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November 09, 2023

SEPTA to outfit buses with cameras that detect parking violations

The transit authority will monitor bus lanes and stops on John F. Kennedy Boulevard and Walnut, Chestnut, Market, Bainbridge and Spring Garden streets

Transportation SEPTA
SEPTA AI camera law Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

Mayor Jim Kenney signed a bill into law on Thursday allowing SEPTA to use cameras on buses to target illegal parking in Philadelphia.

SEPTA will soon add cameras to its buses to detect parking violations at bus stops and lanes after Mayor Jim Kenney signed a bill into law on Thursday.

The ordinance brings the camera-based enforcement to Bainbridge and Spring Garden streets from the Schuylkill River to the Delaware River, as well as to the entirety of John F. Kennedy Boulevard and Walnut, Chestnut and Market streets. The cameras will use artificial intelligence to detect violations, then a human will review and issue a ticket if applicable.

Originally introduced to the Philadelphia City Council by Councilmember Mark Squilla on June 8, the bill garnered unanimous approval on Oct. 26. The primary objectives of the new law are to alleviate traffic congestion, heighten traffic safety and confront the climate crisis, according to city officials.

Earlier this year, SEPTA ran a pilot program in partnership with the artificial intelligence company Hayden AI that equipped buses with AI-driven cameras. The program monitored bus lanes and stops for illegally parked vehicles along Routes 21 and 42. Over the 70-day trial period, the technology identified over 36,000 parking violations in Center City, West Philadelphia and Upper Darby.

study conducted after the pilot program revealed that over half of the bus stops on Routes 21 and 42 were obstructed on an average weekday, resulting in more than 4,000 violations a week. Bus stop infractions outnumbered bus lane violations by an 8-to-1 ratio, with out-of-state license plates accounting for about one-fifth of all violations.

SEPTA officials emphasized that illegal parking not only disrupts transit operations but also poses significant safety risks, especially for seniors and riders with disabilities who rely on accessible boarding.

Kenney expressed his satisfaction in signing the bill, highlighting its pivotal role in advancing transportation accessibility for all Philadelphians. "Thanks to these cameras, we are streamlining our streets for enhanced accessibility," he said. 

Similar technology deployed in New York City in 2019 sped up buses by as much as 40% and decreased bus collisions by as much as 34% on enforced routes.

SEPTA will use a vendor to outfit the buses and plans to have the cameras working within a year.