New York City is putting the "public" into public transit in a big way.
The city's transit authority has awarded a $212 million contract to a group headed by defense contractor Lockheed Martin to install a network of 1,000 state-of-the art surveillance cameras and 3,000 motion sensors in its subway stations and commuter rail stations. These will be in addition to an existing network of 5,700 older-technology cameras.
The new network, according to The New York Times, will be installed in clusters of two to 30 cameras that can "zoom, pivot and rotate" while peering at people and objects as far as 300 feet away. All this real-time video will be monitored by eight command centers.
The leader in this kind of surveillance is London, with its truly elaborate and extensive network of public-transit cameras -- 6,000, scheduled to increase to 12,000, on the Underground and soon on all 8,000 city buses. While they didn't prevent the backpack bombing attacks, they were instrumental in identifying the suspected terrorists.
What is interesting is that the usual watchdogs haven't barked, at least so far. At one time, this plan surely would have provoked an outcry from privacy advocates, big-government skeptics eternally vigilant for the coming of Big Brother and conspiracists who might see the presence of Lockheed as the sinister hand of the military-industrial complex at work.
Subway commuters interviewed by the Times seemed all for the stepped-up public surveillance, although perhaps for more mundane reasons that antiterrorism. As one straphanger said, "It will help with robberies and muggings."
With all those real-time cameras, Big Apple visitors and locals can truly say with "SNL" that they are "Live! From New York!