Today’s news:

Pilot project brings security cameras to E trains

Some may say “it’s about time” and others might see it as Orwellian, but regardless cameras are now recording everything in some subway cars of the E train.

So far four cars of each 10-car E train are equipped with the security cameras as part of a pilot project to run through early next year.

“Video camera systems have clearly been shown to help deter criminal activity on transit vehicles and we believe strongly that they can also be extremely valuable in investigating accidental injury claims,” said New York City Transit Authority President Thomas Prendergast. “But we must also acknowledge the potential threat of terrorist activity on public transportation vehicles and closed-circuit television has been instrumental in helping with investigations in this area.”

The cameras began recording Feb. 22 aboard R160 trains on the E line.It is a tryout for the cameras on the line, which stretches from lower Manhattan through Queens to Jamaica. The system, manufactured and installed by TOA Corp., consists of four cameras per car.

The cars equipped with cameras carry decals alerting passengers they may be videotaped.

Transit officials said the same equipment has the capacity to flip seats up against subway car walls to create 19 percent more space in rush hours, but that use of this feature is not yet under consideration.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority also announced plans to eliminate more than 1,000 jobs at a saving of $50 million as a result of the MTA’s dire financial straits.

“These cuts represent 15 percent of administrative payroll across the MTA with deeper cuts at MTA headquarters,” the agency said.

The MTA said it would “begin the process of laying off up to 500 subway station agents.”

“This is just the beginning of a comprehensive overhaul of how the MTA does business,” said MTA Chairman Jay Walder. “We will be reducing overtime, consolidating redundant functions and working with suppliers to lower costs. We will not stop until I can say that every dollar the MTA receives is spent wisely.”

The MTA said the subway station agents’ jobs were originally to have been eliminated through attrition, but the worsening financial situation required the MTA to move more quickly and include the layoffs in the budget passed in December.

“These layoffs are extremely painful, but we must live within our means and make the tough decisions that businesses and families across New York are making,” Walder said.

Transit officials also reported a drop in subway, bus and paratransit service last year for the first time since 2003, reflecting the economic recession.

Subway ridership in 2009 was 2.58 billion, the second highest annual subway use since 1951, but down 2.7 percent or 44.2 million trips below the 2008 totals.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at timesledgernews@cnglocal.com or phone at 718-260-4536.

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