Tech Crawl: gb.tc-organized walking tour takes techies to MTA, CitiWatch, Bromo Seltzer Clockworks

Before last Thursday's Tech Night, a group of around 30 tech enthusiasts spent two hours exploring the control room of the Maryland Transit Administration, the inner workings of the CitiWatch camera system and the clockworks atop the Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower.

Update 11/5/12 2:50 p.m.: Roughly 250,000 unique trips per day are taken using MTA buses in Baltimore city, says Terry Owens, chief public information officer for the MTA. We’ve corrected the figure below, which originally stated that 200,000 people ride MTA buses each day.
Before last Thursday’s Tech Night, a group of around 30 tech enthusiasts spent two hours exploring the control room of the Maryland Transit Administration, the inner workings of the CitiWatch camera system and the clockworks atop the Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower.
The tour, organized by gb.tc, was the first-ever Tech Crawl in Baltimore city, and stayed confined largely to Howard and Eutaw streets, close to Lexington Market, the location of Tech Night.
Here’s a recap of what you missed.
MTA Control Center, 301 N. Eutaw St.
The crawl began at the MTA Control Center, where groups of eight were escorted underground. In a darkened room below street level but sitting above the Lexington Market metro station is a control room monitoring the tracks and trains running along Baltimore’s metro line. Within two years, a command center housing control rooms monitoring the metro line, Light Rail line and MTA bus lines will be completed at 301 N. Eutaw, said a representative. Working for the MTA in Baltimore city are nearly 3,300 people, said Terry Owens, chief public information officer for the MTA. Close to 400,000 people use MTA transportation each day, Owens said, and nearly 250,000 unique trips happen on MTA buses each day.

The metro control room inside the MTA Control Center.


CitiWatch video control center, 118 N. Howard St.
At the CitiWatch control center, Lt. Sam Hood informed crawlers that Baltimore has the “most progressive surveillance camera system in the nation,” second only to the United Kingdom.

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  • For every dollar spent on the CitiWatch program, said Hood, the city receives a $1.50 return, according to a report by the D.C.-based Urban Institute.
  • In 2010, the camera system was used in some 1,200 arrests.
  • The program was kicked off in 2005 during then-mayor Martin O’Malley‘s tenure with 50 cameras in the downtown neighborhood.
  • Today, there are more than 600 cameras deployed around the city, and CitiWatch cameras will go live this week in Midtown, from N. Charles St. up through 21st St.
  • CitiWatch’s annual operating budget is $1.38 million.

All the cameras record for 28 days. Any footage captured that can be used as evidence in court is “burned.” All the other footage is then erased. Retired city police officers staff the CitiWatch room.
While the CitiWatch monitoring center conjures the specter of Big Brother from George Orwell’s novel 1984, the cameras are responsible for a 25-percent reduction in crime where they’re located. Here’s to hoping something akin to Minority Report isn’t coming anytime soon.

Lt. Sam Hood explains how the CitiWatch camera system works.


Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower Clockworks
At the Bromo Seltzer Tower at the intersection of Eutaw and Lombard streets, just four people could ride up to the 16th floor in each elevator trip. A more intrepid group of techies — one that, admittedly, is woefully in need of exercise — climbed the stairs to the top floor, at which point there was nothing more to do than admire the view.

Looking toward the harbor from the top floor of the Bromo Seltzer Tower.


The clockworks inside the Bromo Seltzer Tower.

Companies: gb.tc, MTA
People: Sarge Salman
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