A surveillance camera on the outside of the LIRR at...

A surveillance camera on the outside of the LIRR at the Jamaica Station in Queens, June 10, 2014. Credit: Uli Seit

There is no presumption of privacy on a Long Island Rail Road train. We usually experience feelings of anonymity as we ride, thanks to crowds and the preoccupations of fellow passengers who doze, or bury their heads in electronics, books and newspapers.

But the rides are very public.

So we don't have an issue with the proposed installation of cameras in the passenger cabs of trains. In fact, it's a fine idea, assuming the cost isn't too high.

The railroad put out a request for proposals in March to get prices on outward-facing cameras for the front of trains and ones inside locomotive cabs to monitor engineers. The move followed last year's Metro-North derailment in the Bronx that killed four people and injured dozens after the engineer dozed off and the train hurtled too fast around a tight curve.

After that accident, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended the cameras to track the engineers and trains, and the LIRR asked for prices on passenger-compartment cameras, too. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is reviewing the proposals, with a vote likely next month.

While LIRR cars are not exactly dangerous or out of control, riders can be unruly. Fights, drunken behavior and thefts have happened. Cameras can record crimes, and their presence can deter criminal or bad behavior.

The New York Civil Liberties Union and some commuter advocates have said the cameras could violate the privacy of passengers. We don't advocate a Big Brother state, but in this case, the complaints have no merit. The trains are run by a public authority and hold hundreds of passengers. But the MTA must ensure there are safeguards on who can access and release the video.

recommendedMatt Davies' Newsday cartoons

In case you haven't noticed, there are cameras everywhere. If you want to do anything undetected, we suggest you take another form of transportation.


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