PORTLAND — Shhhh. The 55 new buses purchased by Oregon’s largest transit agency can record riders’ conversations.
The Oregonian reports that with the “3000 series” buses, TriMet joins the ranks of U.S. public transit agencies that are installing microphone-enabled surveillance systems on buses.
The new 42-foot-long buses feature six security cameras wired with always-recording microphones that will capture everything from rider conversations to strange mechanical noises. The audio can be used in such things as crash investigations, customer complaint reviews and criminal cases.
TriMet spokeswoman Mary Fetsch says audio recording came standard with the new buses. The spokeswoman says the video and audio will be checked only when requested to review incidents. The audio, like the video, will be stored for a limited number of hours.
TriMet said state law allows the microphones because each bus has a prominently placed sign advising riders that they are being recorded.
David Fidanque is executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon. He says his organization is looking closely at the legalities.