Public transit agencies across the U.S. and Canada wasted no time responding to the July 7 bus and train bombings in London that killed 56 and injured several hundred others. Only hours after the terror attacks, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it was raising the terror alert level for public transit systems to orange (high).
Despite the fact that DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff said there was no specific intelligence signaling planned attacks on U.S. soil, nearly every major transportation provider in North America responded by implementing new security measures. Actions taken in various cities include:
Boston: Authorities enhanced police presence to include subway, trolley, commuter rail, ferryboat and bus systems. According to Lydia M. Rivera, press secretary for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, police “emphasized the need for customers to be the eyes and ears of the system.”
Chicago: The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) increased security patrols and began monitoring facilities and areas not accessible to the public. Anne McCarthy of the CTA’s press office said that “security personnel that were undercover are now out in uniform to increase visibility.” The authority has begun a campaign to increase public participation in keeping the trains and buses safe.
Los Angeles: According to Ed Scannell, media relations officer for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, “The whole city went on tactical alert and the level of deputies deployed on the lines increased.” He said the number of deputies was increased by 190, and the extra personnel were stationed two to every bus and train.
Minneapolis/St. Paul: Jack Nelson, chief of transit police for Metro Transit, got a jump on preparations and ensured 24-hour coverage with both police patrols and K-9 units for the entire light rail and bus system. Trash containers were removed from stations, and drivers were asked to make sure they did pre- and post-trip inspections.
New York City: Daily police staging exercises, which typically focus on the financial district, have been refocused on transit. Thousands of officers were added or reassigned from other departments to work exclusively on the protection of transit systems.
Washington, D.C.: The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) deployed special response and explosives detection K-9 teams to conduct sweeps of buses, trains and stations. Restrooms in rail stations were closed as a temporary precaution. Additionally, WMATA spokesperson Steven Taubenkibel said transit police and other operations employees are wearing fluorescent visibility vests “so that if customers notice anything unusual they can quickly spot employees.”
Although policy at Greyhound, the nation’s largest intercity bus operator, forbids speaking publicly about specific measures, a spokesperson stated that the company has made significant security increases. LANE MILLER