Some Push for Cameras on Board Madison Metro

By: Dana Brueck
By: Dana Brueck

Some Madison bus drivers want to put bad behavior under the microscope by putting surveillance cameras on board.

Madison Metro's general manager says it could cost anywhere between $800 and $4,500 to equip one bus.

The South transfer point sees plenty of traffic ... bus traffic and otherwise.

Capt. Jim Wheeler of the Madison Police Department's South district says, "The transfer point could go from having no kids there to about 60 ..."

Some students ride, others watch.

"Since it's the place to hang out, some students are missing their next bus just to watch a fight ... see what's going on," Wheeler says.

Some say what's going on -- on and off the bus -- needs to stop.

"There's a lot of swearing, lot of posturing ... like I said a lot of intimidation ..”

Bus drivers have a few options when they encounter bad behavior. They can call a supervisor or call police, but they say there's usually little time for that.

"You can't stop them. If they want to leave you can't stop them, they'll jump off. People who are bad ones are already gone," driver Felix Kowalewsky says.

Kowalewsky says people who misbehave usually sit in back to hide.

But could a camera on board expose that bad behavior enough to prevent it?

"I think it would be a real good idea, if there's money in it, to put them on buses because they can only help," he says.

One alder says the city ought to consider cameras for the safety of drivers and passengers, but it's just a first step.

"We need to go back in schools and educate kids about being responsible when they're on the bus," Ald. Brian Benford says.

Meantime, Kowalewsky says he can handle unruly riders ...

"I always feel safe ..." But wonders whether a camera will go far enough.

"Kids that are bad ... always be bad, only way to stop them is by not letting them ride at all," Kowalewsky says.

Madison Metro's general manager says the agency is studying the issue of bad behavior and is reviewing the transit's policies to deal with it.

Some of the changes could allow bus drivers to ban repeat offenders from boarding buses for a certain period of time.

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