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May 11, 2011

Is public transit security tough enough?

by Alex Roman - Also by this author

Yesterday, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer proposed "no-ride" lists for U.S. domestic trains, similar to the no-fly lists used in aviation, following intelligence discovered at Osama bin Laden's hideout in Pakistan.

During the raid earlier this month at Bin Laden's compound in Pakistan, members of the Navy SEALS discovered information amid the DVDs, flash drives and hard drives that indicated Al Qaeda was considering sabotaging a U.S. passenger train on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 as it travelled over a valley or a bridge.

Even though a 2004 bipartisan Sept. 11 commission recommended the government check passengers' names against terror watch lists before they board passenger trains or cruise ships, that procedure has yet to be implemented, according to a Los Angeles Times report. Sen. Schumer said he wants Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to increase the Secure Flight Program to include rail travel.

Meanwhile, in an interview with the Huffington Post, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood failed to endorse Sen. Schumer's proposal, noting that Amtrak already screens its passenger list before boarding.

"Amtrak checks that to make sure that these people are legit people," LaHood said. "They look at the list and then they check to see if somebody's name looks peculiar. They have that manifest there and they can check it out if they want to. They know who is boarding trains."

Despite these measures being in place, the Huffington Post article did also mention that LaHood has met with Sen. Schumer and is ready to work with other members of Congress to improve passenger train safety.

Meanwhile around the nation, larger metropolitan cities, including Los Angeles, New York and Chicago, have stepped up their security measures fearing retaliation for the killing of Osama bin Laden; however, these systems do not have the luxury of a "no-ride" list. Therefore, I am wondering, whether it's a terrorist attack or not, are our nation's public transit systems, including Amtrak, really ready for a major catastrophe?

In case you missed it...

Read our METRO blog, "Raising the bar with bus simulation training" here.


Alex Roman

Managing Editor

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  • John Shea[ May 11th, 2011 @ 11:22am ]

    The recent incidents in New York (guy walking thru the PATH tube and a quartet touring the 2nd Ave subway tunnel) would make it seem that the issue is effectively using the security we have now.

  • Ernest H. Robl[ May 11th, 2011 @ 1:10pm ]

    Much of what is done in the name of passenger train and transit security is pure theater and mostly useless. As it is almost impossible to totally prevent a well-planned and executed attack, much of the money now spent on "security" would be better spent on having adequate response capabilities, if and when a problem does occurr. This is the way most European rail and transit systems are going. Ask yourself of transit systems have adequate equipment for responding to an incident -- whether terrorist related or simply an accident or natural disaster -- that affects a train in a tunnel or on a high bridge. Many European rail systems even have special tunnel rescue trains.

  • Jeff Brown[ May 12th, 2011 @ 10:46am ]

    TSA needs to resolve its issues with public trust before expanding operations. Any increase in security on other modes should be done through existing security forces who are already familiar with the challenges of their workplace and have agreements with cooperating agencies.


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Janna Starcic

Executive Editor

Alex Roman

Managing Editor

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