Watch this space: MTA piloting CCTV screens on city buses to deter assaults, fare evasion

MTA CCTV monitor on a bus
A CCTV monitor aboard an MTA bus on March 25, 2024.
Photo by Ben Brachfeld

The MTA is piloting retail-style closed circuit television (CCTV) monitors on city buses, aiming to deter fare evasion, assaults, and other crimes by more explicitly showing riders they’re actions are being recorded.

More than 100 buses will be outfitted with the screens commonly seen at grocery stores and pharmacies, the MTA revealed on Monday. They come as the transit agency estimates that more than a third of bus riders do not pay the fare, and as transit workers reel from a series of high-profile assaults on MTA employees.

“Our bus fleet has robust camera coverage, and these pilot screens will be a force multiplier to the safety benefits these cameras already provide,” said Rich Davey, president of MTA New York City Transit.

The cameras will be installed on buses along routes with the highest rates of assaults against drivers, and will run under a pilot program through the beginning of 2025.

MTA officials often say that the transit system has more surveillance cameras than a “Las Vegas casino,” but feel that the screens may make it clearer to would-be bad actors that they are being watched.

Crime in the transit system was down 15% in February compared to the same month last year, according to NYPD Transit Chief Michael Kemper, though major felonies were up 12.5% for the first two months of 2024 as compared to last year. Arrests this year are up nearly 50% compared to the same period in 2023.

Subway riders frequently cite safety and security as their top concern in surveys, though bus riders tend to be more miffed about extensive wait times.