Cameras, plugs and actually correct engineering choices

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Photo by Devin

Several months back, BART replaced all the cameras in Embarcadero station. I have no idea why — there were tons of cameras in that station already. “Replaced” isn’t the right word, of course, because they didn’t remove the old ones, just installed dozens more, often pointing at the same things. At a guess, the new ones don’t work yet and they won’t remove the old ones until that’s corrected. Or, knowing BART’s ability to do technological upgrades, the new ones will never work properly, so they’ll all stay up, gathering dust and grime and preventing no crime or disorder at all. At a wild guess, the only reasons Embarcadero is so richly endowed with cameras are (a) it’s full of tourists getting their pockets picked, and (b) part of the station is underneath the Federal Reserve Bank, engendering a sort of mutually reinforcing bureaucratic paranoia.

Here’s one such camera, down at the northeast end of the platform. It was bothering me one day because it has such a boring view — almost no one ever comes down this far. The only trouble this camera could hope to record would be someone ducking into the Tube, or perhaps the sundry misdemeanors of vagrancy. What bothered me particularly was the outlet into which the camera is plugged, which looked a great deal like one variant of a 220VAC socket. I took a photo and got all prepared to get huffy about BART procurement driving engineering requirements rather than the other way around, with some damn fool agreeing to buy discounted European-voltage cameras and then rewriting half the station to actually power them. The EZ Rider card of surveillance, if you like. Then I actually looked it up, and it turns out to be a fairly ordinary NMEA L5 type, carrying perfectly ordinary 120VAC. It’s a twist-lock socket, which won’t come undone when pulled on — just like you’d want for an application where something will be plugged in up near a ceiling and ideally should resist casual attempts at sabotage.

Okay, BART, you win that one. But I’d still like an explanation for all the cameras.

One comment

  • Basel

    Embarcadero BART Station is a critical infrastructure facility – it is the station closest to the Trans-Bay-Tube and yes, you’re right, there is a high value/profile building “south of the Slot.” I’ve seen some of the contractor’s working on the project – they’re kind of hush-hush about the entire job. There’s a remark that fiber optics was being used with better cameras.

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