras) seem to make people a little more honest."
The bus has been traveling along four routes--Line 76, from Irvine to Huntington Beach; Line 85, from Santa Ana to San Clemente; Line 91, from Laguna Hills to San Clemente, and Line 1, from Long Beach to San Clemente--using the camera equipment on loan from a local security company. The security program is an experimental approach that Mitchell described as a simple and, although no set price on the cameras has been announced, great way to save county funds.
"Absolutely, it would be a savings, definitely," Mitchell said of a proposal to install the cameras in buses countywide. "We have some buses come in now with every window scratched and damaged, which adds up."
In the past 11 months, about 4,000 windows were replaced on 441 transit district buses because of cracks, scratches or scrawls. With each of those replacements costing as much as $250 and requiring up to two hours of labor, the total bill for window vandalism this fiscal year has topped $175,000.
If the cameras continue to dissuade vandals from leaving their mark on the vehicles, Mitchell said the system will be presented to the Orange County Transportation Authority board for approval, and may be installed in 24 more buses in coming months. Another new tactic officials are considering is the use of plexiglass inserts that fit over windows, the most frequent targets of malicious-minded passengers.
Mitchell said the inserts cost $50 to install, and can be replaced for about $10 and in five minutes. Between the two strategies, Mitchell said, the Transportation Authority can save money "to be spent on more important things."