Metra testing video cameras on trains

If you have a tendency to sleep with your mouth open on your Metra ride, it could be time to curb the habit as the agency considers installing cameras inside trains.

Eleven cameras are being tested in an Electric Line car to check range, location and how well they work.

It's a first step toward placing cameras on each of Metra's 1,028 railcars. The technology would improve safety, but it's an expense the agency can't afford now, Executive Director Don Orseno said.

Metra paid $12,000 for the 11 cameras out of its 2016 budget and has applied for U.S. Department of Homeland Security funding to buy more.

It could cost more than $12 million to equip Metra's entire fleet, plus the agency would need to cover labor for police to monitor video feeds.

How many cameras are needed for each car will depend on the results of the trial.

Asked about privacy concerns, "we think most of our customers would feel safer and more comfortable knowing that security cameras are installed inside our railcars," Chief External Affairs Officer Wendy Abrams said.

"These cameras can act as a deterrent on their own and help prevent crime from happening. Plus, they also have the potential to capture information that can help lead to an arrest."

The Electric Line, which serves Hyde Park and the South suburbs, was chosen because it has the most up-to-date cars. Cameras will be tested through May. A decision on expanding the surveillance could come in 2017, if federal money is available.

The agency already has cameras at the front of each locomotive and expects to buy more to install in engineer's compartments on locomotives and cab cars.

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