SmartBus Live Safety Leads to Success

A Need Identified

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, a couple of Rhode Island businessmen began hearing word of the need for on-board school bus and trolley surveillance cameras during a time of increasing chaos, looting and unrest in Louisiana.  It prompted a conversation about what happens outside the body of a school bus.  Was there any monitoring equipment present and was it even necessary?

The entrepreneurs did some homework and discovered that, statistically, every school bus in the United States is illegally passed once daily.  In the state of Rhode Island, that equaled 1,400 violations.  (On a larger scale, New York has 50,000 school buses on the road every day.)  They weren’t content to just rely on national reports.  They reached out to bus drivers in the community who confirmed the findings.  Drivers expressed great frustration at the number of violations they witnessed, the inability to record details such as license plate numbers, car descriptions and locations of trespasses while managing their primary responsibility of driving and keeping the children manageable and safe.  Clearly, there was a great need for a traffic management system, yet there was none on the market.  Gathering a few esteemed colleagues, headed by President and General Manager Al Cardi, the small startup SmartBus Live, was born.

SmartBus Live Gets Rolling

The team at SmartBus Live came together, first drafting a business plan that made sense.  In Rhode Island, 131 police-witnessed stop arm violation citations were issued in 2007 – a stark contrast to how many violations were actually occurring, based on national surveys and the field research.  Ticketing more drivers would increase revenue to the towns that SmartBus Live hoped would participate in their program, but most importantly, more citations would increase awareness to the drivers and increase safety for schoolchildren who were entrusted to bus transportation every day.

Recognizing the budget constraints that every town faces, the company developed a structure in which the entire system – equipment, installation and live monitoring – would be provided at no cost to the school committees that elected to participate.

Once SmartBus Live had developed their product, they drafted a law that was passed through Rhode Island legislation allowing each city and town to utilize the SmartBus Live traffic management system in their fleet of buses.

How SmartBus Live Works

Seven cameras, powered by an on-board computer system, are installed externally and internally on the buses.  They communicate with a server located at SmartBus Live’s Providence office.   Staff members closely monitor all activity during busing hours on 46” television screens.  A new hire is added to the staff per every six buses that have the system installed, supporting Smart Bus Live’s commitment to job creation in Rhode Island, and also ensuring vigilant “force multiplier” coverage.

Because interior surveillance is part of SmartBus Live’s system as well, school administrators frequently contact the company to review video when addressing disciplinary situations.  Regarding stop arm driving violations, when an infraction occurs, the monitor will tag the video.  It is then uploaded to SmartBus Live’s server and website.  From there, the person who witnessed the violation will sign an affidavit.  The video is GPS time-, date- and location-stamped.

Subsequently, a police officer will securely log onto the server and review all the recorded infractions SmartBus Live has captured and will be given an option to accept those that appear to be valid violations.  From there, the officer will use their resources to locate the contact information of the registered owner.  A citation will be issued which SmartBus Live mails with a photo evidence page, a copy of the witness-signed affidavit, and an instructional page that directs the violator to SmartBus Live’s website where the driver is able to watch video of their infraction, pay their ticket, or receive information on how to contest a ticket in court.  SmartBus Live provides a CD of all recorded infractions to citizens who choose to contest their citations in traffic court.

SmartBus Live Takes Off And Looks To The Future

Johnston was the first town in Rhode Island to participate in the SmartBus Live program, in August of 2008.  Since then, Providence, East Providence, Westerly, Burrillville and Portsmouth have joined, as well as the Exeter-West Greenwich Regional School District. Providence has funneled $200,000 in funds, generated from SmartBus Live, back to their school department. The program has been hugely successful, expanding through eight states and under consideration in a dozen more.

School buses are the safest vehicles on America’s highways.  The greatest danger to children is during the boarding and exiting process, due to daily stop arm violations.  SmartBus Live began the way many startup companies do.  A few friends started talking and a concept began to take shape.  They saw a need to make the community safer for school-aged children and found a way to achieve it without imposing the cost on school department budgets that couldn’t bear the expense.  The success can be seen in the numbers.  Since the program’s inception in 2008, there has been a 2570% increase in stop arm violation citations, a residual income in excess of $200,000 to participating communities, and the most impressive bottom line indicator: safer bus boarding and exiting for the children of SmartBus Live monitored buses.  For more information, please call 888-723-3009 or visit their website at

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