District 2 Traffic Cameras Frequently Asked Questions

Why is there no picture and 'Temporarily Unavailable' message displays?

This condition is caused by a problem communicating with the remote camera site to retrieve the picture (JPEG) image. While several things may cause this, the most likely problem is an extended power outage at the camera site. When power is restored, the system will return to normal operation. It may also be caused by a failure of the actual camera itself. 'Temporarily Unavailable' may indicate that there is power and good communications to the remote site, but no video signal from the camera. The only way to fix the problem is to replace the camera. Since the cameras are mounted on top of 35' tall poles, Caltrans Maintenance crews have to use a "bucket truck" to reach the cameras. Some locations are difficult to access during the winter months due to deep snow and may be down for long periods.

Why is the camera pointing straight down (preset 07)?

The camera is intentionally set to this position by operators in our Traffic Management Center (TMC) to clear snow/rain build-up from the lens.

Why is the camera pointed to a preset number above 4 or there is no preset number at all?

This indicates that a TMC operator has control of the camera and is viewing a particular event or segment of the highway that is needed to help monitor traffic conditions.

Why is the camera pointed into the trees and has a "PELCO ESPRIT 1.20 CONFIGURE DONE" message superimposed on the image?

This indicates that the camera site has experienced a power surge/outage and reset to the "start-up" position. During power outages, no images are sent back to the webpage. When the power is restored, the camera automatically initiates a start-up process (similar to a computer re-booting). At the end of the start-up, the camera automatically points to a position that was preset by the manufacturer. When we notice a camera has gone through a power cycle, the position of the camera is switched to one of the preset positions that typically include a view of the state highway. The majority of our camera sites are in very remote locations where power is often interrupted. While not part of the original installation, we are planning to deploy a battery back-up system at each site to eliminate this problem for short duration power hits.

For presets 01 through 04, is the camera pointing in the true magnetic direction?

These presets represent the direction of travel of the highway, which does not necessarily mean the camera is pointing to the true magnetic direction. For example, for an east west Highway such as 299, preset 04 will always point at the highway in the westbound direction of travel, even if the highway alignment is different from true magnetic west.

What does Caltrans use the CCTV's for?

The primary uses for the cameras are:

  1. To provide motorists visual verification of weather and traffic conditions to make informed travel decisions.
  2. To provide Caltrans visual information to improve response to traffic and/or weather related incidences on the highways.

Why aren't there CCTV's on every mountain pass?

The long-range plan is to have CCTV's on all of the major mountain passes within District 2. However, many remote mountain passes currently do not have commercial power and communication lines nearby to operate the cameras. During the first round of installation of CCTV's, many of the sites were selected because power and telephone connections were readily available. As these utilities expand into remote areas, CCTV sites will be incorporated into highway construction or rehabilitation projects to "chip away" at the long-range plan.

What does it cost to install a CCTV?

Costs generally range from $40,000 to $50,000 for CCTV site construction, electronics, and turn-up. The construction costs can vary greatly from site to site depending on terrain and proximity to utilities.

What does it cost to operate a CCTV?

This is not a simple question to answer, as there are a number of factors that can affect operational costs. Excluding maintenance, the primary costs associated with a CCTV site are power and the monthly service / long distance charges associated with the telephone connection. Each site is part of a "dial on demand" network and only accrues long distance charges when the camera is actually "called" by the Traffic Management Center (TMC) in Redding. The long distance charges can vary dramatically depending on the distance to the CCTV (from Redding) and amount of connection time. Most of the time, an automated process server periodically calls each CCTV site for just a few moments to grab a still image and update the picture displayed on the web. This minimizes long distance charges while providing real time information to the TMC and the travelling public. Occasionally, however, a CCTV site is called-up for an extended period of time to view highway conditions on streaming video in the TMC. If the CCTV is a long distance call, the associated costs increase accordingly.

Why aren't the CCTV's updated more often or broadcast live video?

Most of the district CCTV sites are in very remote locations with only limited communications available. Broadcast live video requires a fairly high bandwidth communications infrastructure that is "always connected" to the site. This kind of infrastructure either is not available or is prohibitively expensive at most of our camera locations. CCTV still images could be updated more frequently than once an hour, but that would result in greater communication costs. As with any responsible organization, Caltrans' strives to provide the best service possible with its limited resources.